If you haven’t met Lucia Perillo on paper, consider this moment an unexpected star rising in the summer sky.  Promise us and  yourself to follow this link after reading the poems below. in order to learn about the accolades that have come to her (including one omitted in her own description of herself—A MacArthur genius grant in 2000).   And one thing more: know that Lucia Perillo, with clarity of eye, mind and purpose, has multiple sclerosis.  She lives what Zorba called “The full catastrophe” — life without the frills of hiding places —and gives her readers the benefit of her courage in so doing.

Thinking About Illness After Reading About Tennessee Fainting Goats

Maybe they’re brethren, these beasts bred clumsy,  
hobbling stiff-legged over cheatgrass tufts.  
Prized for how they’ll freeze unpredictably  
then fall, rehearsing their overwrought deaths.  
Sometimes it’s the woman who brings the meal  
who sets them off by wearing yellow slacks,  
or sometimes the drumming a certain wheel  
makes on the road’s washboard. Stopped in their tracks  
they go down like drunks: Daisy and Willow  
drop always in tandem, while Boot will lean
his fat side first against the hog-hut door.
How cruel, gripes a friend. But maybe they show
us what the body’s darker fortunes mean –  
we break, we rise. We do what we’re here for.


How come we all don’t have the luxury of our ghosts?  
The way some paintings of salmon  
show their spectral versions of flying.  
License, you might say,  
for the artist to put dead fish in the sky.  
Instead of leaving them as they are  
when you see them wilting in the eddy:  
two tons of major spent-sex stink.
Yet see how everyone skips so giddily around the trail—  
eyeballing the spawning from this cedar bridge.  
As if they’re sure we will be cohorts  
in the rapture about which the bumper stickers speak,  
as if we really will ascend someday to swim among the fishes.  
All of us: see how good we are,  
so careful not to kick stones down into creek.
I’m just trying to get a handle on how it would be  
if we made love one time in our lives  
(after days spent on the interstate)  
before we lay down to die so publicly in shallow pools?  
While the other forms pass by and point  
to educate their frenzied children:
See the odd species. They chose love.

From River Styx, 2005.

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