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Christina Pugh

Rue Family

April makes no difference
to the Lavalle cork tree
imported from central Japan;

to the Sakhalin cork,
its diamond bark
rising into branches

from a trunk of plated sand.
In the city park, this family of trees
wears its rue as buds

traveled into leaf each year—
predictably, invisibly,
as your sister wears hers

on a South Dakota highway:
there behind her knee, tempering
the air above her hand.

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Inflection

They are white planets in a galaxy, these wheels
of cheese—before the fungi knobble the skin, cobble
some resistance in the rind. Deep in the cool
caves of Auvergne, a nun sets the circles on shelves
so their surfaces will stain, sheen, stipple,
shade … while above her, a Latin chant
folds many women in one voice. If glass
were music, could it sound like this?
How can we call those words
human, when they’ve flown so far
from our commerce, our marketplace?
Every mold that steeps the skin is local: grafted
and endangered as the dead letters become notes
floating still in vowels from the nuns’ grille

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Twenty-Third

And at the picnic table under the ancient elms,
one of my parents turned to me and said:
“We hope you end up here,”
where the shade relieves the light, where we sit
in some beneficence—and I felt the shape of the finite
after my ether life: the ratio, in all dappling,
of dark to bright; and yet how brief my stay would be
under the trees, because the voice I’d heard
could not cradle me, could no longer keep me
in greenery; and I would have to say good-bye
again, make my way across the white
California sand and back: or am I now creating
the helplessness I heard those words express,
the psalm torn like a map in my hands?

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I and Thou

Must we cultivate our kindness? Can we
book a fellow-feeling for the sake of the fellow,
not the Ghost? Last night, for example, the whitehaired
girl told us singing was like praying; and that
iron of naturalized note in the bluegrass made me
want to say sublime, sublime to myself, in the Sapphic
sense that knows sublimity as love (O wash me
green as yonder field); and the girl's reed song did
light from the stage, articulating phrases like Heavens
divided in a quaver between forte and whisper, acute
supple wavers among syllables and slants: and now
may you keep me close within your ear; I can hear
the voice I loved when I wondered at its dialect—
you know, if I'm ever able to speak, I'll want
someone human to answer me.

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Rotary

Closer to a bell than a bird,
that clapper ringing
the clear name
of its inventor:

by turns louder
and quieter than a clock,
its numbered face
was more literate,

triplets of alphabet
like grace notes
above each digit.

And when you dialed,
each number was a shallow hole
your finger dragged
to the silver
comma-boundary,

[...] Read more

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