Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Fertile tundra and great laval plains

Image hosted by

For what must be the hundredth time, I watched the ending of the great film, Casablanca, tonight. I have a cinematic knack for catching it right at the moment Bogart & Bergman arrive at the airport for the heart-wrenching finalé. And I always cry.

There is something in the structure of this simple scene, the drama played against the music, the perfectly edited shot selections of medium and extreme close-ups, the subtext of the character's eyes telling more of the story than the lines themselves. And I find myself far more emotional over this scene since 2003.

Image hosted by

It was in February of that year that I flew to Zurich and traveled the hour or so by train to Luzern to visit the woman who would prove to be the love of my life. Our story, too, has a wonderful heart-wrenching goodbye scene that begins the night before my departure at the home of her mother, Maria, then moves to Nicole's apartment in Kriens where we slept together for the last time beneath the wintry shadow of Pilatus in her lovely drachenbet. It concludes the next morning at the Luzern Bahnhof, where every detail has been replayed in my memory a hundred times.

Image hosted by

I have written about it already a few times, in poems and short notations and narratives. One day I will have to write about it in dramatic detail, if I can. I doubt that I can ever capture the absolute beauty of that morning, but if I wrote it a hundred times I might come close. Maybe. I tried doing so earlier this year in a post called In This Infinite Minute, which can be read by clicking on the link.

When a man has to say goodbye to a woman he doesn't want to say goodbye to, he loses a part of himself. He leaves it there with her like the ghost of a pebble in a shoe. She might feel it for some time, but eventually it rolls out and doesn't hurt so much. He, on the other hand, never regrows that part of himself he left with her. It just becomes a empty plain within him. Nothing much grows there, but it takes up a lot of room, nonetheless.

This plain is given to flash floods like when the finalé of Casablanca runs. There's lots that sets off these thunderstorms that crack and burst in the near distance. Songs, scents, colors, words. Absence is constantly refreshed by the presence of everything. It's a cruel dynamic that plays cat and mouse with the heart that refuses to fit together the way it was. When a heart touches and merges with another, it is forever altered. I've given up trying to figure it out. There's no going back and there seems no going forward. So the days, the months, the years become silent measures of an aria with a distant melody.

Image hosted by

Where it goes, I can't follow. What it laments, I am only a part of. The world doesn't give a hill of beans for the starcrossed story of two lovers bound only by time and space. Once upon a time; in an ever-widening space. When I close my eyes I see hers. When I hear my heartbeat, I feel hers. I speak her name each day at least once to remind the silence she exists. Nici, I say in morning light as birds begin the business of living. Nici, I say in the dark while stars slide mutely overhead and worlds slip by unnoticed.

In this way I fill the fissures between what keeps my heart from flying apart and what keeps it from collapsing. There's an Iceland in the middle of me. A place thrown out in eruptive formations that cool and expand. The Great Laval Plains. This is my home for the years to come. I know that. No matter where I might live out my days, I shall bring fertile tundra with me.

Two people kiss in the rain, give each other the sky as their final gift. One turns to walk the ground where the sky has gathered and fallen, the other soars into a sky where clouds obscure the ground and blue becomes a necessary poultice. Both do the same thing at the same time. This is the terrain of true love.

Image hosted by

Monday, August 22, 2005

A dry blue nowhere

Image hosted by

In The Middle Of The Dry Blue Nowhere

I live in a small town. It does not yet live in me.
That may change if winter has its way. It will be
my second since leaving the Wet Blue Somewhere.

In a small town, small things make big splashes.
One can run one’s finger along the hem of the sky
and the weather will change. But no one looks up.

Every sound carries all the way to the corner, to
the pleated dresses of the small brown mesas that
overlook the river from their wither-cherried heights.

It is the same river that Lewis and Clark followed
on their way West and followed the same again East,
until it was legend long after it was memory.

In time, I will follow this same river West and keep
going. Small towns remember for a long time. It is
their nature to do so. But this town will forget me.

It will forget that I sat with the stars at the sill,
that the moon and I barely spoke at all, that I
made a new friend in the unrelenting wind.

I live in the middle of a dry blue nowhere, but it does not
yet live in me. If it ever does, I suspect it will nudge the
front door open a little, or sway a curtain to tell me it’s home.

Joseph Gallo
August 22, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Eleventh day of august 2003

Two years ago today. She came to America. We spent two months together. Wonderful months. I was in love. Real love. True love. I still am.

Image hosted by

Friday, August 05, 2005

A morsel of fallen eagle

Birds In Iraq

Few places on Earth are devoid of birds.
Their dumb wings can be seen spread against
the sky following a ship over empty parcels
of ocean, all of them lost at sea. In the most
inhospitable regions one finds talon, feather,
quill, beak, and claw. They eat everything
given them by providence or happenstance.

So as I watch a news report from Iraq,
I see birds strafe the foreground crossing
left to right before a black line of smoke
and wonder,
what sparrow in Mesopotamia
has never tasted a morsel of fallen eagle?

Joseph Gallo
August 5, 2005

What we are given to do

Black Marks At Midnight

So many poems written in the dead of night.
The dead of night. Nothing is more alive than
that which thrives in the dead of night.
I have written blindly, trusting the shapes
to a darkness that taught me how letters formed
to make meaning from their intricate articulations.

As the stars express themselves while dying, so
have I given myself this sullen task of moving
pen across the empty parsecs of my heart.
I have used ink in the name of blood.
I have used paper in the name hope.
I have used time in the name of remembrance.

In this way have I befriended both joy and despair.
What matters so much matters so little. I was
indentured to the writing of poems early in my life.
I have complained rarely. It is simply, and sometimes,
a selfish duty. Many times of late, I have asked myself:
Why have you spent so much time doing this? The answers
are often harsh and vilifying. Yet I continue doing so, making
fewer and fewer apologies, even when I don’t mean it.

My life has been overrun by regret. My children
have grown and are growing and it seems as if I
hardly know them. It is the source of much of my pain.
Like my father, I have run to a state that begins with an O.
And like him, I cannot outrun pain with shoes of fear.
He no longer needs to run. I have spent much of these
past few days lying down as he will for the rest of eternity.

Sundown may bring the careful scratches of black marks
at midnight. There is so much to go over, you know.
So much to worry, to wonder, so much to outwait. If you
are roused from your rest to hear the cat at the window,
the dog at the back door, think not of me making kindred
sounds when our kind are given to sleep. I will not ask
a saucer of milk or a dry place to curl into. All will be quiet
soon enough and the charge given poets to perform will
find their cease and stillness. We will look deeply into places
happened upon only in nightmare, set fear to lines with

order and grace so that morning may find all that would
take you dispelled in a blossom of fragrant sun.

It is what we do.

Joseph Gallo
August 5, 2005

In the company of women and laughter

The Ides Of July

Already the sun is half extinguished and
the fiery oaths of relentless snow, long
forgotten. Invectives sworn at stubborn ice
in the bitterness of such seasons, curl
and wither before the ardent flame of this July.

This morning sky is cast out like shaman bones,
flung in knurled clouds that augur the perish
of a summer about to pass its given prime.
And I feel the hours, the days, leak from me
like a sweated glass of brimming arctic beer.

So today, I will console myself. I will
imagine this afternoon in the company of
women and laughter, chiming fragrance
trailing the air in their wake as they lean
and career into the giddy spaces that open
to their nearing. I will pretend them a
sugaring balm for the smartings of my worry,
tender sanctuary for absent wander. I will
shelter with deeping moonfish as they dream
in the coy lagoons of their willing laps.

July will not remember me. I know this. August will

arrive and July herself will slip into unremembering.
So this is my only chance to be known, this
day, any day that may survive all I never will.

Joseph Gallo
July 15, 2004