Issue 7 / Poetry

Poetry by Luther Hughes

a question of rain

after Jayson Smith

admit it,

being wet is the only option. you

crawl outside. throw yourself against the
drain—it’s better this way. pushing your

ethereal against the metal ribs of the curb’s curl and

finish. as a black boy,

all you have is your moist. your

gout-blood lip when

he slips, sinks beneath your skin. what terrifies you

isn’t the storm, but the looming light afterwards.

the pearled sky            quiet as a seed.

just as rain, you were born to be there.

and then not. like

kinfolk.                        your voice a cloud fermented

inside the throat,

birthed in the shape of wanting.

it’s true,

luther, you thought you could walk on water—his

mouth sly, slick against your black corpse—

now, he says.

open.          this is what happens when two things meet:

the flesh turns inward like a fist,

starved and thirsty. the earth

pining for a boy

quieted—you don’t know the meaning of emptiness.

how it can’t be

removed. how the body

succumbs to the single

tongue’s whip.                        truth is,

under all that mess, is more mess,

venerating the wash of what the body can handle.

how the body

wails.               and the wails sings you still inside his flooded chest

‘xactly how you imagined—can

you hear it?     can you hear

zion?                can you hear the rain coming?            and then not?

broken sonnet for osteoarthritis

we have known death to be an accident,

but you fondle my grandfather

like a monsoon swiping its knuckle

against the blue cavernous mouth—

mother ocean, mother yemoja—

the breakage of the body’s dress. i held water

behind my eyelids, called you many names:

reckless. the devil’s hand.       the levee

anchoring his legs broke:         a storm beading

the floor          no accident                  you bury limbs

under bloodied mess   the single tissue a red ribbon   oh the places

you gift them              as for gods      your name       katrina

loving the bone slow               mother

wreckage                     mother debris


broken ghazal for osteoarthritis

again, you come a patient scythe. first for my grandfather, how you tongued

the vitals, made home an empty bowl. now, my father, his tongue,


barbed, unfolds a whisper: i have it too.                     we sit in the car. i watch you chew

the cartilage like a wolf—the bones jagged, dressed in red, tonguing


familiar fruit.               (this can’t happen. this can’t happen.)            i sit watching

you harvest my father’s voice: i have it too— tonguing


the city of teeth, first, like my grandfather. now, my father looks at me,

eyes thin as a leather belt, unthreads it’s hereditary. my tongue


breaks into a silence, makes home a feathered throat. (this can’t happen.

luther, this can’t happen.)       the car pulls into the driveway, a tongue


wanting a way in.        we hear you nest inside my father’s palm—knuckles

cackle, cackle.                         the garage door           a white mouth, spills its black tongue


as it opens.                              you don’t move. we sunder under you

like a monolith.                       i’ll admit, i’m afraid of you.   name a blade to my tongue.


i sit.     you drink my father.   bone by bone. i open the car door,

hear you croon like the metals tossing.                       breaking against the air.



Luther Hughes is a Seattle native, but currently lives in Chicago where he is pursuing his B.A. in poetry at Columbia College Chicago. He currently curates, “Shade,” a literary blog for queer writers of color. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Luther’s work have been published or is forthcoming in Solstice Literary Magazine, Muzzle Magazine, Winter Tangerine, Vinyl Poetry, Word Riot, and others. You can follow him on Twitter @lutherxhughes. He thinks you are beautiful. Selected by David Ishaya Osu.

Image copyright Natasha Marin.