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Three poems

Story, His Biggest Deal Prompts a Lawyer to Reflect, Doxology at Sixty-six

Story

(An author speaks of himself and of his first novel.)

  • I shot—in Vietnam—at clouds and trees.
  • Our orders were to count our kills. They’d check:
  • How many gooks? I’d shout out: two, three, four,
  • Whatever number of Vietnamese
  • Seemed plausible that day. I was a wreck,
  • But lying got me through the goddam war.
  • Then, trying to cope with a divorce, I turned
  • To fiction. In the story, love survives
  • (Despite my own experience!) to the end:
  • Soldier comes home. He’s changed. Wife, too. They’ve learned
  • To live, even to relish, separate lives.
  • I made them patient, though. They slowly mend.
  • I am forever walking the fine line
  • Between the given world and one more mine.

His Biggest Deal Prompts a Lawyer to Reflect

  • Staying downtown, he would have said, worked well.
  • He slept a couple of hours at the hotel
  • Each night, and otherwise was free to lose
  • Himself in bringing promises to terms,
  • Putting them down on paper, and getting news
  • Discreetly to the proper agencies.
  • This lasted just a week. Still, love affirms
  • Itself or doesn’t. When the little breeze
  • Filing eternally through the conference room
  • Turned stale, he guessed they’d merged with King Tut’s tomb.
  • That no one even smiled was his first clue.
  • The night he put the documents to bed,
  • He lay awake and wondered what he’d do.
  • The air was stale, but only in his head.

Doxology at Sixty-six

  • This poem won’t paint scarlet injustices—
  • Or poke around inside an open wound
  • Time hasn’t healed—or fear the fears festooned
  • Across the future’s pitch-dark passages.
  • Joy is real. Joy comes and goes, but joy does come,
  • The way a prayed-for summer storm blows in
  • (Though minus the big-crazy-dog-like din).
  • From love, I’d say, if asked where joy comes from.
  • We’ve been out to a movie. We’re in bed.
  • We read, then switch the lamps off, kiss goodnight.
  • Hands find each other. Fingers interlace.
  • Earth’s pain grinds on (we’re past being misled)
  • But now gets swept away from the mind’s sight
  • By joy seeming to overflow a place
  • Apart—joy troubled less than a lush trace
  • Of spring—unearthly joy. I know her face.

Charles Hughes is the author of the poetry collection, Cave Art (Wiseblood Books 2014), and was a Walter E. Dakin Fellow at the 2016 Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Alabama Literary Review, The Christian Century, the Iron Horse Literary Review, Measure, the Saint Katherine Review, the San Diego Reader, the Sewanee Theological Review, and elsewhere. He worked as a lawyer for thirty-three years before his retirement and lives with his wife in the Chicago area.

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Story

(An author speaks of himself and of his first novel.)

  • I shot—in Vietnam—at clouds and trees.
  • Our orders were to count our kills. They’d check:
  • How many gooks? I’d shout out: two, three, four,
  • Whatever number of Vietnamese
  • Seemed plausible that day. I was a wreck,
  • But lying got me through the goddam war.
  • Then, trying to cope with a divorce, I turned
  • To fiction. In the story, love survives
  • (Despite my own experience!) to the end:
  • Soldier comes home. He’s changed. Wife, too. They’ve learned
  • To live, even to relish, separate lives.
  • I made them patient, though. They slowly mend.
  • I am forever walking the fine line
  • Between the given world and one more mine.

His Biggest Deal Prompts a Lawyer to Reflect

  • Staying downtown, he would have said, worked well.
  • He slept a couple of hours at the hotel
  • Each night, and otherwise was free to lose
  • Himself in bringing promises to terms,
  • Putting them down on paper, and getting news
  • Discreetly to the proper agencies.
  • This lasted just a week. Still, love affirms
  • Itself or doesn’t. When the little breeze
  • Filing eternally through the conference room
  • Turned stale, he guessed they’d merged with King Tut’s tomb.
  • That no one even smiled was his first clue.
  • The night he put the documents to bed,
  • He lay awake and wondered what he’d do.
  • The air was stale, but only in his head.

Doxology at Sixty-six

  • This poem won’t paint scarlet injustices—
  • Or poke around inside an open wound
  • Time hasn’t healed—or fear the fears festooned
  • Across the future’s pitch-dark passages.
  • Joy is real. Joy comes and goes, but joy does come,
  • The way a prayed-for summer storm blows in
  • (Though minus the big-crazy-dog-like din).
  • From love, I’d say, if asked where joy comes from.
  • We’ve been out to a movie. We’re in bed.
  • We read, then switch the lamps off, kiss goodnight.
  • Hands find each other. Fingers interlace.
  • Earth’s pain grinds on (we’re past being misled)
  • But now gets swept away from the mind’s sight
  • By joy seeming to overflow a place
  • Apart—joy troubled less than a lush trace
  • Of spring—unearthly joy. I know her face.

Charles Hughes is the author of the poetry collection, Cave Art (Wiseblood Books 2014), and was a Walter E. Dakin Fellow at the 2016 Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Alabama Literary Review, The Christian Century, the Iron Horse Literary Review, Measure, the Saint Katherine Review, the San Diego Reader, the Sewanee Theological Review, and elsewhere. He worked as a lawyer for thirty-three years before his retirement and lives with his wife in the Chicago area.

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