Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Singed in umber gypsy


Silence In The House

Silence moves through
the house like a thieving
monk, the mutestruck
cricket huddled where
candlewax won’t fall.

Songlessness swells
to swallow windows
snapped shut against a
terrible calm pressing
in from all sides.

So are the days when
ewes’ milk is scabbed
in hoarkissed memory,
a vervained aftertaste
flushing your damassine
mouth where word nor
wind dare pass beyond
a thousand bled breaches.

Sip fool’s water then,
the weepworn issue
of what days to come
might bring in rain
or the lack of it.

Mind your new mother,
her hushthread skirts
dancing the dimwashed
walls like a thin shadow
singed in umber Gypsy.

Pass here without feet
for to step through is
to violate the first law.

Joseph Gallo
December 27, 2009


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Come back from the living


I wonder if the artist ever lives his life — he is so busy recreating it. Only as I write do I realize myself. I don't know what that does to life. ~Anne Sexton

Ann With An E

For Anne Sexton

Here are stories that probably never happened,
this right life in a wrong time. Hold the tears
of a dying sun and tell me how you do it. Can
anyone know how you savor the oblique hips
of islands, the moist lips of clouds, the failure
you feel before it all, that perfect beautiful failure?


I miswrote your name, you know. It's Ann with
an e, so I had to go back. Life is one refix after
another. I don't know what this does to life but
to break it open for good so that all that goodness
tumbles out. The moon knows enough to make
this obvious to some. Six decades in the books
and, somehow, I've not gotten any better at this.

But I haven't ended it yet. I haven't not thrived in
the many ways life tries to take you out of its story.
Some of my life happened; some, did not. I can't
tell you which from which, only that I am not Lazarus
come back from the living to tell you nothing you
don't already know and may yet remember you do.

Joseph Gallo
November 10, 2011


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

That silent thing between us


My Favorite Dog

Belongs to Marty who lives just
down the dirt lane. He’s Holstein
black and white and bares lip-curled
teeth in a greeting smile whenever
he sees me. Bosko knows me as an
old friend, extending his paw, unasked,
for me to shake. His are the eyes of a
wise old man and he sees the old man
in me and we have that silent thing
between us that knows what that all
means, different species be damned.

This morning, the sun hasn’t quite yet
breached the night-black line of an
eastern tree ridge and Marty’s truck
has conked out. I’m shooting photos
of a blue blossom that has erupted in
a flower pot over the last few days,
set the camera down, and go to help.
Bokso does all that stuff as Marty tells
me it might be water in the fuel line, how
it’s been acting up and sputtering over
the past week, nup, nup, nup the endless
minutiae that comes with talking motors.


Bosko settles into my slow gentle grooming
of the sides of his face, that warm bath
in a dog’s brain that constructs a bridge
that crosses time and space creating rifts
that souls are soaked in, filling up with a
shared knowledge of what really matters
in these worlds. We push the truck back
a bit, let it settle as we talk about Bosko’s
hind leg and hip, how he’s been favoring
it over the past few days and he knows
we’re talking about him as he presses into
the swanning comfort of my hands gliding
along his narrow face, leaning his weight
against the back of the passenger seat as
two traveled fellows share the consolation
of what it is to understand our brief places
in all of this, the reassuring touch that
it will all come to be as quiet as the seas
between stars and nebulae, that that’s okay,
and when I suggest Marty try the key and
it fires up, that these parting words and
goodbye pettings are only for a brief age,
an age of man and dog and dog again,
when all things find their unconditional
levels as water in a fuel line, as how the
broken sun finds blue burning in a nightflower.

Joseph Gallo
January 8, 2012


Friday, January 06, 2012

As if the years had not unpinioned


The Letter L

She walks in, young, laden with books, the open
door pressing her scent inside before she’s crossed
the threshold of the café. She smells like you, like
the perfume I bought for you, that scent that was you
and you alone, the perfume that after eight years still
clings to the sheer black brassiere you sent me from
Kriens before we ever shared a kiss or made love,
the deep nose that makes me ask her what it is, if it’s
known by a singular woman’s name, a name I cannot
readily recall until she tells me Burberry, but that isn’t
it, so I look at my keyboard and the letter L whispers
Laura, it was Laura Biagiotti, yes that’s it, and I tell
her it smells as if it comes from the same aromatic family,
that it takes me wholly and completely as when a bell
sends an angel from an opened shop door that one turns
to watch walk slowly in, young and beautiful as if heaven
itself has not had any adverse affect on it whatsoever,
and this heaven, this brief heaven, is you seating yourself
across from me in another woman’s skin, the two of us
leaning in as if the years had not unpinioned us at all, the
bouquet elegant, persisting, a fragrance fallen and divine.

Joseph Gallo
October 27, 2011


Monday, January 02, 2012

What is asked of us and nothing else



Sometimes Santa kills the family. The little
girl’s Christmas bike is found and she, three
days later. Fog skirts the channel waiting for
things to cool further. There is plenty of time
for occlusion before the new year arrives to
take summer memory from the man who lost
his daughter to brain cancer. Optimism yet skims
the sunworn surface deep moisture provides.

I wish we didn’t know these things, never had
to excuse it with a That’s life. What is asked of
us is so often inexcusable. The last day of the
year is no different than the first or any one that
falls between. But we want it to be. Pity the child
born to the day everyone wants dismissed so that
new numbers may play out their better fortunes.

Odd to think a sun or a cluster of stars cares for
any of it. We foreswear them nevertheless and
honor by their celestial bidding all we would
promise to their cold natures, give over to such
perfect uncaring believing hope is forged this way.

Five hawks may pass overhead tomorrow morning
and it would still portend not a thing. The northern
flicker in your oak may call out to you only to skitch
away the moment you come to the window. Only the
absent vulture leaves its black smear in the sky, hangs
the whole night before sweeping away to soak up sun.

Saturday doesn’t know it’s Saturday so it works just
as hard as Monday. Coffee tastes the same, but we
swear it’s richer, emboldened by some darker victory.
This is the lastness of life, the end of things suspended
beneath a commencement yet to arrive. Grasp your
small bowl and pour out the sun. It will spread to run
off your table and onto the floor as it always has.

Joseph Gallo
December 31, 2011



It used to matter: the first drink, the first
call, the first meal, the first kiss. Every-
thing was new again and this time we’d
get it right. No more swearing, no more
smoking, no more infidelity, no more
random acts of cruelty. The number of
the year would make it all possible as it
will this twenty-twelve. Today I resolve
to make a healthy vegetable soup, first
thing, and if not today, then tomorrow
for sure. It will last the week and be
supplemented with chicken breasts and
fish. Natural vitamins, low-fat, packed
with a nutritional content only a new
year can confer. The first choice is
the lasting choice, we tell ourselves.
Tabula rasa, clean slate, blank book.
No scribbling, everything on the line
and between the sacred margins.

Months from now, we’ll look back and
most of us will remember it used to matter.
We’ll recall with some distant fondness
that we were going to do this, had pledged
to accomplish that, and that now, because
spring is here, the new season of fresh growth
serves a far better beginning point as summer
lies poised on some faraway beach waiting to
caress us with the bowers of its bounteous fire.

I start my list: carrots, celery, peppers, onions,

red potatoes, zucchini, garlic, lemon, wild rice,
barley, Italian herbs, sea salt, vegetable broth,
pinches of this and that. Yes, I will look to the
firstness of things and see to it the dreaded
worstness remains far afield and unencroaching.

Proper diet, exercise, adequate sleep, more music,
more poetry, more short stories and songs, the
singular company of women, sessions of solitude
and contemplation amid my beloved nature. First
owl screech, first skirl of coyotes, first hawk flute,
first quail chitter and roadrunner clatter, first cloud
dragon, first orange and black monarch, all these
firsts yet to arrive and to be duly noted as such.

Somewhere in all this, the first lie, the first defeat,
the first lesson once again reminding that firstness
is but an illusion as everything is anew to its time.
Let this first poem stand for that and nothing else.

Joseph Gallo
January 1, 2012