Saturday, July 30, 2005

Something beyond its meaning


The Hearts We Leave Behind

There are the paper ones that Mary cut out and painted with swirls of fuchsia, some with chevrons and adornments that took scissors and time, tiny notes written in the black marks of our language: I love you and You are in me, all of them mixed in with shiny crimson and yellow heartlets gleaming within a scented mélange of potpourri she chose and placed in a round lidded canister of ochre red and black.

There are the ones Kim drew on the outside of envelopes and in the margins of her letters, with blue wings made azurely from the cheap skinny pens she adored, hearts with curved lines and wigglemarks so that you knew they were flying with speed and purpose; the one she painted in patinated metal that became the cover of my book, its tin ribs cut precisely from the glossless cans she was always on the lookout for, slivered aluminum angels appearing to be wept out by the corrugated musculature of its tumultuous fisting.


There are the ones that Cindy gave me in a small plastic baggie, the burnished oaken heart lined with the subtle worries of the hand-wrung world, a white thread of silken hope ambled through its enveloped eyehook where the two halves curvingly meet; the one made of bronze slightly curled like a fossilized leaf, decorated with five clovers and the veiny rises of circulatory canals segmented like bacterium bound to the body of believing; the two earring hearts of faux cloisonné, comets and stars against a skyberry atmosphere flashing above elements of earthy abalone and inlay.

There is the one that frames my daughter Siobhan, gilded and finely scrolled, her hair draped over one shoulder in highlights and heavenscent, her tiny face smiling from my shelf all the way to the sixth grade when she lived with her Aunt Chen because her parents were too lost to provide the basic things she needed: love love love.


There is the one I found in my son Camlen’s wallet several years ago, a small card he’d kept since the third grade from Valerie, a duck with puppy eyes staring out demurely saying: Happy Valentine’s, her name hurriedly written as if to linger might mean something beyond its class of meaning, yet the beauty of it in my hand as if it were a shy bridge to the wonder and interior of my son’s own heart.

There are all the other ones, the many hearts of our lives; the ones we sold into slavery; the ones that broke open like iron piñatas spilling out all that regretful candy to wash over unwatered lawns and pillowcases; the ones we kept and never gave back to their rightful owners; the ones we gave away in haste and hurry, the others we gave away never to see again; the hearts we shared and traded to see what it was to really love and what it was to pretend; the ones that were ours only for a short time, that time and distance reclaimed as theirs; the hearts we never had or grew into; the ones we folded, spindled, and mutilated because they were too close, because they were our own and we just had to know how much they could take.

Tell me, reader, tell me: What hearts do you still carry and what hearts have you left behind?

Joseph Gallo
July 30, 2005


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Dim pictures of uncertainty


The saddest faces I have ever seen were buoyed in black cyclones of humor. ~Aucassin Verde

Let's Go To A Dark Place

If we can only last long enough to become
legends, the stars won't matter.
They can blaze away throughout eternity
gently giving up their tendered positions
in time, because they always do.

We, on the other hand, will outlast
ourselves, continue on through the cold
shutdown of the immeasurable void,
well into that final darkness.

So we smoke opium and drink sulfur,
let blood and commend ourselves to rivers
without names, terrain unfamiliar, weathers
hostile and gathering along the eaves
of faultless horizons lying in wait
for the weave of our range.


This is the territory of our health:
A strange woman will emerge to save you
from all you will leave behind, hold you fast
to her slow breast, fill you in ways a mouth
serves only to mislead

We dismount horses of light tethered
to the penumbras of wild manes
thrown high up into dim pictures of uncertainty,
strive to advance something we know
nothing of, toward some place we will arrive
at much later than we can imagine.

Someone with an empty flask will ask us
with a raised brow, the name of the longest
river in the world and we will answer
without hesitation, we do not know.

We will sleep well

and awaken
when we do.

Joseph Gallo
September 1998


Those with the blood for it


This poem is for Kim, as noted below. When I wrote it, we were not even officially dating yet, but still testing the waters. That was 1999. She had stopped by my place in Santa Barbara on her bicycle, all sleek and sexy in her biking attire, and was on her way to the cemetery. Cemetery?, I had asked. She told me she had met a man there named Leo and that she would sit and talk with him. Of course he'd been dead for 34 years, but that didn't seem to matter. It certainly didn't to me. I've had many conversations with dead people. They are treasure troves of sound advice.

I've lost track of Kim now. I think she may be angry with me, or fed up. I visited her last November in Santa Fé, a few months before she sold her house and moved her art and remaining things down to her father's house in Texas. It was a sweet visit and I took some amazing photos of her during my stay, some of which I've posted earlier here at Drachenthrax. She was supposed to be heading for Paris. I've not heard from her in months despite wailing pleas for her to write me. I hope she's okay and safe wherever she is. And I hope she's in Paris. This is for you, Kim.

Camera Follows Her To Gravestone
(Leo Leroy Ingram: 1873 - 1965)
For Kim Konopka

She sits in the straddle
of the stone, spandex and sweat,
having biked a lifetime to the cemetery
for a chat with a dead man

she never knew.

Leo was a wheel
that ran through three wars,
was lucky to have been born
just after the one we call civil.

And now he has her
to sit him: her small frame,
jaguar and spokes, water
bottle and energy bar, wet where
a woman’s balance spans the beam.

And they talk Hillary & Bill,
an indiscreet dress, confessions
and art and those with the blood for it,
share jokes about leprechauns

and girl's track teams, Sudan
and shower pressure, and whether
there is room enough beside him
for the memories she'd like to lay to rest.

She cools down,
sun slips into seatide blue,
camera dollies, pulls focus,
closes tight for the hero shot,
and somewhere in all this,
Leo scootches over,

Joseph Gallo
August 1998


Monday, July 04, 2005

A green truck in the rain

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Robert In The Rain
For Nicole

Every time he leaves, he leaves alone. Every time he’s
a long way from home. Every time I want her to get out
of the red truck and go to him. Every time he is reduced
to a green truck in the rain, a green truck moving slowly
after turning left, turning towards the place where the sun
dies a little more unnoticed every day, past the small town
shops that sell printed dresses, past streets that never hear
a foreign accent visited from anywhere else in the world.

America is like this. It is like this too. It settles one day
into a sickbed that can only offer the condolences of love,
the sorry bushels siloed from a life lived too lonely
in the bosom of family and home, a terrain too familiar
and undangerous, a safe country asking no taken risk,
granting no promise of a sudden and feral unforeseen.

And every time I double up, I bend over deep to bear the reading
of the letter that arrives, his book of pictures, pictures taken
over four days, the four days they were in the season of their love,
the return of her crucifix made in Assisi, his life reduced now
to words and pictures, the overrun moments that time rivers away
inexorably as if it was meant to be this and this way only.

And when she becomes smoke, smoke thrown over bridges too
dear to bear it, smoke that unlengthens itself like a breath of snake
aspirated on the winterborne breeze, I hear her sing for the first time. I see her summered hair trailing over the shoulder of the still Madison County banks, the scent of her laughter lingering in the smooth trees, the farawayness of her eyes sugared on the small and lowing sun.

If one day, you should see a figure cloaked in a sheeting
of wet weather, his eyes cut from the deep routes of worn water,
his face a running of skies without anchorage, his lips a plain of
extinct herds that have forgotten the reason for their long-vanished migrations, do not let him drive off alone toward some place without you because nothing is more lethal than love, more treacherous or destructive, for it is the one force in the universe that requires the weakest carrier bear it for it’s own sake.

One day, I will be reduced to mere pictures and words,
margined dimly in the memories of a woman like you.
And like a Robert in the rain, I am done so now.

Joseph Gallo
December 21, 2003