Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Soft masticating sounds


If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
~Opening sentence from J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye

Farm Story

I remember thinking it was about farm life and farm machinery, some yarn about a family living in Nebraska craning their necks to watch passenger planes streaking high overhead on their way to the ends of the continent, places with a there when you got there. Neck aches amid endless seas of wheat and barley and rye and people stuck in simple lives that went nowhere a field could not take you.

Combines and sickles, tractors and overalls, supper served with scratch biscuits and fresh-picked vegetables, drawn-water wells, windmills rusting in a sunset, and the soft masticating sounds of locust and cicada. The catcher had to be some contraption that caught the winnowed grain, gathering thresh and chaff to be baled and stacked and loaded into creaking barn rafters. How boring.


So when our high school English teacher said the class would have to read it, I thought of how I was ever going to get through the chore of interminable life on a farm, the comings and goings, the nowhere of it all. So I stuffed the damn thing into my backpack and left class at the bell just one in a pack of twenty puckers. Might as well have poured unsweetened alum-laced lemonade down our throats.

But it wasn’t about that at all. Some days later, something had changed. Thin chutes of green defiance slowly pushed up through the class. Boys pulled top buttons from their shirt holes free and girls looked apprehensively at each of us. There was swagger, a callow bravado that crept into denim pockets like loose change, just enough to, say, embark on a journey across the country, or the very world itself.

In the two weeks we read and discussed, disagreed, challenged, a kind of happy regret seemed to cast a perceptible shadow across the teacher’s face. He knew what he’d unleashed and seemed content it was now rather than later, like a father keening his eyes on a young son after his first deer kill when success teeters between grief and the irrepressible rites of passage, uneasy of who now sat before him with pitchforks in their eyes.

Joseph Gallo
July 16, 2011


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summers without end


Inklings Of Hope

I would write love poems for you in green
ink. As the turning years would fade them to
a color of lost hope, it would pain me to know
that in your withered hands the saddest lines
might appear, full of promise and the ironies
that stand as foals in wobbly spring pens, the
new bursting fields alive in the sun, the single
red cherry plucked for your savoring along the
foreshortened length of summers without end.

Lovers embrace their tragedies every day and
we are no different. We held the letting go dearer,
perhaps, because the trick of passing through our
comingled atoms came easier for us. When my friend’s
father passed in his bed I gazed down at his broken
body. I did not think of vital processes ceasing and
becoming stilled, but rather of the lovers that once
held him as if he were a temple of devotion, the still
green poems inked in his heart never again to be read.

Joseph Gallo
July 12, 2011


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Branches in a wood


A Nice Day

A nice day might be the sun
blotted out by Pharaoh plague,
starlings on a viral wing tapping
at the window wanting in to
a dream you’ve not yet slept
through, or reawakened from.

A nice day might be cancer
singing the rim of a cut-glass
vase, its piercing song breaking
off branches in a wood two
worlds away, the place you
set for it at your humble table.

A nice day might be a woman
curled as sweet bacon in your bed,
the smell of her like mornings
spent camped in tents when
all creation enters before you’ve
found courage to raise the flap.


A nice day might be the book
you bought but will never make
time to read, the having of it,
the looking at and holding of
it enough to satisfy the slowly
shrinking fit of your worn soul.

A nice day might be you arriving
through a side door to your life,
how everything looks different
this way, the perspective happily
askew giving rise to new promises
you consider keeping this time.

Joseph Gallo
July 5, 2011


Monday, July 04, 2011

To no served purpose


Dog Days

Be curious with a courtesy, uncurtailed by
whatever might curl in a curve on the porch,
a neighbor’s dog, perhaps, gone missing for
a nap, a cursive wagging of her name in taps
against the wooden deck where your aimless
rocking might lull a beast to sleep the sun past
panting and a sweated glass of iced melonade.

A bowl of fresh water, then, set beside for her
awaken that she might find your company suitable,
her place misladen, a half-drowsed lapping before
nosing her way home undiminished for having
spent a dogged hour at your feet, a rifle propped
to no served purpose against the doorframe, the
wife inside simmering something kettle black
that rouses the slumbered hunger within us all.

These are the dog days we spend like chicory,
trading with hill folk and mountain men who
tag along with setters and pointers, heelers
and scouters scumbling terrain we’ll never
see but through our own eyes, eyes made
useless as summer cicadas drawing bows
across a raucous cacophony, crickets that
tear holes across the chalky night, the barks
that alert us that everything approaches.

Joseph Gallo
July 4, 2011