Monday, April 25, 2011

Somewhere this road doesn't go


Cebolla Road From Chama

We stop for roadwork, wait
for wind and cricket talk to
take us on to Ghost Ranch.

After ten minutes, the fat Indian
waves us through, nods slowly
from his sun-worn ocher bandana.

Everywhere is somewhere we want to be.

So we arrive to find the ghost
evicted, the gate closed with a
Sorry For The Inconvenience.


The road does what roads always
do: take us further from being
there; closer for having been.

In the distance, anvils of rock
rise and temper steel mesh skies
swollen raw with unforged rain

too coy to test lower altitudes and
shielded eyes. Late May sun lances
itself in red-gold strikes across dark

mesas and we are hopeful this day will
lead to night, to comfort and a restful world
holding all we have come to expect of it,

all that it may grant those too dependent on
such hope. We have seen days like this,
days holding something other than what

our future had planned. But we learn to swallow
disappointment like brown canyon water, full
of unmapped tastes from somewhere upriver,

somewhere this road doesn’t go.

Joseph Gallo
May 2000


Friday, April 15, 2011

Notes left for a piano



Play Satie’s Gnossiennes and a hundred swifts
may come from nowhere to turn a skywheel
overhead as you look and listen to move with
precision and meter seemingly attuned to Erik’s
notes left for a piano to trace the moments he
spent, perhaps, watching swifts come from
nowhere to turn a skywheel high overhead.

Joseph Gallo
April 8, 2011


Monday, April 11, 2011

Love by love we learn

Gnossienne Number One

Life is like a swan
Gently gliding on
Slowly passing by and then
It turns to look and then gone

Love is like a cat
Partly this and that
Purring to the touch until
It disappears and that’s that

The rain retreats
The city streets
Are empty
As dusk descends
The music ends
And nothing


A million stars turn on their tiny lamps
The roof tops gleam
In smoke and steam
It’s moonrise
A wave spreads out as evening sirens walk
They seek to make
What give can take
The tide sighs

The town returns
All that it yearns
A voice calls
The alleyways
Begin their plays
As night falls


This is how we live
Grieving all we give
Love by love we learn
Half of life is if

The bells have stopped
The doors are locked
We’re closing
The shades are drawn
The tramps have gone
They’re dozing


A million stars burn out their tiny lamps
The river dreams
As then it seems
To stand still
A watchman strolls a dock to wait it out
With no regret
We just forget
The tide spills

The dawn returns
A new sun yearns
The birds sing
The nightman leaves
A child believes
In something.

Music by Erik Satie
Lyrics by Joseph Gallo
April 5, 2011

Éric Alfred Leslie Satie
(b. May 17, 1866, Honfleur ~ d. July 1, 1925, Paris)

Friday, April 08, 2011

A canción in a fugue


My Grandmother In Her Kitchen
Forty Years On

My grandmother is in her kitchen. She’s pressing
handmade corn tortillas. She’s crushing fresh-picked
chilies in a granite mortar. She’s alive. The stone
pestle makes a tectonic sound. She looks like my
mother looks now. Her attention leaves room for me
as she looks up and smiles. I can describe the kitchen,
but which one? She had so many in those young days.
I was sure she was part Gypsy, roaming the small tight
worlds of East Los Angeles, each house an adventure
in redecoration. Four or five times before I was twelve.
I suddenly realize where my truck-loading skills were honed.


So I pick a kitchen on Indiana Street. Split-curtained window
over the sink, ordinary drawers and cabinets, tile-top counter,
white and mint green squares hand-set, made to fit. I trace
my fingers along the many junctions skating an index
in grout canals. Glass jars with strange powders, Mexican
spices whose purposes I cannot guess at. She turns a tortilla,
throws it hot atop others into a small straw basket lined with
a white cloth, and replaces the woven top. Everything is
magnified by eggs frying in a black iron skillet, tempered
by the release of crushed red chilies that I elect no part of.

I’m only eight or so and my palate hasn’t quite warmed
to such things yet. A half-tube of red chorizo lies
wounded on a cutting board. She spins around and lops
off a piece mixing it in with a small wooden spoon.
She turns again to add water and fresh-diced onions
and tomatoes to the mortared chilies. Miraculously,
Wonder Bread is toasting in two slots transforming to
a divine char. Grandfather is wise enough to remain in
the nook where just now, I notice him. He has a cup in
his hand and a spoon lies on the curve-cornered table
still wet from the instant Nescafè he stirred in. A reign
of brooking bacon rules heavy this province of kitchen.

Grandmother is moving in a slow fury now, part still-
life, part hummingbird wing. She is conducting. She
is magnificent. All melodies find their singular thread
to weave a single canción in a fugue of breakfast.
Plates appear in a vision of ceramic virgins amid
shimmering flatware and glasses of blood-orange juice.
I hear torero music in my mouth. My belly is smiling.

Joseph Gallo
September 28, 2010

My Maternal Grandmother, Fidela Arroyo