By Hayden Carruth 1921–2008 Hayden Carruth
You died. And because you were Greek they gave you   
          a coin to carry under your tongue and then also   
biscuits and honey. When you came to the riverbank
          you saw a crazy-looking black bumboat on the water   
with a figure standing in it, lanky and dressed
          darkly, holding a sweep. You were taken across,
and you gave your coin for the passage, and continued
          until you came to a three-headed dog, who snarled   
and threatened you, even though you were not trying
          to escape. You gave him the biscuits smeared   
with honey, and you passed onward to the field
          of asphodel and through the gate of Tartarus. Or

you died and you were Navajo. They had carried you
          out of the hogan earlier so you’d die in the sunshine.   
Or if it happened inside suddenly, they stuffed up
          the smokehole and boarded the front entrance, and cut   
an opening in the back, the north-facing, dark-facing
          side, to carry you out, and no one ever used   
that hogan again. They took off your moccasins
          and put them on again wrong side to, the left one   
on the right foot, the right on the left, so that your
          chindi would be confused and unable to return   
along your tracks. They washed your hair in suds
          made from the yucca. Then they gave you   
enough fried bread and water to last four days,
          and you set off on your journey. But actually

none of these things happened. You just died.

Hayden Carruth, “None” from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991. Copyright © 1992 by Hayden Carruth. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271,

Source: Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991 (Copper Canyon Press, 1992)

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Poet Hayden Carruth 1921–2008

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Death, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Hayden  Carruth


"Now and then a poet comes along whose work ranges across wide and diverse territories of form, attitude, and emotion—yet with the necessary intelligence that belies a deep, lifelong engagement with tradition—so that variance never seems mere experimentation or digression, but improvisation," wrote Midwest Quarterly contributor Matthew Miller. "Hayden Carruth is such an artist."

The National Book Award won by Carruth in 1996 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Death, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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