Sunday, January 01, 2006

A same and changing sky

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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.

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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.

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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

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6 Comments:

Blogger ankhara99 parried...

Wow, Joseph, this is absolutely magnificent! Thank you for this.

January 01, 2006 5:23 PM  
Blogger Sophie T. Mishap parried...

'The scent of absence' is just exquisite. It caps off the whole story beautifully.

January 02, 2006 2:39 PM  
Blogger newwavegurly parried...

I typically need to read your posts at least twice to fully absorb them appropriately... and then I sit in awe of your ability. This one is no exception.

January 07, 2006 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Cree parried...

I've been reading your work for what seems like my entire life. This is one of your best. Well done.....

January 12, 2006 11:21 AM  
Anonymous aharamanx parried...

Joseph, you just take my breath away. I climb into the same space reading you that I do reading Brautigan. This, my love, is a gift - a truly fine and wonderful gift. I thank and love you for it.

January 14, 2006 2:36 AM  
Blogger ~Just Michelle~ parried...

What all have said before me I say again.

And again.

January 15, 2006 2:43 PM  

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