Henry Hughes

Faceless Fish
	Typhlonus nasus, a deep-water cusk,
	appears to have no face
				D. Markle, ichthyologist
You know some deep people, right?
Philosophers, physicists, artists—a woman
at the bar who blows your mind—
maybe poor, obscure, forgotten, faceless,
like a fish the Brits caught in 1874, 
Coral Sea, hemp net, piano wire tuned to rum. 
Now we’ve got nylon, sonar, digital cameras, 
computer winching, Facetime and Facebook.
Just the other day, south of Sydney, 
three miles down, in the anxious grid of nets 
and grant money, and who slept with who,
another pale, creamy, visionless future
struggled in the milky glow of falling atmospheres.
Waves, engines, deck chatter, an ice-filled bin,  
smiling scientists, video, news—the dying fish, 
faceless, but for all our momentary stares.  

Meteorite Hits Doghouse in Costa Rica

Red ginger and goat grass, frogs 
chorusing the starry April night, sparked
with a comet’s heavenly shower
and the blasting hot plunge of a seven-inch stone 
through Roky’s rusty roof.  
Barking young shepherd. He’s all right.  
Shouts, flood lights. ¡Dios mío! ¿Qué pasó? 
Neighbors, police, experts and dealers.
Auctioned off at Christie’s,
the older than our solar system rock sells for 21k,
Roky’s house for more than twice that.
If that dog got hit, an agent whispers,
we’d have made a million. The blessing
of missing the blessing. 

Fish in Ice

Some fish fully recover from being frozen solid in ice
					—D. Markle, ichthyologist 
Cleaved from school, hovering
under winter’s dim ceiling,
reading the stiffening slush
to sleep. Crystalline fins, gills 
scaling back feintest breath, night’s 
windless gel-eyed stare, stiff 
in the stillness of self. Locked
alone in ice, biding until spring thaw
or the deadly chisel of a crow.  

Filling McPherson’s Pond

Our bulldozer idles. Raccoon tracks, dragonflies, the grassy clearing where McPherson parked so his wife could swim.

The pond was deeper then. Summer evenings on the truck’s hood, he rubbed his shrapnelled legs, and watched her long strokes, her blue-capped bob and wave.

In December, melting in Alzheimer’s, she wandered away. Nothing from the police or neighbors, the cold nights of his calling. In September he phoned, met us on the porch. They never checked the pond, he spoke like sand. Fill it in. Then paid up front in cash.

The dozer roars, redwings reel into blue, turtles slide off logs, and I see sunfish in the shallows, shaking reeds bent like ribs over the pond’s sunken heart. God, what-the-hell would you do?

Henry Hughes’ poems and stories have appeared in Antioch Review, Carolina Quarterly, Harvard Review, Shenandoah, Southern Humanities Review, Queen’s Quarterly, and Sewanee Review. He is the author of four poetry collections, including Men Holding Eggs, which received the Oregon Book Award, and the memoir, Back Seat with Fish. Hughes is the editor of the Everyman’s Library anthologies, The Art of Angling: Poems about Fishing, Fishing Stories, and the newly published River Poems. He is a professor of literature and writing at Western Oregon University.
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