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Scott Hughes

Beyond the Sea

“I came to the earth-shattering conclusion that love is the most important thing in the universe…As a writer that kind of talk gave me the willies.”

—Michael Pollan, author, after supervised dose of psilocybin, 60 Minutes episode about treating depression, anxiety, and addiction with hallucinogens.


Lately I wake to a darker world.

Dawn comes up like subtraction, with a dimming of light.

I can’t delete the messages and contacts yet.

Lately in the place I go to work

there are faces in the dark. Sometimes I light up Google Earth

and touch the places we used to go.

When I got too close

to the places where I saw love’s face,

the piers and jetties turned into renderings,

the trees and boulders melted into cartoons.

When my sacred grounds turned into digital places

I prayed to Google Earth for clarity.

Though Lake Arrowhead fractures and blurs

when I come too close to that floating dock on the eastern shore,

I still hear the wind off the lake

in the tops of the pines, I’m still surprised 

by the girl from home in the cove next door

and, high on distorted pictures again—of a vacation that turned personal,

when our mistakes and addictions were reversible—

the darkness went away for a while.

Across the sea and descending

on the northern edge of Maui, searching for

that place built on lava and sea—

and the miscalculations under the influence I made.

The big hotels that have grown over those bungalows

can’t bury the history and decisions we made.

Despite the distances we’ve maintained,

returning to a significant place 

kept the darkness away for a while.

Mainland, Ventura County and following

Deer Creek Road up from the coast highway, stopping high in the canyon

where, with a swan dive in your Vdub,

I imagine you ended your last ride. You were too young

to be that sick, to miss that turn.

Sorry I wasn’t there to help you steer—that I didn’t read

between the lines of your Christmas card that year.

For old friends who drift away off canyon roads,

Google Earth lets me touch that place and pray.

Stopped in front of the same little house

in our old neighborhood, where, briefly as my sister

you took my side. You were a flight attendant with famous boyfriends

when you defended me against the knives.

I can’t forget the look in your eyes—and the moment that passed.

When you declined my company

after Nineteen emptied your house last Spring,

the old addictions seemed unstoppable.

Now the sun sets hard on our history, and your darkness still falls on me.

For those left behind, survivors with guilt,

who can’t do heaven or hallucinations anymore,

when morning doesn’t come on the dark sea of apologies,

I find light in software geographies,

where, in the glow of crystallizing pixels

of those intersections of timing and fate,

love was the heavy drug

and you were not waiting 

to be deleted.

About the Author

Scott Hughes has a BA in English from CSU Northridge, and has attended writing workshops at UCLA. In  2017, a California wildfire destroyed his house, neighborhood, and most of his work. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Visitant, Wrath-Bearing Tree, El Portal and Front Range Review. 

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