“Rotary” by Christina Pugh
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
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, then the sound of the hole traveling back to its proper place on the circle. You had to wait for its return. You had to wait. Even if you were angry and your finger flew, you had to await the round trip of seven holes before you could speak. The rotary was weird for lag, for the afterthought. Before the touch-tone, before the speed-dial, before the primal grip of the cellular, they built glass houses around telephones: glass houses in parking lots, by the roadside, on sidewalks. When you stepped in and closed the door, transparency hugged you, and you could almost see your own lips move, the dumb-show of your new secrecy. Why did no one think to conserve the peal? Just try once to sing it to yourself: it's gone, like the sound of breath if your body left.
from Hayden's Ferry Review, Issue 27, Fall/Winter 2000-2001
Hayden's Ferry Review
Copyright 2000-2001 by Christina Pugh.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Hayden's Ferry Review. Copyright 2000-2001 by Christina Pugh. For further permissions information, contact HFR - North American Serial Rights, firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Poet
Christina Pugh is consulting editor for Poetry and an associate professor in the Program for Writers (the doctoral program in creative writing) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of three poetry collections, including Grains of the Voice (Northwestern University Press/TriQuarterly Books, 2013).
Learn more about Christina Pugh at The Poetry Foundation.