|RE-READING ULYSSES …|
by Louis Gallo
RE-READING ULYSSES IN MEDIAS RES
AFTER MANY DECADES WHILE STEERING
THE “SANTA MARIA” WESTWARD INTO THE DYING SUNAs Leopold savors his kidney with relish, his eye also cocked
on an advertisement for Plumtree’s Potted Meat, and Molly
murmurs yes and Paddy Dignam returns to life, I scan
the flaming sky for traces of god and find god nowhere
and everywhere, the mechanic’s monkey wrench aligning
strips of Victorian wallpaper, as Stephen converts the Paraclete
into a mythic aviator who defied Olympus, as, as . . . as
I fry a filet of catfish in Bertolli’s extra virgin olive oil
with minced roasted garlic, a pinch of sea salt, sprigs
of parsley and chives, a sprinkling of capers, smoke
from the pan rising, smoging the kitchen, we two choking,
she switching on the exhaust fan because the fire burns
too bright, and Leopold’s bar of lemon soap begins to speak
in Nighttown as Circe turns us all into swine
and I turn to embrace her thirty years earlier because
she has just walked into the room, outside a snow storm,
the cold reddening her cheeks, her eyes glittering
like warm ice, and I, chef wearing a splotched apron,
tug her forward, remove the peacoat, kiss her chapped lips,
and she, yes, we can eat later, burned fish, as Stephen
seeks succor from the Virgin, as Leopold grieves his Rudy,
Paddy’s coffin sinks and . . . as everything exponentializes,
the heat heatifies, the universe expands and begins
to freeze, and Boltzmann unhangs himself from the rafters
and renounces his equations, and we consummate, yes,
nothing else matters, and Horace repeats dulce et decorum est
but scratches out pro patria mori, and information exceeds
its digital allotment, we become one and the fish is delicious
though the cat goes blind and a book drops to the floor
and Aeolus, that windbag, blows out our candle, and yes,
she says and I say yes and we know yes means no to time,
to clocks, to the centuries and eons, to Hades & Hell
and rigor mortis, deliquescence, entropy and grave wax
and Icarus falling.
OCCASIONED BY THE OKLAHOMA TORNADO
1.I hear blasting from the television in the next room
Wolf Blitzer’s “devastating” on the Oklahoma tornado
And of course recall the tsunami, Japan, Haiti, Kansas, Sandy,
Tuscaloosa, Katrina, Pompeii all of it, ever and ever,
and much of it, as Isaiah verilies, as if upon an instant sudden an instant sudden
what instants are not sudden? Who not unscathed? And upon the next instant sudden
a commercial for extra testosterone that women and babies
and men, well, podner, that hormonal charge
might just destroy the liver, jolt the heart awry,
induce seizures, cause blackouts and−, and−, and−
stir up the lowest chakra, Abdomen, as its fumes rise
intensify, whirl, concentrify, spew squid ink as the Oklahoma
in their minds
explodesThing is, I can hardly bear such old news tomorrow much less today,
too much of it, Pater, too furiously paced,
the slaughter of the usual innocents misericordia misericordia misericordia
I thought Katrina had done us in already
my family stranded in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, en route to here of all places
that gas station vibrating with the big winds
sold out of plastic wrapped sandwiches out of Planter’s
out of gasoline, cars lined up for miles, stalled,
the sky behind them a whorl of misery and evilthinking they had lost everything save their lives, but everything else?Remember, you’re in good hands with Allstate. And Nationwide is on your side.
Which side? Right or bent sinister? My hands are empty.Heidegger asked, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Does something include everything/or the reverse?
I am not seeking answers. There are none. I howl at the stolid walls of this house, baying, a wolf at the moon. Wolf now hugs a family of survivors. “Devastating,” he repeats because there are no other words, not even that one. Sometimes we can only scream. Children buried under rubble; Sandy Hook; Boston; the Amish kids gunned down . . . ever and ever as if upon an instant sudden.2.
I have seen too much, and unlike Tiresias who saw more,
The great diagnostician of the malaise, Walker Percy,
declared that grandiose searches,
which he deemed “vertical,”
that it is more profitable to stay horizontal
and examine the scurrying of dung beetles
in a trench in Korea: id est quod estThus I burn all of my books on the vast (the General Theory, black holes, the twenty-billion light years at the edge of the universe, the Heat Death, the gargantuan macrocosm . . .)Burn all my books on the miniscule (the collapse of the wave function, the wave/particle nature of light, light itself—photons!−, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty, atomic and sub-atomic shenanigans,
quarks, the microest microcosm . . .) AND DO WHAT? how bout some nice white rice, some Woodchuck hard cider,
some aged, smoky Merlot, a cathode-ray blitz not of Wolf (Blitz)er
but Vanna White spinning her
Wheel (Pat doesn’t count) Because . . . why? Because. Ragged claws? How ‘bout
the serenity of a carrot burrowed in deep, ancestral, dark, wet, chothonian mud?3.
I have a feeling I’ve said all this before
More a premonition but
can premonitions go backwards?
I think I’ve thought all this before
but memory is a most unfastidious worm
leading always us astray
I know I’ve felt all this before
the heart does remember, the skin too
even the bones
But I’d prefer not to, not to . . .
Krishnamurti: Time is Sorrow.
I have this dream . . . this vision . . . this− mirabile dictu!
as I type a small white spider
descends from a filament onto
this computer screen . . . and, as we all know,
Spider is emblematic of Soul
so can we hope that all is not lost?
and pray when we can’t pray, can we? We Are Oklahoma
(but not that cheesy musical) . . . we’re buried too 4.
. . . underway too much history, my friend,
the rubble of which strains, a ziggurat, toward heaven
and by heaven I don’t mean what you mean . . .
I mean the mind’s aspiration, the gift to transcend because the heaven of olde doesn’t cut it,
doesn’t rectify or compensate
for such woe which may be finite
but so what?
one iota of such finiteness
does not, I swear, pay for
an eternity of bland harp music
from choirs of eunuch angels5.Footage of a metal interstate guardrail twisted and mangled, grotesque, a section about eight feet long, blown to a spot nowhere near the interstate, the reporter bending over to touch it: “You can imagine what a dangerous projectile this would make, slicing everything in its path. Enormous shrapnel.”But where is Wolf? Catching a wink. What a show! Like Boston! This is entertainment! Who can distinguish one program from the next? Like the child who asked decades ago, “When will the president be shot again?” Look, the Geico gecko! “Stop that, don’t make me laugh.” And Embrel . . . of course, don’t use if you have tuberculosis or leprosy.Oh, they’ve replaced Wolf with Anderson Cooper. Cooper, Cooper, he’s our man, if he can’t do it nobody can. Yeahhhhhhhhhh, Cooper! Brought to you by Fred Thompson of AIG reverse mortgages. THE ARROW OF THE TIME
I saw the straight arrow of time
streak before me, a blazing flame
with serrated forks or tongues
igniting the darkness, and I
saw that each fork demarcated
a moment then a day, month, year,
each of which signified a duty,
an imperative, a mission, and
to veer meant disgrace, ruin, failure,
these glowing notches of accomplishment
and triumph . . .but as if upon
an instant sudden I heard music,
sweet yet dolorous, enchanting
violins, harps, flutes, dulcimers,
a temptation I could not resist
even at the utmost peril, damnation,
and I so veered, stopped to listen,
broke my bones, lacerated my skin
on those barbed tongues
which screeched infamy, sedition
because I could not resist its lure
and I knew the tongues bore lies,
that they hated such delicious diversion
from the prescribed arrow, its abstract
fire and its gnarled, skeletal claws,
but I chose to listen and behind me now
the ashen, smoldering remnants
of rash irresponsibility, incomplete
tasks, wasted time, a deluge
of wasted time that had no power
to smother that arrow of fire . . .
because the music mesmerized me,
seduced me, tantalized me,
made me unwise. IN THE WAITING ROOM AS MY CHILD UNDERGOES SURGERYA small flat screen mounted on the wall
across from where I sit digitally posts
the stages of surgical progression for each
patient. This is, I assume, meant to comfort
those of us here waiting. Below this glowing
bulletin board, a massive television screen—
Kelly Ripa chatting endlessly about nothing.
An aquarium to my right, home for two
bloated goldfish who with lidless eyes
that seem more like fashion buttons than eyes
gaze through the glass. Mostly they float
and so gaze but every so often the larger male
prods the female along her flank and the two
circle their cramped confines. Then they
gaze again beyond that glass impediment at us
and some of us return the gaze
though most of the waiters either nod off
or read magazines or work smart phones.
I had brought along a useful book to help
diminish the gulch of time these affairs
usually consume, but I could not concentrate.
The chosen magazines did not interest me
and Kelly Ripa . . . what is the point of Kelly Ripa?
So I commune with the goldfish, reddish
stationary verbs, either unaware of their captivity
or all too aware with no option but to float
and stare and every so often dart about
in frenzied circles.
And what if the glass shattered? Would they
plummet gladly to their deaths in a cascading wave
of liberation? Or prefer an eternal status quo?
I lift my heavily lidded eyes to the information
screen to learn that my child has now been put
under the knife, her flesh being now opened.
Now. As if at a moment sudden, I know
what the goldfish know. About the Author:Louis Gallo’s work has appeared or will shortly appear in Wide Awake in the Pelican State (LSU anthology), 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.