Friday, September 23, 2011

No hurry, no linger


Old Man Crossing

Up ahead, the light turns yellow and I begin
to slow knowing I’ll catch the whole red.
A gray-haired man with a cane steps down
off the curb and makes his way toward the
other side. He moves as slow and steady as
seven or more decades have made him, no
hurry, no linger, as he sights the other side
midway through both the traverse and the
automatic countdown, 8, 7, 6, flashing in
red numbers on the pedestrian indicator sign
denoting time remaining to safely cross, 5,
4, 3, never looking up or to the side, entirely
missing my patient and ageheld regard of him,
2, 1, 0 as he arrives at the high curb, lifts his
heavy leg, steadies balance with his cane and
stops a moment to look back across such asphalt
treachery, turns to regain his directional objective,
and begins to move again as I am released by the
green to make my way to wherever life may take
me by chance or design, behind him, perhaps, by
by some invisible path through time that will set
me to a steady countdown, 60, 70, 80, head down,
looking neither left nor right, making my way,
tap by tap, slowly to the other side of the street.

Joseph Gallo
September 17, 2011


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How little enlightenment gets in


Deep Morning

Let us in our shallow softness ponder how deep the morning is. It arrives in fine layers, atomized wafers, interplexed and pulsating, just outside our seeing of it. Birds move through deciphering patterns given to their familiarity, hunger and the diminishing of it, continuance and the increasing of it. I sit at the glass with coffee and marvel how little enlightenment gets in. Sip by sip I detach and immerse in all I cannot comprehend. The information idles before me in all its glorious complexity and simplicity, but I lack the trick that turns magic into a spoonable science that fits my bowl.

So I sit and scratch as I’ve seen cheetahs do on the savannah when prey eludes them. The brain heats up to peg into the red and I give it a cooldown by noticing how fog flushes the trees, how a hawk holds place in the near sky on a branch made perfect for her perch. It is enough not to know. I savor fresh ground, under oak, in my cup. In the distance, quail call and answer and I resist the urge to join in. Diffuse light gathers to sharpen the green. It is enough. It is enough.

Joseph Gallo
September 21, 2011


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Majestic and detached



The young woman is inconsolable,
there on the sidewalk shuddering by
the front of her clean white compact.
Her young companion seated beside
her lost as to what to do as the officer
keeps stolid vigil a few yards away.

In the street, a white-sheeted form
lies motionless, an interminable still-
ness only such quietus confers upon
the newly deceased. Above the flashing
emergency lights and onlookers hushed
as though deprived of oxygen, the
full moon rises, majestic and detached,
pulling sheet-white light up behind it.

Joseph Gallo
September 13, 2011


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rivers enough


Nine One One

Ten years later, it’s all over the television again.
An assault of the senses trying to make sense
from a magnitude of nonsense as mad as talking
heads can make it. I refuse to participate, telling
myself I did it then and see no need to do so now.

If I capitulate, if I enjoin in the throng of sorrow
revisited, of madness remade, from somewhere
a small still voice whispers to me: The terrorists
win. A decade ago I stood in a stadium wearing
dark blue. Not the white of purity for I had lost
that decades before. Not the red of sacrificed
blood, for that endless ocean has rivers enough
to feed it. Instead I opted for valorous blue,
a shield against fear, a window to the possibility
for courage, and took my place in the human flag.


I stood with my deep blue kinsmen and wondered if
we could be seen from space. As the photographer
took his place atop the ladder, fiddled with his lens
settings, instructed helpers to straighten stripes and
tighten the stargaps among us through his megaphone,
I kept solemn and still and resolved. I thought of how
every construct of mind or hands is but an illusion of
permanence. In a world where nature allows for the
unspeakable, are we surprised that we lend our voices
to the inglorious din so willingly? So today I choose
to remain here and now, let past flags take their place
in lost skies, remain apart from the barrage of coverage.

In my mind, I approach a roundabout. Everyone stops,
no one proceeds. We look to signs for guidance, for
permissions, and they become clear: YIELD. If we but
yield left, we may yet get it right. We may yet get it right.

Joseph Gallo
September 11, 2011


Monday, September 05, 2011

The light just beyond


Stop Sign

The Japanese woman stops as she should,
no cross-traffic, no pedestrians, stops and
sits. I wait. I wait. She’s waiting for the
sign to turn green, I think, so I wait, wait,
and wait some more, then sound the horn
that will change red to go with a perturbed
grimace that she catches in her rear view
mirror as she lets her foot fall and the car
lurches forward as if late for last Tuesday.

I move forward and stop and quickly go
as fast as my miffedness allows (within
posted limits of reason, of course) as I
watch her make the light just beyond the
underpass in time for me to catch the red.


I sit cycling in a quiet stew when it arrives:
What has this woman done? What chain-of-
events has she unwittingly unleashed upon
me? Am I going to now join up with my
fate already in progress? What highway
mayhem might I encounter on my way home
because this lady waited for a stop sign to turn
green for a half-minute longer than it never did?

Hyper-vigilant now, the light changes and I
merge onto the slow lane of a freeway that
is the rest of my life, looking lane to lane for
the safest route, checking my mirrors more
frequently than normal, arriving home a short
time later. But it follows me, follows me into
my studio, this morbid sense, this feeling, this
idea that latches on like a succubus pressing
the octagonal fear button over and over: What if?
What if? What if? So I sit down, put my head in
my hands, breathe in the stillness, until, from some
deep red place in my mind, a stop sign appears.

Joseph Gallo
September 4, 2011