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.