The Staircase

Christina Pugh

A white jar dissolves into the whitish background
that gently presses its narrow form upright. Morandi’s
ceramics must be manna for the eye, I think. Here,
their proximity makes several forms seem melded—
these jars with their wide or slender mouths. That palest
trellis of the air is nearly sexual, but only if you understand
sex is ephemeral as flowers: the scent of one jasmine
living only for an instant, but in the mind forever.
Like the ghost of the last jar I’m almost discerning
in this poignance of non-color. It’s the highest
step on the staircase my eye must climb: a trap
door to nothingness. To sameness of aspect.
My feet are pressing interminable air… and if I fall
now, no one will be there to reach for me.
On my table, I’ve planted a candlestick in dirt–
nothing’s growing there but silvered form.
Or the mystic outline of a candle it used to hold.
I’ll turn it around and around until it shows me
a new perspective on uselessness.

Christina Pugh is the author of four books of poems, including Perception and Grains of the Voice. She was the recipient of a 2015–2016 Guggenheim fellowship in poetry, as well as fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Bogliasco Foundation. She is a professor in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and consulting editor for Poetry.
Originally published:
July 1, 2018

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