Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998
Poems by Lou Gallo
AS I STOOD THERE
L'éternel silence de ces espaces infinis me terrifie
As I stepped onto the porch to check
The rain, the weather, and leaned against
A column post as Baby slept
In the nearby rocking chair.
Configurations of air and mist
Got me dreaming as I stood there,
Fancying that we dawdled on
A globe of rock that spun around
In empty space as it sped somewhere,
Lugging with it planets and fire,
An atomic fever spilling light
Into my eyes as I stood there
Wondering about the stars and moons
And asteroids, all headed for
The edges of the universe
Billions of light years in the past.
The vertigo had reached such pitch
I lifted up my drowsy cat
And sat me down where she had slept,
Dreaming of a man no doubt
Standing there in waking sleep
Who dreams about odd marvels that
No sleepy cat would dream about.
And now with Baby on my lap
I close my eyes and drive out thought.
I yield to others who stand awake
On porches as day begins to break.
I JUMPED THE GUN BUT MISSED THE BOAT
Because I wanted to see the Kabbalist man of light,
Adam Kadmon, on display at MOMA, figuring
I might pick up some wattage myself in the viewing
Given this participatory universe. But Adam had gone dim
And I drove all the way from Baja for nothing, even
Got there early when the yellow cabs had not yet
Swamped the streets of New Amsterdam.
It's a problem, always early when everyone else
Always arrives late—and sometimes I remember
Nefertiti, her veils and swirls and attar, always
At a distance because I missed the ferry to Cairo.
Nevertheless, distance lends enchantment to the view.
Who said that? It's not true. You want to gaze
Up close, the very pores, the eyelashes doused
With charcoal or ochre, the cracks of the lip.
Then onward or backward to the Gardens of Babylon
Where I trysted with Nausicaa—oh, not the princess
Smitten with Odysseus, but that sleek librarian
With tortoise-rimmed glasses and honey breath.
The gardens her library, the flowers her books—
Imagine the arpeggios of passion there and thus
I met Brahms too as he strolled the promenade
With Clara Schumann, he a much younger guy,
She renowned throughout Europe as Robert languished
In an insane asylum, crying, "Music killed me!"
He whispered to me, "I am dying to live."
I retreated hastily to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Where the only thing going on was a renegade moose
Running amok through the streets, obliterating
Storefront windows with his antlers.
Oh, the perils and pleasures of everyplace,
The hidden nuances of geography, the latitude
Of longitude, the present tense of history!
I jumped the gun but missed the boat, though
Sometimes I jumped the gun because I missed the boat
And sometimes I missed the boat because . . .
Well, you get the idea. Born too late, born too early,
Either way, there's poison in the gravy
And gravy in the poison.
Took me a while to dig my way up
From Gaia to Ur then Jericho and all
The rest, all history my province now
(uphill the entire way, out of the muck
And debris—oh, you should have seen
The rubble and dirt, the fossils, junk
And skeletal remains I had to shovel aside,
Enough to make a thinking man not think).
And once I escaped that grotto of the past
I expected at least a puny revelation or two,
Enlightenment, a pipe dream as usual.
But what do I behold before mine eyes
(I like "mine" eyes, don't you?)
Other than that tattered coat upon a stick,
Enough to scare the bejesus out crows,
Not to mention everyone who ever lived—
And the dead too if they had glowing eyes.
I lowered myself (almost said "mine" self)
Upon a filthy brick and watched a chaos
Of gnats dart in circles under the sun—
Oh, how I laughed and laughed and laughed
Until my reservoir ran dry—alone, undone,
I blinked them eyes and ages and eons spun
In frenzied loops like the prodigious gnats.
And, lo, who should arrive on this lonely dune
With a bulging sack of jellies and macaroons
but Dolly from The Pastry Shack towering
above Monkey Hill, the apex of all the trash
of civilization and time, a culmination of sorts.
And thus I misunderstood wisdom at last,
Tasted it, wolfed it down with the sweetest tarts.
BUT NONE DO THERE I THINK EMBRACE
Could be your atoms and mine
Might commingle again once we disperse
In diaspora but I would not put money on it.
Atoms are not alive; they require a brain
To construe their varied swirls and leaps and entrechats.
I know mystics tell us that everything is conscious,
Even lowly pebbles and sticks, even bricks,
(and I agree) but it's all a matter of degree.
What must a nail think beyond the strike
Of a hammer driving it into a chunk of wood
And how steadfastly it binds? Whereas Einstein
Imagined riding on a palomino-like beam of light.
Does the moth imagine its rebirth in a star?
Degree and gradation, we the unblessed who
Speculate upon our return as feasible
Even as the empire burns, reducing us to ash.
Imagine, the phoenix rising from such powder.
Us, transfigured, ready to give it another go!
The grave's a fine and private place, Andrew said,
Presuming what lies within stays dead—
If only to coax his mistress into bed.
But we, my dear, have grander hopes and dreams:
We're coming back to stich time back at its seams!
Louis Gallo is Professor of English at Radford University, Radford, Va., 24142
Two full volumes of Louis Gallo's poetry, Crash and Clearing the Attic, will be published by Adelaide in the near future. A third, Archaeology, will be published by Kelsay Books. His 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, 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. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize several times.