Heather McHugh

(20 August 1948 / San Diego, California)

Debtor's Prison Road


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.

Submitted: Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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