“The DAR’s Daughter” by Perie Longo

Perie Longo


His illness had taken our lives
like one of those alligators in the living room
I read about in books exploring why your life
is so fucked-up. I’m not sure I can use the word
fuck in a poem and still be allowed
to be a member of the Poetry Society of America,
even though it sounds accurate. Moreover, my mother
who was a Daughter of the American Revolution,
might come back and disown me, she who made it clear
in my upbringing we were special
and never used such common language.

One day when I had matured enough to ask
what this relative did in the revolution, instead
of storming out with oh not that again,
she said with her head held high, though a little sheepish,
that he carried a lantern. That I could appreciate,
a great-great-great something-or-other who lit the way
so soldiers wouldn’t stumble all over themselves
but fall neatly to the side should they pass out
or even die.

So that’s what I came to do, cancer or not,
told the family this was the only life we had and together
we better find a way to fight even beyond seeing
the whites of their eyes, or for that matter
those common white cells.
And when it became the darkest, I lit
the kerosene lamp on the mantle with a sense of purpose
and paraded through the house in my sheepskin slippers
shouting, All is well.         All is well.

from Rattle #12, Winter 1999

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Perie Longo: “A friend recently sent me a card of a woman jumping in the air at the sight of a mountain range, with the saying, ‘Life is too short to take seriously.’ I’m trying to laugh at myself a little more often, especially in unguarded moments, and trying, too, to capture those times in poetry.” (website)

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