Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998
New Poems by Louis Gallo
The Planck Limit of Desire
Honing in on when the what-once-was becomes
the creamy desideratum and you grasp
that you will never grasp the scope
of Salvador De Madariaga's crucial
and marvelous The Fall of the Spanish
American Empire because the future
has complied with the laws of relativity and
shrunken into a figment while crusty old time
lengthens its shadow across the table
with its splotched oil cloth, its Hull bud vase
out of which pokes a sole purple cone flower
and sun shafts streak through window blinds
like anger . . .
there, on the saucer, a pristine cupcake,
glazed and warm, the wishbone inside,
the one she baked for you, an Archimedean
fulcrum on which to tilt the world, an iotal
dream to seize and savor in illo tempore,
now, because the Spanish American Empire
never existed and if it did, what matter?
You, once sprawled against the Berlin Wall
as the Duchess of Albion stroked her borzoi
and the Generalissimo lay waste to the outpost,
you, once poking about the ruins of Ur,
you, wandering Jew and ancient mariner,
lick the frosting, bite into the instant,
and nothing has ever tasted or smelled
so good even as hummingbirds, doves
and chickadees congregate outside
the window and sing for nothing.
Remembrance is an act of defiance against time,
within time, of constructing a mythic self,
what you regard as you, whereas forgetting
is an act of deconstruction of that self in time,
and defiance by default. Who reads the text?
Who loves you? Hates you? Have you read
the tome that is you, have you explicated?
Are you a poem or a sprawling Moby Dick
of a novel? Or maybe a fiscal report, a spread sheet
of desire, a philosophic musing about musing?
Up by frail rung you go, out of the quagmire
of oblivion, memories, the sequential sequins,
most lost in the diaspora of exploration, a few
sticking onto the heart, the loins, the lips or brain—
you never know which or why.
You have lost most of yourself, the volume,
the oeuvre, always incomplete, the reader
perplexed over missing pages, words, images,
the reader also a text being read by you,
two readers, mislaid pages, signifieds without
signifiers . . . no wonder the conflict, the
declarations of war, the woe and beseeching . . .
and sometimes, magically, consummation
as if the missing pages, those leafy sequins,
tell the whole story, the ultimate Ur-legend,
and the incomplete text shrivels to dissemblance
and defect, and you, an imposter the Other surmises,
the Other equally masqueraded, duplicitous,
two prone haphazardly on a mattress neither owns
in a room far from home, though what is home
and where when identity twists askew?
I asked the Philosopher to decipher me these deceits.
He (she?) said: play along, triumph assures defeat.
All plots lead to death, the echo in your dying breath.
Pluperfect Passive Subjunctive
I might have been deluded by your charms
some of which took the form of attared whispers
in a darkness so viscous
we had to part its pleated folds to continue
onto that petticoated shore
where we splashed and ignited
and oozed into each other forever
or rather until forever ended
but as I said I might have been deluded
not that I was so deluded
or could have been so deluded
and thus the grammar of passion
requires a precise syntax
of enactment after the fact
They transferred me to this pre-Civil War
Aqua Mason Jar after my original abode
Of the last two thousand years, that old
Earthen-ware crock, finally crumbled.
I, reduced to a spider of ash, now hang
From a single strand of gossamer
Near the lid, I who once sported
With Niobe at Ye Olde Absinthe House,
Who played sultry duets with Salome
On our dulcimers, who flirted with Nefertiti
On my missions to Alexandria and Thebes,
Who sucked the juice from stalks of sugar cane
They sell down at the French Market
By the bundle. Once Niobe and I stole
A bundle and fled to St. Louis cemetery
And sucked our way into delirium
Atop the grave of Dominique You,
That splendid pirate of a man who helped
Hickory save the city-state during the Battle.
It's a form of love, no doubt,
a shimmering resistance to change,
aesthetics of the interface—
as when I lowered myself onto
rather than rolled off of your flesh,
an inertial glut, the aftermath
of torque, no willing departure.
This morning when I stood on our balcony
overlooking the Atlantic a seagull cruised by
with a silver fish trapped in its beak.
This too a form of love . . . perhaps.
And yesterday, when still ensnared nowhere,
a tiny sparrow hopped over to me, looked up
with beseeching eyes, and peeped,
begging for crumbs from strangers.
The only antidote to surface is depth.
But depth swallows you whole, Jonah,
and doesn't spit you out—
the way she once crawled into my mind
and remains in my dreams of her dreams.
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, and a fifth volume, Leeway and Advent. A novella, "The Art Deco Lung," will be published in Storylandia. 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 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. 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.