Thursday, April 14, 2005



For starters, scratch the woman weeping over her dead cat--
sorry, but pet death barely puts the needle in the red zone.
And forget about getting brownie points
for any heartbreak mediated by the jukebox.
See the leaves falling; isn't this the trees' way of telling us to just buck up?

Oh they are right: their damage is so much greater than our damage.
I mean, none of my body parts have actually dropped off.
And when the moon is fat and handsome, I know we should be grateful
that its face is only metaphor; it has no teeth to chew us out.
In fact, the meadow isn't spattered with the tatters of our guts.

But in last night's hypnagogic dreamscape where I went
to collect some data. Where I was just getting into the swing of things
tranquility-wise. Then this kid came rolling through the moonlight
in a bed with lots of Rube Goldberg traction rigging.
And it was a kid like you, some kid with a broken neck.

And maybe beauty is medicine quivering on the spoon
but surely you have noticed--the goat painted on the famous old Greek urn
is headed to the slaughter. And don't get me started
on the wildflowers or they will lead me to the killer bees.
And that big ol' moon will lead to a cross section of the spinal cord.
And the trees to their leaves, all smushed in the gutter.
And the gutter to the cat squashed flat as a hotcake.
And the hotcake to the grits, and the grits to the South,
where the meadows were once battlefields.
When a full moon only meant a better chance at being shot.

But come on, the sun is rising, I'll put a bandage on my head,
and we'll be like those guys at the end of the movie--
you take this crutch made from a stick.
For you the South is a mess, what with its cinders and its smoldering.
And looky, looky here at me: I'm playing the piccolo.

Lucia Perillo


I don't print the poem to trumpet my place in the poem; I didn't do anything to deserve it. Not really. But it opens up for discussion this interesting idea of how poets talk to each other and poems to other poems.

Not to suggest I know better than David Kirby what "Fubar" is about -- well, ok, just this once I will. Lucia isn't, as he writes in his review, "wagging her finger at those who haven't earned the same right to sympathy." She's wagging her finger at me. She's busting my chops over some recurring images/tropes in my first book, and in this poem in particular (oddly appropriate since I just mentioned it the other night):

On the Persistence of the Letter as a Form

Dear murderous world, dear gawking heart,

I never wrote back to you, not one word

wrenched itself free of my fog-draped mind

to dab in ink the day’s dull catalog

of ruin. Take back the ten-speed bike

which bent like a child’s cheap toy

beneath me. Accept as your own

the guitar that was smashed over my brother,

who writes now from jail in Savannah,

who I cannot begin to answer. Here

is the beloved pet who died at my feet

and there, outside my window,

is where my mother buried it in a coffin

meant for a newborn. Upon

my family, raw and vigilant, visit numbness.

Of numbness I know enough.

And to you I’ve now written too much,

dear cloud of thalidomide,

dear spoon trembling at the mouth,

dear marble-eyed doll never answering back.


So the "pet death" in Lucia's poem, the "woman weeping over her dead cat," well, that's my mom. She had this beloved Persian cat named Licorice. One morning my freshman year of college, just out of bed and still bleary, I watched Licorice stretch out in the floor at my feet. He then went into violent seizures in which he twisted like a towel being wrung out, flipping over and over. I can still hear his claws scratching the hardwoor floor. To this day, it's probably the most violent thing I've ever seen. And then he was dead.

My mother went to the funeral home where her mother had been on display (how else to describe it?) and bought a coffin intended for newborns. A tiny thing, lined in baby blue. She buried him in the front yard between two trees just outside my old bedroom window.

So Lucia is, I think, asserting the primacy or value of human suffering over that of animals. And giving me a nudge: wise up, boy!

The bit about jukeboxes comes from me loving jukeboxes. I had several poems that mentioned them in varying ways. Another smack against the back of my head.



Emily Lloyd said...

Oh, my. I hope David Kirby finds his way here.

Paul, if you have it, and if you feel okay doing it, could you backchannel me Lucia's email address? Her site only lists her paper one. It's re: a review.


Glenn Ingersoll said...

Lucia's poem reads to me like an illustration of the Buddhist trope: Life is suffering ... and she's the Laughing Buddha. It doesn't read to me like she's scolding anybody (herself maybe), just goofing, and goofing about the most serious of subjects.

Your poem comes off a bit campy to my ear. Its high serious tone is so high serious (and about dolls and dead cats) as to be a gothic goof of its own. Rather than laughing you're moaning most theatrically.

S. Lelia said...

I s'pose there's no accounting for taste, but I feel it necessary to just mention what this poem (Letter) does for me, since it's one of my favorites in the book. 1) It risks emotionality. 2) It risks physicalilty. and 3) it risks the personal -- basically, it risks being vulnerable.

A lot of poetry I see lately seems to go too far in the other direction. It's full of technique, irony, and sharp-edged wordplay that I feel absolutely nothing after reading it. No connection besides, "My, that was well-crafted." Sometimes I get the feeling that people are afraid to write drama into their poetry (thinking, perhaps, that it is perhaps cheap, or the realm of fiction instead? I don't know) --and so this poem, to me, does valuable work.


Paul said...

Hi Emily, I'll ask Lucia about then get back to you.

Charles said...

Paul, I love that poem of yours. LOVE it. It's one of my favorites from your book. I don't care if you have 1,000 other poems using all those same tropes or images: it only has to work once. I know I write the same poems over and over again in different ways in the hopes of hitting the true transcendent moment. And that's okay.

Paul said...

Thanks, Mr. Jensen. Glad it stood out for you.

Sean said...

Hey Paul. It's Sean Chapman. I was leaving SIU as you were coming in and haven't talked to you in awhile. I'm looking forward to reading your book which should be in the mail as I type. I just wanted to say that my first poem was published in Laurel Review when I was in undergrad, and I was on top of the world, but the next issue a friend published a poem mentioning me cutting my thumb at a softball game, and it really got me wondering which I liked better--to have a poem published or to be in a poem published. It's all screenwriter vs star I guess. Really enjoy reading the blog.


Paul said...

Hey, Sean! Long time no see and all that. It's weird to think about whoever might be reading this thing sometimes. But cool too. Thanks for ordering my book and keep in touch.