Ocean waves and clouds

Two Poems by Holly J. Hughes

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Make a place for the glint in the seal’s eye that second before
it rolls back its slick head, slips silent beneath the surface.

Make room for the shimmer of salmon, splitting the sun, leaping
for the stream of its birth, even knowing what’s ahead.

Carve out a corner for the crab who grasped the blade
of the cleaver that sliced it in two, wouldn’t let go. 

That light, dazzling dark sea ahead, remember it, remember
how it seeps from billowing cumulus when you least expect

or how the sun finds the crack in the horizon’s solder to empty
out its cargo at dusk, a slick sheen across the water.

How the green spinning earth and blue brimming sea go on and on
even when we’re not looking, and that perhaps, if we can pay

attention for even a second, remember just this, it may not
make us whole, but it could be a good place to begin.



Each Bird Singing: A Cento

What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands
and scent of pine and wood thrush singing through the fog.

So you see to reach the past is easy. A snap. A snap of the sea
and a third of a century passes. Good memory,

if you are such a boat, tell me we did not falter
in the vastness when we walked ashore.  

I am alone among the others who have stood here
as they looked out over the snowy fields, holding their breath.

What the train and the river were saying, no one could understand. 
We just stood there, breathing what was left of the night. 

The great light cage has broken up in the air freeing, I think,
about a million birds whose wild ascending shadows will not be back.

Is light the last thing lost or never lost at all?
All’s a scattering, a shining.  

There is time, still time, for one who can groan to sing,
for one who can sing to be healed.   

We must risk delight. Learn the flowers, go light.
Perhaps a speckled dream to wrestle in the night.

Far out in a universe a tomorrow we can’t see
is singing the last word of a song we heard long ago.  

Sparrow your message is clear: it is not too late for my singing.
With small hope from the center of darkness it calls out again and again.

With thanks to Elizabeth Bishop, T.S. Eliot, Tess Gallagher, Jack Gilbert, Robert Hedin, Tom Jay, Galway Kinnell, Ted Kooser, Theodore Roethke, Joan Swift, and Gary Snyder.




Holly J. HughesHolly J. Hughes is the author of Hold Fast, in which these poems appear, as well as Passings and Sailing by Ravens. She is also the co-author of The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World. Her fine art chapbook Passings received an American Book Award in 2017. After commercial fishing for salmon in Alaska, skippering a 65-foot schooner, working as a naturalist on ships, and teaching writing at the college level for several decades, she now lives on the Olympic Peninsula, where she leads writing and mindfulness workshops in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest and consults as a writing coach.

Header photo courtesy Pexels.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.