Northwest Schools of Literature: Texts

12. Heather McHugh, "The Size of Spokane"

Heather McHugh, “The Size of Spokane,” from Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993 (Hanover, New Hamp.: University Press of New England, 1994),
36-37. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

The baby isn’t cute. In fact he’s
a homely little pale and headlong
stumbler. Still he’s one
of us—the human beings
stuck on flight 295 (Chicago to Spokane);
and when he passes my seat twice
at full tilt this then that direction,
I look down from Lethal Weapon 3 to see
just why. He’s
running back and forth
across a sunblazed circle on
the carpet—something brilliant, fallen
from a porthole. So! it’s light
amazing him, it’s only light, despite
some three and one
half hundred
people, propped in rows
for him to wonder at; it’s light
he can’t get over, light he can’t
investigate enough, however many
zones he runs across it,
flickering himself.
The umpteenth time
I see him coming, I’ve had
just about enough; but then
he notices me noticing and stops—
one fat hand on my armrest—to
inspect the oddities of me.
Some people cannot hear.
Some people cannot walk.
But everyone was
sunstruck once, and set adrift.
Have we forgotten how
astonishing this is? so practiced all our senses
we cannot imagine them? foreseen instead of seeing
all the all there is? Each spectral port,
each human eye
is shot through with a hole, and everything we know
goes in there, where it feeds a blaze. In a flash
the baby’s old; Mel Gibson’s hundredth comeback seems
less clever; all his chases and embraces
narrow down, while we
fly on (in our
plain radiance of vehicle)
toward what cannot stay small forever.

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