Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dark matter in precious abundance

A Thousand Miles North

A thousand miles north and the sun has freeze-dried, its grey skin cracked and splintered into the spaces torn between cold and rain. There the great river is a scar of cement, its centiccated bones seized and tumbling endlessly upstream in the bleached maw of a soothing dam that disciplines adventurer blood to behave, to settle for what tame fences and willful resignation offer. This was Oregon on my pocket map and I spoke its careless names as they gently whispered and fell from tugless barges and indentured trains that always meeked and slipped the wet rails of the Gorge, barely coursing through.

A thousand miles east and I am caught in the photograph Kim took of me on New Year’s Day 2001 when a new millennia brought the first snow to Santa Fe as I leapt shirtless, arms outstretched, bounding onto the chalking walk, my unkempt hair spilling black jute down my broad love-handled back, the skin sagging from where my left shoulder had been shattered some ten years before, my feet hovering inches above the Earth in the microsecond that I was a brief cryonaut at once one with the scrabbled snow that scarred in long stretchmarks of thin frost and glaze as the sky flaked hard milk from a leaking cosmos. This was the realm of luminous ravenfeather where I found essential dark matter in precious abundance.

A thousand miles west and there is a place that is no place, a liquous patch of wet blue that came to visit and remained to remake itself over and over, having been borne on the backs of a billion comets, fluid orphans of stranded ice that carried up into heavy nimbus all that we would become from the fire within its frozen womb that all the worries of the world might find their faceless wrinkles here in such sorrywater as we kissed our shadows into the palm of a bay that made an Africa of light between us. This was the grand empty, the wept hull that set the keel of my pelagic heart.

A thousand miles south and I am indigenous in a sudden land that throws itself at the heavens in brown blood and magma, settles each day’s account with the sun in sacrifice, taken or given, the pistoned purse of houred breath surrendered to a blade of sand driven by the footstep that presses its eternal print into the skin of the Unknowns, where each flowered kiss is an expedition into pyramous love that the root of becoming might take its leave so that Time cannot matter and thus it may endure. This was the stranging land of my forebears, the side of the tree that proffered shade among the slept serpents, gave rise to the simmered kingdom of apothecary frogs, where the eagle considered all that it was before what it was not, and the merciful scorpion sought to carry the dying world on its scourged and fragile back.

Joseph Gallo
January 19, 2006

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

A same and changing sky


The White Library

The children jump on the bed before sleep, a celebration in shadows against a wall in honor of dreams not yet built that will carry them through the night, past old men asleep in their chairs at last unburdened by the fear that the repositories they’ve tended to their whole lives have been for naught, the terror of that idea given safely over to the reprieve of a few hours rest. My hands are withered from carrying the same changing sky, from fenceless days maintaining it along schoolyard edges so that other children could play and not worry about the brevities of recess, while I watched men in black overcoats bolt and weld each sunset to a rising horizon so that a kind of history might layer itself in a construct of memory, day after day, a grand blazing mural made of all the dead skin one washes away over a lifetime of rain and immersion, baths in the company of a mother, a sister, a woman, a lover.

I touched my father’s cold hands as he lay with them crossed at his waist, a pair of gold-rimmed glasses perched ridiculously on his nose as if he were prepared to read a very long book that held no beginning, no middle, no end. No one remembers my father now, not the world, not the streets he crossed, not the bartenders he overtipped, not the waitresses he insulted while trying to be cute beyond the boundaries of his charm. We parted reluctant friends at a hole in summer, this past summer, where I had yet to endure and he had but to settle in for a long untold story.


It is the shadows of our parents coming to chase us at bedtime that fall on jumping children in that same way all over the world. It is the shadow we carry that carries us to sleeping chairs arranged in some opulent pavilion made of prisms and memory, tenuously refractioned in all the ways a fable is crafted from miracle and failure, footings made from the residue of salt-worn cheeks that only a lifetime of sorrow can lay foundations for, beneath magnificent towers that gleam with all the tired symbols we’ve adorned them with in a losing quest for comfort and meaning, where emberladen birds circle endlessly through broad gaps Time passes leisurely through taking no notice at all.

Somewhere a tiger is dying and a piano is caressing a heart. Someplace an old man is turning to see a young woman passing who reminds him of a lost epoch extinguished by love. Sometimes a white scarf is at rest. Sometimes it is a child in a windy sky. Sometimes the crossroads come faster than the dance floors and we are given to remind ourselves that chairs are for sleeping, for waiting and sitting, that water is for taking into the sea of ourselves, that to pass this way or that rarely matters, but that we must pass, pass anyway, to be baptized into the unquiet living of it. And sometimes conclusions such as these bring no relief whatsoever, instead wear us down with a precious worry we tirelessly ferry from sleep to sleep to sleep again. I want to make fun of myself but cannot think of anything. There is a strange smell on my fingers that comes from the backs of my ears whenever I rub behind them. Part fermented sweat, part sanguinated olive.


My father smelled of cold and sour blood. His funeral was a dress rehearsal directed by Federico Fellini for a movie that was never made. I observed it all from a high point above us like an artfully craned camera. Two of his daughters, my half-sisters, refused to attend. It was their absence I wanted to film. I know the subject of absence, how walls bereft of chasing shadows at bedtime sear forever into a white library shelved with untitled volumes of blank books. And somehow, I love the smell of old books, the scent of absence. It is the last thing we read.

Joseph Gallo
November 21, 2005