Debtor’s Prison Road

By Heather McHugh b. 1948 Heather McHugh
I.

They let me go
at night, minus my timepiece, lighter,   
personal effects. The air is always shaking   
the same jars of safety pins: cicadas.   
Song is my recidivism: always
I'm abandoning the road to stand
(unwatched, unseconded) in someone's   
field. The stars (that are not mine)

tick fitfully, they always have
appointments. Punctual, six-sharp,
they are David's; they have lodged in his
death tent, have stuck in his mud sleep. Bad luck

leaves me a loan: no company, no katy-
did or promissory
note or night
can last.
The air
loses its nerve,
the old saw its eyeteeth and I
my words—my alwaysing and my.

   II.

In hush the repossessors reach   
the edges of the field. They pass

for shadows, sheep of ambush, animals of   
permanence. They turn a black beyond returning

and they haunt the sleepless. I don't count,   
who cannot earn my keep.



Heather McHugh, “Debtor’s Prison Road” from Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993. Copyright © 1994 by Heather McHugh. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Hinge & Sign: Poems 1968-1993 (Wesleyan University Press, 1994)

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Poet Heather McHugh b. 1948

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Money & Economics, Social Commentaries

 Heather  McHugh

Biography

Poet Heather McHugh’s work is noted for its rhetorical gestures, sharp puns and interest in the materials of language itself—her self-described determination is “to follow every surge of language, every scrap and flotsam.” Describing her work in the Boston Review, poet and critic Richard Howard alleged that “most of McHugh’s poems end in a spurt, as they proceed in a slather, of just such astonishment as is bestowed—afforded—by . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Money & Economics, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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