Language Lesson 1976

March 3, 2008 at 2:53 am 4 comments

Heather McHugh

Listen

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.

While we’re doing poems that dabble playfully in the possibilities of language, I thought I’d throw in this Heather McHugh poem (originally from A World of Difference, since republished in Hinge and Sign) which takes a few cleverly observed idiosyncracies of the language, and pushes them in delightful and unexpected directions.

Oh, and don’t miss the bell!

[falstaff]

You can read more about McHugh here, and also find a link to an audio recording by her of the ultimately moving, if slightly rambling What He Thought.

Entry filed under: English, Falstaff, Heather McHugh. Tags: .

Paradise Lost, Book IV (extract) She rose to his requirement

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