The chrysanthemum inked

on the soft flesh of her forearm,

almost but not quite covered the scars

of the hieroglyphs etched with a

paring knife, each an invocation

of the endorphin god,

an oblation of pain to silence pain.

This symbol of life blooms between

please and thank you,

it’s petals lift and fall

on the rifts of damaged skin

as on a breeze.

© Dana Hughes 9.22.20

Imago Dei

On a breathless day when nothing stirred

an oak released its deep grip on the earth

lashed the air as it tried a different hold

sliced through the house crushed the car

drove limbs seven feet into the ground and

some how, no one was hurt, yet elsewhere

too much rain turned a mountain to mud

so it roiled through a town where people

slept and buried them in their beds.

For the stillbirth, tsunami and this type of

cancer there is no cure, hence the gamble

for those lacking the oven mitts of religion

who shape their understanding of the Holy

on what they observe in Nature, especially

the tenderness of Spring is perilous, as high

winds and the careen of tectonic plates are

Nature’s too, so bowing the head to that god

requires a fealty of fear and kneeling serves

only to still the clamor of knocking knees.

© Dana Hughes 4.19.20



As should be obvious God means business

when She He They Them creates something

that heretofore did not exist.

Witness the mountains that were eons

in the making, each layer of upthrust

earth a chapter in the book of HOLY IDEAS,

with bones and time pressed between like

roses in the family Bible.

Observe the gathering of winds in great

wheels that scour sea and land with force

equal to that exerted in dividing light from

dark in a whirling dervish dance.

Behold the pippingtooth that unzips shell

and recedes within the beak on the day

after the chick kicks free.

Consider the note, the hue gathered by

ear or eye and the tasting of tongue as it

rolls these round in spit and thought til

they are pearls pushed through teeth that

yield or break into open palms.

If creation has taught anything it is this:

wise is she who waits with needle and string.


©Dana Hughes  11.2.19

Thanks For Nothing, Dorothy

In black and white you sang a dream

of bluebirds and rainbow that shaped

me like a bonsai pine leaning hard

into a still wind. That was me at your

side on the long road back to the home

you thought better of leaving once you’d

gone, and I more than any other coveted

the sequined power of those ruby shoes

to dance me down a road of my own,

out and away. I believed it all, even your

remorse, which left me unshod and shaking,

whirling like a twister in my own backyard.

Your dream wasn’t mine after all

and those shoes were wasted on you.


©Dana Hughes 10.28.19

Fill In The Blank

#2’s poised above the page

teacher intoning instructions

for the first test taken in a long line

of tests on which the future hangs;

fill in the bubble leave no stray marks,

as if those dark circles aren’t all strays

filled as they’ll be with assumptions,

the eenie meenie miney mos of our

thinking given that we’re children

when first asked to prove what

we know.


This Fill in the Blank is essential to

identity for this is how we learn same

and other, naming what goes in that

space, molding thought like lumps of

Play-Doh into forms we claim are

recognizable, yet even Moses needed

more information to fill in the blank when

the bush burned and a voice said go.


It wasn’t the message that stilled

him where he stood but the blank he

couldn’t fill. Give me a name, a trait,

an address, he said, but the voice replied

it doesn’t really matter as there’s only me

so tell them it was I who sent you, an answer

that didn’t fit the question just like the one he

got when asking for a face-to-face and the

voice said seeing me will kill you, implying

that blank cannot be filled with what we know

since all we know is through being us and

the one who spoke is everything we’re not.


Evenso we pencil in the answers and

deem them correct despite the lack

of proof and grade our fellows in red

when their response does not match

ours and the unanswerable mutters,

stray marks stray marks.


©Dana Hughes 9.15.17

Disputation of Matthew 10:29

The storm came on sudden as a seizure

flaying the tender skin of spring with hail

the size of peach pits so by morning

the blush of green lay in sodden drifts

spackled with mud, as did two brown

sparrow chicks, pushed from the nest

as they fledged when the second hatch

was laid and homeless they pled for

shelter until pelted into silence,

well outside their Father’s care.


© Dana Hughes 6.22.19

Looking For a Way

The old man looking down from a high window

on the memory care floor at children he’d forgot

were his, despite prompts that stirred the soup

of thought though nothing like a name or face

broke the surface before they said, as always,

“we’ll see you next week,” and yet the way the

son’s hands sank into pockets to fish for car keys

toggled a wire like the switch on a Lionel 00 train,

and he strained to find a latch where no latch

would be shouting, “GEORGE!  GEORGE!”

at the departing man below whose name

had always been Michael.


©Dana Hughes 6.19.19


In the middle of the lake where the geese gathered,

a lone gander rode the eddies in silence,

head tucked to wing in the sleep of no waking,

great black feet straight and still, reedy calls

of his mate unheard as she paced the snowy shore

knowing but unwilling to join the skein who made

their peace and paddled in widening arcs away

while the sun slipped it’s perch and sank, as at last did he.


© Dana Hughes 4.4.19

The Sparrow Tree

The weeping cherry is a sparrow tree

bristled with birds and other small things

that shelter within the unkempt tangle

of the crown, spilling in knots like Medusa’s

locks would if she slept poorly and couldn’t

get a brush through the nest of snakes that

bare their teeth as I do with you when

you’re too long gone and this refuge recoils,

licking empty air with a thousand tongues.

Look away quick. Stone comes to those

who stare at the writhing that warns

without hissing. This one sings.


©Dana Hughes 1.14.19