Holly J. Hughes, “Desire Lines”

I want to remind you again that I am reading — one of five readers — at Edmonds Bookshop this Thursday evening. To see more information, you can click on the “Upcoming Events” tab above.

Speaking of “all trades, their gear and tackle and trim” (Hopkins), I want to once again recommend Sailing by Ravens by Holly J. Hughes  for an immersion lesson into all things watery. (To see my review and links to others, click here.)

I was thinking of Holly’s book because I spent yesterday at a family party hosted by my sister and brother-in-law. My mom was there, holding court, as well as a few of her sisters and a few of our cousins. Lots of family stories. And Mom, of course, perpetually conversing with the people long dead. My sister brought out a family album and I started thinking that I could write a poem about my grandfather. So, to inspire me (surely an exercise right out of her book with Brenda Miller, The Pen and the Bell), here is Holly’s prose poem, “Desire Lines”:


Desire lines: where people have walked, made their own paths

About her great-grandfather, the English sea captain, she knows less. As the family story goes, the ship he commanded set sail from London, a seventeen-year-old Spanish girl of noble blood aboard bound for finishing school in Cuba. When the ship docked in New Orleans, they eloped. So much the story doesn’t say. What were her first words to him, the stately captain? How many days out from port before he gazed into the vanishing horizon of her eyes? When did they stand at the bow, glimpse together a future glimmering? At what precise coordinate did they cross desire’s shimmering line? Where in the vast Atlantic, as the ship steamed south, did their bodies know they would not — could not — return to the lives they’d left behind?

By Thursday night, maybe I’ll have a logging poem for you about my grandfather.

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