Best Famous Heather Mchugh Poems

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Written by Heather McHugh | Create an image from this poem

Ghazal of the Better-Unbegun

 Too volatile, am I?too voluble?too much a word-person?
I blame the soup:I'm a primordially
stirred person.
Two pronouns and a vehicle was Icarus with wings.
The apparatus of his selves made an ab- surd person.
The sound I make is sympathy's:sad dogs are tied afar.
But howling I become an ever more un- heard person.
I need a hundred more of you to make a likelihood.
The mirror's not convincing-- that at-best in- ferred person.
As time's revealing gets revolting, I start looking out.
Look in and what you see is one unholy blurred person.
The only cure for birth one doesn't love to contemplate.
Better to be an unsung song, an unoc- curred person.
McHugh, you'll be the death of me -- each self and second studied! Addressing you like this, I'm halfway to the third person.
Written by Heather McHugh | Create an image from this poem

What He Thought

 We were supposed to do a job in Italy
and, full of our feeling for
ourselves (our sense of being
Poets from America) we went
from Rome to Fano, met
the Mayor, mulled a couple
matters over.
The Italian literati seemed bewildered by the language of America: they asked us what does "flat drink" mean? and the mysterious "cheap date" (no explanation lessened this one's mystery).
Among Italian writers we could recognize our counterparts: the academic, the apologist, the arrogant, the amorous, the brazen and the glib.
And there was one administrator (The Conservative), in suit of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide with measured pace and uninflected tone narrated sights and histories the hired van hauled us past.
Of all he was most politic-- and least poetic-- so it seemed.
Our last few days in Rome I found a book of poems this unprepossessing one had written: it was there in the pensione room (a room he'd recommended) where it must have been abandoned by the German visitor (was there a bus of them?) to whom he had inscribed and dated it a month before.
I couldn't read Italian either, so I put the book back in the wardrobe's dark.
We last Americans were due to leave tomorrow.
For our parting evening then our host chose something in a family restaurant, and there we sat and chatted, sat and chewed, till, sensible it was our last big chance to be Poetic, make our mark, one of us asked "What's poetry? Is it the fruits and vegetables and marketplace at Campo dei Fiori or the statue there?" Because I was the glib one, I identified the answer instantly, I didn't have to think-- "The truth is both, it's both!" I blurted out.
But that was easy.
That was easiest to say.
What followed taught me something about difficulty, for our underestimated host spoke out all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said: The statue represents Giordano Bruno, brought to be burned in the public square because of his offence against authority, which was to say the Church.
His crime was his belief the universe does not revolve around the human being: God is no fixed point or central government but rather is poured in waves, through all things: all things move.
"If God is not the soul itself, he is the soul OF THE SOUL of the world.
" Such was his heresy.
The day they brought him forth to die they feared he might incite the crowd (the man was famous for his eloquence).
And so his captors placed upon his face an iron mask in which he could not speak.
That is how they burned him.
That is how he died, without a word, in front of everyone.
And poetry-- (we'd all put down our forks by now, to listen to the man in gray; he went on softly)-- poetry is what he thought, but did not say.
Written by Heather McHugh | Create an image from this poem


 The gh comes from rough, the o from women's,
and the ti from unmentionables--presto:
there's the perfect English instance of

with fish.
Our wish was for a better revelation: for a correspondence-- if not lexical, at least phonetic; if not with Madonna then at least with Mary Magdalene.
Instead we get the sheer opacity of things: an accident of incident, a tracery of history: the dung inside the dungarees, the jock strap for a codpiece, and the ruined patches bordering the lip.
One boot (high-heeled) could make Sorrento sorry, Capri corny, even little Italy a little ill.
Low-cased, a lover looks one over--eggs without ease, semen without oars-- and there, on board, tricked out in fur and fin, the landlubber who wound up captain.
Where's it going, this our (H)MS? More west? More forth? The quest itself is at a long and short behest: it's wound in winds.
(Take rough from seas, and women from the shore, unmentionables out of mind).
We're here for something rich, beyond appearances.
What do I mean? (What can one say?) A minute of millenium, unculminating stint, a stonishment: my god, what's utterable? Gargah, gatto, goat.
Us animals is made to seine and trawl and drag and gaff our way across the earth.
The earth, it rolls.
We dig, lay lines, book arguably perfect passages.
But earth remains untranslated, unplumbed.
A million herring run where we catch here a freckle, there a pock; the depths to which things live words only glint at.
Terns in flight work up what fond minds might call syntax.
As for that semantic antic in the distance, is it whiskered fish, finned cat? Don't settle just for two.
Some bottomographies are brooded over, and some skies swum through.
Written by Heather McHugh | Create an image from this poem


 There, a little right
of Ursus Major, is
the Milky Way:
a man can point it out,
the biggest billionfold of all
predicaments he's in:
his planet's street address.
What gives? What looks a stripe a hundred million miles away from here is where we live.
* Let's keep it clear.
The Northern Lights are not the North Star.
Being but a blur, they cannot reassure us.
They keep moving - I think far too easily.
September spills some glimmers of the boreals to come: they're modest pools of horizontal haze, where later they'll appear as foldings in the vertical, a work of curtains, throbbing dim or bright.
(One wonders at one's eyes.
) The very sight will angle off in glances or in shoots of something brilliant, something bigger than we know, its hints uncatchable in shifts of mind .
So there it is again, the mind, with its old bluster, its self-centered question: what is dimming, what is bright? The spirit sinks and swells, which cannot tell itself from any little luster.
Written by Heather McHugh | Create an image from this poem

The Father of the Predicaments

 He came at night to each of us asleep
And trained us in the virtues we most lacked.
Me he admonished to return his stare Correctly, without fear.
Unless I could, Unblinking, more and more incline Toward a deep unblinkingness of his, He would not let me rest.
Outside In the dark of the world, at the foot Of the library steps, there lurked A Mercury of rust, its cab half-lit.
(Two worldly forms who huddled there Knew what they meant.
I had no business With the things they knew.
Nor did I feel myself Drawn back through Circulation into Reference, Until I saw how blue I had become, by virtue Of its five TVs, their monitors abuzz with is's Etymologies.
Written by Heather McHugh | Create an image from this poem


 The literate are ill-prepared for this
snap in the line of life:
the day turns a trick 
of twisted tongues and is
untiable, the month by no mere root
moon-ridden, and the yearly eloquences yielding more
than summer's part of speech times four.
We better learn the buried meaning in the grave: here all we see of its alphabet is tracks of predators, all we know of its tense the slow seconds and quick centuries of sex.
Unletter the past and then the future comes to terms.
One late fall day I stumbled from the study and I found the easy symbols of the living room revised: my shocked senses flocked to the window's reference where now all backyard attitudes were deep in memory: the landscapes I had known too well- the picnic table and the hoe, the tricycle, the stubborn shrub-the homegrown syllables of shapely living-all lay sanded and camelled by foreign snow.
Written by Heather McHugh | Create an image from this poem

With Due Respect To Thor

 The dog has shrunk between the brake and clutch.
His shaking shakes a two-ton truck.
From a God so furious, he cannot hide his hide.
Outside, in the world at large, black hours are being pearled and shafted.
A tree stands out spectacularly branched; the mind's eye grows alert.
This thing can hurt.
It had us once, it's having volts of big idea again—about thirteen a minute.
Do we need to know more? Are we sure? Just wait—a brain this insecure may need another bolt be driven in it.
Written by Heather McHugh | Create an image from this poem

Etymological Dirge

 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.
Calm comes from burning.
Tall comes from fast.
Comely doesn't come from come.
Person comes from mask.
The kin of charity is whore, the root of charity is dear.
Incentive has its source in song and winning in the sufferer.
Afford yourself what you can carry out.
A coward and a coda share a word.
We get our ugliness from fear.
We get our danger from the lord.