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Two poems by Charles Hughes

The Yellow Twine and To a Generation Dying Old

  • The Yellow Twine
  • His father’s baseball glove
  • At night, each night, tucked under his bed—
  • Strict prudence of a child’s desperate love
  • Not said in words but said.
  • Once a light khaki, now
  • Darkened by years, by catches, by
  • Being oiled and rubbed and brought to a sepia glow
  • Brief as a butterfly.
  • The glove sometimes would fall,
  • Riskily, while in use on the field.
  • He’d grown, but even so, his hand was small,
  • The absence far from healed.
  • His mother thought to replace
  • (She watched the process work online)
  • A broken (long ago) leather finger-lace
  • With yellow nylon twine.
  • He saw his mother’s tears:
  • She’d seen him blink back brand new pain.
  • Pain, grief that flared in him dissolved in hers
  • Like wildfire quenched by rain.
  • The yellow twine stayed put,
  • Became in time invisible,
  • And bound up brokenness, though only what
  • Love can bind up and will.
  • To a Generation Dying Old
  • The whole world is watching.
  • —chanted by anti-Vietnam War protesters
  • during the Democratic National Convention
  • held in Chicago, August 26-29, 1968
  • Sobering to think of all the ways
  • The world could be a better place;
  • To think that earth, sky, justice, butterflies
  • Won’t likely in this age be restored,
  • That war, a giddy word
  • To demons, won’t meet its demise.
  • Here at the edge of sleep at last,
  • Sing quiet songs. In Camelot,
  • Arthur dreamed dreams that came to naught.
  • Sing softly of dreams long, long past.
  • We dreamed, had hopes for history.
  • Sad to remember now that we—
  • With a war’s end, with time, with the attacks
  • Of everyday ambition and fear—
  • Didn’t much persevere,
  • Got busy, mostly turned our backs.
  • Sing as the evening sun turns shade
  • And night’s dark shore begins to loom.
  • Guenevere, Lancelot—Arthur’s doom
  • Took shape, and he would die, betrayed.
  • The moment came to speak our piece,
  • A moment bright as the Pleiades.
  • In a lush, green land, an arson fire raged on
  • And on, merciless, mindless, killing
  • Both willing and unwilling.
  • We (some, at least) cried out as one.
  • Sing softly, sing just loud enough
  • For ears still listening to hear
  • Futile refrains old dreams held dear,
  • Dreams once our glory, dreams of love.
Charles Hughes

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 33 years before his retirement and lives with his wife in the Chicago area.

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  • The Yellow Twine
  • His father’s baseball glove
  • At night, each night, tucked under his bed—
  • Strict prudence of a child’s desperate love
  • Not said in words but said.
  • Once a light khaki, now
  • Darkened by years, by catches, by
  • Being oiled and rubbed and brought to a sepia glow
  • Brief as a butterfly.
  • The glove sometimes would fall,
  • Riskily, while in use on the field.
  • He’d grown, but even so, his hand was small,
  • The absence far from healed.
  • His mother thought to replace
  • (She watched the process work online)
  • A broken (long ago) leather finger-lace
  • With yellow nylon twine.
  • He saw his mother’s tears:
  • She’d seen him blink back brand new pain.
  • Pain, grief that flared in him dissolved in hers
  • Like wildfire quenched by rain.
  • The yellow twine stayed put,
  • Became in time invisible,
  • And bound up brokenness, though only what
  • Love can bind up and will.
  • To a Generation Dying Old
  • The whole world is watching.
  • —chanted by anti-Vietnam War protesters
  • during the Democratic National Convention
  • held in Chicago, August 26-29, 1968
  • Sobering to think of all the ways
  • The world could be a better place;
  • To think that earth, sky, justice, butterflies
  • Won’t likely in this age be restored,
  • That war, a giddy word
  • To demons, won’t meet its demise.
  • Here at the edge of sleep at last,
  • Sing quiet songs. In Camelot,
  • Arthur dreamed dreams that came to naught.
  • Sing softly of dreams long, long past.
  • We dreamed, had hopes for history.
  • Sad to remember now that we—
  • With a war’s end, with time, with the attacks
  • Of everyday ambition and fear—
  • Didn’t much persevere,
  • Got busy, mostly turned our backs.
  • Sing as the evening sun turns shade
  • And night’s dark shore begins to loom.
  • Guenevere, Lancelot—Arthur’s doom
  • Took shape, and he would die, betrayed.
  • The moment came to speak our piece,
  • A moment bright as the Pleiades.
  • In a lush, green land, an arson fire raged on
  • And on, merciless, mindless, killing
  • Both willing and unwilling.
  • We (some, at least) cried out as one.
  • Sing softly, sing just loud enough
  • For ears still listening to hear
  • Futile refrains old dreams held dear,
  • Dreams once our glory, dreams of love.
Charles Hughes

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 33 years before his retirement and lives with his wife in the Chicago area.

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