A Poem by Lucia Perillo

Breaking News

They found the missing bride and she is living.
They found the boys floating on the ocean in their little yellow raft.
The ornithologists found the extinct woodpecker
when it flew over their canoe.
Not everyone is convinced, though.
One recording of its distinctive knock turned out to be a gunshot.

A century of Ozark fishermen
said they saw the bird when they were stranded
on their hummocks in the swamp.
Nobody believed them but the catfish in their pails.
Those boys thought their muscles strong enough to paddle against the squall.
And the bride only wanted a bus trip west
before the rest of her life downed her like an olive.

Sometimes survival strikes us dumb
with the improbable story of resurrection;
we see the blossoms smutted on the ground
turning back into a flowering tree. Next year
there’ll be new nettle stalks
to sting your fingers, which you’ll drag
through the serrated leaves to prove
the world has not lost the consolation of its old pain.

Lucia Perillo (1958–2016) published seven books of poems and two prose collections, I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing and Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain. Among the many honors for her work were a MacArthur Fellowship, the Bobbit Prize, and the Shelley Memorial Award.

“Breaking News” appears in Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones: Selected and New Poems and is reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.