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Twenty-Third

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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?

Source: Poetry (February 2006)

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This poem originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Poetry magazine

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Twenty-Third

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  • Christina Pugh is the author of four full-length books of poems: Perception (Four Way Books, forthcoming 2017); Grains of the Voice (Northwestern University Press, 2013); Restoration (TriQuarterly Books, 2008); and Rotary (Word Press, 2004); and the chapbook Gardening at Dusk (Wells College Press, 2002). Her poems have appeared in journals such as the Atlantic Monthly, Poetry magazine, TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, and in anthologies such as Poetry 180 (2003).

    Pugh earned a PhD in comparative literature from Harvard University, where she was awarded a Whiting Foundation dissertation fellowship. She continues to publish criticism as well as poetry, with scholarly interests centering on the poetics of ekphrasis, poetic form and meter, the lyric poem as a genre, and manuscript scholarship treating the work of Emily Dickinson. Her articles have appeared in the Emily Dickinson Journal, Literary Imagination, and The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry Post-1945 (2013), among others. Her book reviews have...

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