Winter 1999 • Vol. XXI No. 1 Poetry |

Short Course in Semiotics

1. "Naked woman surrounded by police": that's one way to start the poem. But would she mean anything devoid of her context, in this case a lushly late-August deciduous forest, some maple, mostly oak? She carries no prop—for example, no bike chain, which the cops could be sawing from the tree trunk that she's wedded to her body. But let's start with her pure, and untranslated, as the famous cartoon of the door is inscrutable until we post the word "Ladies" at a point that would be four feet up from the ground if this door were not drawn two inches tall—it's us, you see, who make-believe it corresponds to a "true-life" human door. Does it help if I say the naked woman is "really" my true- life friend, she of the tangled dago surname we don't need to get into here? And if I say next that she has been swimming—in Lake Tiorati— 2. you can see how straightaway the tangling subdivides into (a) where the hell is Lake Tiorati? and (b) why naked?—to the last let me answer

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Lucia Perillo’s sixth book of poems, On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths (Copper Canyon 2012) was a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award and received the Pacific Northwest Booksellers' Award.

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The Odds

By Lucia Perillo

1. "Naked woman surrounded by police": that's one way to start the poem. But would she mean anything devoid of her context, in this case a lushly late-August deciduous forest, […]

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