McHugh, Heather

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Jul-03-1998


When he was dying of / everything, the poet has a dream in which she, too, became diseased and "knew myself." As her friend "got cadaverous and sore," she became more devoted to him. After he dies she asks, "What's / dead? What's dead?" The second part of the poem shifts focus to a circus where a dressed-up elephant defecates as he is performing a trick. Oblivious to what is happening, the elephant continues his act while the audience snickers and laughs. [61 lines]


A strange poem in two disparate parts, connected by the sheer physicality of shit. The dying man, who is also a poet, lacks control over his physical self (shit is the subject of his last poem; his being devolves into (or perhaps away from) the fact of his body. The poet then shows us a performing elephant in a small town. Perhaps the people come to the circus to see "fancy women" or something miraculous, but in the end they are faced with the comic grossness of elephant shit. How do the two parts of the poem fit together? Or do they?

Primary Source



Wesleyan Univ. Press

Place Published

Middletown, Conn.



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