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Sample Poems by Perie Longo


Photo of Three Sisters, 1964

Weren't we blossoms, rare and raring to go.
Didn't we take on the world and our men,

didn't we love our children into the world
no matter the stumbles, easing them into all
that territory, sweet and cruel at once

with the kindness of our father, the passion
of our mother who longed for us
what she could not gather for herself,
back then. Now back then is us,

nursing our age trying to figure out
what time wants of us this day,
as if there were anything else.



A Common Crop

after the painting by Jules Breton
"Returning from the Fields", 1871

First glance, the three peasant girls appear complacent,
almost peaceful, turned to each other in conversation,
cheeks flushed with the rouge of wilting sun.

They hold each other's hands, linked
by the shared bond of daily strain,
hair tied off from dust and heat.

In their weariness you almost want to hug them,
offer tea and soup, some words of comfort,
massage their feet coated with mud, thick as horse hide,

stinging with burr and thistle as they trudge home
between corridors of wheat. Looking beyond,
you wonder about those flowers like cotton tufts,

opium poppies, you learn, once a common crop,
now rare as the girls themselves
who may dream an easier life in sleep's escape.

One bears herself up, gripping an alder staff,
as if hearing bells in the distance
clanging through the curdled sky.


Siblings at Dusk on a Rural Missouri Road

Pulled together for a reunion, mother's side
of the family, we drift away, suggest we explore
like we're still kids, wondering what's out there
besides swamp and cattails. My youngest brother
plows through the muggy dusk, asks we three
older sisters where to go. "Stop," I shout.
"A, pretty big thing ahead." He actually listens,
slows down, pulls to the shoulder. Gravel crunches
beneath our weight. We assess possibly a rock,
jump from the car, note it has a head and moves.
"Turtle," we nod as if taking field notes,
like our zoologist father might have done.
We hover around the creature. Will it make it across
by morning? Should we help, pick it up?
What if another car needing to get somewhere fast
hits it? On neutral turf, we agree it has lived
thus far without us, best to leave it alone.
Laughing at our brilliance, a slight breeze stirs.
Our parents asking, what took you so long? We
huddle like peas in a pod toward what lies beyond.



Fishing with My Father


He always took me with him out in the boat
on those long northern summer nights
and I loved it, not the sitting for hours
under all the many moons and showy red lights,
but the going-the creak of oars in the locks
like entering an attic where no one could reach us,
water beads on the edge of the oar
like a string of pearls before they dripped back
into the mirror that held us all.
I realize now how many poems I thought up
in those hours while we stared the bobber down
praying for a catch. I used to play games to pass the time,
for it was not the fishing that pleased me
but being with my father
in his joy. If I blinked my eyes thirty-nine times,
on the fortieth a Muskie would strike,
that fish he took to heaven I think.
When I held his arm at his passing,
clung to his hand like no fish ever had,
he let go and I slipped off.
If I blink thirty-nine times, on the fortieth
maybe I'll catch a glimpse of him.