“and even you forgot those brilliant flashes seen from afar” -Ruth Stone

Carey McHugh

The Butcher Class Will Tell You

It takes three generations to lock down
property and a neutral nickname. In Sweetwater
the bereaved receive one load of gravel
with proof of the deceased. The gravel takes
three generations to shovel. Digging through
you might find the dark skeleton of a Cadillac
or a night bird. The bones are for warding off
evil, the beak for breaking the spell of weather
on the land. The county is sorry for your loss. It is deep
in the season. You will revisit each day against your will.

First Mention of What X Did When Felt Mental Illness

Each day a small disappearance I thought
of waves against a ship momentum
without design up close X you were truant
in the sockets seized like sea ice
photographed mid-collapse you spoke
of winter all winter dull as a perch thrown
wide of its basket you moved as if stepping
into dark water hamfisted one toe at a time

X’s Diagnosis

It moves in a stone’s throw
sleeps in sheepskin
its voice is perpetual
(the polar night) I lied
it comes like a rickshaw
on gravel a succulent garden
a tick it lives alone
in a whaling town (I did not hear
the approach) if you catch it
early it’s called a bird
in the hand it’s called robbing
Peter to pay Paul a sharpshooter
within range lord the cold
hands of the lake

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Carey McHugh is the author of the full-length collection, American Gramophone (Augury Books) and the chapbook, Original Instructions for the Perfect Preservation of Birds &c. (Poetry Society of America). Read more

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