Tuesday, April 17, 2012


My friend Charlie Hughes posted this on facebook back in November.  Charlie runs the  publishing house Wind, located in Kentucky.  He's also a fine poet and prose writer, one of our region's best. This piece expresses his outrage at what is happening to so many vulnerable people in this country today.  I will be featuring some of his poetry later.

Charlie G. Hughes is the co-editor of Groundwater: Contemporary Kentucky Fiction, editor of The Kentucky Literary Newsletter, a biweekly e-mail newsletter, and author of Body and Blood (2010) andShifting for Myself (2002), volumes of poems. He is also the owner of  Wind Publications, a small (somewhat literary) press with an emphasis on poetry, as well as Kentucky and regional writers.

Hughes grew up on a Kentucky farm. There he acquired an appreciation both for the natural world and tCharlie Hugheshings mechanical. Like many who came of age in the era of Sputnik, he became interested in science, both physical and natural. Always a voracious reader, often to the detriment of his assigned studies, he consumed endless volumes of science fiction, as well as sports biographies. He played on both his high school basketball and baseball teams, enthusiastically, if not very skillfully. Though, as a youth, he longed to escape what he perceived as the drudgery of the farm, he often revisits that locale in both his fiction and poetry.

Hughes holds degrees from Transylvania University and the University of Kentucky.  Though employed as an analytical chemist, he has an abiding interest in the literary arts. He is the former editor of Wind, Kentucky's oldest active literary magazine. His poems and fiction have appeared in prominent literary magazines, includingKansas Quarterly, Kentucky Poetry Review, Hollins Critic, International Poetry Review, ART/LIFE, Cumberland Poetry Review, Exquisite Corpse, Appalachian Heritage, Cincinnati Poetry Reviewand others.

It’s November. When I come out of the auto-parts store, I decide to take a look at the stuff in the Goodwill Store next door. I like to inspect the shelves where I sometimes find used items that I can adapt or repair for my own use – I like to tinker. 

When I’m ready to check out with a couple of items,  I notice a young black woman, small, about 30 years of age, with several items of clothes stacked by the register. The check-out lady says she’ll total these up in her head before entering the items in the register. It comes to about $26. The young woman, a few dollars in her fist, begins to fumble in her purse, pulls out a small snap-top change bag from which she digs several coins. After searching and fumbling with bills and coins, she says something to the clerk who begins to set aside a couple of items, consult with the customer, and set aside another. 

An older man in sweat shirt and blue jeans, next in line, a few dollar bills in his hand, shuffles a half-step nearer and says to the customer, How much do you need? Two dollars, she says. He drops the bills on the counter. She looks up at him and offers her thanks, then hangs her head slightly as she completes the transaction. Again, she offers her thanks before hurrying from the store. 

After I leave the store I sit in my car for several moments, listening to the rain on the roof, thinking about what I’ve just witnessed. And I wonder if Senator Mitch McConnell, with winter coming on, ever needed two dollars to buy clothes. That evening on the TV news I learn that Obama’s jobs bill which would have provided jobs for hundreds of thousands and has been rejected by the senate. I think about McConnell again. I think about a hammer. I think about kneecaps.

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