Two Poems

by Sara Pirkle Hughes

Guilt Free

Stars are nothing more than put-upon immigrants.
They cross frozen oceans of space and claim grants
of citizenship in our sky. They pulse like ants.

We curse each spoke of their celestial wheel
for hangnails, flat tires, cuts that won’t heal.
We sigh, always unlucky slaves to our ill—

not unlike some babe born in a stable,
who might have shaken his fist at the table
of glistening stars above, had he been able.

Learning to Read a River

Each river is a university, an emerald
mystery curling toward horizon.
I’m learning to drift on my back
like a twig and warm my face
in sunshine dappling the banks.
I’m taking a class on how to dive

under the current of human ache,
pump my legs through the cold grip
grief has on everything. I want
to swim along the sandy bottom,
pivot, comet to the surface.
The next lesson: accept regret

the way leaves absorb light
into their veins to fuel growth.
Once I’ve mastered photosynthesis,
I can open a college for egrets
beneath rustling canopies
and teach philosophy. My lectures

will glide like life preservers
to the younger version of myself.
She teeters neck-deep downriver.
How grateful she should be
when my words float by.
How lucky she is that I can save her.


Sara Pirkle Hughes is the author of The Disappearing Act, which won the 2016 Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. Her poems have been published inRattle, Reed, Entropy, TAB, Atlanta Review, Emrys, and Atticus Review, among others. Sara has received writing fellowships from The Anderson Center, I-Park Foundation, and The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. She teaches literature and writing at The University of Alabama, where she hosts the Pure Products Reading & Lecture Series.
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