SARA HUGHES

★ ★ ★ ★

POETRY

Reflection

Every morning, the man rides this train
into the city. He sits by the window
gazing at the Hudson. All day he works.
Every night, he rides the train back home.

Twenty years pass as he stares
beyond his reflection in that glass.
For him, home is not the city
or the suburbs but what lies beyond

the train window. The man has spent
his best years growing to love this river.
Like any man in love, when he is near her,
he is more than himself, more than the skin

separating his bones from the air.
He is the train rushing past the river
and the hills falling away on either side.
He is the gray sunlight filtering like smoke,

the evening crouching on each wet stone.
On nights when he is tired, he understands
that the moon, fractured on the river’s surface,
is his heart—every silver watery sliver.

The Miracle of Hands

Searching for sugar, the girl’s white hands
burrow through the pantry, pushing back
dry boxes of pasta and cereal, a forgotten jar
of olives. Her fingers savor the powdery flour

coating the contact-papered shelves,
the gritty brown sugar sticking to the bag.
What others label a mess, she labels magic.
A pair of overturned salt and pepper shakers,

a splash of almond extract staining the cabinet wall
in the back corner, a sprinkle of paprika.
Whose hands touched this garlic before hers?
What prayers did those hands whisper at dawn,

morning swelling, filling the window?
What fingertips pried this basil from the dirt,
then traced a sleeping son’s face? This magic
can’t be bought: hands preparing coffee,

hands kneading oats and butter and honey
in a cool ceramic bowl. This cannot be bought:
the miracle of hands on another’s body.
This is what a kitchen is for, a girl’s white hands

turning an oven off, arranging juice glasses
beside each plate, so the ones she loves most
can rise slowly from their beds, hold this gift
in their hands, this sweet bread, this immaculate life.

Everything, Just Noise

Leave your place at the table
under the clock. Leave the lonely
hourly chirp that stirs
in your heart the burning thought
you might go nowhere.

Come sit with me in the garden
while chipping sparrows cry,
their calls clashing
with the falling frass.
Submit to the delicate chaos.

Surrender to what exists beyond us,
to what exists within, to what is good.
Birds hurling sonatinas
across grass so green it hurts.
My hand on your neck,
your tongue on mine.
Our skin against the naked earth.

Sara Pirkle Hughes’s first book, The Disappearing Act, won the 2016 Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry and is forthcoming from Mercer University Press. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, the Best of the Net Anthology, and the Independent Best American Poetry Award.  She has published in dozens of literary journals, including Rattle, Reed, Rosebud, Emrys, Atlanta Review, Juxtaprose, and Atticus Review, among others.  She has received writing fellowships from I-Park Foundation, The Anderson Center, and The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. She teaches literature and writing at Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia.