Louis Gallo’s work has appeared or will shortly appear in Southern Literary Review, Fiction Fix, Glimmer Train, Hollins Critic,, Rattle, Southern Quarterly, Litro, New Orleans Review, Xavier Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Texas Review, Baltimore Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Ledge, storySouth, Houston Literary Review, Tampa Review, Raving Dove, The Journal (Ohio), Greensboro Review,and many others. Chapbooks include The Truth Change, The Abomination of Fascination, Status Updates and The Ten Most Important Questions. He is the founding editor of the now defunct journals, The Barataria Review and Books: A New Orleans Review. He teaches at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.
We take the long way
so our baby can see
October fire in the trees.
You hated the house
when we lived in it
and so did I.
I sensed my other child
in every room,
heard her call my name
long after she was gone.
You saw traces
of another woman.
Yet what a time we had
that year we stayed
waiting for the sale.
We sat outside in snow
to gaze at stars
crisp as sugar.
I felt blood course
through your hand--
the hours we spent
exploring each other's
despite ghosts and fear.
It has been five years
and now safe enough
It seems so small,
you exclaim, as we pass--
and dingy, I add,
who would paint a house
the color of skin?
Yet we can't stop looking,
turn the car around,
circle the block.
It's just another house,
I sigh and shift my eyes
to the road for good.
When we stop at McDonald's
I pluck an apple from a tree
next to the parking lot
and prop it on the dashboard.
You offer to drive home
to our new town
and I sit in back with Claire
who, strapped in her seat,
can't stop smiling.
She will never know this place;
I will never hear her call
from desolate rooms.
I mourn that other child
as our baby curls
her tiny fingers
around my thumb.
We stop again, for cider
at a roadside stand.
I watch you walk
toward rows of jugs
and pick one out.
You look so beautiful
I want to sing out.
We are done with history
for a while and speed
out of the past.
I reach over your seat
for the apple
but you fling it
out the window.
I watch that last token
careen backward, fall,
shatter to bits
on the interstate.
Each day, as they bloom, I pluck a mulberry
from our tree and chew it up. A modest berry,
lacking distinction and taste, but faithful, profuse.
I have done this every summer for a decade,
turned it into a kind of sacrament. They don’t last long.
I’m devouring July, I tell the tree, which listens.
I’m eating time, bit by bit.
The tree thrives in a swirl of lanky pines
near the back driveway. Once the berries go,
it almost seems to disappear. No one, I think,
notices but me and the birds that feast on its fruit
and deposit purple splotches on our windshields.
But I know when the searing cold returns
and long dark days enshroud the mind
I will stand again beside the garbage cans
and tally not only the seasons, but the life,
yearning again for the mulberries’ inauspicious return.
This is no feast for pleasure, no picnic
or burst of gustatory delight. This is prayer.
I eat prayers, I tell the tree as its unglamorous leaves
flutter with gusts sweeping in from the mountains.
The tree consents, tolerates me in a way
that I, with almost nothing in my hands,
This chain of incidents
should loosen with accumulation
but the cinch tightens, rubies drop
like dried seeds, popping into sand.
Some moments swell like a lizard’s throat,
others drip into creamy vats
of terrifying sweetness
until the entire windswept past congeals.
No necklace but a monument
droops from your neck
as you dive into furrows
to root for something
severe and holy.
A red asparagus came with the bundle
and we, who nurture the quotidian,
could not eat. The next morning
a cocoanut exploded in St. Augustine,
bananas torpedoed out of their skins,
the square avocado leaked blood,
and we, devotees of signs, starved to death.
All Jerico mourned, feasted on our remains.
The dogs carried off a few ribs, pilgrims
some lockets of straw and singed hair.
There will be no progress, cried the viceroy,
until we suppress the noose of superstition--
whereupon he decreed creole tomatoes obscene.
We, meanwhile, penitent as stone,
picked at entrails, ghastly our demeanor.