Sample poems

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from each collection

Selections

from Mother Tongue


Kit Smart's Cat


 -"For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.

For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.

For he can tread to all the measures upon the music."

-  Christopher Smart



If I were loved like Kit Smart's cat

I'd have shine enough to suit a crow, 

be thick enough to stand a spoon 

in clotted cream. I'd take my habits black 

and cloistered, ceramic thick against my lip.


If I were loved like Kit Smart's cat 

I'd drop down on the streets to pray, 

wreath my grief with baby's breath, 

soft as baby's hair, silky as a bloodhound's ear,

upright as a blood-bibbed robin

if I were Loved like Kit Smart's Cat.


I'd speak my truth in tongue, perhaps, 

small round words to mark my way.

I'd end in blossom as peonies bend 

their ears to hear the earth

or as purple lilac tips reach up to rub 

the soft white belly of the sky.


I'd be that river rock that rises into heron, 

all flap and dangle, big-winged bird.

If I were loved like Kit Smart's cat, 

what I'd really be, in Easter strut and fringe

and spangle, is that palomino jigging up Fifth Avenue

with Kit Smart's Jeoffry dancing down my spine.












Learn More

from The Luck of Being


Omnivore



Without calves bawling for their grain 

or white heads bobbing on the run 

to whee-boys shaken buckets, 

it's gotten quiet here.


Last year's first born, a number on his hip, 

I didn't see him bid up, cent by cent, per pound, 

didn't see which black hat bought him.


But the day before he left, after evening feed, 

I scratched behind his ears and ran my fingernails 

up and down his long white throat. 

His brown eyes lolled behind their lids, 

relishing my hands. 


I am capable of anything.

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- Sometimes it's the spoken word, the overheard conversation that sparks a poem.

Sometimes it's the spoken word, the overheard phrase or conversation that sparks a poem.

from The Spinal Sequence

Beware

    -The rehabilitation process typically begins in the acute care setting. 

    


Locked door opens with a bleating bell 

(rhymes with fell).


So, beware, you walking ones, coming two

by two on your assumed feet, 


breathing unassisted breaths, 

too pink, to tan, too altogether


colorful for this cool gray overhead florescence

where weahter's always off-white 68 degrees


and time hangs black-rimmedon the wall, 

round with pulsing hands- his cannot move-


a place where everything's on wheels-

the golf cart rolled three times


before it pinned him in the pond-

you who clutch your helpless Mylar and helium, 


who hand out soft treats

so the attending ones might come 


sometime when you say please,

when you call help.


The bitter cup 

burns your lips,


words never dreamed of knowing, 

filled overflowing.


You walkers, walk the pale linoleum, 

the only path on which the non-anointed 


tread (rhymes with dread)

come to hold 


unfeeling hands, speak softly 

to a face not too bruised and swollen 


not to be 

beloved beneath the swelling.


Beware, you who lack badge or bracelet,

those looping tentacles and tubes


to measure, measure, 

chart and measure


the flowing in and out, graphing 

patterns sharp and round. 


How shrill their sudden cries: 

the language of this cool pale place, 


the sibilants that matter. 

And here you thought-foolish woman-


you had gotten past the need 

to keep him hidden 


from sharp yellow teeth 

and hungry tongues. Here you thought


you left that horror 

back there in the half-grown woods.


                                 **


Which is why 

walk  is not a word


to use, not when anyone 

might listen.


Whisper, if you must 

invoke the god


of useful limbs, 

limbs obedient 


as he was as a child, 

though you should know


before you ask:

in ancient times 


the household gods were

always hardest to appease.


I'm just saying

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from White Bird

Seeking the Second Opinion


As Saint Bede saw each human life 

as a small bird

flying from the dark across a lit hall 

and out into the dark again, 

                                                      a cardinal hurls 

his red self flapping at the feed-room window: thump 

and drop, thump and drop

                                              stirring equine medicines

along the feed-bin shelf. All he knows: try to fly.

Not yet so exhausted as to let 

my hands around him,

                                          yet having brought 

the barn cats down the loft stairs. 


His fear of me send him higher, 

harder at the glass, 

                                 the feed sack I pick up 

too stiff to drape him quiet, though stiff enough

to nudge him toward the lesser light

of open feed-room door 

                                          where his wings recover 

weight and measure, flutter righting into flight

out and down the barn aisle to disappear

on the soft air of before. 


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from Stride for Stride: A Country Life

After the Trail Ride 



Hunkered at his pick-up mirror

both hands comb and smooth 

in mannish strokes and, what the hell, 


if he sees hair in his reflection, 

enjoys the touch across his pate, 

who am I to smile?


Anyway, there's someting 

optimistic, nicely prideful 

about a pocket comb on bald. 





Trail Ride Skirting Long Pond



My little horse breasts us a path

through branch tangle 

of storm-felled oak, 

jigs afterwards in celebration. 

I let him.

                           Back to business,

he climbs a rain-gouged wash 

into a stun of yellow coreopsis, 

ten planted acres, maybe more, 

all blooming mass and dazzle

bordered by a strip of tall thin grass, 

strangely blue, 

mowed paths on which to ride

as if we were expected here. 


Something is expected, 

There is a ladder to a tree stand.

A great blue heron rises loose-winged 

from pond shallows. Banked belly up, 

a silver canoe. 


Surrounded by bee murmur, 

my little horse ambles 

through the lure of coreopsis bloom 

and seed-head dream, headed home.

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Books may be purchased from the author at whawken@hughes.net