I just read Lucia Perillo died. She came to our school years ago and gave such a brilliant reading, I’ve been following her career ever since. I learned so much from her poetry–the art of humor, the freedom to talk about things you don’t talk about. There were her beautiful lines that I admired, stole from. There was her honesty that took us into the vulnerable corners, and her courage. So many of her later poems talked about the body as a cage, as meat. She had MS, and she knew it was coming for her. Below is one of her most famous poems, I suppose the poem that tells the story of the moment she first realized her life would never be the same. My heart goes out to her husband, James, and to Lucia, now freed of the body.
THE BODY MUTINIES (from The Atlantic)
When the doctor runs out of words and still
I won’t leave, he latches my shoulder and
steers me out doors. Where I see his blurred hand,
through the milk glass, flapping good-bye like a sail
(& me not griefstruck yet but still amazed: how
words and names–medicine’s blunt instruments–
undid me. And the seconds, the half seconds,
it took for him to say those words). For now,
I’ll just stand in the courtyard watching bodies
struggle in then out of one lean shadow
a tall fir lays across the wet flagstones.
Before the sun clears the valance of gray trees
and finds the surgical-supply-shop window
and makes the dusty bedpans glint like coins.
Gene Wilder famously asked for one key change to the script of Willy Wonka:
“When I make my first entrance. I’d like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet. As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I’m walking on and stands straight up, by itself; but I keep on walking, until I realize that I no longer have my cane. I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause.”
When asked why he wanted the change, Wilder replied, “Because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”
I came across this line by J.D. Salinger and thought it was a line from a poem:
She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.
It’s not a line from a poem. It’s from a short story, “A Girl I Knew.” The story is about a girl a young man knew. The girl later became a Nazi victim. The man returns to her apartment after the war, and realizes everything has change.
Somehow, I don’t care what the story is about. The line is enough.
Here are other beautiful lines to ponder.
By William Logan
How should I now recall
the icy lace of the pane
like a sheet of cellophane,
or the skies of alcohol
poured over the saltbox town?
On that stony New England tableau,
the halo of falling snow
glared like a waxy crown.
Through blue frozen lots
my giant parents strolled,
wrapped tight against the cold
like woolen Argonauts,
searching for that tall
perfection of Scotch pine
from the hundreds laid in line
like the dead at Guadalcanal.
The clapboard village aglow
that starry stark December
I barely now remember,
or the brutish ache of snow
burning my face like quicklime.
Yet one thing was still missing.
I saw my parents kissing,
perhaps for the last time.
from Poetry (June 2012).