Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by E. Hughes



Bulldaggers Between Starshine and Clay

I want to fashion my black mouth to speak this

journey of our bodies into utterance: What

does one call this road between us? Once, a man

called this road love. Today, I call this path

a sequence of music—the burgeoning of speech,

poems we leave in a puddle at the center

of our bed, the place where we touch each other

until all we are is sound and heat. This must be why

god called that moment of separation the beginning

the pain of being torn into something new.

You rip me where it’s funny and hurts the most.

Somewhere between my legs is the most shameful

part of my memory, the black portal of my need—my god

who is this sweet child you have summoned from me?


Ekphrasis of Black Women Fucking Each Other

I will not call her mother—        though she’s heard

             the first moan,         though her name is

the most primal thing

              will I say besides Jesus, besides Mercy

I am learning        the land of her, tasting

       the salt and citrus of her privacy. I do not need

to know her with my eyes—the darkness

        we have entered is the only place

              I have ever felt undead.

                           There is no moon or stars. No light

guiding us through this subtle night

                                        toward life outside of this

injured running. Do I call this care

       taking her into my mouth? I walk

                                          into the captivity of her body

for shelter, a room where one woman enters

              the other’s wound       holding her there until,

                                for once—

                                                   a stanza of desire.


Love’s Rare Sightings

The burden of my life bound my mother

to a man. I don’t want to bind my lover

who wants to hold me like a deer cradled

in the secrets of green bush to this opening—

my mother holding the pregnancy test

could not make the merciful decision—crush

my life before I could feel or be killed

by the weight of being unwanted.

In the threat of night, a woman holds me

now and wants to enter through the opening.

She asks Where do you want me to touch

you? I want to cover myself in the green

blanket of her passion, let her pack the wound

with the darkest flesh of her body. She looks

at me as if I am someone worthy of love’s rare

sightings, love’s green ambition—although

not even my mother considered me worthy

of love’s precision of naming. My father’s

mother decided the sound shape of my newborn

frame. My mother laughed at its staggered music.

The initials E.T.—an alien. My lover calls

what we make in passion a bird black with flight

although I am creek run dry, the emptied

body of desperate child, a greening corpse.

If I weren’t already dead, I’d try to love her back.



Author photo courtesy of author

E. Hughes received their MFA+MA from the Litowitz Creative Writing Program at Northwestern University. Their poems have been published or are forthcoming in Guernica Magazine, Poet Lore, Indiana Review, Gulf Coast Magazine, RHINO Poetry, and The Offing—among others. They are a Cave Canem fellow. They have been a finalist for the 2021 Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize, longlisted for the 2021 Granum Fellowship Prize, and a semifinalist of the 2022 92Y Discovery Contest. Currently, Hughes is a PhD student in Philosophy at Emory University. More from this author →