poetry and poets

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.