ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Louis Gallo


Get this, Zeus and Hades were brothers
and Zeus was Persephone’s father!
Yet Zeus consents to give his own child to bro,
for ravishment, as D. H. Lawrence put it,
as she, “slim-ankled,” picks flowers in a field.
Her mother, Demeter, succumbs to such grief
that the entire world shrivels to wasteland,
for it is she who fecundates the Earth.

Zeus is pissed off because he realizes
that if mankind goes extinct he will no longer
receive their tributes, honors and offerings—
boo hoo--so he sends Hermes to bargain with Hades,
who finally agrees to release her—
though he tricks her by feeding her
that honey-sweet pomegranate seed
which seals her the fate of spending a third
of the year in hell with her abductor
and the rest with her mom who replenishes
the planet, despite the injustice.
Thus the seasons of Vivaldi.

So, man, what does this patriarchal myth
tell us about the current zeal by mostly
old white men to suppress women’s health care?
Surely the gods were eternally old white men
(as well as some of their female proxies who
might as well be old white men).
Demeter was the sister of Zeus. What a family!
Zeus and Hades, brothers?
Are God and Satan also brothers?
That would explain a lot, would it not?

But I’m trying to fuse, to yoke by violence,
this tale from the Homeric Hymn
to Demeter (and Persephone) with
a concurrent review of new books
about Dostoevsky. Is it possible?
Three salient points about Fyodor:
reprieved from execution by firing squad
at the last minute; compulsive gambling; epilepsy;
the possible murder of his father; virulent
anti-Semitism. He wrote about all of it . . .
his first seizure occurring on the honeymoon
with his first wife, he frothing at the mouth
and pissing all over himself, which so terrified
the wife that it ruined their marriage.
He would later link the approach to a seizure
with the mystic relief he felt when rifles aimed
at his heart—his entire life flashing before his eyes
in an instant.

How does this relate to a honey-sweet
pomegranate seed swallowed by Persephone?
It doesn’t. The fusion fails. . .
unless, perhaps, we declare seed as metaphor--
for Persephone, her beauty; for Fyodor, disease,
signifiers of both their glories and their agonies.



Not the madeleine cakes or banister lacquer
this time but a flood of taste, nevertheless,
from the past—a simple cookie, flat,
hard with an engraved front of a chimney
or house or whatever, an anise tang to it,
oh, how I taste it again after so long,
decades in the neural vault, here again,
something else in it aside from anise,
some flavoring to subdue the anise
(which I understand most people dislike,
but not I, I, a champion of anise,
that licorice taste, Barq’s root beer,
Italian cookies . . .)

but to think that the mind can retain
taste! to think that we savor and smell it again
after decades, a flavor no longer made,
yet it’s there, in the brain, like the memories
of music, the brain! storing it all,
releasing it unexpectedly after long forgotten
as, say, you slip on your socks or go out
to fetch the mail, that long-ago, antique taste!

The brain, a gray, convoluted chunk of meat!
How? Why? What hath meat wrought?
Who wrought the meat that wrought the cookies?



The roaring engines and blaring sirens
Of escorting police motorcycles
Are silent now, vanished,
The street gutters glutted with beer cans,
Trash, vomit, broken beads, trinkets,
Bent funnels of cotton candy,
Shattered Hurricane glasses,
Gnawed slices of pizza and horse shit.
The rambunctious, congested crowds
Have dispersed, the twirling majorettes,
Drum majors, piccolo and tuba players,
The troupes of clowns and acrobats
Now safely back home in their bungalows,
Apartments, some nestled
In Garden District mansions,
The stately floats of Zeus, Poseidon,
Venus, Bacchus, The Fates and Chaos
Parked again in their warehouse
Across the river.

 A new dawn is upon us!
The harsh rasp of street cleaner shovels
Against filthy concrete jars us from yesterday.
They have removed the corpse
Of a young man crushed under
the tractor-trailer tires lugging forth
the Krewe of Oblivion.
A straight jacket of Lenten tightens
Its cincture around our good times.
Everything I once knew has deceived me.



Of God. Don't believe it?
Check our the Kabbalist doctrine
of Sephiroth. God spewing
all over the place only in hopes
of returning his ubiquity
to the original source,

Proof other than religious
Fire balls in the sky, hunks
of rocks called planets,
one we know of strewn
with something called DNA,
the only purpose of which
is to perpetuate itself;
neutron stars, one teaspoon
of which weighs a million tons;
stars made entirely of diamond,
or would that be planets?
quasars; black holes, dark matter
and energy; multiverses;
quarks; Schrodinger’s cat;
space itself, who could have
thought it up? time;
entropy; the coming heat death—

either a nervous breakdown
or one hell of a hallucination
or magical mystery tour
or some corpse's nightmare.
Or maybe the most sublime,
beautiful gift we never expected.



Upon a glace I saw you there
Slouched in that battered armchair,
Old and threadbare as it was,
But you weren’t really there
So I thought a figment of the air,
Someone I had often sought,
Or perhaps another ghost,
Itself, as I, haunted and lost.

Or merely a floater in the eye,
A neural shadow flitting by
Though in my heart I surely knew
It was really you slouched there
In that ragged, ancestral chair
Even if you weren’t there.

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 andBooks: 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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