Taking the Measure

A span is the width of a hand outspread,

a cubit runs elbow to middle finger tip.

An inch is knuckle to end of thumb,

and the height of a horse is hand

upon hand upon hand.


The first rulers were our parts and we

took the measure of things with what

was on hand, which was a hand,

or the limbs attached thereto.

The lines that march along the length

of a yardstick are precise while

the reach of fabric held nose to

outstretched arm is a yard of trust

that the one who measures

measures true, and the flesh of

any nose and the bone of any arm

is close enough.


Beside you towering over me I feel

less than though my foot is a foot

despite my knuckle telling otherwise.

Notwithstanding the evidence of

discrepancies in size I must trust that

we are equal, my brain no less nor

more than yours, each heart moving

the volume of blood we contain

so the depth and breadth of us paired

doesn’t tip, unbalanced, like a scale

when the finger lingers to raise

or lower the price.


© Dana Hughes 3.30.18


The Mending Bones

Executing a perfect layout in a game of Ultimate

and landing on his shoulder, he heard more than

felt the bone snap like a chicken leg in a dog’s mouth,

and the teammate that grabbed his hand and pulled

him to his feet was shocked by the changing colors

in his face as his knees gave way and sat him down.

At the Emergency Room the nurse failed to ask or

notice his level of pain and walked him the length

of a merciless long corridor to radiation where the

x-ray technician reduced him to lip-bitten tears.


No break is simple, despite the diagnosis as bones

though hard are living tissue and not impervious

to injury, and even with their ability to mend, it is

the process that keeps the afflicted suffering while

the raw ends with marrow exposed begin knitting

together again, producing a net of fibroblasts that

spans the divide like a bridge under construction,

mortar and steel inching from solid ground to the

center of air with an engineers confidence that the

two will meet and the weld will hold.


It’s the reaching, the intuiting by one jagged end of

the other and cell by cell, recreating a whole from

pieces that causes every breath to catch like ours does

in the effort to align what we have sundered through

the years of leaps and layouts made with full knowledge

of gravity’s pull. I’ve held my breath against the hurt

as long as I can, but regardless of how far the healing

has progressed, I can’t not inhale.


© Dana Hughes 3.22.18


Musing at the Museum

At the Museum of Natural History the bones

of forebears Jurassic and Cretaceous stand

like neighbors at a picnic; T. Rex flashing

a toothy grin and waving his runty paw at

the Stegosaurs across the room who know

better than to encourage his cordiality.


It’s a relief to learn one’s place in the universe,

which despite the insistence of ego is not at

the center. We’re not first or last in this

turning loop of creation; Adam and Eve were

Tetrapods in the swamp of sacred spit and

we’re the in-between of them and what’s next.


One of these days when Earth heaves California

onto the steppes of Mongolia and our remains

are pushed to the surface, will our successors

dust us off and glue us together, give us names

their children recite with a shiver, and wonder

what became of us, or will they even care?

©Dana Hughes 3.12.18

The Windy Season

In the windy season the birds

leave their perch without intent,

whisked sideways by a breeze

that feels like a hand slapping

them loose from the branches

that should but don’t provide

shelter at this time of year when

flying is a war with the weather.

Are we not sheets, battered like

these birds by something fierce

that pulls us flat-out and snapping

from the line until at last the pegs

yield and one or the other of us

vaults skyward and is gone?


© Dana Hughes 3.5.18


Diner, A.M.

The couple in the corner sits side-by-side

before two plates of eggs and two coffees.

He holds the morning paper in his left

and forks food and news to his mouth

with the right, so riveted by the latest

presidential barbarity that four bites in

he missed the plate and speared the table.

She, on the other hand, stares at or through

the window, unblinking, breakfast intact

but for the single taste of what he ordered

for her, a fleck of scramble adhered to her

lip like the last of her senses that have not

yet let go but will be wiped free when the

check is paid and the dregs of the cold black

coffee and the bitter truth are swallowed.


© Dana Hughes 3.5.18

In The Pew

On a Lenten Sunday morning

with the ten unambiguous rules

of conduct that God delivered

the focus of the sermon which

is both ambiguous and confusing

and far too conversant in the

lower-case S version of sin,

insisting it is we who must do

the forgiving rather than mention

anything so ponderous as the

upper-case S version of which

apparently we shall not speak

lest it raise it’s snake’s head and

hissing, remind us how we made

it ours even though we keep it

in the dark, we think, where it is

over-fed and under-confessed.


And yet the woman in the pew

ahead who arrived a minute late

and breathless loosed her scarf

and revealed an unkempt braid

coiled up high and clipped in place

though a curl at the end escaped

and flopped to and fro with

the rhythm of the hymns.


I reach for the clip praying that if

this small mess were undone,

her hair smoothed and divided into

a trinity of equal parts and without

hurry woven neatly over again so

that curl is tamed to twist ‘round

the finger of God, this hour might be

redeemed and a small portion of our

collective Sin given up to grace.


© Dana Hughes 3.3.18