Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998
Poems by Lou Gallo
When they ostracized me out of Colonus
I crept to the vaporous cave at Delphi
To seek the advice of Sibyl—
Oh, what a hag she was, filthy, blind,
Demented and dreadful.
But she had a reputation whereas I,
Disgraced for exposing crimes and lies,
She muttered gibberish that I understood,
Advised me to hitch back to Louisiana
And consume some hot cross buns
And honey dew at Dolly's Pastry Shack.
And thereupon I ate of the bread and wine.
Call it transfiguration! The ease
Of a satiated man! Dolly scrubbed my back
Of dirt and grime it had acquired over time.
She sang soft threnodies as she scoured
Then returned to her kitchen and baker's racks.
Restored, I stumbled upon a rhubarb plantation
And held court with the lagoon ducks.
Those quackers taught me a lot about how
To stay afloat in deluge—easy, just float.
Some day I'll revisit my home in Ionia
But for now it's all the bread crumbs I can eat,
The usual trifling triumph in defeat.
. . Sweet is old wine in bottles
I'm reading Byron's 'Tis Sweet'
While listening to Beethoven's sixth piano sonata
As I lean back in the Subaru awaiting the return
Of my girls who moments before dragged Cinnamon
Into the vet for her rabies shot
Fire which Prometheus filched for us from heaven
(whoa, the second movement, Ludwig getting wild)
I wonder about that filched fire—
Was it worth gaining cooked over raw,
To be chained to a boulder as each day
Birds of prey devour your liver anew?
(third movement—here it is, the slow fire,
A deep burning, the uncanny beauty)
Rabies, madness, death . . . (the piano
Rumbles with bass tremolo punctuated
By treble rejoinders)
Greek children extracted Byron's bladder,
Blew it up like a ball to play catch,
Byron who loved dogs more than people
(hear that, Cinnamon?)
Between grief and nothingness I choose grief.
'tis sweet,' yes, brief yet sweeter than old wine
And we must rejoice in that grief
As the Promethean flames consume our hearts
And Cinnamon will emerge immune to madness,
Joyous to chase the soccer ball in our back yard.
Oh, it was cold this morning in early June,
So cold the fire clicked on . . .
I understand nothing, am dumb to grasp
The meaning of all that I cherish
Each moment as the conflagration of the future
Singes even now the passionate tips of our fervid desire
PLATO MEETS THE PREACHER
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 the crows,
Not to mention everyone who ever lived—
And the dead too if they too 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 sweet sweet tarts.
REFLECTION UPON THE CRASH
When I revisited the site of the crash
as one returns to the scene of a crime
a fist of icy voltage clutched my spine
in memory of what I, knocked out cold,
can't remember lest retold in the flesh
as we, my girls and I, paused on that road
not for long, not to grieve
but rather to appease some god of old
demanding thorough commemoration
of what might not have happened a second
later, sooner, or another day,
what might never have happened at all
save for the vulgarity of chance.
The battered love seat lured me back
when home again—it's where I sat
with fractured bones and opiates.
Back home I moved as if in a trance
toward the battered love seat where
I'd spent weeks mending battered bones
that were wrecked--and here I lie once more
thinking, re-thinking and at last
not thinking about the cataclysm that
gave me vision to see and foresee what
the future portends, the silky smoke and ash
of death and transfiguration, mere trash
when set against the sight of a sparrow
lighting upon a branch of the blue-green yew
in our yard or that faun who leapt the fence
to nibble upon the marrow of our lilies.
All it seems is settled in a moment,
For good or ill, the moment, its monument.
Fail to notice each and you live in vain.
Pain and pleasure are the same.
Two volumes of Louis Gallo's poetry, Crash and Clearing the Attic, will be published by Adelaide in the near future. A third, Archaeology, has been published by Kelsay Books; Kelsay will also publish a fourth volume, Scherzo Furiant, in the near future. 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. He is the recipient of an NEA grant for fiction. He teaches at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.