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

Requiem

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

Swinging

Like a pendulum I have coursed

from here all the way to there

and then reversed and come back

to this very spot worn like the ground

beneath a swing where small feet have

scuffed the grass clean away before

lifting skyward in an arc that simulates

the ecstasy of Icarus just before the wax

warmed and gave him over to Gravity

just as I was in the instant after letting

go in an exchange between up

and down that I swear sounded like

a voice saying NOW, when flying

became falling and the ground

rose up, indignant at my temerity.

Yet as before when breath returns,

I’ll be up and at it once more.

 

©Dana Hughes 12.31.18

Close to the End

It was close to the end when Daddy said

get her out of here, though he’d insisted

he could manage her care, which he thought

meant fixing a plate of runny-side-up eggs and

limp bacon every day (neither of which did she

ever eat because in her mind, when it was still

a mind, that shit was never what she would call

food), and settling her onto the couch with a blanket

and a cup of coffee so he could watch TV and she

could need nothing until dinner. So he was undone

when she never again made it to the bathroom in time

and the sheets were always in the wash, and when

the combative days came on like a thunderstorm out

of her clear blue eyes so she screamed when he woke

her and called him every god damn name but the one

his mother gave him, flailed as he dressed her and sent

the hated eggs sailing in an arc that mimicked her

decline, he threw in the towels: bath, dish and paper,

and confessed she was more than he could handle.

We came with assurance that the move would be swift

and she would be happy which was code for “someone

who knows what the hell they’re doing will change her

diapers and feed her and treat her like the baby she has

become instead of the surly wife you think does what

she does to spite you.” We packed a bag and bathed

her and when she handed me her teeth I understood

Daddy in a way I didn’t want, then scrubbed with

janitorial fury anyway and tucked them in fast to

cover the naked gums she had never allowed her

children to see. As we drove to the place where

she died six weeks on, she kept asking, over

and over and over again, “Do I know you?”

 

©Dana Hughes 8.25.18

At The Wheel

The potter at the next wheel turned a ten-pound lump

of black clay into a bowl of perfect grace rising from

the base in an arc like opening wings, while the clay

I worked refused to behave, wobbled drunkenly and

did not mince words in letting me know that whatever

I thought I was making would shortly be lump again

as the whole spitting affair collapsed, a squelching

glob to be scraped away, wadded up and not thrown

away but set aside for an hour or two to stiffen up

for another go at becoming something other than dirt.

 

Clay has its own mind, and persuading it to assume

any shape takes practice, practice, practice, with nothing

but failure assured until a truce is struck; potter and clay

having their say and yielding, one to the other, in an act

of co-creation. The Genesis stories only hint at how this

was done, omitting the part about first, second and third

attempts at making a human by a deity who hadn’t done

this before, as well as the moment of divine glee when

Adam was finally pulled from the mud, followed by the

less joyous moment when the man of earth grabbed God’s

nose and gave it a painful tweak.  It wasn’t biting an apple

that stirred up all the trouble, but the raspberries Adam

blew on that day he was formed, sparking the wrestling

which will continue as long as the wheel turns.

 

©Dana Hughes 7.20.18

Copperhead

Bent low over the young copperhead making his

way across the street, I noticed the pattern on the

scales looked like God was chewing tobacco when

he spit in the clay that became this kind of snake,

a pattern that offered impeccable cover amid pine

straw and roots. But this guy was on asphalt, not

leaf litter, and he was gasping, each slender breath

a struggle from wounds at neck and tail, two gashes

opened by tooth or talon from which bits of viscera

emerged. So his position in the street had naught

to do with crossing, and all to do with dropping

from the height achieved by whatever snatched

him up and changed its mind. With neither donkey

nor denarii, I used a dogwood stick for hospice

transport to a quiet spot beneath a stand of trees

where, blending nicely, he died in peace.

 

©Dana Hughes 7.16.18

Ghost Farm

Just this side of Amarillo where the clouds that sailed

east and unspent over petroglyphs and earthen sea

snag on the topmost twigs of trees, their broad blue

bellies torn and spilling day after day across the prairie

where the green begins, there sits a tumbledown house

scoured gray and roofless by grit-born wind. Glassless

windows stare at the crows hopping lintel to chimney

to the splayed limbs of cottonwoods that in death as

in life lean sharply northward. It’s a ghost farm where

the spirits of Plenty and Want stand shoulder to shoulder

like a Grant Wood portrait, pitchfork raised and ready

to turn scats, dirt and memory piled against the boards,

from which a wisp of dust rises over this weary patch

of crisp yellow weeds and slides away to disappear

as the farmers’ did, like a sidewinder moving on.

©Dana Hughes