Quite A Sense Of Humor She Had


The worst of all days was the day Momma died

though to be honest it was a relief because the

years of smoking had taken a toll, even though

she denied she’d had even a puff since she and

Daddy quit together when the Surgeon General

said it was bad for their health back in the 60’s.


There was also heart disease and TIA’s, which,

though small, were tectonic in shifting the vast

contents of her brain, separating hemispheres

so she forgot that she still smoked, but then the

forgetting became routine, so that just now and

back then slipped away with equivalent speed.


She forgot that she had children and children’s

children, forgot that the man sleeping nearby

was her husband, and then she forgot how to

eat and had to be coaxed like a toddler to try a

bite which she’d hold between teeth, clenching

breakfast like a grizzled dog worrying a new bone.


But the forgetting that was worst of all, besides

our faces and names, was the brilliance of her

wit and how her words glittered like jewels cut

so each facet captured her genius, and yet she’d

toss them off like feathers from a bird in flight,

sure there was more from whence those came.


When that was gone the laughter went and joy

withdrew; from the head back and eyes streaming

pealing of the bells to a demure hand-over-mouth

titter, the music of mirth ceased its ringing and that

was when the mother I loved departed, and the

blank-faced, wordless woman arrived.


On the day her body stopped the parody of life,

I hauled her from the tangle of sheets before the

family saw how she’d thrashed her way loose,

straightened her up, tucked her in, smoothed

her hair and closed her eyes, first one and then

the other, then the first again, and again the other.


She popped them open in an alternating wink

that made me throw back the covers and press

my ear to her quiet heart; clutch her hand till it

grew cold, then look to the air and ask that

she cooperate, please, as this display of her

recovered humor would not be amusing just now.

Empty Nesting My Ass

After the children went to college and kept going

we became empty nesters, a term I dislike and a

ridiculous way to speak of oneself when the nest

is anything but empty. It’s full of the chaff they

winnowed when they packed what they needed

for the school years and the after that years.


There are beds we thought they’d want but don’t,

shoes hardly worn in every size and color, boy, girl,

formal, sport, tap, cleat, high and low heeled, leather

and canvas veiled with dust beneath racks of suits,

shirts, dresses and sweaters that slide to the edge of

hangers like snake skin draped on a rock.


There are reliquaries of baby teeth, and first shoes,

tiny forks and tiny spoons, thread-bare blankets that

they shucked and outgrew, games missing pieces, dolls

missing clothes, a billion bits of Legos and the huddle

of basketballs slowly growing cracked and flat.  These

are the things that remain when fledglings have flown.


I built this nest like the other birds, lashing twig to twig

with spider web and lining the core with down and

leaves, but the sweat of my hands, the milk of my breast

and the underpinning of prayer were my invention, and

I bound the form with lengths of my hair, dark at the

center and white toward the rim.


This nest is hardly empty, holding much of them still,

but even more it holds the all of us, the we that we made

and the us that we were when we fluffed and feathered

a tender fortress made to cup them as they hatched,

a sanctuary built for us, to secure the first thing we birthed:

our love.

©Dana Hughes 9.22.16

The Changeling

I can’t say what it was that came in the night

and switched the child with something other,

but in the morning there was skin and hair

and bones in the bed in a size much larger

than what was tucked in, and the me that

I’d been was gone, a changeling in my place.


It rose sluggish and sour to pull on clothes

that couldn’t fit, popping buttons and seams,

crushing my shoes with heavy feet that went

clomping about the house unnoticed but for

the maternal admonition to brush its mane

and try some deodorant, dear, please.


In the afternoon it wandered outside and sat

beside a tangle of bearded iris on which a

cicada husk clung upside down and empty

after the emerging adult had split the back to

unfurl a pair of heavy wet wings that dried

into Tiffany glass masterworks.


With my eyes the changeling saw that hope

is the critter that crawls through the rift

when transfiguration rips us open, but when

everything changes, in the instant between

one form and another, we wondered, which

or what or who is driving that thing?


© Dana Hughes 9.12.16