ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Lou Gallo


The Girl with the Flaxen Hair

I was listening to Debussy’s violin solo,
“The Girl with the Flaxen Hair,” while
Lounging in the botanical gardens
Under the great leaf magnolia tree
When upon an instant sudden I
Spotted her waltzing across the stone
Bridge gazing at the Japanese fish
Darting about in the lagoon below.
How I wanted to call out to her—
“You are the girl Debussy wrote about!”
Instead, because the music was so serene,
The trees willowy in the soft breeze,
I so uncommonly relaxed and serene
Myself, I merely closed my eyes
And thanked the day for such bestowal,
Its lulled ease and bewitchment.



a word is elegy to what it signifies
                        --Robert Hass

Give me the leeway to reconfigure
tome to tomb, and I’ll disclose
the severe severity of an alphabet
that evolves into words and thereafter
to thoughts and, voila, the boneyard
of ideas. For what is a book
aside from the cemetery
of whomsoever’s mind composed it--
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius,
that volume of poems by John Keats
found in the pocket of drowned Shelley,

To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street
or any text in Barnes & Noble?

The authors may be still alive
but their texts remain corpses,
corpses, that is, until some reader,
a poet or scholar or some dim,
half-illiterate bloke or dame
scans their inert words and thus
resurrects the dead to life—
not of body but rather psyche.

Check out the library books
that have not been read in decades,
call those masses home once more.
And write a book of your own,
no matter if good or bad—
the issue is not of aesthetics,
the issue is of life and death.
Store it in an attic or drawer.
Thank in advance whoever reads it
(some lonely child perhaps)
once you’ve given up the ghost
for prompting your quick return
to kisses, cupcakes, wishbones & wine.


Intimations of Catastrophe,
The Waltz

In a sense our expulsion from Paradise was a stroke
of luck, for had we not been expelled, Paradise would
have had to be destroyed.

…indeed, the whole visible world is perhaps nothing
more than the rationalization of a man who wants to find
peace for a moment.

                       —Kafka, Parables and Paradoxes

Buzzes in your head like a deranged fly
or loose rivet . . .
aside from the grandiose black box ultraviolet
which has something to do with the explosion
of infinity, aside from the Wordsworthian
splendor in the grass or wherever,
trailing clouds of gory glory,
you fret over the bite of a tick that fell
into your hair as you sat under the elm
sipping a bottle of jasmine tea. Oh, Doktor,
is it Lyme D?  Doctor, Doktor, will I die,
yes, my child but do not cry…

If Xerxes the Great did die
Then so must you and I.

But why, Doktor, why?
I never signed on the dotted line
nor bit into the Knowledge apple.
Only paradise I ever knew was Dolly’s
Pastry Shack on Monkey Hill—
oh, her divine raspberry swirls.
Then the bulldozer. And here I lie
asunder in this vehicular quagmire, 15 mph
in the slow lane enroute to El Dorado.

The onus on us, verily. 

A hummingbird lights upon a leaf,
pierces it with its needle beak.



What if we living things, including plants,
amount to mere vehicles for the propagation
of the double-helixed acid, which in itself,
a chemical, is not alive.  So we’re fueled
and regulated by something never alive
which in some ways means “dead”
(unless you believe that for something
to be dead it had at one time to be alive).
Hmmm, something never dead nor alive
lurks in our every cell, every corpuscle
yet without which we could never exist
much less thrive or nosedive.

And what if DNA is an angel of death
coursing through out systems, the Reaper
in elemental form.  Sort of makes sense
however chilling.  Death
lives forever, ironically enough,
death breeding in our systems, jettisoning
us when our vehicles run out of gas,
contaminating our children and descendants
until they too get low on fuel.
Sort of like passing on the heirlooms,
—grandma’s Nippon vase, Ma’s knickknacks,
the carved mahogany cane from Uncle Max.

I hear we share seventy percent of our DNA
with bananas.  We’re part banana.
They don’t last long, do they?
That black goo inside those forgotten
in your fruit baskets, that’s called deliquescence.
Not good to think about.
Does the mind contain DNA as discharges
of the electro-chemical shenanigans
of its neurons?  What about soul?
DNA of the soul.  What portion of the soul
is banana?  And that ninety-five percent
Of the universe that’s missing—dark matter
and energy?  Scary to think about.
Deliquescence of the cosmos?

Let me drink this gallon of Pinot Noir
and switch on the Dog Channel.
Hope someday they’ll find the DNA in Jesus’s
tears as he wept in Gethsemane.
That’ll save us.  Something’s got to save us
from the mad sweep of massacre.
Ancestry informed me that
my greatest grandmother Lucy romped
African savannahs millions of years ago,
figured it out from her leftover DNA,
dead for sure, Lucy and her DNA,
yet here, my wrist, let’s slit it and behold
her resurrection and return, her DNA . . .
though look what happened to her
and her entire clan until the rest of us
came along stuffing cupcakes into our mouths
and chasing them with blood red vino
for as long as we can. Cheers.

Seven volumes of Louis Gallo’s poetry, Archaeology, Scherzo Furiant, Crash, Clearing the Attic, Ghostly Demarcation & The Pandemic Papers, Why is there Something Rather than Nothing? and Leeway & Advent. Vols. one and two of his fiction, Flash Gardens I & II, have been published recently. His work appears in Best Short Fiction 2020. A novella, “The Art Deco Lung,” appears 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 of the Twentieth Century. 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. He is a native of New Orleans.

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