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THE LUNGFISH by Michelle Gillett

Deep down inside, I am afraid of the lungfish suspended in its tank in the darkened room meant to emulate time when desert was ocean
Deep down inside, I am afraid of the lungfish
suspended in its tank in the darkened room
meant to emulate time when desert was ocean
and ocean was all there was before we crept
on our stubs from the watery hem of existence
and  blinked at undiluted light. There was no
going back  although we still lacked breath enough
to inherit the earth.  Head down in its gloomy tank,
on our stubs from the watery hem of existence
and  blinked at undiluted light. There was no
going back  although we still lacked breath enough
to inherit the earth.  Head down in its gloomy tank,
God’s first creature made in his own image
before we began to feel at home in shallows and muck,
grew legs and arms,  sucked in air and named ourselves,
is who we are— bone and gut, God’s face before we invented it:
stone-like, wide mouth feeding on every element.




“The Lungfish” is a particularly poignant poem written by my mother, Michelle Gillett. Michelle was diagnosed with lung cancer in early November of 2015 and died only three months later in February. During this brief time, she turned to her collection of poetry books for comfort. There was always a book at her bedside. It was the poetry of her colleagues and mentors that brought her solace and comfort. Poetry was the form of language that spoke most deeply to her heart and soul. She continued to compose her own poems up until the day she died. She loved poetry and dedicated much of her life to honing her own writing, teaching writing workshops to others, and serving on various boards and organizations that supported the arts. She was many things to many people but I always thought of her first as my mom: the poet.

~Erin Gillett



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About Michelle Gillett

Michelle Gillett
Michelle Gillett (1948-2016) was a poet, writer and teacher in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She received her MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson College Program for Writers. She was the recipient of the Massachusetts Artists Foundation Poetry Fellowship in 1980 and received the Massachusetts Cultural Council Poetry Finalist Award in 1984, 1987, 1990 and 1994. In 2003, she was also awarded the Backwater Press Poetry Book Prize. She had several books of poetry published: Rock and Spindle by Mad River Press, 1998; Blinding the Goldfinches by The Backwater Press, 2005 and The Green Cottage by Ledge Publishing, 2011. Her most recent book, Coming About will be published in 2017 by Four Way Books.