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Poetry

Inseminating the Elephant

Pulitzer Prize finalist Lucia Perillo laces her poetry with tragicomedy.

Book Cover May is National Older Americans Month, Get Caught Reading Month, Meditation Month, Clean Air Month, Haitian Heritage Month, and a host of others—in honor of which I want to continue noting and advocating poetry.

In this instance, Lucia Perillo, whose Inseminating the Elephant (Copper Canyon Press) was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. The committee said of her tome: “a collection of poems, often laced with humor, that examine popular culture, the limits of the human body, and the tragicomic aspects of everyday experience.”

Here are two selections from Inseminating the Elephant (some image that conjures, huh?).

Excerpt from “Virtue Is the Best Helmet”
One of these days I’m going to get myself an avatar
so I can ride an archaeopteryx in cyberspace—
goodbye, the meat cage.
Pray the server doesn’t crash, pray
against the curse of carpal tunnel syndrome.

But then my friend the lactation consultant
brings up the quadriplegic who gave birth
(two times no less)
(motorcycle wreck)
just to make her body do
one thing the meat could still remember.

Somebody has to position the babies
to sip the breastmilk rivulets.
And the cells exude
despite their slumber. One minute
too much silence, the next there’s so much screaming.
“Early Cascade”
I couldn’t have waited. By the time you return
it would have rotted on the vine.
So I cut the first tomato into eighths,
salted the pieces in the dusk,
and found the flesh not mealy (like last year)
or bitter,
even when I swallowed the green crown of the stem
that made my throat feel dusty and warm.

Pah. I could have gagged on the sweetness.
The miser accused by her red sums.
Better had I eaten the dirt itself
on this first night in my life
when I have not been too busy for my loneliness—
at last, it comes.
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