Daylight Savings Time

I crept inside my house to rewind the hands of the clock,

Then leapt to my front yard to fall back into the brown leaves with my daughter

One more time.

 

As I leaned my head back into the crunchy heap,

I saw her bangs hanging over my face, smiling, and I thought

Of all the gorgeous minutes I would get to see again.

 

In that extra hour, my girls become airplanes in my hands.

They giggle like a sheet of snowflakes.

Their bellies are made of chocolate chip cookies.

 

We all sit around the table like we were cut out of some magazine,

Music in the background as soft as the stuffed bear

Who occupies his own seat at dinner.

 

Then my children play the trumpet on two paper towel rolls,

Heralding the news that they are dinosaurs,

Searching the rainforest of the kitchen for a snack.

 

I guess I could have just waited to turn back the hour

Tomorrow morning before I leave for work

In the still light of a different dawn.

 

But who could resist such an encore? The chance to relive

My daughters wearing ice cream like ball gowns,

Pirouetting on bare feet, pink as the piggies we count at night?

 

So I close my eyes, covered in this rich mound of old leaves, and

Listen as closely as I ever have to the ticking sounds of time, grateful for

The sunlight of a second five o’clock.

I Can Only Do So Many Things

I can only do so many things

Before my lungs give out.

So I’ll go for a walk to figure it all out

As best I can.

 

Although I do know how to look at flowers and the yellow silk of their petals,

The streetlamps, the pair of initials settled in the cement,

I could always learn to see them better.

 

My elementary school teachers taught me to type,

But sometimes I still make mistakes.

I have spelled my last name Hugg ten too many times,

Though I have yet to give ten too many hugs to anybody.

So today, I’m going to go outside and hug somebody.

 

Although I am thirty years old, I still find myself

Dancing like a scarecrow on a yellow road

When no one’s looking, and, every now and then,

When everyone is.

 

My arms are filled with atoms,

Peering around like periscopes as I write,

Seeking out some land where I can stand

And call out to the clouds of my brain for the next

Line.

 

I can spin a pen around the ball bearings of my fingertips –

It’s learning to use it that is agonizing.

 

I can picture your hands, your face,

As you read this,

For you, too, can only do so many things.

 

And as I wonder where you are from and what has brought us together in this moment,

I try to discover what is stopping us.

For though we can only do so many things,

There are so many things that only we can do.

 

So unravel the things you can do. Unfold them and rub them against

The edges of the table to iron out their creases,

Read the crisp handwriting of the notes that have been written

To you. Take notes on your forearms to remind yourself

Of that tree you climbed when you were young.

Perch yourself on the curb of a storefront and eat your lunch with both hands

Like a toddler waiting for his birthday to come.

 

Let the static shock of a plastic slide send you straight back to your childhood.

Buy a candy bar on the impulse shelves of the checkout counter

And eat the entire thing on the way home.

And I’ll set up the chess board for another round

Against my father, the man who taught me everything I needed to know

About knighthood.

 

So this evening, when the night sky swims into view,

Before I sleep like a puddle of rain,

I will know I have done all that I can do

And so have you

And maybe we’ll meet for ice cream before our lungs give out.

Little Icarus

Little Icarus stood by the wood chips.

 

He was twelve when both his wings broke, tangled up,

Trying to tear through the fabric of his polo,

Caught beneath the floorboards of his shoulder blades

As his cheeks flushed with shame.

 

He wore a slipshod buzz cut and chubby jowls that

Framed his braces and the crooked grin they fenced in,

Standing alone as yesterday’s rain lay simmering on the blacktop.

 

A blur of children sprinted past him, laughing,

And he buried his dry tongue beneath the dirt in his throat,

The stiffness of death in the mouth of a boy

Who never knew what to say.

 

Not a word about the jungles he’d seen in gym,

The knotted rope of humiliation and the sting of the lash

As the rich kid rat-tailed his back in the locker room

And all the cool boys snickered behind their elbows,

The cute girls giggling later over sandwiches.

 

But don’t you fear, little man,

For I have brought an army of book nerds,

Dreamers and choir singers,

Carrying their lisps and scars in rucksacks,

Glasses, buck teeth, and southern accents,

The boys who cry at movies and the girls who still have nightmares,

Walking our bikes over to invite you to our treehouse

Where white-out is outlawed

And your freckles are the confetti of God

Like He cut up the birthday cake of the sun just for you.

 

And together there, we’ll patch your feathers

And tell a couple of stories

Before we lean our heads back against the beams of our home,

Look up at the stars through the crack in our creaky roof,

And slowly drift to sleep.

Time

Before the sun rose this morning, I left my coffee cup

On the table next to the vase of flowers

And pulled a chair around to the far side near the window.

 

I brushed aside the still air of early kitchen light

And lifted myself up, towering toward the ceiling,

To unspine the batteries from the clock on the wall.

 

I wanted to place them next to one of your drawings,

The one with purple and blue marker on yellow paper

In which you carefully illustrated your little world

 

Filled with sunshine and letters of the alphabet,

A summer sky hovering above

Your endless fields of doodling.

 

You told me it reminded you of Blueberry Mash Hill,

That fantastic landscape of games and laughter you climb

On every walk we take around the neighborhood,

 

Or Apple Hill, the other street that bends toward the cul-de-sac,

Perhaps even Strawberry Hill, the one with the sharp incline

Followed by a spectacular view of the clouds.

 

But as the sunlight began to trickle through the window

And illuminate the hills of your imagination,

I laid the pages back on the table

 

And glanced at the pair of batteries,

Rolling lazily along the wooden surface,

Disregarding my attempt to freeze this moment in time

 

As I can just detect your small voice

Calling out from the top of the stairs,

Ready for another day of constant and beautiful growing.

Dad

On the mountains at the farthest border of the world,

Snow-capped and calling,

I felt my way to the thin line of the edge

And looked down into outer space

 

Where I could see the winds of stars fall asleep

Below my scarlet knuckles

As the northern lights, with their tin flame of foil fire,

Green and white diamond, filmed the midnight sky.

 

They told stories like my father,

Full of heroes and the beauties they fought for,

As every scene of laughter and of sorrow,

Played at once along the measures of their gleaming.

 

Then I balled a few rags of snow in my grasp

And clenched them hard enough for the cold to slide

Into my chest and crack my pounding heart alive

As I rose to my feet and steadied my shaking lungs.

 

I remember those tales well,

My father sitting by my bedside, holding

Oceans and sailing ships with the strength of

His love for me.

 

And I would follow him anywhere,

Through the forestry of childhood,

Keeping close to his heels as he

Showed me where to go,

 

Well into the iron winters of adulthood

As my stride slowly grew stronger, and

He taught me how to breathe

The mountain air of becoming a father.

 

For now, as I stand at the peak of this universe,

Filled with ice and the sweep of shooting stars,

I turn and see the faces of my own children and my beautiful wife,

Looking to me with the smiles of home,

 

And I know it is time to tell my own stories,

To hold their hands and lead them onward

As they keep close to my heels, and I show them

Where to go.

Boy

A new poem on summer and boyhood:


He stood by the swimming pool,

His trunks sealed to his little knees

As the last breaths of the pool dribbled slowly from his calves

To kiss the crackling concrete.

 

Beneath his wrinkled, sunblocked brow, his eyes flashed open,

Fixed on the middle distance and the sound of a train

Stampeding down a rusted track.

As the sun pulled at his shadow, the boy dropped his goggles

And stared reverently at the noise of power behind the trees.

 

He had heard the stories,

The quick news that Aunt Jane had bought her house near the railroad,

But now he knew, as her back yard burst with chugging,

And her pool rippled the echo,

The spirit of wildness, the wonder of living.

 

He raised his chin to face the summer breeze,

Locked his knuckles,

And blessed the pulsing engine

As he felt his own horsepower tingling in his toes.

To My Mother on Her Birthday

My mother’s birthday is today, and I wanted to honor her and everything she has done for my family and me by writing this poem for her. Happy birthday, Mom.


I saw her breathing deeply

As I stared through strands of tumbling hair,

Like little wispy veils,

Slurring my sleepy vision as I shivered at her bedside.

I was small and scared and four.

 

My mother’s sleep lay on her thick as quilts,

Lulling her tired bones to the rest of sacred dreams,

Filled with the iron ballast of a day of boundless worship:

Her living room worn by the hymns of an aged vacuum,

Choruses offered as sacred vespers,

The clouds of sunset filling her temple,

My mother’s domestic liturgy.

 

I see her hands fold behind her pillow,

Fingers faded by the baptism of dishes,

The scrape of cereal from the bowl and the wisdom of rags

Wiping away the filth of human failures.

 

Her forehead lightens as her mind replays

The wonders of laughter

And the splattering grace of the evening meal,

Smeared cheeks chewing on the Passover,

Remembrances of a body broken

As my mother’s bends beneath the steam of a swollen oven,

Her electric altar of praise.

 

My little voice whispers through missing teeth

That the dragon in my room was snarling again,

Its bared fangs aching for the taste of boy,

And I needed her to rescue my wet sheets.

 

Her eyes half-closed,

Limbs dangling from the strings of endless love,

She stumbles to the linen closet as I anxiously peer through the dark,

Searching for the twin braids of smoke in the shadows of my urine-stained room,

Trusting in the holy strength of my beautiful mother

Whose arms bear the load of a midnight sacrifice

And whose kiss can slay the dragons.