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
loses its nerve,
the old saw its eyeteeth and I
my words—my alwaysing and my.
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)