Language Lesson 1976

By Heather McHugh b. 1948 Heather McHugh
When Americans say a man
takes liberties, they mean

he’s gone too far. In Philadelphia today I saw
a kid on a leash look mom-ward

and announce his fondest wish: one
bicentennial burger, hold

the relish. Hold is forget,
in American.

On the courts of Philadelphia
the rich prepare

to serve, to fault. The language is a game as well,
in which love can mean nothing,

doubletalk mean lie. I’m saying
doubletalk with me. I’m saying

go so far the customs are untold.
Make nothing without words,

and let me be
the one you never hold.

Heather McHugh, “Language Lesson 1976” from Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993. Copyright © 1994 by Heather McHugh.  Reprinted by 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 Love, Realistic & Complicated, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

 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 Love, Realistic & Complicated, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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