ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Lou Gallo


I once wrote that nostalgia was a disease
whereas I know now that it's merely a symptom
of that greater disease, Time, which, they say,
is a byproduct of the second law of thermodynamics,
as if that explains anything.  What about my
or your itch for love as concrete as a blue
Victorian hand-vase, milk glass on the inside,
with an orange aromatic rose rising out of it
like an antenna?  What about the molasses
chunks, the sugar cane segments, my father
brought home from Saltifarchia's grocery,
the taste of both lingering in my mind
like the musical note of that Bach motet
I played over and over again on a remote,
childhood phonograph? 
Does the mind process music and aromas
in the same vault as words, as experience?
I know too that we need Time for music
to expand, for smells to smell, for words
to signify, for experience to happen.
Otherwise, you're in some Oriental void,
you're stranded on the sub-atomic level
where Time evades the equations altogether.
Who wants to be frozen in either?
Wallace, I won't agree that death is the mother
of beauty, I refuse to, but you've got a point.
Rather, Time is the mother of beauty,
Time, our terminal disease, imagine . . .
the grotesque irony.  How long can we
hang in, sniffing that rose, chewing that
molasses, gasping to music so beautiful
we want to live forever, drag it out as the
expanding universe races away from
one wonder into another.
And Time, that mother, is contagious.
We're all infected.
Even as some of us wind up like that Ice
Man, fossilized on a glacier, his sack
of seeds, herbs and tools still ready to go.



When you first get the thing
in all its pristine virginity
you can't keep your hands off of it
and display it proudly in the best
room of your house.  After a while
the thing grows a bit dull
and you move it into a lesser room
where after another while
it gathers some dust
which you wipe off
and while you're at it
move the thing to an obscure shelf
and though you still revere
the thing you sort of forget
where it is until the day
you find it somewhat shrunken
and again shrouded with dust
so you pack an attic box
and wrap the thing in newspaper
and place it gently within
along with other maybe older
things and you carry the box
up the stairs to the dark attic
and stack it atop another box
and proceed to forget about
the thing until fifteen years later
when unloading excess
you open the box and realize
you have had forgotten the thing
for good but you polish it up
make it near pristine once more
and display it again in the best room
of the house because it is so
beautiful and now venerable
and how can you not look at it
and touch it and smile
a few more times . . .



                                      for Milan Kundera

Heavy the proton, heavy the iron, heavy
the anvil, heavy the earth, heavy the soul,
heavy heaven . . . why something rather
than nothing?  Nothing, the heaviest.
Strap on your backpack and streak out
for El Dorado and the heavy bones of
countless conquistadors.  Look,
a heavy bird dropping out of the sky,
crashes, another crater, Tunguska,
so much (mulch) has happened!
Pleistocene and all the others,
though, who remembers or cares?
Hey, all we can do to get through a day,
so much mass and inertia each moment,
not to mention vector and velocity
and what happens to a light beam
sliding through the double slit.
I once frequented a bar in New Orleans
called the Abbey, on Decatur Street.
All the art farts, drunk and depressed,
until one night a biker gang roared in
and my friend tackled their chieftain
and pinned him to the floor.
Then that supper with Vera at some joint
on Bourbon Street when the rat
fell out of a palm tree onto our table.
Or at Corrine Dunbar's on St. Charles
when we drank so many vodka martinis
we stumbled out of the place
into a cab.  So much to remember,
the past is so heavy, the past at
critical mass, no elasticity except
in the imagination.  I remember it all.
I was in Thebes, Jericho, Ur, that latter
the heaviest of all, the ever-present origin,
the anchor, as entire civilizations
swept forth in a flood of creation,
washed over the planet like suds
and evaporated into the heavy stars.



When you seize one, or rather
when it seizes you, savor, savor,
indulge, drag it out if possible—
because all the detritus of the day
will soon smother it away.
Like this morning upon waking,
no alarm clang, pillows situated
perfectly (they MUST be), covers
just right (ditto MUST be), body
positioned smoothly, blissfully,
still not quite awake, a doze,
ahh . . . so perfect, easy, no
errant, catastrophic inklings,
ahh ahh ahh.

Then the aforementioned detritus
struts in like a marching band
with tubas, trumpets, snares,
even an electric banjo, blasting
out "You Are My Sunshine"
and you cry, "No, I ain't, go
away." Ain't.  Got to put on
your grammar sombrero,
hombre, it's marching time
for you too, though maybe
if the pillows and covers were right,
maybe if the universe were friendly,
maybe you could coo "ahh"
every moment and bask in
equatorial currents and feel
as tentative as a ripe fig
hanging from that tree
in the back yard.

Louis Gallo's work has appeared or will shortly appear in Wide Awake in the Pelican State (LSU anthology), 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, Berkeley Fiction 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 Changes, 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 was awarded an NEA fellowship for fiction. He teaches at Radford University in Radford, Virginia. His work has appeared several times in Offcourse.

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