From the Archives: Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Luther Hughes





This was originally published at The Rumpus on June 6, 2019.



The Wind Did What the Wind Came to Do

You’ve seen the tired ceremony of felled trees.
You’ve seen the sparrows toss their dignity aside
for the hollow howl at evening’s edge,
and the humble earth saying, Here, have the night,
do with it what you please
, the perfect moment
of love where an offering requires nothing in return.
Though it wasn’t love. There was the bowed trees.
There was the black clouds galloping across the sky.
There was the wind that moved as if the definition
of hunger, going and going, but going only out of habit,
nesting into that habit as we do when reaching
a familiar field, the natural gust of the body responding
to what it finds filling; patterned; rested in the chore
of passion. What if this were love, if the wind bargained
for beauty, let go of its kingdom? It must have a thirst
for tenderness—stillness in the heart. Oh surely
the distance is closing ever so slightly.
Stay inside me until the storm dies down.


Such Things Require Tenderness

Into the rain, he walks—
the rain falling like light
falls before a storm—
                        and he never looks back.

About storms, truly, what did I know?
I knew beauty. The clouds gathering
gray as infidelity
or the taste of it in my mouth.

No, that’s not beauty.

Before the storm, birds.
Before the birds, a discarded shirt,
a black hat with a dead rose.

This is the last time, he said.
I did what storms do: held
against the long night, made longer
by my howls and crashing,
which, by now, as he dissolves
into the cadence of rain, is only a memory.

One day, when I’m alone
and the birds make use of their boredom,
I’ll return to this place
to watch him walk again
and again into the rain
knowing I must forget such turmoil
if, by the laws of nature,
I want to grow.

                        —The rain is clearing.
I hold out my hand.


The Dead Are Beautiful Tonight

Even the trees are moaning.
Black bark, black faces,
and winter’s stern hand at the neck.

They say it’s the worse one yet,
but they’ve all been the same.
The dead die every year

and I think I’m too good
for such repetition. The truth is,
I’ve gained so little this season

that the things I’ve lost paint the day
a rough stillness. I don’t tell him this,
but I want my life to end.

He wants another hallelujah
in bed with me
and I don’t blame him.

Our lives are so ridiculed with desire
sometimes. I used to want the romance
of trees, the subtle blue conversation

between the sky and crows. I can’t help
but study the things that bare
my resemblance and that makes me selfish.

But the crow, headless in the bush,
has been there all week
and if I can’t bring it back to life,

what else am I supposed to do?
So much is my want
for everything black around me to live.

Where does want get me?
I have my limits, my childish dreams
barreling into the mind’s fog.

I want, but I must be careful.
A shower here or a shower there,
the trees will still be

a spider’s web of what was.
It’s true what they say about the day
disrobing into a sudden stroke

of sorrow—the poor moon,
I hear, is dying. As are the stars,
although many of them are dead already.

I unthread the evening
and he arranges on the bed
how he see fits, ready to love me

the blackest way he knows how—
salt in my mouth
light in the corners of my eyes.

Luther Hughes is a Seattle native and author of Touched (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2018). He is the Founding Editor of The Shade Journal, Executive Editor for the The Offing, and is 1/3 of The Poet Salon podcast. His writing has been published or is forthcoming in Poetry, The Seattle Times, New England Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and others. Luther received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis. You can follow him on Twitter @lutherxhughes. He thinks you are beautiful. More from this author →