ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Lou Gallo


get down to it
and we’re all mostly
a conglomerate of quarks

the so far ultimate
constituents of matter
(six types stuck inside
the proton—up, down,
strange, charm, top

and each quark births
an anti-quark,
each has charge, spin
& mass

weird, eh?
the term itself coined
by James Joyce,
borrowed by Gell-Mann

so how you doing today
maybe depends on
the condition of your quarks

quark quark quack quack
sub-microscopic ducks

oh one of my strange antiquarks
has a sinus condition,
spins too slow,
has lost its charm

can’t get a quark naked though
they’re bound by another
freaky smear called gluons,
glue, get it?

fuck this—what’s inside
a quark, that's what I want
to know, and how low
can you go, and why
go there in the first place

unless to know or unknow
thyself forever



As I turned my gaze from the muted streetlamps
and cozy picture windows, from the moon
fractured by pine boughs, from the sad,
parked automobiles and blackened, residual
snow banks, as I turned my gaze inward
I saw that time had solidified as it passed,
that the past congealed into a stolid tapestry
of incidents and emotions, some connected
by common threads but most not, most
seemingly isolated from the mosaic
as if detached iotas, random jigsaw pieces
which, when assembled, remained chaotic,
indecipherable, fragments composed
of fragments, and that nevertheless
this now impervious disassembly has led
up to the present, ephemeral moment
during which, for an effervescent instant,
I stand on the porch at night gazing
at still another array which fuses precisely
with the slab behind me as I so gaze.



Not a law firm.

The heavy and the light
as usual.
The rose petal
fluttering onto a plinth—
beast and beauty,
wisps of rain misting
the Great Wall of China.
That aromatic golden hair
on my boulderous pillow.



Shortly after the Bang
when gravity was so pugnacious
that not even photons could escape
from the embryonic membrane
of the universe,
when naked quarks roamed free
like rowdy cowpokes,
when all was dark,
so black pitch
that if there had been eyes then
the blazing obscura
would have blinded them . . .
shortly thereafter
as what was everything
cooled down a bit and swelled
into the void, bestowing
space and time in the process . . .
shortly thereafter
light burst out of its tar womb,
blasting space in every direction,
the best fireworks ever,
the first New Year’s Eve,
zipping at its usual speed
which meant it bounced off
one side of the cosmos,
ricocheted to the other,
then back again, a frenzied yo-yo. . .
sounds like “Let there be Light.”



for Randall Freisinger

We have attained the speed of light,
Mano, our essential dream, and thus it seems
from this angle of lesser dream
that we still slouch in the commons
sipping coffee and trying reign in Marx,
Freud, Kafka, Camus, Dostoevsky—
“consciousness is a disease.”
And of course we also notice the girls
who stand in line with their Cokes, burgers
and pizza. Because we both know,
as Yeats knew, that we too would become
scarecrows upon which not a woman
casts a glance. I think our straw burned
aromatically. And look, here’s Cricket,
the chipper eighteen- year-old
—who rushes over
to inform us, as if to announce
the cessation of gravity, “Guess what!
I just had a hysterectomy!” And off she
dances, to class, to the cafeteria, to
some personal Alamo. And there’s
the spastic guy, all contorted, hobbling
along awkwardly, a beauty clinging
to his arm—and you crack, “Even he
has a girlfriend.”
We never understood what we understood.
And why did we call each other Mano?
After you, my dear Mano—nay, my dear
Mano, après vous.” We sifted through
the absurdists, the alienated, the Dadaists,
the surreals, D’s glass palace, Walker’s “War
is better than any Wednesday.” And,
poof, an insane abracadabra, the commons
vanished into history or time or wherever
things vanish but I think mostly into our minds.
And we never sang beyond the genius of the sea,
we merely groped, hoped, strained to grasp
what they told us and hoped they were lying,
but knew they weren’t, because it would mean
nothing that we treasured—our steaming
coffee, those girls, the neutron-star-heavy books
we devoured, none of it meant anything,
all of it some mangled hallucination
to offset the ancient echo in our bones—
Father Zosima rotting, Ilych knocking
against a ladder, Emma spitting up black bile.
“The blind man!” she cried and cried and cried.
So, Mano, let’s get in line and have another cup
and drink to ourselves and sweep ideas
under the frayed Sarouk where they will
hardly form a hump, being themselves,

Four volumes of Louis Gallo’s poetry, Archaeology, Scherzo Furiant, Crash and Clearing the Attic, are now available. Why is there Something Rather than Nothing? and Leeway & Advent will be published soon.  His work appears in Best Short Fiction 2020. A novella, “The Art Deco Lung,” will soon be published in Storylandia.  National Public Radio aired a reading and discussion of his poetry on its “With Good Reason” series (December 2020).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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