Heather McHugh

(20 August 1948 / San Diego, California)

Ghoti


The gh comes from rough, the o from women's,
and the ti from unmentionables--presto:
there's the perfect English instance of
unlovablility--complete

with fish. Our wish was for a better
revelation: for a correspondence--
if not lexical, at least
phonetic; if not with Madonna

then at least with Mary Magdalene.
Instead we get the sheer
opacity of things: an accident
of incident, a tracery of history: the dung

inside the dungarees, the jock strap for a codpiece, and
the ruined patches bordering the lip. One boot (high-heeled) could make
Sorrento sorry, Capri corny, even little Italy
a little ill. Low-cased, a lover looks

one over--eggs without ease, semen without oars--
and there, on board, tricked out in fur and fin,
the landlubber who wound up captain. Where's it going,
this our (H)MS? More west? More forth? The quest

itself is at a long and short behest: it's wound
in winds. (Take rough from seas, and women from the shore,
unmentionables out of mind). We're here
for something rich, beyond

appearances. What do I mean? (What can one say?)
A minute of millenium, unculminating
stint, a stonishment: my god, what's
utterable? Gargah, gatto, goat. Us animals is made

to seine and trawl and drag and gaff
our way across the earth. The earth, it rolls.
We dig, lay lines, book arguably
perfect passages. But earth remains untranslated,

unplumbed. A million herring run where we
catch here a freckle, there a pock; the depths to which things live
words only glint at. Terns in flight work up
what fond minds might

call syntax. As for that
semantic antic in the distance, is it
whiskered fish, finned cat? Don't settle
just for two. Some bottomographies are

brooded over, and some skies swum through. . .

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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