Friday, December 31, 2010

Birds to take such a sky


Last Days

They arrive on wings of the sun to bleed
blue across channel waters. Silver never
found birds to take such a sky as this. All
they have promised, they have delivered.
All they have delivered, they have withheld.

I was given to an autumn’s day when gold
wanders too close to alchemy and fire, when
slain leaves fall to wither and waste and
what stirs in the hearth spits blood into
the eye of whatever god dares gaze down.


These are the last days when the inexorable
finality of things come to pare their toll, exact
what will never be rendered unto Caesar or
queen, sweep away the very wind from your
roof to scatter grimacing devils gathered there.

Have them then, each to the hilt of their tender
dregs, one upon the other, dawn to the dying
of the dark dawn, for they will have you. Take
what is yours to take for they will take what is
theirs to be taken. Surrender then to this and live.

Joseph Gallo
December 31, 2010


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Broad avenues of absent sun


Winter Returns

This is a familiar coat. Soft, white, laid out
before broad avenues of absent sun. It fits
well, still, my foreshortened arms and the
brass buttons hold fast against the wind.

This is a familiar sky. Poured in gray mix,
crushing gravel with each step beneath it,
an aggregate hardened with elliptic cycles
set to a muted cadence burning dead starfire.

This is a familiar loss. Night comes early
to reclaim all it was denied for so long,
emissaries sent to secure the horizon,
stream its name against distant quadrants.

This is a familiar season. Freshened with
a deep resolve to move as it will, kith and
coat notwithstanding, it will stay some,
leave some, and in the end take it all.

Joseph Gallo
December 22, 2010


Saturday, December 18, 2010

A small empire of remembrance


Autumn Comes Green

We forget what green looks like
when summer strips the grass,
presses its dry hayed hand against
the heatworn hills. Comes rain,
not much, but enough, and every
thing changes. The empty ground
between the oaks rises up in small
jade blades like outcast serpents
thrown out from a spit of seed.

This is what stills the season to move
me to take notice of what notice may
take me. It’s always been so. Some-
thing comes, something leaves, and
we take note of it all. Stones float
off to the stars and owls perform
rituals as rabbits pass in sacrifice to
canid gods the whole night through.
It has happened this way for millennia.


Sleep evades and you come to mind,
a small empire of remembrance pushing
through an oaken space between what
takes and what keeps. You are leaves
and grass and clover, a stealth of saxifrage
wheeling beneath Orion and a cowering
crustacean that slips over the far horizon
to sting a morning not yet bleeding light,
full of rain and green and sweet forgetting.

Joseph Gallo
October 22, 2010


Friday, December 10, 2010

Just enough to tell


This past Monday, one of our elder neighbors was removed from life-support. The doctors had placed him on assisted breathing since he fell suddenly ill in the days after he had run his car into the creek that runs below the hilltop rancho.

After being released from an overnight stay at the hospital, I'd seen him pass my deck in the late afternoon walking after his Jack Russell terrier, Spencer, who was perennially after critters. He seemed fine and I had been surprised to see him up and about only a day after after learning of the circumstances surrounding his impaired foray into the creek.

Thus, our landlady informed us Monday morning that after two weeks on life-support he would be removed from the machines that have kept him alive. It was scheduled to take place at three o'clock that afternoon.

Five hours.

From the time she told us until they would do it. As per his DNR directive, his pre-written wishes and instructions. It would allow for family to arrive and make their final visit if they wished to.

Frank expired at 8:20pm on Monday night.


I began the piece below at precisely three o'clock on Monday and finished it about fifteen minutes later. I then went out to my car to run some errands. As I did so, a single quail flushed and furied from a bush to my right. I stopped and tracked it into the low bushes down the hill.

Then a small low movement from my left caught my attention—a lone small rabbit emerging from behind one of the parked cars. It sat there and regarded me for several minutes as I stood and augured the not too subtle signs. Some call them omens—inexplicable coincidences that make themselves known in some auspicious way.

These things happen.

When my friend and caregiving client, Alfredo, died in January 2008, a single blue heron had come to land in the meadow next to the rancho. It stayed all that morning and into the afternoon in spite of a lingering rain. It briefly returned the next day as well. It seemed to me then as if he was communicating, by some natural coincidence, that everything was alright.

I did not know much at all about Frank as he lived down the road on the property, but not in the main house where I rent a small studio. We spoke rarely, but waved hello to one another once or twice a week as he would drive down the hill everyday with Spencer standing lookout at the passenger window. Our lives simply did not cross or trespass the seeming boundaries that came to be in place.

I've learned more about him in the days he's been in the hospital than I ever knew before. Ex-military, estranged wife and children, loner, and at seventy, far too young for all of this to come to such a sudden finality.

Strange how such things happen.

So, given the small augury of the animals that made their presence known to me after writing the poem below, I now share this, as I should, because some greater purpose may well be served in doing so.

It is, I suppose, a very human thing to do.


Last Hour
For Frank

In the last hour, I might walk past
your window. You may look up to
see the last of me, some shape not
too surprising, just enough to tell
you it was me. I’ll be looking for
the dog, the wiry little Russell you
never cared much for because he
wasn’t the heeling type, always
after rabbits and quail, something
to root through the bushes for.

You will look up at your clock
at precisely three when they’ve
agreed to disconnect apparatuses,
the trappings of continuance, let
me ferret on my own. It won’t
last long, we already know that.
In this last hour glass will glint
late autumn sun as the sea will
catch and throw it back in small
crests of distant waves. For some
days you will remember me.

Each time you pass the curve
where I ran off into the creek,
you will remember and venture
to imagine how it might have
happened—me sniped by drink
and meds and age and few and
fewer reasons to go on this way—
there where the oak trees droop
above dried mud tracks that rain
has now worn down where the
tow truck pulled the car out after
the EMT’s had already taken me.

In the last hour and the hour after,
I might walk past your window.
You may look up to see the last
of me, some shape quite surprising,
a small rabbit, perhaps, or last in a
string of scurrying quail, just enough
to tell you it was me, it was me.

Joseph Gallo
December 6, 2010