Into These Knots

By Ashley Anna McHugh

Tell us how the soul is bound and bent
into these knots, and whether any ever
frees itself from such imprisonment.
—Canto XII,
Inferno 


I say, Without a God there is no hell.
There’s only this—. She rustles for her keys.
The apple tree sheds petal after petal.
 
She says, Let’s take you to the hospital.
The petals spin like sparks. I close my eyes
and say, Without a God there is no hell,
 
and there is only this. It’s just as well.
The lawn is red and white. She asks, Who says?
How do you know? The wind fells every petal.
 
She says, Let’s take you to the hospital.
I cannot breathe. I cannot tell her, Yes—.
Because without a God there is no hell,
 
as she whispers, Talk to me, I know I will
clamber—but not toward heaven, toward the sky,
eyes winking behind petal after petal.
 
The rope-burnt bark will flake away and fall.
Knot on my neck, the rest would be so easy:
I’ll pray, Without a God there is no hell,
then slip through petals—through petal after petal.

Ashley Anna McHugh, “Into These Knots” from Into These Knots. Copyright © 2010 by Ashley Anna McHugh. Reprinted by permission of Ivan R. Dee, Publisher.

Source: Into These Knots (Ivan R. Dee, 2010)

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Poet Ashley Anna McHugh

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Living, Health & Illness, The Body, Religion, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Villanelle

Biography

Poet and editor Ashley Anna McHugh earned her BA at Ohio State University and pursued graduate work at Boston University and the University of Arkansas. Formally inflected, McHugh’s poetry uses rhyme and meter to explore themes of family, loss, and history. Her debut collection, Into These Knots (2010), won the New Criterion Poetry Prize.
 
A former editor of the literary journal Linebreak, McHugh has won the Morton Marr Poetry . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness, The Body, Religion, God & the Divine

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Villanelle

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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