Heather McHugh

Not to Be Dwelled On


Self-interest cropped up even there,
the day I hoisted three, instead
of the ceremonially called-for two,
spadefuls of loam on top
of the coffin of my friend.

Why shovel more than anybody else?
Why did I think I’d prove? More love
(mud in her eye)? More will to work?
(Her father what, a shirker?) Christ,
what wouldn’t anybody give
to get that gesture back?

She cannot die again; and I
do nothing but re-live.


Reprinted from Upgraded to Serious (Copper Canyon).


Heather McHugh, recipient of a 2009 MacArthur Fellowship, is the author of thirteen books of poetry, translation, and literary essays, including Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968 – 1993 (Wesleyan) and The Father of the Predicaments (Wesleyan). Her prize-winning translations include a Griffin International Poetry Prize and her volumes have been finalists for both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. McHugh has taught literature and writing for over three decades, most regularly at the University of Washington in Seattle and in the low residency MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. From 1999 to 2005 she served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and in 2000 she was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2012 she started a non-profit organization called CAREGIFTED.



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