Nick Hughes

Nick Hughes

“You are the one—
You are the baby
in the barn”
—Sylvia Plath
Nick and the Candlestick


Once upon—a time
Deep in—the dead boredom
Of the London winter—night
Pale snow—white as newts
Stalactites—hanging down
From the ceiling—sharp ice
Knifing the windows—like
Piranha—hungry for warmth
Plumbing frozen—electricity
On the blink—rocking Nick
By candlelight—dull blue
Glow—sniffing his nose
Holding my breath—then
Exhaling it—in the dark


Singing to him—softly
Rocking on—the Indian carpet
Cold floor—creaking like an
Old Victoriana—heirloom
Unused to—Arctic sub-zero
Crippled city—paralyzed like
Me in the flat—Nick my
Baby in the barn—alone in
Bethlehem—abandoned by
Holy Joe—stood-up by the
Three Wise Men—from the East
My little Ruby—baby boy in the
Manger—listen to your mother


You are the one—so solid in
This space—leaning into me
O embryo—how did you
Get here—your first gulp
Communion—crossed arms
Remembering—in your sleep
The womb—hung with roses
Deep inside me—down there
Inside my ruby—well of
Loneliness—your first
Dark address—before being
Born—listen to the Wolves
In Regent Park—they’re your
Gone father—howling tonight


The blood-jet—is poetry
There’s no—stopping it now
It flows—through you
Like a thick shaft—of blood
Little sack—of blackness
You are the—baby in the barn
Darkness—and frigid cold
Everywhere—freezing pipes
Stopping traffic—the gloomy sky
Turned hard—as brass cannonballs
Iron men—out on the streets
Kneeling, bent down—ice cold
We keep warm—tonight you
And me—candlelight power


Little ruby boy—my son
Go ahead and cry—your heart out
The pain you feel—isn’t yours
Your heart—isn’t cold like mine
Soon you’ll—be pastel male
Pink yellow—bright chartreuse
Geranium joy—sunny windowsills
Your father—gave me three gifts
You and your sister—two babies
Plus a star in the east—Ariel
I don’t need—W.B. Yeats anymore
Nor Lawrence—Lowell or Sexton
See!!!—here we are tonight
You, me—and the candlelight!


You are the one—baby boy blue
Through you blue veins—I flow
The brass Atlas—candlestick is
Keeping us warm—tonight
See how Atlas kneels—head bent
Panther mane—panther pelt
Young Hercules—standing in for
Atlas—the eleventh labor
Fetching—the golden apples
Hesperides—pelt loincloth
Hide of Newmean lion—killed for
The first of many labors—Bomba
The Jungle Boy—beardless son of
Tarzan—leopard-skin beauty boy


You are the one—one and only
Growing up with—Tarzan the Ape Man
Johnny Weissmuller —your father
Lupe Valez—your real red-hot mother
Acquanetta—the Leopard Woman
Her incisors—deep in your neck
Golden-wormed pubes—Jungle Boy
All of Africa—in your cute navel
Tommy Cook—your Panther boyfriend
Later mysteries—exquisite lobotomies
See how the Pike—flaunts your beauty
Your smile—and animal intelligence
So much like—the Mytholmroyd man
That’s you! Your father! And me!!!


You are the one—Alaska boy
All of the rainy—Pacific Northwest
Lover of sockeye—cedar silence
No urge to be—literary like us
Your father, mother—and sister
You’re just another—Yorkshire kid
A Mytholmroyd—young fisherman
Doing what—your father did
When he ditched—Cambridge lit
For Goddess—anthropology
Fisheries closer—to Pike and Crow
To be in the world—without words
Real wolves—Regency Park free
You got away—from Faber & Faber
Escaped—Poet Laureate glory
Fairbanks—instead of Fulbright

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