poetry and poets

Monday, December 19, 2005


Two of my vignettes, Waiting to Deliver and My Radiant Sin, have been accepted for publication. What's particularly gratifying is that i consider these two of my better pieces, certainly the two best unpublished, but they have been ignored by publishers who always seemed to want something to come full circle -- to have a plot as it were. These pieces merely sandwich time and freeze a moment. But i like them for that very reason. Now someone has picked them for distribution and i hope that means they really liked them as well. The publication date is 29 July 2006 and i'll pass on the link here.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

just a note

more stuff coming from me and from Sam Skeist soon.

Sam has a new book out, featuring many of the pieces you see here -- ladder-wheel -- i just got some copies today and it's seething with humanity. Congrats Sam!

Monday, April 04, 2005


Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

when I was little
watching movies cartoons
it was always good
guys versus bad guys

i always preferred the bad
well first off they always had better clothes
blacks reds
they never wore nonsensical capes spandex or latex boots
some had horns claws and fangs
i liked that
they just seemed harder

i can’t remember the last time I watched a cartoon
it’s been months since I went to the theater or rented a video
its been much longer since life was as simple
as the good guys
against the bad guys
now its more like me against me


Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

last night
a clown
cut off his face
for he was tired
of charade
he laughed and thought
now I am free
then thought again
restitched the face
children scream
at faceless clowns

coital kabuki theatre

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

She’d seen me naked dozens of times and had never noticed I never undressed. I know the pattern… intrigue, seduce, embrace, get as close as you can without losing any distance. Keep everything shallow and never lose composure. Keep intimacy raw, glazed in passion’s scent, and always side step any type of attachment. It’s a coital kabuki theatre where deception’s the only rule and no one belongs without ten layers of ruse. But with her, my calm was mere façade. Perhaps, I was just struck dumb by her top pedigree package, trust, the check list of her resume and recipe was a new breed of fantastic. Whatever it was, I’d found depth- the glowing personification of the latex rule’s exception. With her, I wanted to do all those romantic things; feeding her fruit in the bath, massages and breakfast in the morning. I’ve never let anyone into my playground, but her, her I wanted to push on the swings. But that wasn’t her desire. Not some clown with a silly smile that says, “I’m happy just to be around you girl”, all soft and sentimental. No. She wanted that straight forward dude who approached her in the coffee shop. She liked that I drank double black espressos and licked my lips while exhaling smoke from my nose. The first time her and her girl came over I gave ‘em two jelly jars and a 40 to split. She saw me leave with another girl. I came back thirty minutes later and that’s when I got my first kiss. To get the affection of a woman like that, I had to break out my very best masks. You know the deal, make them feel like they see a side of you no one else knows, strong but privately vulnerable, peaceful and confident but not afraid to knuckle up, serious when it’s needed, otherwise funny and cool with jokes and winks, focused and composed but inside hiding some mysterious angst. It’s been tested and proven; some women have a taste for thoughtful malaise. Maybe it’s that whole I can save this one thing, change him and own him- some distorted, primordial, maternal instinct. And here lies the test. The attention is captured…as long as her urge is unattainable. Only natural, I’ve acted in similar ways and it’s quite possible she was simply reversing my silly game. Who knows? But that day came when I had to write the letter. Well, had to send the letter. For these feelings were brewing since her very first poem. I’d filled many a trash can with post marked declarations. When I actually sent this one, I felt happy and liberated. Now, my life’s no PG, rainbows and daisies movie, nor would I want it to be, but just one time, one time, I wanted one of those scenes. I daydreamed of open armed, running on rolling hills slow motion embrace type responses. What I got in return was emphatic rejection garbed in cold silence. I had imagined a finale where the walls were broken down. What I ensured with those words was a place amidst the mortar.


Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

paper piñata
donkey or sheep
born and painted
dressed in bright colors
to be bought
and spill sugared innards
the skin will crack
under blind bludgeoning
the children can see
you are nothing
but a shell

crimson crane

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

a crimson crane
on one leg
beneath a churning crown
of weeping clouds
one acidic drop
from the cracked tip of its tattered beak
my life
a solitary bead
a lone ragged feather falls
weightless grace
ripples throughout the sea

dream 10279

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

there i was
with a different face
but it was me
i’m sure

floating amidst vomit
and bath water
i’m not sure
but I stood over me
and felt no remorse

dream walker

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

i have become
a dream walker
still I heard truth
in tonight’s wind

Sunday, April 03, 2005

a day at the park

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

“Hey. What up.”
“Wassup witchoo man? Where ya’ off to?”
“On my way to the park…Just gonna’ chill out and journal dive.”
“Sounds good…what’s in the bag?”
“Notin’ special, a bottle of water, cigarettes, journal, my father’s head.”
“Your father’s head? What, what, well, where’s the body?”
“In the ground of course… You fuckin’ weirdo.”

american eagle

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

My mood swings are like ridin’ one of them old wooden coasters. Steadily rising like the upwards incline before that first big drop. Belly full o’ butterflies, savoring the adrenalin rush of each and every track notch up… I can feel my murmurs building to a climactic high pitched “aaaaaahhhhhhhhh!” with every single “clank, rattle, clank, clank, rattle.” Then there’s a time when you’re on the top… and you know that first car has gone over the edge, but you don’t care, cause right now, right now, you can see the whole park. Feels like that rolling carriage has stopped… you get a fleeting, yet frozen, tease of stablity and that whole glorious view of the highway you drove up upon… the waterslides, all the other rides, the tip toppest branches of the urban raised evergreens. The people look like little colored specks and you have time just enough to take one gooood deep breath. But these ups follow the paths of empty elevator shafts and that apogee of beauty quickly turns to black…and next thing I know, I’m too low to write poems, and a season of my life is gone… lost between anxious sleep and a place where you’d sell your whole comic book collection and your grandfather’s ring just for anotha’ week’s worth of drink- a place where you hate (yet thank) the ones you love because if it weren’t for them you’d finally be able to take that ten story plunge. But I know…I know, this is a nice loooong ride and I swear in the distance, I can hear that oh so special “clank, rattle, clank, clank, rattle.”

another round

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

Well, I already had two, might as well make it four, ya know, never be a quitter, stick with what you’re good at. Mom always says, “Just be you.” I smile and nod to appease her concern and inside, I’m like, “yeah mom, I know…but which one?” I’m twenty five years old and my first illusion still aint done. High school drop out turned foreign land language professor who free styles lesson plans and crammed linguistic books just to spit, “I want a beer and you play pool- wo xiang yi ping pijiu, ni da taiqiu ma.” I’m stuck, inadequate and tongue tied with nothing to say, except, I am completely ordinary… and there is no one else like me. I take full responsibility and openly claim to have squandered 1,000 opportunities and in some way taken for granted every ragged red ribboned gift bestowed upon me. Every day could be Chanukah, instead I play harmonica for the rest of the grimy rain dogs and say yartsa for every beer that’s spilled. Forget wasting time. I gave her a sloppy kiss, left her at home and got wasted with my crew. Then stumbled into bed and honestly expected her to respond to my whiskey breathed affection. That lump of clay could have been anything and all I made was a lopsided ashtray.


Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

Art class. Keisha sat across from me. She was always well dressed, quiet-- looked thoughtful. She could have been a model. One day she asked, “What’s your favorite fruit?” “Mangoes”, I said. Mangoes really aren’t my favorite, but apple sounds so boring and I wanted to be different. You know, special or mysterious or something…. “What’s yours?” “Apples. Apples are sexy.”

I never get it right.

bad manners

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

Went out to lunch with my penis the other day. The waitress came over to take our order. When she asked my penis what he wanted to drink he just sat there, staring at her breasts. She cleared her throat, raised her eyebrows and asked again. Finally, he looked up, “Oh, um… coffee… black.” Then, believe it or not, he flashed her a wink. She rolled her eyes and walked away. I threw my penis a frustrated glance, “Can’t you be a little more respectful?” “What? Tell me you didn’t see them things?” (Deep sigh.)“You’re so embarrassing.”

beautiful morning

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

Wake. Crack the sleepy red eyes. Sweep the sleep from the cracks. I swear, the night’s cold air sleeps in floor cracks and relishes in the chills it sends up my back. I grab my pack out my pant pocket…. I guess that running at daybreak thing will have to wait till tomorrow. I stumble to the bathroom with sunrise creeping through the curtains. The birds have always got something to sing about and when I check my raggedy reflection- I’m always as ugly as the morning before… with dried white crust around the lips and scruffy five o’clock shadow just itching on the wrist. I brush my teeth with a cigarette burnin’ on the sink edge while the toilet complains of constipation and the shower won’t stop drooling. It’s got that drip, drip, sputter, drool, drip. The type that you can’t hear until you’re just about to slip and right then comes in with that, “I’m gonna keep you up for the next fifteen minutes just for the fuck of it” type drip, drip. But eventually it fades… like jeans… and morals… and before you can even appreciate the quiet you wake to the “eh, eh, eh.” Forget the sleep button… It reminds me of a frigid high school encounter that promised nothing more than a five minute tease. Gimme me hibernation or caffeine induced insomnia. Gimme me three shots and a beer or eucalyptus tea. I don’t want the middle ground…some Buddhist myth of a happy medium where a baldhead with nine dots turns the other cheek because he’s only got one arm to box with. I’ve got a bottle of painkillers teasing from the closet and their gossip bothers me as much the fact that my socks don’t match. When my toes adjust to the chilly tiles and I throw on one of my favorite records, my red eyes come into focus and I thank the alarm for being so persistent. I may not be singing with the birds, but I’ll kick a close to honest freestyle in the shower and… delay the denouement. Today, I’m gonna make something. Yeah… today, I’m gonna make…some coffee.

blind tortoise

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

Blind tortoise in a rabbit race flipped up side down and baking in the sun. Romantic gesture or morbid amusement to bet all my jade pebbles he’ll finish first? Spend the day on a scavenger hunt for skeleton keys or scribe chalk eulogies in the rain for melted snow angels who knew only one breath of sunshine…it’s all the same. I am child enraptured with fantasy of memorable echoes…spare me this moment, for soon it will be bedtime. My cave is wintry without her warmth and I don’t even know what she looks like. I hum lullabies to my unborn aborted older brother, who would have been a stronger version of me, and hope he’s not disappointed with what I’ve drawn on our canvas. It’s all recycled refuse but it takes away the numb. They made this skin so tight and I’m still adjusting to the seams. Stitch, pull, cut, stitch, just follow the instructions…but there’s noooo…Curse these feeble fingers! And mom and dad couldn’t even sow themselves back together… but some things don’t belong like these scars on my tongue… but most people don’t like stories if there isn’t any hero. So here I am again; writing to the rhythm of a rusty pendulum with nothing else to do but stare at my anchor. All I enjoy are crests and undertows anyways, so I may as well break the chain, throw it to the side and let it settle down. Settle down. Drift away like all these bottled up messages in whiskey bottles, floating towards strangers who may not even know my language. Perhaps they’ll read between the lines and feel where I’m coming from. I dream of daytimes spent drinking wine and breaking bread over verse. When the sunsets we’ll do the fire dance, the children can laugh and twirl and the old men will write riddles about that famous tortoise race.

breakfast in bed

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

i found sanctuary
in her air
the type of sleepless sleep
where a lover’s half drowsy murmurs
become your systole
i held her
fell through her
fell from myself
i watch her dress
she glows
go back to sleep
i’ll be back with breakfast

Saturday, April 02, 2005

when monkeys take over the earth

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

when monkeys take over the earth, i'll be the drunken derelict poet on the outskirts of society selling wrinkled scraps of tapestry soiled by disdainful sonnets inspired by nights of debauchery and my distorted self perceptions. i'll dip my quill in a blood-based medium drawn from my grossly disgruntled grimace -- disfigured by methodical incisions inflicted during instants of intentional battery of the spirit. tale-telling scars sculpted by shimmering shards of broken mirrors that delivered reflections without the social competence or concern recommended when delegated a dispatcher of disheartening messages. but that's just a sadomasochistic daydream while this is the tragic comedy, nightmare documentary of my psychological pilgrimage. peacocks don't choose the hues of their plumage, and a puppet has no input on the length of its strings. so i march on, lighting incense sticks in respect to the death of post-natal purity and take occassional breaks to pray to a god who may not even like me.

published in The Black Widow & The Brown Recluse, March 2003

published in fingerprints, 2003
recorded on fingerprints, 2003

website at Sam Skeist

pennies from heaven

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

sometimes i like crawling into closets to play with dusty skeletons. i sit, knees pressed to chest, hunch-backed, crouching in the corner's corner sipping salty sentiment from a rusty tinfoil flask. after thorough innebriation, i proceed to stage left and give passersby instructions on how to savagely abuse one's innerchild and distribute manuals on transforming anything into a vice. my childish ability to trust has been molested by bony fingers that can't help but poke and prod. i've found finding acceptance in the eyes of hypercritical reflections relies on regular reinforcement of opaque lies. and i'm too tired for all that. i'd rather dance awkwardly with crippling truths and learn to laugh at myself for the sake of managing this elusive sense of sanity. two weeks ago i counted my own contradicting self concepts until i slipped into an anxious sleep. i dreamt of temples overcrowded with porcelain deities who did nothing but binge and purge on a faceless congregation's insecurities based upon the fragility of their mortalities. i awoke in a cold sweat of tears unwept and felt a potent moment of inspiration. i made a mosaic depicting smokey gray mannikins doing exercises in moral flexibiltiy led by a fallen angel with the smell of sex and whiskey on her wings. content with my creation, i said a prayer for all the children and went out to dance for pennies from heaven.

published in The Black Widow & The Brown Recluse, March 2003
published in fingerprints, 2003

recorded on fingerprints, 2003
website at
Sam Skeist

in moonlit hours

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

in moonlit hours of perpetual introspection i use moonshine mixed with a twist of melancholy to seduce mummified memories. when they lay intoxicated, i steal their finger bones and pick the locks to my subconscious cellars. a black and blue womb birthed this emotional nomad left scavenging for scraps of self-acceptance and dampening my palate with dew drops of diluted truth. the comfort i've attained with my interpersonal awkwardness gets displayed at support group meetings for depressed pedagogues of sin, where you can catch me giving accounts of occassions when i danced in daydreams of flying away from my demons upon the wings of origami cranes i fold from unfulfilled suicide notes of my adolescence. these days i'm an amateur alchemist, turning mundane events into life lessons. in my sacred garden of solitude i climb amidst the branches of the wisest willows. up there, i freestyle with moody mandrills and sacrifice virgin temptresses of attachment to pay homage to the pen god. god, grant me the serenity to meditate with the fallen leaves until they deem me worthy for schooling in the art of graceful change, until then your humble student i remain. sincerely samuel skeist.

published in The Black Widow & The Brown Recluse, March 2003

published in fingerprints, 2003
recorded on fingerprints, 2003

website at Sam Skeist

i am a traveling freak show performer

Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

i am a travelling freak show performer. i nurse cigarette money from depraved displays of self degradation. shackled in chain restraints wih the strength of 1,000 mothers' hurtful words, i mumble a thanks to all the passionate saints, then shuts my eyes and submerge my mind in a murky tank of antisocial cynicism. suspended, breathless, beneath the foggy surface of my crude neurosis i have images of zombie swordfish swimming with the absence of cognition. devout disciples of the current's direction they never care to question their course or progression. all along the shoreline their bodies wash up in piles. they choke and convulse beneath the scorching apathy of a midday southern sun. asphyxiation is accompanied by the radiant bloom of supreme reverence for each precious singular breath. i resurface to a burst of uproarious applause and caress my absurd arrogance in a clammy clasp of self celebration. after the curtain call, i withdraw to my tent to indulge in a short chain of menthol smokes. as the final flame reaches recessed filter, i sigh in solemn acceptance of my obsolete existence and shut my eyes to welcome another unpromised day.

published in The Black Widow & The Brown Recluse, March 2003
published in fingerprints, 2003

recorded on fingerprints, 2003
website at
Sam Skeist


Samuel Akiva Pui-Ying Huang Skeist

a tip top education is experience-based and full of hands-on activities. studying before slumbering is frequently recommended as a remarkably effective method to reinforce memory retention. hence, my lessons typically commenced post sunset. in regards to counting and basic addition, manipulatives serve as handy utensiles for the tactile application and animate visualization of mathematical foundations. praise to the invaluable, easily affordable and readily accessible tool -- the physical. soft music functions as a facilitator, fashioned to assist in the penetration . . . of information. so my professor would hum melodic hymns of running horses in my ears while walking his frigid finger tips down each jittering joint of my timid spine. "lets count . . . 1, 5, 18, 29 . . . " I swear the storytime portion of my instruction never felt it lasted long enough. in fact i have a sneaking suspicion my good ol' guide on the side intentionally rushed. perhaps he found redeeming compensation in the unfaltering attention and painstaking patience devoted to addition. "32, 33, 34. . . " it's bone chilling how low the spine truly goes. i doubt many have bestowed such scrupulous focus to the texture of their tail bone. still, by the end of each session i knew my numbers front to back, inside and out. 7, 8, 9, 10 years i studied with tiring, vigorous diligence. quality instructors are versed in designing lessons that are multidisciplinary in essence. subsequently, subconsciously i cultivated a thorough competance in costume design, mask-making and the intricate sculpting of social personas. nonetheless, my art's abundant imperfections are evident in the omnipresence of greasy finger prints that cascade off the most private contours of my crystalline figurines.

published in The Black Widow & The Brown Recluse, March 2003
published in fingerprints, 2003
recorded on fingerprints, 2003
website at Sam Skeist

Thursday, March 31, 2005

some thoughts on why or why not

"There is no history, only fictions of various degrees of plausibility."
- Voltaire

"I tell the truth, 'cept when I lie."
- Dwight Yoakum

"If I lie and say you took me for a friend, patched together in my thin bones,
will you help me be cunning and noisy as the wind?"
- James Welch

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest; but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."
- John F. Kennedy

"Lies, lies, lies"
- Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Edward Albee

"I got no alibis, can't even tell my usual lies"
- Tommy Elskes

"Excellency, it's a natural lie to tell, I beg you, stop this now . . ."
- Reverend Hale in The Crucible, Arthur Miller

"I think that jazz and poetry are lies"
- Comanche, Eric Taylor

"I might come to the end of my life and find out everyone was lying"
- Truth No. 2, Patty Griffin

"The truth is not out there"
- Bart Simpson

"Some folks get spiritual 'cause they see the light, some 'cause they feel the heat."
- Conversation with the Devil, Ray Wylie Hubbard

Saturday, March 19, 2005

times catches on

times catches on
tony gallucci

Okay, Okay. It's seven blocks down Sycamore, past Tenth, time is nothing, the air thick with gardenias, why on earth would someone grow those damn things in their yard, one whiff at a wedding is enough to last you until the next wedding, a yard full of that smell intoxicates, the atmosphere a vat of drowning wishes, and drives me out where I should be, the dark swallowing me whole, the cracks in the street pushing against the soles of shoes so worn they might not make it home with me tonight, but for their quiet they are useless against the street and those cracks and the rocks and the curb's edge and the sudden water meter holes hidden in the black grass, and I wonder at the wake I trail in the heavy scent of white flowers, and the shadows I cast on the blooms white even in the sliver of waned moon, and I shake at the bark of white dogs, and start at white cats, and pray for white birds to guide me on, through dimlight porch light envelopes, and seething urban soil rich with tender care and test tube miracles, and along shoestring paths of desire, and quiet, quiet, quiet, step, step, step, breath, breath, and the sound of breathing to you a locomotive, to them the wind in the palms, and quiet, quiet, step and the sound of treading to you a slap in the dim kitchen of don't wake your mother, take it like a man, to them the patter of ebony leaves dry like flakes of fried tortilla brushed off the tables to the blackmouth mutt sleeps behind the stove, dry like the wheeze of Uncle Ernest in his sleep lately in the rocking back chair, and quiet, quiet, swish, the whoosh of clothed leg against the Bird-of-Paradise, to you the sudden letting go of the Venetian blinds strand, to them the hiss of after the anthem television in the sleeping room of cousins for Christmas, and the quiet, quiet, tap, tap of your print on glass, your identity, your downfall if you aren't who you are, tapping the dark room alive, awake, alight, in the night, to you like grandpa's old dance drum, all the grandchildren singing falsetto to his past and yours now, to them only the air conditioner dripping in the drain pan, air, conditioning, draining, conditioned, sleeping, and there you are with her hand in yours, hers part of something hidden, forbidden perhaps, there hovering in the dark, inside the window, inside the place you've never been and won't until you've been inside yourself a whole lifetime, and her whole lifetime now pounding away, the steady beat of passing moments, now here, now gone, now here, now gone, wrist to wrist, whisper to whisper, a hair brushes skin, skin brushes hair, breath brushes breath, word passes word in the dark seeking solace and soliloquy and solitude if two can manage solitude, and life brushes life, and there is a moment, an infinitesimal micro-moment, and then it's gone, and you, and you remember the path, the palms, the pressure of the planet on your toes, the brush against the giant calming leaves of the Bird-of-Paradise, or is it pair-of-dice, and the whiteness, and the porch lights, and the gentle smell of the gardenia on Sycamore Street, after time has come back to get you.

Published in Waterways, January 2003 (for Albert Huffstickler)

mother ocean, father island

mother ocean, father island
tony gallucci

Okay. You never think of this until it's too late.

You wade into the surf and dig your toes into the thick sand and feel its layers pulled away and close your eyes and then there's a swallowing and burying and a constant pulling away and you're being yanked to the side and your knees buckle and then you’re sucked out into a giant stumble, flinging out an arm to catch you and you try to put your foot out there but it’s stuck in place and quicksand is going through your head, but this is not what you pictured, not a drowning, though that is what quicksand will do to you, drown you in lungs full of grit, or else just burst them, bottomed out in the weight of a millennium’s erosion, maybe the quickest thing stone can ever do, and you are falling now, trying to catch yourself in waist deep water where you can't really catch yourself before the waters do and you are not afraid, not scared, dumbfounded maybe, shocked, but you will make it and the sand eating at your calves now won't let you be pulled over, pulls you down but not out and fights the pull from the side and then stands you up, knocking at you and maybe you have never really felt so pulled before, and finally all there is to do is to laugh and you do. You laugh. And the pulling stops. Not down or away or up, just stops and you can stand there and laugh and then Billy comes over and says, you sure are short where'd you go, and says, remember to keep moving that's a thing I told you to remember, and you remember but never knew what it was he was talking about and now you do, Jamie, now you do.

In the twilight, sun hard on your shoulders, the last heat bouncing off the churning surf, throwing braided line with pyramid sinkers and shrimp-pink beads beyond the shallow breakers, hooks heavy with old pigperch backs, your back into the throw, your arms into the set, wrists into the rolling of the reel, a nibble, a tug, a hard wham and the heavy fiberglass rod jumps from you like legs snapped up standing hard in buried sand being pulled everywhichways and you rear back against the pull, stinging darts of sand in the wind in your shoulders, the line racing away, throwing rooster tails of salt spray off the S-loop guides, and there is a moment, one final moment, when the sun hisses behind you, behind the bay horizon, behind that the whole of the earth, you see it all from here, flashes a golden wink against the blue, now indigo, edge of humanity, and you forget the line, the bait, the hook, the day, the dusk, the night, and just hang in that moment, and only a slamming run brings you back. A hundred hard runs, leans, dips, cranks, leaves the thing abandoned at your feet.

All I know is that you hollered at me. I heard something in your voice I didn’t hear when you were stuck in the sand with Billy and, when I run to see, you have not come any closer, to it, or him, or me, or anything. I am proud of you, I say in different words. I dream of bringing up a big mako or blacktip spinner but all I ever hook are them lousy bonnetheads, and here you are. We see your knees buckling in your mind, not knowing you stood in shallow surf with 200-pound sharks. And you won't even come look now, though it's mostly dead, you killed it, fighting it hard against its breath, against it's need to head deep. Oh Jamie where do you think they come from, encyclopedias and National Geographics? Were you thinking this ocean was not the ocean of morays and killer whales and maybe even Jonah and his big white sperm-headed whale, the one we all cry out for lonely nights when we don't understand how big mammal fish swallow up whole humanities and ideas and confuse us with giggles and snickers in this big old world full of incongruity? Jamie are you afraid now when you were not afraid then, stuck sandbound in the craw of the big mother ocean, mother feeding everything, us too, every single second of every hour of her lifetime, been living far longer than we can count? Is that it Jamie? Been fishing for something we all don't know what it is out here in the one place we can all claim as our own, Father Island lying next to Mother Ocean. Can't anybody know what it is we need to know. Maybe better not to know it in a place too big for the knowing of it anyway. Maybe better not to know anything at all. Maybe. Maybe better if we don't know that. Could be we don't need to know what it is we don't need to know.

Published online in The Map of Austin Poetry, March 2003

Susan Ellis, Paris: "Tony Gallucci's "Mother Ocean, Father Island" has left me exhausted. I'll have to come back and read the rest [of the issue] when I've caught my breath. This is such a wonderful example of why we debate - Is this prose or is this poetry? The long dense lines carried me along and included me in the struggle. For me it was very definitely poetry."

Ross Clark, Brisbane: "Stazja, a good read . . . I enjoyed particularly . . . Tony Gallucci's "Mother Ocean, Father Island": now THAT's a prosepoem with tidal flow. I wish you all the Pacific. "

louie armstrong of the colonias

louie armstrong of the colonias
tony gallucci

Okay. Okay. I walked down Sycamore Street after 10 p.m. I should have been in bed. In the comfortable room with the green curtains and the green tiles picked out when we built the comfortable young lawyer's house after the new job in the old hometown after a lifetime away at school and war and school again. Or curled up next to dad on the black Naugahyde couch in the living room, watching, waiting for the late news, wisdom of the Valley day, belted out Louie Armstrong of the colonias to us, the TV idling under the family heirloom ebony Virgen de la Guadalupe and the carved rosary from Torino who knows how many generations ago. But I wasn't. Without permission I wandered the dark streets of the neighborhood, watched houses with lights on, ablaze, moths on kitchen screen-doors, from some the dizzy blue of black-and-white television throwing ghosty shadows on frail strings of gauze curtainry. Drunk shadows on the walls reclining in old chairs. Snores in bass, tenor sweet good-nights, alto squeals of night in the night. The walking from room to room, blankets pulled up tight under chins, pats on the butt, whispered wishes for the daylight only a wished-for now, the moment now gone, forever gone. The silence-not silence of the night waiting-not waiting for the promise of stolen secrets, the danger of mask-no mask, the wall of young confusion. I eyed dark houses, the old, the away, the bored, the neanderthal, some boarded up, cars secured behind garage doors, or dark save for the welcome-not welcome of the porch light, the sleep-not sleep of the german shepherd on the sidewalk, the tink-tink-tink swidda-swidda-swidda tink-tink-tink of all-night rotating sprinklers, the wisp of gauze flitting out of ever-so-slightly raised bedroom windows, aroma of couples in bed, asleep, cuddled, old, young, pretending to be one or the other, or maybe are, not knowing, but knowing the smell like knowing the trouble you're in by the smell of the fear that slaps you in the face when you open the back door after midnight lost in time and faint lights and open windows.

Published online in Doorknobs & Bodypaint #29, 2003

Thursday, March 10, 2005

elegy for wendy jane doe

elegy for wendy jane doe
tony gallucci

i found out later you were only four
i thought you were much older
i kissed you
right there behind the counter at Wal-Mart i kissed you
and blew gently air into your lungs
and i counted to three
and i looked for the signs
and i kissed you again
and blew gently air into your lungs and i counted to three and i looked for the signs
and i kissed you again

Wendy, you must know this
your mom has no patience
she left fingernail cuts in my shoulder like a once upon a time lover
i didn’t know until that night when i took off my shirt to shower
you were one with some machine by then

before i kissed you Wendy i watched your mom explode a breath into your tiny lungs
and pound you like a broken toaster and your arms jerked up and your mom thought
it was a sign of life
and blasted again like you might try to blow up a balloon
that doesn’t want to be blown up

when i awoke this morning i just lay in bed and stared out the window
and i looked for signs the seasons were changing
and the leaves were beginning to fall from the trees
and i counted them
one . . . two . . . three . . .
until i couldn’t count anymore

in the morning paper they said you died from a quote lengthy illness unquote
they didn’t mention maternal instinct
or panic
or good intentions

Wendy, know this
good intentions is always an apology

Published in This Order, 1998
Published in Voices from the River, 1998
Broadcast on, 1998
Broadcast on MTV, 1998

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

my radiant sin

my radiant sin
tony gallucci

Okay. After 10 p.m. Long after 10 p.m., out beyond Sycamore Street. Highway 83 going west, in a midnight blue blur at 148 miles-per-hour, flying over overpasses, skipping, barely controlled touchdowns, blowing west past Pharr, McAllen, Sharyland, Mission, La Joya, Sullivan City, past neon palm trees and still, dark orchards, wafts of 3 a.m. tortillas and donuts, and cops at coffee shops, past eastbound freight trucks and husbands hurrying home, past waddling 'possums and nighthawks, past thumbers and shiftless and sneaking north for the American Dream, past the race for time and the race for races, past drinking too young, and too late, and too much, past roaches and joints and all-night joints, and dusty dimlight backrooms Lord knows what goes on there smelling like murder, just pretending, like so much violence is just pretending, past constables can pick out something wrong at a quarter-mile and it drives a car with bad shocks and dingleballs on the mirror, and if that's you that's trouble, and if it's not don't make it your trouble, past trouble standing on the side of the road, past trouble in the County Line Market after hours, past trouble at Emilio's bar, and Emilio's trouble, past trouble running naked through Colonia San Miguel, ole San Miguel not doing a good job of being un santo, past trouble on a black-and-white flashing blue and red, past green slipping from one dark hand to another, past pretending, past the real thing, past lying in the gutter on Jackson Avenue real thing, past hands hard-cold-steel-cinched behind the back real thing, past real names hurled, thrown, spat, past los ojos del tigre, and coy kittens, past jade eyes and emerald, color of money, past eyes rigor mortis, color of bile, middle C note humming death, past archangels and Beelzebub, bubble baths and blood, past Henry and Maria, past Jamie and Julie and John and Jose and Jimi and Jehosaphat and Jennifer and Joseph and Jesus, oh sweet Jesus, past church doors open and chapel doors closed, past crosses and cruxes and calm, and screaming noise-not noise, and only the sound of wind in the window cracked open to bleed out the sin and hot stench of breath too hot for breathing, past windows hot breath fogged, past feeling, too hot to fuck, too cold to die, past dying, past past, past present, past future, passed by, passed by, oh radiant sin.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

the hum of high wires

the hum of high wires
tony gallucci

Okay. Okay. 10 p.m. A small plane strums some old symphony over Sycamore Street, the stuff I never listened to. Dade and I laughed about that, the music of planes, the music of katydids in the June noon, the music of rattling cabbage trucks at dawn, the rhythm of pumpjacks and irrigation pumps, the syncopated whine of locusts, the hum of high wires and highways. Dade could take anything and turn it into music. I just sang. The summer of our own symphony was the summer Uncle Ralph hired us to stand at the end of rows of cabbage and yellow squash and cotton green ripe and wave red flags, markers for his day to day job poisoning bugs from an old yellow biplane floated over acres of the food he said got you where you are today. Dusted hard in poison we sneezed and spun light-headed and no one thought to say wait a minute back then. Here we were, mother and Aunt Georgia thinking we were packing boxes of citrus and avocadoes, when we were really eating live insecticide like we were the culprits. So we made music to make our days pass under the lazy floating almost not-flight of that old biplane under high wires, flipping, returning, ready to open another tank, made music as wild and tinny and edged as our days standing in infrared sand at the end of rows of ripping-your-nostrils-open onions and cabbage, and the sweet-rotten-smell of melons in the summer sun not really even summer yet if you looked at a calendar. Dade would stomp the dry valley dust and wait for the sun to churn it into homemade dust-devils, but never happened, sun made its own somewhere else. Dade just made blowing dust with a beat so hard, insistent and incessant that it’d lull you to sleep waiting between Uncle Ralph's trips back to refill, or meant playing along, swept up in it walking row to row never missing 'cause that meant two hard things, Ralph losing his profit on a double-sprayed row or burning out a row. And we’d hear about it. So we just walked and pounded out Dade's rhythm, and I sang, not high sweet like a mockingbird but like some cackling green jay deep in the ebony woods across the ditch that spit out the water filled the dusty holes and rows with gritty mud. The mud sugar cane takes and boils down in the Hidalgo County sun to a pineapple taste so fine you can eat it straight out of the ground, and I sang that sweet-lips song not sweet like cane but like it was just pure music, and Dade never cared, and sang hard and gruff and edged too, angry and forgiving, giving up and giving in. Uncle Ralph laughed like that, hard and edged, spat caramel spit and the first cusswords I ever knew what they meant, and laughed at us, couldn't do nothing but laugh and cuss Uncle Ralph, couldn't do nothing but, and when that plane just missed, snagged a wire, and spun into the tower and didn't explode like you'd think, just thudded to the ground, was the first time Dade's rhythm didn't work for us, first time singing made no sense, first time words ran away, first time I panicked and froze at the same time, wanted to help but knew better, knew there wasn't any helping this time, first time not wanting to know, not wanting to see, beat out having to see everything in the world you never seen before, like a woman whole, not just flat pieces of glossy, stapled paper or wishes through thin cloth, or someone dead, really dead, not funeral home dead, or a foreign country that doesn't want you there, or the stares of deep hatred, because this time you know, you really know, and you figured out that the knowing is what keeps you from the seeing. Dade was like that too. Took off running, ran a hundred yards, plus or minus a hundred yards, before he stopped dead in his tracks and turned around to look at me, to say come on what are you waiting for, but looking-asking why didn't you hold me back, both of us needing the reason, the excuse, the hope, the wish, the whatever it takes, to keep us from having to speak up or make amends because we might have been needed, might have done something, might have prayed, or cried or sang or touched a bloody cheek with a goodbye or lay there and talked of the sky and what mighty work lay ahead fixing that old squash-colored vehicle of crazy dying in our arms, and having no one to explain what everything that happened happened because of, or why we weren't doctors or surgeons or saints or angels now that we were both fourteen and in our hard young years finally and starting to beat and sing with the voice of five thousand days of knowing that moments like these are the only ones that a heart keeps, not silent kisses, there’re too many, or making love, never really, or delivering babies, overwhelming in the blood, or pride, who needs it. No, maybe only telling lies and the lies that make them necessary, maybe only lies stay in the heart like single truths, like planes falling from your life and taking the only real things with them, and the knowing that real is only real when it’s gone and not one single moment before, not in fields of cabbage, not in seas of laughs, not in skies of passion or oceans of change, not one flash of a tiny less-than-a-second before loss is anything once and forever whole or true or real or called love. Never.

Published online at Unlikely Stories, 2003
Version published in Chachalaca Poetry Review (as High Drone & Caramel Spit), 1998
Version published in the Little Bow River Thumbnail Series (as High Drone & Caramel Spit), 2002

Saturday, February 19, 2005

sometimes suicide is not enough

sometimes suicide is not enough
tony gallucci

this is a confession
not a poem about poetry

i don’t know about you
but i always lied in the confessional

maybe that’s where stories begin

i never wanted to confess
i distrusted priests before it was en vogue
to do so

father might tell my dad

“bless me father for i have sinned,
it’s been a week since my last confession;
i lied to my dad bout smoking,
and me and frankie threw rocks
at the school bus.”

“is that all?” he’d say

“yeah, that’s about it”

“say ten hail mary’s, and respect your father” he’d say

“in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy ghost”

it was that holy ghost that kept following me around
telling me i was a fool for not telling about
sneaking tequila across the border in the
windshield washer bottle
for not telling father i was sorry
for kicking norman banduch
in the shins till he bled

for wishing i didn’t have to go home at night
and be just one tiny piece of that big jigsaw puzzle
called family that really never was,
or else was a bunch
of different puzzles all mixed together

so i swatted away at old holy ghost and lied anyway

what was father gonna do, accuse me
of not coming clean?
this trust thing was mighty untrustworthy

besides frankie was next in line and he always
told everything anyway
that’s why i went ahead and ratted him out
to begin with

frankie was the really confused one
around the time when we’re all confused
and we felt sorry for him
talked about sex and girls
and dying in a car wreck or something hideous
like cancer
about maybe just dying because you felt
you needed to die

and he’s the one that ended up with
the beautiful wife, the great job
and two sons who worshiped him

but every truth must be balanced with a lie
it’s entropy or some physics thing
they never teach you in school

the lie that saved me
from being what everyone wanted me to be
was the the one about smoking
cause see, i never smoked
but everyone thought i did

i saved all my really big crimes for fiction
the lies are buried in some dustbin of truth somewhere
where no one can sort them out anymore
who remembers them anyway

it’s okay
it’s not like i ever got away with anything important
my dad beat me once because he said
he’d heard i’d been smoking
said he had some inside source
that’s how much truth really matters

then frankie died
diabetes took
both his legs first
then an arm
his kidneys

no telling what else
praise Jesus
finally his heart
like that wouldn’t die
until everything else was already dead

frankie said he’d thought too much about it
but sometimes suicide is not enough

Presented onstage in Insanity Suite in the Cargo Trilogy, Schreiner University, January 2002
Published online in Unlikely Stories, 2003

Monday, February 14, 2005

places i have slept, etc.

tony gallucci

places I have slept

Okay. Two years of 6-degree winters, abandoned schoolhouse floor, sleeping bags in La Selva Lacandona steam, my own cold room, Jackson Hole, Punta Chueca, Dallas, Uxmal, Texas' hottest town, Montana's coldest, six hurricanes, two tornadoes, a womb, four countries, four time zones, three months beginning with J, four ending in -er, one I can't spell, heater humming, phone ringing, curtains blowing, silent, snoring, mumbling, walking, falling, talking, dreaming, drooling, flooding, 39 consecutive hours ill, 21 hours well, on the floor in a house with 9 beds, a car, bus, plane, train, boat, ocean, valley, mesa, riverbed, mountaintop, sheet, blanket, quilt, mattress, bench, porch swing, chair, hammock, in church, in class, seminars, weddings, baseball, fort, hospital, hotel, friend's houses, apartments, dorms, the office, hut, hovel, hogan, tipi, wickiup, cardboard lean-to, metal shed, rest stop, roadside, ranch, farm, city, town, village, parks, wildlife refuge, KOA, with dogs, cats, coatis, mosquitoes, ants, mockingbirds, roaring howler monkeys, barking owls, the bellow of gators, thump of hooves, rustlings in a barn, a whiff of pigs, rooster alarms, clack of trains, whir of planes, play of kids, whisper of friends, things I never heard, radios tuned far away, blues at midnight, Dodgers in the ninth, evangelists in the belt, conjuntos in the valley, opry in the twilight, between cotton, nylon, silk, satin, buffalo, H2O, newspaper, wallpaper, limestone, brick, wallboard, sheetrock, spruce, sand, saguaro, mesquite, boulders, peaks, satellites, stars, comets, meteors, in fits, in stupor, in health, in peace, in hell, in heaven, in fact.

things i have eaten

Okay. Not, often, endangered hors d'oevres, steers, hogs, deer, dogs, chickens, pigeons, horses, mussels, vaseline, gasoline, castor oil, vinegar/oil, snowcones, lots of honey, ice, rice, meat, wheat, barley, hops, cherry drops, squished grapes, squashed tomatoes, squeezed oranges, mashed potatoes, tossed salads, scrambled eggs, over easy, fried up greasy, sunny side up, sliced, diced, baked, broiled, boiled, foiled, buttered, basted, barbecued, medium well, leave the moo, shakes, malts, straight, virgin, on the rocks, bagels, lox, salty fish, blackened reds, lobster claws, king crab legs, crawdad tails, pig's feet, mountain oysters, tender loins, chicken breasts, slice of tongue, entwined tongue, shoulders, fingers, elbows, knees, earlobes, big toes, sunburnt lips, unsunned lips, coral gloss, Virginia Slims, Canadiennes, demi-monde, brunettes, blondes, blacks and reds, dates, olives, mangoes, figs, dripping peach, aguacates, steers and pigs (more of each), weevils, ants, mosquitoes by accident, roaches on purpose, Florentine, English, German, Greek, French, Vietnamese, Thai, Szechuan, Cantonese, Korean, American, Narragansett, Huastec, Seri, Chol, Mexican, Tex-Mex, Cajun, slave, junior high, Junior League, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Luby's, Denny's, Chuy's, four poisonings (twice at one joint), clams and squid and octopus but not oysters, no, not oysters, dirt but not filth, pork with a fork, ketchup on tomatoes, syrup on sausage, frijoles refritos, black-eyed peas, black beans, cotton seeds, cotton candy, candy corn, popcorn, cream corn, cream cheese, head cheese, cheddar cheese, squeezable cheese, rochefort, gruyere, truffles, Belgian chocolate, m&ms, beetle grubs, things unsaid and didn't ask, monkey steaks and cat tacos, coon stew, buzzard chili, filet mignon, shish-ka-bobs, s'mores, souvlaki, seven cubes of green jello in less than four seconds, stuffed artichokes, walnut cheesecake, guacamole, gua-gua, forks, knives, spoons, fingers, banana leaves, tortillas, pita, frybread, one course, five course, fast, slow, to celebrate, for honor, for award, for reward, full, in hunger, in a tux, in shorts, in sandals, in spats, prayers before, prayers after, prayers during, in, out, up, on, hallelujah, in communion, in despair, incoherent, incognito, in Chicago, in thanks.

tears i have cried

Okay. Failing to do right, arm on their shoulders when they come to school with bad haircuts and last year's clothes, not making enough to give away more than kept, movies, church, desert, beach, rage, fear, birth, death, age, youth, headaches, hammer on thumb, staple in finger, ingrown toe, can't, can't stop, for no reason, for everything, for nothing, for people, for dogs, for saints, for sinners, in pillows, in hands, indeed, of course, for, with, about, in spite of, because of, the things I have not tasted, the places I have not slept, the loves I never had, secrets never kept, those never shed, the lies come back to haunt, goodbyes never said, the stories never told, places never tread, the eyes that could not see, the ears that could not hear, time that got away, hurts that never healed, wounds that never closed, the minds that begged for answers, the answers I did not have, Grandma with the answers, Grandma with the garden, Papa abuelito y el tigre, Mee-ma, the cafeteria lady, the old man, the ones I have forgotten, the ones filed away, Uncle Doug I never knew except from the letters, brother John lost, Sister Theodore, Father Pat, Monsignor Doyle, Mother Theresa, Vince in those damned towers, Kelly in a suit he never wore, Lottie the velcrodog, King Cameron who almost never came back, the boys going off to college, the moms with boys gone off to college, Challenger, Oklahoma City, Tonkin, Manhattan, the Fifth Ward, the Teziutlan market, Desemboque when the cars pull in, thirty-one wrecks, thirty-six services, beer and LSD and stupidity, things i can't control, political hell, floodwater fury, Livingston mornings, Alpine nights, goodbye 'til next year, the team, wet wind whipping across her pasture, the road past her house, the light from her window, the whisper from her heart, you.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

sixteen stones

sixteen stones
tony gallucci

Sixteen large, round stones
some would call them boulders
make a bridge across this creek
where it slides over moss and reed
quickening to white fowm, rolling
splashing riverward, running for sea

Rage rainstorms counterclockwise
in lives that cannot simply rise
to gentle breeze, but boil or freeze
on thin lips stained by dope and thin lies
quickening over roiling surf on a flatboard
rolling beachward, running from cities
and what city denies

History will have only the sun to blame
for all this, this passion for water
what draws us here, drowns us there
pale youth in need of ancient ways
the bronzed skin of the elders, their days
and the thrill of speed

It draws the creek, captive of gravity
and the bond of molecules, in need of itself
and sea level, and a chance to be stolen away
in oaken bucket or brown jar, or ridden
by longboards, silver sleek-fish, dancing-eyes
quickening horizonward, running for sky
And I

drawn to walk those sixteen stones
some would call them boulders

Thursday, February 10, 2005

mrs. timlin's rain

mrs. timlin’s rain
tony gallucci

Okay. Sycamore Street at Fourth, 10 p.m. It's pouring down the gutter, sounds like a river. Mrs. Timlin sits backlit at the picture window, leans forward as far as fear allows. Sometimes her nose presses to the window. That wheelchair, mean as spit at your feet, allows no more. How many times has it thrown her helpless to the floor? She knows her limits. Bolts flash fascination across her face. She hates rain. Boys, saturated with dust and grime from hard days in the trash-strewn backlots, track it through the house. The mud stalks her, smirks from little crannies she can't reach to clean, laughs from carpet she cannot scrub. But then there is a giving, a loosing of lifeblood to this foul, barely fertile land, and in it she knows its worth. Here, where everything is armed like angry kids in alleys, she can't deny the land its thirst for a little mud. In the picture of her picture window, Dutch girl hovering in the corner of her own life, she waits. For electricity to spark her, to raise the hair on her delicate arms, to expose me watching, waiting too for moments, fleeting microseconds when all the world is alive in the infinite molecules suspended between us, suspended above the dirt here at Sycamore Street at Fourth, middle of the whole world. Did she know? Did she watch me sitting on the curb, rain twirling my hair into spiral spigots pouring down my cheeks? Did she feel the rush of tensed follicles behind my collar? Or hear me being called for from the cracks of doors in dark houses? Washed in light, did she reason why? Did she see light for what it is and not what we expect from it? Did she know it rains on Sycamore Street? Know the world gets its water from three places, rain, spigots and tears, and when one dries up the next always comes through? Did she know, sitting there, picture in her picture window?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

dreaming out loud

dreaming out loud
tony gallucci

Okay. Okay. It was 10 p.m. I was on Sycamore Street just up from the brick house, still new to us, still new period. Angelina met me there and we ran to 6th, where Andy and Mario waited in that '67 Ford Galaxy, only one in town with an eight-track tape player, waiting, then hurried to get Deb, herself escaping the stifling room-no room of her father smoking and sweating and doing crosswords, and listening-not listening to nothing on the TV. We drove to La Grulla. To our place near the mission, convent now, and sat there on splintered railroad ties, dreaming out loud about ghost engineers and nuns after dark, and whistled to the elf owls and spit gum in rusted Pearl beer cans so it wouldn't soak up the sweet grape of the Mogen-David and bitter metallic alcohol stuck to our tongues. And held each other. Sometimes not sure who was wrapped around who, didn't matter cause we were there for the holding and the crying, not the hiding, though the hidden, the illicit is easier to explain, the more likely to be believed, the more quickly punished after midnight no permission. It helps too to be something you really aren't. Reputation's the word old folks threw around. It keeps the soul, the real down-deep-inside soul, breathing to know you are far purer than anyone could imagine.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

waiting to deliver

waiting to deliver
tony gallucci

Okay. Okay. 10 p.m. quiet on Sycamore Street. Long ago the window slid open, the screen easily pushed out, on the road to daydream-not daydream, hope-not hope, wishing, thinking-hard. Over the redwood fence, across the alley, across the whitethorn field to the cutgrass diamond, empty in the all-quiet of midnight, stars and moon and milky way, so far, so soon to the moon, so soon to hear on that same radio, "one small step for man. . . ," sitting in shadows, the church spire, the Lutheran cross, the big fingers of palms waving gently the night goodbye, the distant headlights of late night returners to dark houses, to sleeping german shepherds, the moribund porches, the flitting curtains, the windows open-not open, the sons home-not home, the days gone-not gone. The short walk in what's-left of brush-filtered moon to the house school and war built, on the edge of the town wishes built, to the bed on the edge of becoming-not becoming, wishing-not wishing, dreaming-not dreaming, one father waiting, stammering too for the fears we both held in the palm of our hands like a horsehide baseball waiting for a three-and-two count, waiting to deliver.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

cats & dogs

cats & dogs
tony gallucci

Murdoch slept through all night yips and yawns
of a half dozen bluetick hounds
not-so-country grandboys woke constantly,
yipped ourselves across cold Saltillo tile floors

it’s the noise stirs them, grandpa said, mockingbirds,
avocados thumping on the hard valley dirt,
rustle of leaves, nothing but scaredy-cat old dogs
it’s the smell that wakes them up, woke him up

he’d shot a jaguar once, hounds bawling in the Tamaulipas
cloud forest dim, cat after a new milk calf tied to a post
revolution drove the cats south, Murdoch north barely
four dog generations ago

one night, June of ’66, when the blues let loose
he was up with a 12 gauge before we could
wipe the dirt from our eyes, we watched through the
kitchen window as he stalked the barnyard

an oncillo, he thought, looking for chickens, just a guess
he chunked at us that night, or maybe a bobcat,
gato del monte, he called it, stalking the peahen in the pecan
the next morning wisdom ran with the guineas

grandpa couldn’t find the tan kid goat or an excuse,
nor explain the footprints by the barn, size of pancakes
no missing that look on his face, we’d seen it a thousand
times in that picture of him at 20 with that jaguar hanging
next to two old hounds

Published in The Texas Poetry Calendar 2002, Flying Cow Press

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

sweat of asphalt on a july night

sweat of asphalt on a july night
tony gallucci

Okay, okay. 10 p.m. Sycamore Street sweats on July nights sticky from July days. On the new red and white radio tower, the one you can see from right here, blinking its come-on over and over and over, red-dark-red-dark-red, beyond twinkling brooch Brownsville and the dark yucca-studded flats of Boca Chica, in the high gulf air the smell of dank, dark churning waters oily with greed, silver-capped by the maddened atmosphere, and deep down in there where your own oily churnings lay, the smell of disgust, of the planet, volcanic undertones, roiled, choking off pores, the whole planet retches, breathes, gasps, lives.

This feeling: you see a broken-backed possum writhing on the shoulder of the road, but you can't get them to stop. You turn and watch out the back window. You cry. And you turn and watch again. And the window shrinks into a tiny tube like an old television set and that possum is far away now, but you can still see it, can't you, can't you see it, still flipping over and over, and now you can hardly breathe, and only slowly do you let it go and turn and watch the road ahead, counting every dead thing along the way, even the thistles, now dead of their own cyclic need, blowing their youngsters off into the world at large, to root deep in the scarred soil, like hair sprouting where it should never sprout, deep in your nostril, another ugly impediment to breathing what needs breathing, sea-air and salt-foam, and date palms you smell how they sound in the Gulf wind, and those early Sunday morning smells that drift across the tracks from somewhere where you don't know what they say as they tumble from bed early Sunday mornings, or even if you'd want to know, or whether they'd ever seen a possum broken-backed, or ever even been away from Second Street, off down some highway that picks out crawling things and tosses them aside face down to breathe the foul breath of sweaty asphalt on a July night.

deplaning in miami

deplaning in miami
tony gallucci

Chan K'in peeled fletch from green parrot feathers
Edged in blood Wind and circumstance Spit on the cuticle
Pressed to densewood shaft Wrapped with split vine
The stone black point of his son saying gracias to the tourists
You bought the whole set cheap Confiscated on deplaning
In Miami Smiling your Protecting the rainforest smile
the greed and Corporations don't kill People kill smile
Planting seeds for conversation among the natives
Muddy coarse white-cloth-tied ochre-sodded hair
The length of Dreams & You alone reseeded the world

The paper in San Cristobal de las Casas knew the story it told
It was the party told the mayor told the soldiers
Told the thugs See The party dressed down the town
Dressed in camouflage Dressing forty-three bodies
Government-issue bullets and hatred in old big bore
Rifles fresh from Guatemala via Honduras A little Cuba
Thrown in to incite Or was it excite the revolutionaries
All courtesy corporate charity Guilty-conscience
Conservative gringo churches couldn't find any other way
To mask the stench of affluence Desperate for quote
Clean schools Send the lost-and-founds Leftover
Boxes of noodles To missions for the children of the ones
Vanished In baskets passed on Sunday Sprinkle rose petals
Holy water and Hallelujahs Shake a fist Thank God
For our merciful selves Where's the camera?

I saw Chan K'in smile on NBC confused Yes Why have
His people been seen wearing balaclavas Waving pistols?
They do not leave the jungle he said Selling bows to
Tourists who won't see the Lacandon in the wet years
He shows the cameras dented yellow corn in dry fields Peels
The ears Plucks gunmetal blue beetles from the milk
Kernels Hands them to the man with so many questions
Points to smoke on the mountain behind them A laughing
Soldier is there to protect the crew In greased hands he holds
A Tamandua grita he shot Un Animalito he says Laughing
Nu c'uhuk bëk' said Chan K'in
Like sweet honey from the gatherers two meals away
Lights copal Washes the air with redolent fingers
Blows fear over the corn Whispers to the Anteater
The camera follows He closes his eyes We do not leave
The jungle he said You must not understand Anger It
Steals boys before they marry and hands them guns

The cameras want to see Bonampak & Yaxchilan They want
Explanations & Dreamland Everyone who goes there
Dies a little he said Where'd he get permission to
Stage wars then Who is His commander How many
Are there Who has died? Chan K'in's eyes seek his
The jungle answers questions he said We are only place
And time You are looking for People who are not
People but Kings Changing and Night is a thousand
Zeroes on these stone calendars Yes we are Lacandones
Yes we all look the same We are masked
Families conceal Why not? He said
We know of bullets & Know of Spit on the road
Posters of men without faces Yes we are not alone with
Cascabeles Black owls con ojos like suns ask the
Same questions you ask All night We are sleepless
Yes we know people who are not People but want to be
Yes Truth speaks quietly in huts On trails Moves from
Lip to lip in the dark We know your name and see your face
And will not forget

I embarrass Chan K'in with fragments of Lacandona
He stood in drifting mist holding mutely painted bows
And crafted arrows and spoke to me in broken Spanish
No These I am going to sell Yo voy a vender When the
Children eat the flesh of these k'am.bul then they are
Gifts of the .22 rifle It was this caused me to look hard
At the wrap of his fingers Tight around the bows
The creases on his cheeks His ears The curve of his toes
The spaces between them room for a hundred revolutions
If every minute spent alive was an injustice to someone
Somewhere His flattened thousand-miles-walked feet
Still red with mud from paths today Feet that once
Never touched the same spill of soil Satellite trucks
Anoint now with late twentieth
Blessing heathens with ?u hacil hacëkyum Curtains of
Smoke coughing up the ugly past and the Ocosingo Madness
Broadcasting daily with former members and expert analyses
And government denial And brought Chan K'in home
To me .22 in hand Selling piece-of-himself feathered arrows
To souvenir liquor Bags-packed reporters who must
Deplane in Miami and smile

melissa in the year of nothing else to do

melissa in the year of nothing else to do
tony gallucci

It was you
insisted we do it
standing up
convinced me
wet legs wrapped around my hips
arms folding me rosebud around you
hot breath on huffing cheeks
bitten tongues
sweat/cum splatting on the floor
sliding two directions at once

we fell back to the bed exhausted
and smiled sideways

but you never wanted it like that again
it was ecstasy then, it’s a nightmare now

i got it once
got it when you drove a hundred miles
to split a violent thunderstorm
then vanished before light
before we could walk in fog
under spanish moss
while the owls hooted up the dawn
it was ecstasy then, it’s a nightmare now

i still have the sliver of moon you gave me
one frozen night sleeping-not sleeping
above the guadalupe river
we fought the zipper on one old sleeping bag
then gave up
do you still have orion’s belt
gift from me that night
it was ecstasy then, it’s a nightmare now

i imagine you lying on the cool st. augustine
of your city fringe yard
your voice a whisper-not whisper
above the freeway thumping
of teenage chevies
heartbeat of america
are you trying to show your daughter
to warn her
of that belt lost in the mercury vapor haze?
i’d bet you think better of it
you might see me
and remember that piece of moon passed
hand to hand, heart to heart
it was ecstasy then, it’s a nightmare now

i’m a prophet
you’ll see
some late night
astronomical convergence
quarter moon passing through orion
three stars in a silver bowl
that lithe archer will yank her dress to her chest
they’ll fuck standing up
and the pull of the tides
will wake you in the night
scream suppressed
teeth buried in your lip
feeling the pull of everything
we talked about but never did
it was ecstasy then, it’s a nightmare now

but we were going opposite directions
weren’t we
deliverance for me
serenity for you
a convergence too
too brief

now your picture lingers beside my bed
singing river songs
and i wonder
if you ever drive out from austin alone
at night
to find that belt
that constricting gift
gift from me?
it was ecstasy then, it’s a nightmare now

Published in Unlikely Stories, 2003
Publishedin This Order, 1998
Broadcast on, 1998

Thursday, January 06, 2005

fists against the wind

fists against the wind
tony gallucci

Okay, Okay. It's 10 p.m.

Beulah’s her name, some old aunt from Louisiana you didn't know, only heard of, but now here she is because she left her brawling husband behind in some dingy Lafayette stinkhole bar with a bunch of dusty ducks hanging on the wall no one can even remember who shot them. Now, you'd expect her to be blowing hard about all the nights no sleep, fighting him off in the late hours, the only hours when noise would make the neighbors talk 'cause it's so noisy around here anyway. And you'd know it was a powerful storm blowing in, the thunder that wakes you in the times when kids don't wake to anything unless they've been made to, that we don't talk about even if you knew about it, dropping your eyes, looking away, keeping the glare of knowing the truth from blinding you, those kind of storms, that throw dead twigs on the roof and push the ash tree over to scrape at the shingles, trying to get in, cats bawling at the porch door, running from their own unsated torment. She roared in off the Gulf of Mexico as the day wound down, though you'd never been able to tell an hour from another by the light or the dark of it. She roared in and was blowing, they said, 200 miles an hour, sometimes on the only radio station left going, everything else blown away or near. The old Buick Skylark, iron and steel mostly, rolled a hundred yards. I told my sister, the one got me in trouble all the time, told her ‘twas the ghost of Beulah drove that car down the block and ran out of gas, thank God we'd forgotten to fill up, in the fixing up of everything to be ready we'd forgotten to get gas, so if we’d had to escape her ghost, we'd not gotten far ourselves, and my sister, smart as hell, called me a liar, and squealed on me, and I said yes sir, yes sir, and went on about my lying, only quietly to myself to cover the scared-as-hell part. My only tree, the only one I could climb, and talk about at school like she was the girlfriend from another town no one else knew, and pretend had shade in the deep of August, that scrawny old mesquite, watered and fertilized and trimmed like no other weed in the whole world, was stretched northwest like had a rubber band on every limb and was really a jealous slingshot aimed at sleazy old Beulah's heart, until she gave up, gently laid herself down to the ground flat in all that swirling mess of leaves of old newspapers and new creeks, never had been creeks in a hundred miles of here 'til now, laid herself down and whispered sweet wishes to me no more. And just to remember we got to stand out on Sycamore Street for flash pictures with the new Leicaflex and repeating flashbulbs when Beulah was down to a measly 80 miles per hour, and we yelled in the dark look out, look out, and laughed when Michael went flat on his gut to the oily river our street was, and then it just died and dad said there’s the eye and we were sorry because you couldn't see the sun like we'd all been told about the eye, and we never heard the thousand freight trains sound, was really a tornado sound, but everyone is confused when you expect disaster and have to settle for ten days of cleaning mud off everything, and nobody gets killed or even faints, and then the winds picked up again and you watch from inside as part two flips everything back over and the heavy rains hit, the ones that'll take the big river Rio Grande places she's never been and steal the homes of people already gone to Florida for the last of citrus season and have to watch all that from a thousand miles away in black and white. Last thing is us standing sideways against the wind, fists raised against the flash in what's left of what we had on Sycamore Street (and then there’s the hurricane party hamburgers that scraggly old mesquite grilled for us, last thing she does, just for me of course).

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


tony gallucci

Okay. He was my best friend before I knew what best friends were. At five I ‘d moved with my family to this newly built brick house on the edge of town. Like any other place anywhere else, what was edge of town then is no longer -- at seventeen, we moved again, to Houston, moved to the edge of town, to a place now twenty-seven miles inside the metropolis. But back then we had a fine new place in a fine section of place in a place I've grown to know forever as home, though I can scarcely go back there anymore except to search for my father's lost grave.

Kelly lived across the street from me there on Fourth Street where Sycamore Street comes to rest. First Street should have been the edge of town, but where First Street should have been was a drainage canal for the cabbage fields just outside town. It was Second Street truly marked the edge of town, but the blocks between there and Fourth were brush field, and that made our row of houses at Sycamore on Fourth the buttress that made up east McAllen in 1959.

Now Kelly took me, three years his junior, under a wing, and showed me the details of the field: where the big red ant mounds were and how to find horny toads around their edges; how to climb down in the standpipe where the crosspipes had water, and how to make a little dam there and catch black-spotted salamanders out of their dark niches; where the patches of sunflowers that had been knocked down by bushhogs and pushed together to be burned off were, ‘cause that's where the mourning doves and white-winged doves and blue rock pigeons gathered to fill up on waste seed. He taught me how to sneak up on them by crawling from behind the burn piles and how, if you were real quiet, you could knock off a half-dozen with a BB gun before the others got wise and took off for the day; how to catch big carp in the canal where they gathered in the whirlpools of trash at the outlets, and how you could just a drop a treble hook in their gaping mouths and haul in all you wanted, even if Ma didn't want anything to do with those bony old fish.

I was ten when Kelly showed me a Playboy, my first, caked in mud and dog-eared, from finding it in the field, and first told me how guys were different than girls, though my sister was enough to prove that fully dressed, mouth alone, and he told me how certain parts of things were designed to perfectly fit certain girl things, and you had to search and search for the right girl or things just wouldn't fit right and then you had to get divorced, which already was the most horrible thing I'd ever heard of ‘cause Billy's parents had done that and he cried forever and then she found some other father for him and they took away Billy’s name and gave him another.

I was thirteen and just beginning to fight with understanding what thirteen meant when I realized Kelly was there already, in real life, and then he could drive, and I hardly saw him anymore except to hear stories about grander things, mythical things, in the middle of orchards where you could see and hear all around but no one could see or hear you when I didn't know what shouldn't be heard or seen, unless it was boy and girl things and he said yeah, yeah kid, it's those things and you'll know sometime soon. I knew he'd tell me, because he always told me the things no one else would, and he was smart and didn't have a reason to lie, like JimBob did when he couldn't think fast enough to figure things out for himself.

Kelly spent a lot of time at the beach too, not like some of his riding around friends though, because Kelly would never stray far from home for too long. Maybe part of where our hearts met was his mom's problem and my dad's problem. My dad’s throat didn’t work. He got polio in the war. It took away his swallow like a bird grabbed from the nest and now there's nothing to feed those babies. My dad pumped food straight into his gut with a red rubber hose and a glass bell three, four times a day, that's how he lived, at least ‘til he started pouring bourbon down that tube, didn't even have to taste that awful stuff, just poured it straight down there till it numbed off every organ he had and talked them into quitting 'bout the time I was nineteen, which was not far away. Kelly's mom had gotten polio too, but it stole her legs, stole her chance to walk, and she spent her whole days in a wheelchair. Kelly was hardly ever out of reach, though I could see in those dark Dutch eyes that she wanted him out there in the world. Days when I’d cross Sycamore Street to find him, I’d want to linger and absorb that lovin’ deep inside her eyes, but how is it you find a way to watch someone who’s already spent a lifetime being watched.

Kelly’s dad had a used car lot, but his passion was buying Model T's and Roadsters and fixing them up like they were just bought. I thought it was about the coolest thing ever but he wouldn't let me near those cars. My grandma, the one who lived with us, the one who had the answers, said it was a hobby, kept his mind occupied while he was at home where he might be needed to help out the wife, who needed a lot of help, and I didn't know what kind of help, she had a wheelchair that'd take her anywhere, and grandma with the answers said sometimes she knew the answers but couldn't say them. Kelly and I hardly talked about our parents, but I'm sure now that part of us being us was that we had parents we didn't want to talk about.

TV was still special back then. Everybody watched on the fall night when the new shows came out for the season, and you had favorites like Lucy and Gleason and Carson and you never missed them, and it was a family thing to sit and laugh together in the evenings. I remember sitting, every night, with my dad as he watched the evening news, first the national network news, then the local news from two stations, not in our town, but from nearby towns even smaller than ours, and maybe that helped steep me in some of the things I'm interested in today, and how that is one of the few memories I have of my dad, who'd been on the fringes of history, and had an appetite for politics and history and news, and how one December night we saw the local Channel 5 KGBT-TV show film of a wreck, three teenagers, drinking, hit a tree and were all killed, one of them flying out of his shoes through the front windshield and they showed his shoes there in the front floorboard and said his name Kelly Timlin and mom flew out the front door screaming across the street to Kelly's mom slumped in her wheelchair just heard the news over the phone herself and then had to see that on TV.

Kelly taught me to play marbles, not just to shoot, but to kill, how to use a shooter and play the angles and pick the rim, and then showed me how to flip baseball cards and I got real good at that too, so good that every time we played I was the winner of the last game and got back all the marbles and cards I'd lost to him before, though gone now are all my old Mantles and Maris' and Koufax's. I've still got some of the marbles though and I keep them in a milk bottle on a shelf with other things from back then.