ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Lou Gallo


I spotted our town metaphysician in Kroger today
as he inspected the varied cuts of raw, glistening meat
in the butcher section with his eye cocked toward
first the turkey meatballs then the prime rib
and finally the pork chops which he finally chose,
ten pork chops wrapped in butcher paper.
I recall his three-volume opus maximus in which he
synthesized Plotinus and Longinus, Leibnitz
and Spinoza, with appendices on Hume’s solipsism
and Hegel’s Spirit of History.  Such an airy mind,
aloof, hermetic, cited in academic works
of philosophy, a towering giant among his students,
a bearded elder whose feet never seemed to touch
the earth or sidewalk or the stairs leading
to his office in a kind of tower on campus.
I would have thought that such a Platonic sage
dined on spiritual rather than material pork chops
but I saw what I saw with my own eyes,
that bundle of pork chops weighing heavily
in his grocery cart along with several cans
of beans, asparagus, tomato sauce, bamboo shoots.
I imagine the metaphysician devouring those chops
and maybe the asparagus at his kitchen table,
his right hand clutching the fork, his left
turning the pages of Teilhard de Chardin,
the Omega Point reached when he digested
the last morsel and belched along with
the rest of us.



Those who understand such mysteries
Tell us that no time exists in quantum equations,
That is, on the sub-atomic level time is irrelevant,
Does not even fugit or shimmy shimmy cocoa-pop.
What good does that do us stranded in the ossified
Macro level with its thermodynamic arrow
Blitzing us to the usual gas chambers?

They tell us that the equations can be interpreted
In one of two ways—either an infinite succession
Of worlds superimpose themselves on this one,
The one we know as we think we know
The yogurt flavors we love or despise,
And that in some of the infinity of worlds
We have never been born or have already died
Or don’t exist at all—you know, the way
We feel when the alarm goes off;

OR—nothing exists unless we or something
Perceives it, that is, I only know you because
I am staring at you, and you, me because
You’re staring at me; same with trees and
Windmills and coffee cups—nada, until
We reach out and touch or see or hear or taste
Or feel.  Because things, including us, assume
Only wave functions before actualized
By some trespasser, that is, we who stumble
Into the spiritual thicket.  When the wave function
Collapses, voila, here we are, sipping absinthe
At Ye Olde Absinthe House or chewing
Macaroons at La Madeleine pastry shop
Or rubbing flesh on a king size bed
In the Chelsea Hotel.
What good does it do knowing any of it?
Why know anything?  Time to bang
On the harpsicord of pleasure twitch.



If you name it, it’s not nothing.
The moment you whisper “nothing,”
sweetly I hope, into a tender ear,
it becomes something.
Like the elusive, eerie neutrino
nothing does in the end
have properties, however nuanced.
The physicists tell us
that nothing, the void,
seethes with potential,
even emits “virtual” particles,
and particles, of course,
are something. 
Nothing to speak of
means you don’t know
what you’re talking about,
the frequency evades your ears,
you missed the train,
Jesus passed you by . . .
because nothing, like bone,
structures everything.
The space between
sub-atomic units—
that solid chair you’re
sitting on, a whole lot
of weird nothing packed with
ball bearings of something.
This is tragic of course.
Nowhere to escape.
Columbus must forever
discover America,
though he didn’t.


Three volumes of Louis Gallo’s poetry, Archaeology, Scherzo Furiant and Clearing the Attic, are now available.  Three forthcoming volumes, Crash, Why is there Something Rather than Nothing? and Leeway & Advent, will be published in the near future.  His work will appear in Best Short Fiction 2020 forthcoming. 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.

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