Category Error

Heather McHugh

It’s time to go to bed.
Like it or lump it, my brother loved to say.
(Far harder than embracing relativesis treating them with the respect
of adequate remove, as relatives in some
adventure never close enoughto breed familiarity. For every
one of us is strange).
We err in havingtoo much time to bear without
resorting to a zoom, descending
to a delve, or changing time markingsourselves—then calling it a change in all
eternity.  (The rate will always have a ticker in it,
and the speed of light an eye—we’re blindto our own frames.)______________And equally we err in having
far too little time to leave
the instances unlumped.Each errs (what’s more)
in her self-styling:
One in a million meanstoo many things. Two things, to start.  
And one of those is self-aggrandizing:  
The virtuous will say I do. (One does believe one does.  
But then belief confounds its wishes with
its will.  As ever, instancesare odd. And odds are
it is evening.) Perhaps we rhyme
because we breathe.______________Out of a wet sack, into chilling airs
and hands of thumping analysts you’re then
held close to the whisperings of one big fan—your very own, post-peristaltic, over-supervising mom,
first felt and then appearing
part of the wet world’s newexterior decor, but who by now has spent
so many months you can’t
imagine, just to makethis possible, this minute
musical. Make you better
fed and fondled, good and regular. It’s shewho tunes your living alternator, feeds your focus,
mum to mime, a winking blinking Cyclops in
the treetops. You were no one until something wildgot into her; then you were two
in one (as she was once, upon
a time). We all turn two, and two by twos return. It’s knowable,
it’s true. Perhaps we breathe
because we rhyme.

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Heather McHugh lives on the Olympic Peninsula. She taught at the University of Washington for thirty years, and continues to take students occasionally through the MFA program at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina.

The Sewanee Review

Summer 2018

Sewanee, Tennessee

University of the South

Editor
Adam Ross

Managing Editor
Eric Smith

Founded in 1892 by the teacher and critic William Peterfield Trent, the Sewanee Review is the longest-running literary quarterly in America. The SR has published many of the twentieth century’s great writers, including T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Wallace Stevens, Saul Bellow, Katherine Anne Porter, Marianne Moore, Seamus Heaney, Hannah Arendt, and Ezra Pound. The Review has a long tradition of cultivating emerging talent, from excerpts of Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor’s first novels to the early poetry of Robert Penn Warren, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and Christian Wiman. “Whatever the new literature turns out to be,” wrote editor Allen Tate in 1944, “ it will be the privilege of the Sewanee Review to print its share of it, to comment on it, and to try to understand it.” The mission remains unchanged.

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