Wednesday, November 18, 2009


The Garbo Cloth
by Lucia Perillo
Her daughter wrote back to say my friend had died
(my friend to whom I wrote a letter maybe twice a year).
From time to time I'd pictured her amid strange foliage
(and in a Mongol yurt, for she was fond of travel).
Why not a flock of something darkening the sky, so we would know
(ah, so-and-so is gone!)?
For a woman from the city, this might perhaps be pigeons
(blacking out the sun).
Or else a human messenger, as once when she was fabric shopping
(bolt of green silk furled across her body)
Garbo passed, and nodded. At Macy's years ago
(when I was not a creature in her world).
Of course she bought the cloth, but never sewed the dress
("a massive stroke, and I take comfort in the fact she felt no pain.")
Logic says we should make omens of our Garbos and our birds
(but which one bears the message? which one just the mess?)
From the kayak, I've seen pigeons nesting underneath the pier
(a dim ammoniated stink)
where one flew into my face. I read this as a sign
(that rancid smash of feathers)
but couldn't fathom what it meant, trapped in the lag-time
(of an oracle's translation).
Foolish mind, wanting to obliterate the lag and why –
(let memory wait to catch up to its sorrow).

Lucia Perillo's new book is a Lannan Literary Selection from Copper Canyon Press. In one way I do this poem an injustice by sticking a photo of the aging Garbo above it (the way Garbo looked when she had left Hollywood and settled in New York during the decades when every New Yorker had a Garbo-sighting to report, just as later every New Yorker would have a Jackie-sighting to report). Yet I don't feel the injustice is serious, since the title of the poem is, after all, in itself a form of namedropping, even though the dead friend the poem is about certainly does not seem to have displayed any of the unpleasant features of the paradigmatic namedropper. But then most of the namedroppers I have encountered in New York (or in San Francisco, or wherever I have lived) have not seemed like typical egoists either, and their namedropping has seemed not so much like showing off as like sharing, in a spirit of honest generosity.