"[Like the Japanese cherry blossoms wedded to the soil’s palm]" by Luther Hughes

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August 18, 2022 

[Like the Japanese cherry blossoms wedded to the soil’s palm]

Luther Hughes

Like the Japanese cherry blossoms wedded to the soil’s palm
planted in front of the train station; or the yellow-black dance
of the tiger swallowtail’s wings as it flees; or the echoes that follow
after I thunder loud against the kitchen cabinets; or the summer fire
hitched to the air we breathe—the chuckle of ash sneaking into our lungs;
or the way your eyes elope when you’ve had enough of my
tit-for-tat-I’m-right-your-wrong song; or wind—always, there is wind—
that kicks the kink of the whine and wail of the German shepherd left behind;
or the night’s bat wing splashed against the living room window
as I sleep on the couch; or the final five-hundred pairs of northern spotted owls
married to the asylum of pine and bark and nest and play in the State we claim,
the owls now near-threatened with their thirteen hoots and barks and whistles,
with their shabby dresses and dark-in-love stares, their piece of the American pie—
don’t they, too, deserve the kickshaws of what this handsome planet
has to offer, don’t we? . . . Don’t leave me. We may not be a pair of owls
nested in the forest of Douglas firs trying to make muss a home
humans made of this land, timber harvestings and land conversions.
I may have farmed a muck of our land, too,
but Babe, no matter the season of fresh lavender and children playing
in the hallway, no matter the bowls of leftover ramen mean with age,
no matter the abysmal cycle of lists I conjure in this poem, no matter
if every last owl has escaped—Lord, let them escape—the foul-fowl lust
of humankind, no matter the huff I hang on your every word,
I love you. You are where I belong.

Copyright © 2022 by Luther Hughes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 18, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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I wanted to write a different type of love poem than the ones I have in A Shiver in the Leaves. This poem is one of the few I have attempted and written since finishing the book. I was eager to address different types of danger—the endangerment of one’s relationship, yes, but also the endangerment of the Northern spotted owl. Who knows where I’ll go from here?”
Luther Hughes

Luther Hughes is the author of A Shiver in the Leaves (BOA Editions, 2022). A Cave Canem graduate fellow, he is the recipient of a 2020 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg fellowship and a 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize. He lives in Seattle.

A Shiver in the Leaves
(BOA Editions, 2022)

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Thanks to Donika Kelly, author of The Renunciations (Graywolf Press, 2021), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read or listen to a Q&A about Kelly’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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