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R.L. HUGHES

FOUR POEMS

SPECTATOR

There he stands,
old man with a dry mouth
waiting for his soul to sing,
anything;
conscious that he cannot always
choose the song
and never call the tune.

Spectator
who sees most of the game
but, tongue-tied by despair,
cannot give
a coherent commentary
or find words
of comfort for the losers.


WALKING IN WINTER

Frost has put white flesh
On the bare bones of trees,
Thickened and stiffened the leaves
Of grass and herb that crisp
And crackle underfoot

Mist encloses the mountain.
It's cold enough for snow,
Which will not be slow
To spread from the far peaks
To these wooded slopes below

And sheathe white flesh in
Even whiter skin.


JANUARY FIRES

Smoke is rising from the bay:
men are building bonfires on the beach,
raising pyramids of brush and driftwood:
root and branch and twisted trunk of trees

wrenched up, dismembered, drowned,
picked clean by sea and surf and left
to moulder bone bare on the stony shore;
wrack of the last of last year's storms

cast away by wind and wave and strewn
haphazardly across the beach,
now gathered up and stacked on pyres,
slyly probed by fingers of fire

that flare in sudden breaths of air
and fan out into flaming palms,
sparks flying wildly to expire
in the sunlit January sky,

then die away to smouldering ruins,
where charred remains disintegrate
and ash and embers disappear
among the shingle, shells and shards.


TWO PHOTOS

One black and white, slightly
out of focus, faded
with age; the other
in colour and clearly defined.

In each a fair-haired child in
a white dress turns her head
towards the camera, looks
at me out of the photo.

  Each child is two years old.
  Thirty six years lie between them.

Looking at the colour print
I found I was afraid,
waiting for the child
to pass the other's age,

never having imagined
that another might come
even this close. (She too would
ask for me in my absence.)

  What surprises me is that
  it does not seem like betrayal;
  rather, something to celebrate.

R.L. Hughes