ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


"As I Rock Reflecting", by Louis Gallo


When I wake in darkness, usually
the case these days, I fetch my coffee
(cold dark roast, no sugar, no cream,
which some claim signals psychopathology)
and set it upon a table out on the porch
as I watch the fog dissipate
and rock in a rocker awaiting dawn
in russet mantle clad to break ore
yon horizon.  Because . . .
when light seizes the brain it loosens
its synapses and one can reflect
upon reflection itself and garner a torrent
of what was lost, displaced or fleeting
to stitch into a patchwork quilt of remembrance.

I spot a bunny forage for food on the front
lawn, two hummingbirds at the feeder,
a cardinal lighting on a branch of the red tips.
Why should I set these immediacies,
these beauties, against the archeological
tableau of a frozen past where I too
am embalmed as if sealed in historic amber?
That rusted bicycle flat on its side
in the dusty back yard of Columbus Street
near the row of makeshift white crosses
poking above the remains of departed pets.
One for Duke the turtle, another for that
yellow chick who had no name
and all the others.

Or my father’s primed pickup truck
(parked out front, halfway on the curb)
in which he drove my sister and me
to the City dump to burn barrels of sawdust.
Then, ex nihilo, the smile of that girl,
her windswept hair asunder as she gazes
from a Fiat convertible, we both stalled
at a red light, decades later the smile
I can’t forget, just yesterday.



But how deflect the extraneous, how arrange
the chaotic bits into a coherent montage,
how pasteurize the psyche into a meadow
rather than the howling wilderness
of noise and clanky discordia?  Savor
the beautiful pellucids, a phrase that came
to me in a dream, that nether vault of mirages
slugging it out with the conscious mind of sunup.

That house on Columbus Street raised on pillars
above ground . . . I could hide within its vast
crawlspace with my dog Spottie and evade
relentless impediments in the rooms above.
Once I punished her for chewing up a toy,
I beat her as she lay beside me whimpering.
All this time and the guilt never abates,
all this sad, waste time—if only
I could return to undo my own injustice.
The child is not father of the man.

The gold coin my radiant grandmother gave to me,
the precious antique Leica my father gave to me . . .
both of which I sold years later when
I needed a buzz, a fix or cash to pay the rent.
How can we redress our own failings
before we knew they were failings?
The solvent, the elixir also spurts forth
as luck would have it, serendipitously—
that time Cat and I wound up in a cheap motel
in Pensacola, a refuge for AWOLs,
condom machines nailed onto construction blocks,
wall-sized mirrors on every wall, even
the ceiling.  Nothing mattered.  We were together.
We saw ourselves reflected from every angle,
endless duplications of the primal conjunction.



If I go nowhere, I go everywhere.
If I go everywhere, I go nowhere.
Makes no difference, here or there,
hither or thither, hic or nunc,
ascent and descent of the winding stair
both at once, afloat and sunk.

Dreams are residues of noise or junk.
Or perhaps avenues to enlightenment.
Who can say with certitude and faith?
Did my father come as man or wraith
that gray day he died, my sister and I
screaming on the pavement outside
the hospital near a bayou’s bank
when later, nimbused, he appeared
and smiled at me as if to say
don’t grieve, I’ll be okay.

Mick, you can always get what you want
if you want nothing, however haunted
by the ghosts of lust and desire;
either way, yearning is fire.
You dangle enwebbed in static fluxion
with neither steering wheel nor brake
awaiting the next looming eruption—
your past and future, your life at stake.

Billions alive, billions dead.
Prune meaning out of your head.



The Grecian Urn or Panta Rhei, what
did Heraclitus, a most disagreeable man, mean?
Or swim to Asia Minor in that dolphin torn,
gong-tormented sea. What you leave behind
may wind up buried in the sand.
It behooves us not to crate our doodads and trinkets
into the pyramid; what profit a man . . .
blah, you’re heard all the homilies, apothegms,
sermons, parables, kaons, the wisdom of Confucius;
you’ve consulted with a wise man, and a goddess—
wrecking balls of equipoise, no balm there.

Best to rock reflecting in the fog, in your chair,
spot a rabbit on the lawn, two hummingbirds, a cardinal.
Best not to reflect at all.  Only witness, merge.
Time spirits you along to who knows where?
Everything you have forgotten has forgotten you,
the transient vessel, the ephemeral conduit.
A ten-minute jolt of pleasure
in a thirteen-billion-year-old cosmos. 
Some would call it debonaire.
I’ve drunk the java to its last drop.


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.  He was invited for and interview and reading of his work by National Public Radio’s program “With Good Reason,” broadcast across the country, 2021. 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).

Return to Offcourse Index.