Transcendentalism

By Lucia Perillo 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”? Like musk oxen we hunkered
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 Over-soul.
Then he read a chapter from his own book:
naptime.
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 despire a few last
dirty bergs of snow. He was a wounded animal
being chased across the tundra by those wolves,
the postmodernists. 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 climb to take a seat
aboard the wooden scow he’d been building in the shade
of thirty-odd years. How I ever rowed it
from his yard, into my life—remains a mystery.
The work is hard because the eyeball’s heavy, riding in the bow.

Lucia Perillo, “Transcendentalism” from Inseminating the Elephant. Copyright © 2009 by Lucia Perillo. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Source: Inseminating the Elephant (Copper Canyon Press, 2009)

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Poet Lucia Perillo

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Living, Health & Illness, Time & Brevity, Relationships, Social Commentaries, Activities, School & Learning

 Lucia  Perillo

Biography

Lucia Perillo is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Dangerous Life (1989), which won the Norma Farber Award from the Poetry Society of America; The Body Mutinies (1996), winner of the Kate Tufts prize from Claremont University; The Oldest Map with the Name America (1999); Luck is Luck (2005), which was a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and won the Kingsley Tufts prize from Claremont University; . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness, Time & Brevity, Relationships, Social Commentaries, Activities, School & Learning

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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