Thursday, December 23, 2004

Beauty and the black rapture

Frost on windows this morning. Sun beckons migrating flocks, warms the way home for all weary wings. Two days before Xmas. Time is moving diagonally. Each day brings the discovery of a new way the human heart can be held against the light. Something is moving in there.

Today I deleted several of my journal entries I posted on an anonymous internet music website. I may keep a few of my poems there, but most likely I'll migrate my work here to Drachenthrax. They're tattered songbirds in search of more permanent sanctuary. It just feels right.

The poem below is one such wayfaring bird that has come home for the winter. If anyone read it in my journal, no comment was made to that effect. It might well be one of those pieces that people don't get or think is too weird. It does, however, reference a true story that happened in the summer of 2003, the day before Nicole left Santa Barbara to return to her home in Switzerland.

We had gone for a walk on the overcast Hammond Meadows beach. I was taking photographs of her standing on a fallen tree that had jumped into the sea from the cliffs above. It was quiet. Only the lazy lapping of saltwater. The tears of the world, perhaps. There would be tears enough to sail across as the time for parting drew closer. We sensed it. It fell over us like the unanswered cries of sorrowed gulls.

I had walked ahead, about thirty yards or so, to where a tide-ravaged seawall ran parallel to the shore. I began looking for good angles to shoot when I felt something hit my lip. At first I thought it was a fly that had been moving really fast and had blindly bounced off of me, but then another sensation exactly like it seem to come from the back of my head. I was under attack.

I had no idea what was happening until another bite of fire erupted. I bent over in instinctive panic, wringing my hands through my hair and knocking out several small, hard objects onto the wet sand. During all this, I had let out several yelps of profanity as more fires ignited in my scalp. I flailed and dervished like a fevered madman. By then Nicole had arrived to see what the matter was. It was waspelis, as she called them.

She quickly brushed the rest of the insects out of my hair and checked for stragglers. We immediately made distance from the seawall a priority. I angrily stomped a few dazed wrigglers into the sand, giving them an earful of pejorative English, which they couldn't, in forty million years of evolution, understand one diphthong of.

We slowly returned to see where they had come from and, sure enough, they had built a bustling, wrath-boiled nest in a medium-sized crevice near the top of the wall. In my blind focus to get an interesting shot, I simply hadn't seen them. Once the drama died down, the adrenalin release of laughter subsided and the smarting began. I was lucky to have gotten only five stings. I gradually succumbed to a mild anaphylactic reaction. The after effects would last nearly three weeks.

Of course, my bent poetic brain began whispering silly things to me, ominous things about omens and signs, dark messages meant to portend something I'm generally pretty good at creating from reading too much into nuthin'. I stopped myself. It was just one of those things. Armageddon and the Black Rapture would have to wait another day.

Two days passed and the numbing shock of Nicole's absence set in. There was an unmistakable swelling in my heart that made it feel full of toxic emptiness and longing. I thought back on our last days together. I thought of the following spring in Switzerland, when we would again see each other, even as the summer of 2003 ended and two whole seasons lay between us. And like her, amid overwhelming heartache, I coped.

A few nights later, I searched the world wide web to find what gregarious insect had smitten me so. Within twenty minutes, I'd found the culprit. I went on to learn about the order of hymenoptera, the families and suborders of vespidae, hexapoda, and apocryta, the excitability factors that send mud daubers, hornets and yellow jackets into frenzied fits of needled hysteria. Yes, I had archived just enough information in my paper-chambered brain to ensure complete irretrievability by morning.

However, I did remember that in Japan, when found in a new house, a wasp or hornet's nest is considered an omen of good luck. Since the Chinese are known to keep crickets in bamboo cages for good luck and, presumably, to taunt their kept nightingales into warbling 'til moonset, this didn't surprise me at all. This balm of knowledge became the poultice with which I wrapped the following poem:

These Wasps

After the shock settles in,
after the lip swells,

after the swelling subsides
after the venom courses,

after the blisters erupt,
after the eruptions quell,

there is the lucky omen
nested in your sill,

there is vanity grinning in the glass,
there is smiling without pain,

there is joy in hopeful eaves,
there is the full embrace of moon,

there is empty paper and fresh ink,
grey skies and the quiet warmth

of small rooms, rooms just small enough
for the glad portents of this life,

this life that swells and courses,
erupts and quells, so that

these wasps, too, may find
their dear and happy fortunes.

Joseph Gallo
October 7, 2003


Blogger newwavegurly parried...

Ah Joseph.

I've read your journal postings, but being that I don't post on RP journal entries, you never knew.

Your poetry speaks volumes to me. The aching over long distance is something I know all too well. Please...keep writing your poetry and give it to us to read. Very often it's the soothing balm my soul needs.

I hope you have a happy holiday. :hug:

December 24, 2004 8:59 AM  

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