Lucia Perillo

The professor stabbed his chest with his hands curled like forks

before coughing up the question

that had dogged him since he first read Emerson:

Why am I "I"? We hunkered like musk ox

while his lecture drifted against us like snow.

If we could, we would have turned our backs into the wind.


I felt bad about his class’s being such a snoozefest, though peaceful too,

a quiet little interlude from everyone outside

rooting up the corpse of literature

for being too Caucasian. There was a simple answer

to my own question (how come no one loved me,

stomping on the pedals of my little bicycle):


I was insufferable. So too was Emerson I bet,

though I liked If the red slayer think he slays

the professor drew a giant eyeball to depict the Oversoul.

Then he read a chapter from his own book:


He didn’t care if our heads tipped forward on their stalks.


When spring came, he even threw us a picnic in his yard

where dogwood bloomed depsite a few last

dirty bergs of snow. He was a wounded animal

chased across the tundra by those wolves,

the post-modernists. At any moment

you expected to see blood come dripping through his clothes.


And I am I who never understood his question,

though he let me cllimb to take a seat

aboard the wooden scow he’d been building in the shade

of thirty-odd years. Somehow I rowed it

out of his yard, into my life—it’s all a mystery.

The work is hard because the eyeball’s heavy, riding in the bow.

Found In Volume 35, No. 04
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  • Perillo
Lucia Perillo
About the Author

Lucia Perillo's most recent book is On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). Among her many honors are the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a MacArthur fellowship. She lived in Olympia, Washington before her death in 2016.