ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Louis Gallo


There is also the bread.  Douse it
with that sweet golden nectar La Cuite,
and, ah!  Though some call it, blah,
lost bread or worse, French bread.
What's in a name except everything?
She, the sublime incarnate, homoousion
not the tepid homoiousian . . . she said,
take and eat for this is my body, and I
feasted thereupon, tasting the goddess head,
down in Amite, Louisiana, as Hurricane
Gloria blasted the shore.  The surge
lasted hours, we feared for our lives,
our vessel stranded in shallow brine.
Someone asked,  what's our purpose,
our raison d'être?  I said, privileged
moments, transitory ecstasy,
but, so fleeting, you may miss them,
so be vigilant, diligent, mindful;
not necessarily the explosion but an
inchworm oscillating along a rail,
its incredulous existence.
She looked me in my bad eye and I saw.
We didn't speak much afterwards
and lost touch, though every so often
I get inklings of what never was
and always is.  Call it beatitude.
The French word for bread is pain.



If you use an electron to observe

particles of equal size or smaller

you must take into account 

the impact of the electron—

for it will change what is observed.

How can the object-in-itself 

ever be known?

As a craftsman must gauge

the thickness of his blade

when cutting a fine strip of molding,

or you, the motes in your vision

when sizing up the beloved.



I thought if I could rearrange the fabled
brass tacks, hone in on the first firsts,
the first sine qua non, the first everything,
the Ur-man or woman, the Ur-event,
the Ur-whatever, scaling down to the last
turtle, that ultimate reduction, I might
simplify this otherwise chaos and disarray,
I might glean some redemptive, confectionary
truth, some wishbone of both necessity
and desire, could lay to rest the whiz,
the clanging pinballs of tilt, could myself
lie back on the waterbed atop a shape-shifting
pillow, pluck a grape or two from the dewy bowl,
catch a re-run of The umbrellas of Cherbourg
and proclaim a fundamental, orgasmic ahhh
but no such singularity, no ding an sich,
no primeval philosopher stone, egg, oval
or jelly bean . . . only the usual razzmatazz,
sirens blitzing down the boulevards, look!
someone shot outside Acme Oyster House,
look!  cartoon safes falling from the sky,
look!  entropy corporealized as a dead locust
on the portico where dine the Viceroy
and his beautiful concubine, him with
handlebar mustachios, him a cornucopia
of quarks, and she too, and yet, and yet,
the quarks not invariant, rather an emergence
out of them, of something new, unimaginable,
something not quarks at all, though I thought
if I could reach those babies, I might sing
for a while, forever, taste the crème à la crème,
the soft boulder of cotton candy, the bread
and the wine.



The crowds had to part that Mardi Gras day
when a man costumed as the Berlin Wall
lumbered up Bourbon toward Canal. We saw
this right outside Laffite's Blacksmith Shop.
He consumed practically the entire street
and swayed from left to right to keep balanced.
A troupe of male ballerinas wearing feathered
jock straps, and that's all they wore, hooted
behind him, protesting their blockage of passage.
The streets were so packed we felt suffocated
and veered off into the Shop for relief
though it too bulged with bodies, everyone
festive and drunk, some old dude plunking
the piano and a crowd of retirees singing along
to Fats Domino's "I'm Walking to New Orleans."
But it wasn't Mardi Gras for us. We came here
to break up after a year of relentless passion,
so intense we both agreed it would kill us
to go on. We found a shiny, lacquered table
in one dark corner, ordered the vodka martinis,
five each, straight up with olives.
After so much time you don't need words.
We gazed into each other's eyes, yours emerald
mine more hazel, and our eyes spoke defeat,
benedictions, one blink in unison, a Sousa
marching band, the next, Verdi's great dirge.
Something like this happens everywhere
all the time, but abstractions mean
nothing until they incarnate into the daggers
you plunge into each other's hearts.
The gift had been too much, too extravagant,
too merciless. We had learned the blessing
of restraint, unwillingly, of course.
Eyes now closed, we leaned across the table
and lip to lip kissed goodbye. And, oh,
what a kiss it was, a kiss of remembrance
as well as forgetting, and that kiss assumed
a life of its own, burst through the roof
of Lafitte's, scorched the crowds outside,
zoomed into the atmosphere and exploded
in some other universe.


Sometimes you've just gotta
leap into the rubbery jello of words
that vat of eelish vocabulary
and get naked, eh?
Oink plop swish clink yowl brrrrrr
zap whah grrrr wham meow 'swounds . . .
because you're one of those monkeys
who will type out Shakespeare
in infinite time.



We're in a common distress at La Madeleine
coffee and pastry shop across from the Place d'Armes
because one of our cats, Yin, went crazy
and as we watched the vet insert a lethal needle
the other cat, Yang, lonely, disappeared.
So we thought to indulge our grief
by going out, and here we sit at a table draped
with checkered oilcloth, surrounded by diners
who laugh and hoot and devour their pleasures
with the gusto of those who couldn't care less
about ordinary misfortune—or to seek
to anesthetize it—through jubilation, sugar
and caffeine while dismissing tomorrow
as too distant or irrelevant to bereave,
unlike us who believe that true grief
mandates wallowing.

Cats or dogs or parakeets or that turtle
Mr. Otis found in the Industrial Canal,
too paltry, ephemeral,  to jeopardize the mind . . .
yes, shed a tear and be done with it
for as we all know, if you don't enjoy the fickle moment,
you'll regret your life and its blessings, its bon bons,
and wind up like one of Hawthorne's corpses
beneath the black masks.

But we're sad and cannot sip the now tepid
café au lait  which won't lift our spirits
because watching something die has soured
our appetites and thirst—
you so dejected, so distraught, so wildly beautiful
in your lamentation, the emerald pendant
drooping from your neck, the color of your eyes,
electric green, greener than green, you, so alive
pushing the deserts and drink aside, as if
to cry enough!  I've had it.  I'm done with pets,
I can't eat.  I need to suffer.

Of course, Yin & Yan were everyday felines
who lived with us ten and eight years respectively—
we knew them well and they trusted us absolutely--
but it's also more than cats, it's about everything,
the entire sundered, unjust, cruel, transient
universe that injects its toxic needle at will,
randomly, even as it bestows paltry treats
like the cupcakes and mocha java that bewitch
some of us into forgetting for a while.
To so forget is to affirm, the affirmation, illusory—
yet who wouldn't prefer to rejoice
unless suffering too, in its twisted, warped way,
is the most sublime and sacred of rejoicings?


Louis Gallo's work has appeared or will shortly appear in Southern Literary Review, Fiction Fix, Glimmer Train, Hollins Critic,, Rattle, Southern Quarterly, Litro, New Orleans Review, Xavier Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Texas Review, Baltimore Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Ledge, storySouth,  Houston Literary Review, Tampa Review, Raving Dove, The Journal (Ohio), Greensboro Review,and many others.  Chapbooks include The Truth Change, The Abomination of Fascination, Status Updates and The Ten Most Important Questions. He is the founding editor of the now defunct journals, The Barataria Review and Books:  A New Orleans Review.  He teaches at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.
His work has appeared several times in Offcourse.

Return to Offcourse Index.