Winifred Hughes

April 4, 2008 at 4:51 pm (Uncategorized) ()

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Up-Island Everyone Spoke Sign
(Chilmark, Martha’s Vineyard)

Soundless, their words became tactile,
shaped in the hands. They thought

little of it, so many deaf on the island,
the hearing ones bilingual, signing

instinctively, function or eloquence
at their fingertips, on the tips of tongues.

And the deaf were just that, deaf, as
they might have been tall or raven-

haired. No one saw anything amiss.
Farmers, fishermen, shipwrights,

shopkeepers, they knew their customers.
Deaf and hearing intermarried, speech

palpable between them, deftly knitting
the silence, its invisible strands.

Architecture Student

Given latitude and map,
she fixes Venice
for her site plan,

conjures up a floating
opera house
mid-canal: anchorless,

flung against no sky,
its matchbox chambers
a spatial music.

The professor wants a “story,”
persuasiveness
of line, meta-geometry

not lived-in storeys,
cracked plaster,
gutters and plumbing:

it doesn’t have to hold
water, just hover
over the mind’s grid.

You have to learn, he says,
how to play, how
not to fasten things

with bolts and mortar,
design no place to be
but to imagine being.

Depth of Field
(Victorian Photographs)

Could we keep it up
as they did, five or ten
minutes at a stretch,

poised and exposed
before the slowed shutter
shuts us down?

A sigh, absentminded
shift or blink, and the image
blurs successive

selves togehter. could we
gaze at time’s measured
passage without a flinch,

look truth right back at it,
our characters deepening
visibly as we sit

waiting for nothing more
that to stop the wait-
mouth taut, eyes remote

or anguished, a presence
surfacing we hadn’t known
inside us.


Winifred Hughes is a writer and editor living in Princeton, NJ. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Dalhousie Review, Larcom Review, and The Literary Review, among other journals. New work is currently out in Ars Interpres, Atlanta Review, and Kelsey Review. A long-time member of U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative, she is the recipient of a 2007 Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

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