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Peter Huggins


William Malloy, Archaeologist

At first I believed Heyerdahl.
His hypothesis convinced me
That Easter Island was settled
By Chileans, not Polynesians.

The more I looked the more
I realized Heyerdahl was wrong.
The ahu, the stone platforms on which
The great stone statues sat,

Resembled Polynesian altars
More than the stonework of Tiahuanaco.
Besides, for millennia the Polynesians
Had sailed east to escape war

Or famine. About 400 A.D.
Chief Hotu Matu'a arrived
With poultry, crops, and 50 settlers.
These 50 grew to 7000.

They carved these moai to show
How powerful and rich they were.
When the island could not support
The moai cult, the Rapa Nui ate

Each other, killing rival clans
Until the moai fell face forward
In the dirt as if ashamed of what
They'd seen. These islanders

Live on, proof that they can adapt
To anything, even tourism. I like
The islander who sits in a cave
To honor his grandfather who sat

In the same cave. He knows
Who he is and where he lives.
He may take a plane to Chile,
But he'll never leave this island.



Mary Shelley on the Reissue of Frankenstein, 1831

We will each write a ghost story, Lord Byron said.
We were in Switzerland and summer rain
Drove us inside for days at a time.

At first a short tale was all I had,
But Shelley encouraged me to turn
The tale into a novel of some length.

My Victor Frankenstein is not Shelley
Nor Byron but the modern Prometheus,
Giver of fire.

An ambivalent gift since it brings
Light, heat and power,
But also death into our world.

This division I sought to portray
In Victor and in his creation, the monster,
Who kills those whom Victor loves.

I have an affection for my monster.
In the pages of this novel I hear,
As clearly as if he were next to me,

My husband's voice, the conversations we had.
I remember the walks we took along the Thames,
The river bubbling our pleasure with each other

Before death and grief came into our lives.
Grief has made me strong and I'm sure
My dear Shelley would have liked that.



Anne Frank

In our little world, our secret annexe,
We have forgotten how to laugh.
Each of us thinks
His or her own situation is the worst.
Sometimes I believe we have lost
All sympathy for each other.
We are so caught up in our drama
On the Prinsengracht we can't share
Our misery, our secret thoughts.
Each would be too offended. Thank God
For Kitty, my diary. My sister Margot,
My dear Peter, my mother, my father,
Mr. And Mrs. Van Daan and Mr. Dussel
Would be horrified if I told them
What I had written about them.
And about me. I must tell the truth,
Not lie, not pretend. I admit:
I'm bossy. I told poor Emma Neumann
What to do and how to act.
No wonder she didn't like me.
I would like to know what's happened
To her and to her family.
I keep her in my thoughts and prayers.
That way, perhaps, she has a chance
To stay alive, at least in memory.
I'm also a perfectionist, which is
Really hard in our cramped space.
Mr. Dussel would laugh if I said this.
He thinks I'm messy and don't bother
With anything. He's wrong, of course.
I care a lot. If only he knew
How much I care he would change his mind.
I guess it's just one more thing
About me that's gotten reversed.
The bad always seems to be on the outside.
That's what everybody sees.
I believe people are good at heart,
But no one sees the good. I know
That sounds foolish when I see the world on fire,
When I feel the suffering of millions.
I know that if I were to look up
Into the sky and count the stars,
Then everything, including this cruelty,
Would come out right. Peace will return.
Tranquillity, even for me, the little
Bundle of contradictions, will reign.
My heart is open. I fear no evil.



Basin Street

After the bright notes of the trombone,
What else is there to respond to?

Moonrise over Maui? Sunset at Key West?
The first sweet smell of spring

In the Cumberland Plateau?
When the silver horn speaks,

Feel its warm breath as it slides
Up your arm and around your neck.

When it slips down your spine,
Know it will wrap around your legs

Before it glides away,
Leaving you its cool sound.


Peter Huggins books of poems are Necessary Acts, Blue Angels, and Hard Facts; he is also the author of a picture book, Trosclair and the Alligator, which has appeared on the PBS show Between the Lions, and a novel for younger readers, In the Company of Owls.

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Read a Terrain.org review of Blue Angels, poems by Peter Huggins.


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