Adam Hughes is the author of four full length collections- most recently Deep Cries Out to Deep (Aldrich Press, 2017) and Allow the Stars to Catch Me When I Rise (Salmon Poetry, 2017). He lives and writes in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
Sometimes the line between friend
and familiar is inconvenient.
I hugged him and felt his willow bones
growing out of my own roots,
exiting my skin. His bloodshot
voice echoed through me
like a windchime made from discarded
amulets, broken teacups, and the teeth
of ancient birds. After he left
I lit the altar on which we offered
our second fruits to keep ourselves warm
and sang along with the flames—
a song so hideously sacred.
all my pens
the ink an opus
of the hushed,
BECAUSE POETS ARE TEA-SIPPING SADSACKS
for Buffy Hastings
I like tea. But I am not a sipper.
I gulp. After I read his words I laughed
in the shower—mainly because
the water was so warm and the room
was so cold. The fog in the bathroom
made it an upland forest
on a fall morning. I dried
in the cold of a barren coastline
and dressed among the breakers.
I sipped some water
and laid back down in bed,
warm and dry
and covered by
a million fibers
of a day not yet lived.
Next door, an unhappy
baby, nearby a mouse
moves among my scattered
for another time,
and I slam my hand
against the bed
to frighten it away.
I don’t hear it anymore
but I think it’s just waiting
me out. It knows.
Today I leave, my sadness
slung over my shoulder,
fixed bayonet. A bag
of lunch and melancholy.
Poets are all
bravado in the morning
and shame in the evening
and something approaching
honesty in the night.
KEMPER STREET HYMNS
(originally published in the collection Deep Cries Out to Deep)
and Lynchburg’s Largest Indoor Flea Market,
I share a room with a mouse.
At night, in my sleep,
my wings are molting.
Around me swirl like galaxies
the souls of midnight dancers,
mechanics in company trucks,
busloads of empty seats and lonely passengers,
clouds of plankton passing through the baleen
of a city at night.
This crenelated life, this parapet
from which we breathe against
the gravity that opposes our rising
Through these thin walls and leaking
windows I hear
the harmony of lives that will only
cross in this exchange of sound
and speed and light. I only notice
when I think about it—the rest of the time
they pass without fanfare
and all my bricks are mortared
with their hum and subtle vibration.
Praise the firefly lamplights. Praise
the soft swoosh of cars on wet streets.
Praise the warm that glows
like a cave fire beneath these blankets.
Praise the air that sags
between us like old hammocks,
like old men for whom the glory
has moved on, like old socks
that no longer clutch
the way they used to when they were young.
Praise the altar on which we burn.
More love is the lyric
of the world that passes outside
these windows, though sometimes
the words are garbled,
songs stuck in the throat
like a swallowed fishhook.
Some nights I sit beside these windows
and I cannot get up, heavy
with unlived lives and my knees
creaking from penitence.
Outside, above the rooftops,
the sky is a fading fire.
Tonight the fugitive gods limp
away, down the street towards the rows
of liquor stores and quick marts.
In their place come new gods
and they strut with the swagger
with praise not yet cut
with disillusion. Hope lies
and lies well.
Tonight I’m another
broken psalm, another halfhearted prayer,
another forgotten feast day of another
forgotten saint, another anointing
with counterfeit oil.
When the dawn begins to streak
the horizon like blood poisoning,
I’ll wake with the courage
of a mid-road turtle,
fully believing in the strength
of my own shell, hiding
between the tires.
My heart sings ancient songs
in old dialects and the liturgy
is not translated. I follow along
for the music of the language,
but unsure of its exact meaning.
Then it comes, like a sudden
rain beneath a sun-crowned sky—
something nameless. And for a moment
the rim of my cup tastes
what lies inside. And it is good.