about the author

Sara Hughes earned a PhD in English from Georgia State University in 2014. Her poems have been published in dozens of journals, including RATTLE, Reed, Rosebud, TAB, Atlanta Review, Southern Women’s Review, Review Americana, The Oklahoma Review, and Atticus Review, among others. She has received writing fellowships from I-Park Foundation and The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. She teaches literature and creative writing at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.

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The Tire Swing 

Sara Hughes

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My brother used to wind me like a music box.
Our swing swayed lazy under an oak out back.
A wild musk of rubber and wet mushrooms
clotted the air. The rope knotted around the tire
was rough as my brother’s hands. I’d straddle
the swing and he’d twirl me like the key
to a wind-up toy, my palms on fire.

Sandbox crickets hummed neon songs.
My brother cranked until the rope
might snap, and he held me against that tension.
When I could almost see clearly, he released.
I unspooled, tasting the honeyed swirl
of grass, dirt, sky, my brother’s face,
and the oak’s trunk, thick as a man
walking past a bedroom door, over and over.

At his brother’s funeral, my grandfather said,
“I reckon every man ends up where he’s meant to be.”
White wings of doubt unfolded in the pulpit.
The font was drier than the county.
I believed in him, and my brother, and my father,
like I believed in God. I believed my father
would kill a man who entered our house after bedtime.
It was years before I found out this wasn’t true.

In the kaleidoscopic backyard,
dizzy in my brother’s arms,
I continued to forget everything I knew,
even the French we were learning in school:
“Je m’appelle Sara. Comment allez-vous?”
The grass laughed all afternoon.
We crashed face-down in the yard,
cut-out paper dolls, the world spinning.

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