Christina Pugh

December 9, 2012 Pugh Christina



If you’ve heard the cant of the auctioneer, the

“do I hear twenty-one,” the voice of a tenor

calling among straw, don’t you see how music

enthralls the marketplace?  Singer, you

appeared to me alive again, clothed in

bright satin:  I’d arrived at your party

in New York.  In the clerestory, girls

were posing for a photograph, their skirts

sea-foam as my mother’s was in 1956.

You closed your hand on mine so I could

see the ruined seam between our two

worlds, the living and the dead–neither

of us mothers.  But if you live in my ear,

so I too might live again—as an inkling,

the flame between a number and the

welling of a wish that stops the cry:

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.





That scroll of the lotus bud will

smoke, unopened:  its petals light

a taper:  its windowed pages swirl

cylindric, fever blushes channeled

up the tip.  To unfurl them now

would be blissful hypothetical–

try to imagine it by cutting a

French novel with a pearl-

handled knife, or loosening

a corset’s stays, or peeling

a girdle to let discord flame

between a face’s testimony and

the mystery that swaddles

underneath.  The movies show

this abyssal consternation,

soon to be charred in love’s

consumption— when the suitor

finally sees and doesn’t

care, doesn’t care.

Christina Pugh is the author of four books of poems including Perception (Four Way Books, 2017), which was named one of the top books of 2017 by Chicago Review of Books. A recent Guggenheim fellow in poetry, she is a professor in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and consulting editor for Poetry.