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’s fifth book of poems, Stardust Media (University of Massachusetts Press, 2020), was awarded the Juniper Prize for Poetry. She is also the author of four previous books of poems, including Perception (Four Way Books, 2017), which was named one of the best poetry books of 2017 by Chicago Review of Books; and Grains of the Voice (Northwestern University Press, 2013).  Her poems have appeared in The Atlantic, Poetry, Kenyon Review, Colorado Review, Yale Review, and many other publications. She has been awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in poetry, as well as fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, the Illinois Arts Council, the Bogliasco Foundation, and others.  She is Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago