The Matter Over

           It is better to say "I am suffering" than to say
          "This landscape is ugly." –Simone Weil

From the piling's kelp I drew
the starfish with its five blunt fingers.

First I thought the creature
less than handsome, less of a hand

than I expected, rigid, with a stumpy gray
asymmetry of grasp. It wasn't soft. It hardly moved. So maybe

it was dead? I couldn't see
beyond myself, until I turned

the matter over, and beheld
billions of unfamiliar

facts–minute transparent
footlets, feelers, stems

all waving to the quick, and then
the five large radials beginning

gradually to flail, in my slow sight,
and then, in my thin air,

to drown. I'd meant
to send it, as a gift, to you

who were my missing part,
so far inland. Instead

to a world the sighted have no rights to,
to the dark that's out of mind,

I made myself resign it,
flinging the hand from my hand.


Heather McHugh, Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993, Wesleyan University Press, 1994.