Monday, March 21, 2005

Declaration of the state of peace

Here is a poem that did not win any mention whatsoever in the Oregon PeaceWorks Poetry contest. Of the four that did, one was worthy. It tied for 3rd place. The others, well, let's say they were at best fluffily written and schmaltzily judged.

In a word: trite.
Why they were picked is beyond me.
Poetry 101 stuff in need of lots of workshopping to survive.

I am certainly not jealous or unhappy that I didn't win. Not at all. I ask only that a poem that wins a contest actually exhibit some semblance of originality, that it merit whatever accolade it has been afforded, that it be judged by competent judges who actually know a good poem when it bites them on the lyric ass.

I enjoy nothing more than silently nodding my head in agreement with whatever chosen poem is deemed to be best among hundreds or thousands submitted when that poem embodies craft, message, originality, and engagement.

It tends to irk me when Hallmarkish poems written with built-in handrails and shatter-proof safety glass requiring little to no emotional involvement are chosen over poems that otherwise invite and impress one to look deeper than the surface of a thin reflection.

The topic was peace. At the outset, I was resolved not to use the word peace anywhere in the piece. However, as it progressed, the word absolutely insisted. So in that, I failed.
This was my insufficient and overlooked offering:

All The Days I’ve Looked

In all the days I’ve looked at myself,
I’ve always seen something else. When
I was a young boy, I saw the old man
waiting to remember the boy. When
I was middle aged, I saw the confluence
of a man’s life where the river runs in
two directions at the same time. And
when I became old, I saw the young boy
grinning in the mirror saying, Remember
me who once remembered you?

There is blood on my hands. Each man
has at least some. Seems we’re born to it.
Yet, in all my days, I never started one war.
Others did so in my name, in the names of
my children, in the names of lost countries,
names candled in dark and hallowed places.

If there were missiles in my heart, I never armed
them. If the machinery of oblivion ever stirred within
the mettle of my wrath, it never found structure.
If there was profit in the mongering, not one soul
was ever dispatched by the trigger of my greed.

As a boy, I killed birds. As a man, I killed dreams.
The birds belonged to the sky of the world. The
dreams were my own. I’ve my contritions to attend
to and my forgivenesses to seek. Perhaps this is the
way of peace: to stand penitent in the ashes of all
we regret, to plead ourselves amid ruin and the
spilled marrow of what may yet be saved so that
this elusive lesson might find its first teacher,
one who might suddenly stand before us and say,
Remember me who once remembered you?

Joseph Gallo
January 6, 2005

Monday, March 07, 2005

Keeping the light for our return

And now for someone and something completely different. Switzerland 2003. Two years ago on this very date Nicole and I drove to Ulrichen in the Swiss Alps, to her Uncle Nick's chalet where we stayed for two days and nights. Such a romantic chapter in our story.

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It was the day after Fasnacht ended and we drove from Luzern to Realp , across the Teufelsbrücke (Devils' Bridge) where we caught the Furkapass auto-train that carried our little red Toyrusta straight through the heart of a mountain. We held hands and kissed in the stony darkness of the 15-kilometer tunnel wondering how many babies had been conceived in the history of this romantic 20-minute passage.

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Here are some photos with their appropriate captions.

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Nicole atop Eggishorn with Matterhorn
in background. (The Swiss call this famous
icon, the Matterhorü).

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The front porch of Uncle Nick's chalet in Ulrichen.

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Hotel Walser located just down the langlaufe from the chalet. It is just visible among the stand of trees behind and to the left of the hotel. (The langlaufe is the night-lighted cross-country ski path).

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Joseph standing before the 21 million-ton Aletschgletscher.

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Nicole's hair of rivered embers ignited by the fireplace.

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The two of us relaxing in the warmth of the sun
with a Rivela & beerli.

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Nicole by firelight.

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On top of the world with a smile of genuine, unaffected happiness.

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Nicole asleep after a very long day holding some
candy red wax lips I brought for her from America.

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The morning we left for La Gruyères to see the famed H.R. Giger Musuem. I imagine these chairs placed this way always, keeping the light for our return.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Shaping wonders in the void

This poem was written for Kim Konopka, a fine poet and artist with whom I was in love with for several years. I still love her. She knows.

Kim once told me the story of a mild October night when she attended an outdoor poetry reading in Carpinteria, California. I just happened to be one of several readers. Kim and I weren't even friends at that point in time, but had been introduced some years earlier, so I'm told. The night of the poetry event, I was with the incomparable Mary Hoffman, in love, ensconced in togetherness.

When it came time for my reading, I had several poems I'd written for Mary at the ready and swooned them into the night air with the considerable sum of my dramatic prowess.

Kim remained tucked in the shadows and wondered who I was reading these poems to as she could not see Mary seated. Kim had a husband then and told me that sometime during my reading she realized she could no longer continue in her marriage.

She imagined that I was reading these poems of love to her.

The way Kim tells the story has much more impact than these few hurried words. This poem came from the seed of her story.

The Shadows Of Heaven

If you arrive late to stand in shadows at the back
and there make yourself one with the incontour of night,
then you will have to lie next to me in my black bed

as I tell you flinting stories that pace the acceleration
of the fleshless climb toward the splitting of atoms
in the twinned beak of Cygnus and wrap you within

the nethered shroud of all that remains nameless
in the expel of your breathing, vespers of chaos
falling from your lips, the incoherent consonance

of god or creator or divine presence, the holy see
of your sealed eyes shut against all the cindered spark
they make in my name alone, in the supreme being

of my touch, as I make you again and again
from the refashion of my ribs, cast you in rarefied muds
that pour forth in primal lathers upwelling from my skin,

limb by limb, the architecture of your unborn desire
shaping wonders in the void as I move upon the face
of your darkest waters, fissured deep and unsprung,

pushing the tectal plates of a continent becoming,
the unseen landscape of your longing, out and up,
featured now in peaking ramparts and lushing flora

before the new world of your imminent arrival,
and all because you came to stand late in shadows,
bereft of form, to sup these words I say here now

between Alberio and Deneb, the spread wings
of high birds that swan in distant fire, their endless
migrations beginning anew each nightfall,

late too for somewhere to rest in black beds
of storied stations along the transient routes
that lead to the late shadows of Heaven.

Joseph Gallo
September 1998

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Something following just ahead

Just a poem today, with spring poised to erupt in its burgeon of flowers.

Old Under Trees

After rain I will move
yellow in the sun
that ripens beneath trees
my crutches
too embarrassed
to walk beside

I will stop
turn to see nothing
and no one there
thinking I heard
my name or something
following just ahead

I will be seen
by someone
in an office window
younger and more spry
than I ever remembered
still forty-something perhaps

able to stop a moment
wonder how it will be
to move so slowly
in sun beneath trees
after the rain
stopping stopping

then move slowly on
more clouds gathering
behind the sun
no sign for Noah
anywhere to be seen
hanging in air.

Joseph Gallo
April 1998