The Orrery

A Collection of Poetry by James P. Gallagher







































Thank you to Pam Mammarella, Tina Barr, Barbara Stoffa [Picture], Julie Bolt, M. Peach Robidoux, Susan Pierce, Alexandra Grilikhes, Bill Rothwell and all the Poets with whom I have had the pleasure to share work and workshops.

Dedicated to my Mother and Father Hermia Lawson Gallagher and F. N. Gallagher.

The Abandoned Orchard


Today I saw an abandoned orchard from the highway.

Each tree’s branches reached out

into one another, announcing their neglect.

The tall, overgrown grass around their trunks

made them virtually unreachable.

Yet, even as I raced by,

the gnarled fruit glistened.

There, despite the disregard,

the apples had grown.

As I passed on through the city

I saw the children

not playing in the streets

but surviving there;

bitter, angry, hardened,

learning to “get over”.

Surely, as each unharvested apple

falls to the barren earth,

never to issue nurtured fruit,

that will be capable

of bearing nurtured fruit,

we are all diminished.

Summer 1994

Ghosts


Ghosts flickered in and out of view

looking like an old Technicolor 50’s film,

as I skim the channels of rememberance.

Ghosts squint and smile from unsteady shots,

like a worn old, 8mm home video image,

dance and remind us of

times gone by, times of greatness,

of fame and fortitude.

Ghosts are washing the hurt

they soothe and relieve my fears.

Flipping page after page of old snapshots,

sliding fingertips across the yesterdays,

silently gliding over glossy heartaches

of those gone and those left behind.

Ghosts are reaching out to me.

As ghosts pass through our lives

unexpectedly with unpredictable

origins and destinations, the only certainty is that

at any minute there will be another one.

Often when I see a ghost I wonder;

what the difference might have been,

what turns, which twists, what other children,

what other loves and I stop…

5/20/95

“Into every rain a little life must fall.”


“She always put her mouth where her money was,

but, Hell, that was how her Mother used to needle her!”

His voice seemed to cloud over somehow- from within-
maybe it wasn’t only her Mom he was remembering.

His wet hands were roughly scraping at his gnarled scruff of a beard.

Mine were fumbling uncomfortably in my pockets.

I crossed his now outstretched palm with some pieces of silver.

He had already been looking past me – through me.

“Shit! You ain’t but licked me yet! ‘N’ ain’t ’bout too neither!”

Glancing back as I moved on, I could almost see her.

1/28/96

Shells


when walls have been erected but windows not yet hung

and they stare vacant like sockets

when doorways open up the space

without the option of being closed yawning out

when ceilings gape open

and skeleton stairs imply their destiny

when walls echo the absent paintings

dulled in shades of sinking greys

when floors appear expanded

made vast by the shadows of the missing carpets

when the space is emptied of all the things

but of every feeling

when spirit is sealed so deeply it may ever stay withdrawn

when hearts are too scarred to feel

when the way

though just before you

lies still invisible

2/15/95

“Nothin’ Happenin” Tonight”


We sat right at the bank of the river. Young. Bored. High.
The fog wasn’t cold but it was thick as tar
hiding every part of the night from us.
“Nothin’ happenin’ tonight” someone said.

And it was true. We were quiet and pensive,
mesmerized by the moody stillness of the water.
As we spoke and listened to the tiny echos of our voices
skipping out over its surface we heard a low groan
that we couldn’t recognize,
did not even notice growing louder as it approached.
Then suddenly through a pocket of open air,
a freighter cut out from the fog, enormous,
a ghost just in front of us, so close
that we thought we could reach right out and touch it,
gliding under the power of a growling invisible tugboat.

We sat breathless.

Its size, its proximity, its massive intrusive presence
spoke to us of the unfathomable sea,
whispered of nights in distant ports of the Orient;
filled with the music of the tymbol, the dumbak, or the sitar,
only hinted of the visions of the lanterns of the junks
dancing on the harbors of Hong Kong or Singapore,
the rainbows of silks in the streets of Jakarta or Madras,
and teased us about the scents of Jasmine and Hibiscus blossoms,
blended in the air with erotic incenses and whiffs of opium and hashish,
all to which it had voyaged and already left behind
long before we had even been born.

And as the fog swallowed it and the night coiled
slowly and completely around us again,
someone said, “Nothin’ happenin’ tonight”.

But we sat and stared silently one to another
and knew that moment was to be
a time and a place to which we could always return.

For Joe
4/7/95

Westbound on the 7:18


Standing on the platform the shiver through me isn’t from the cold.
Ahead lies an endless living tapestry the window unveils every morning. The ordered little houses- row on row on row-
a quiet suburban police station- almost no signs of life-
an orderly cemetery being groomed in the distance-
silent churches with scrap yards- vacant factories-
another parking lot being built- more of the earth being smothered-
and traffic, rolling along beside us invisibly choking the sky-

Above the hospital, concrete Mary coldly staring down,
arms outspread, palms to Heaven,
like a Buddha, a Hindu, open, transcending,
just like the homeless people begging in the streets-

I notice the boarded up windows and trash littered everywhere-
vandalized tombstones- multicolored graffitti- miles of barbed wire-
the large bright sign of the city’s police building, still lit from last night-
now, down into the tunnels- the engineer sounds the howl-
it reverberates with the screeching rails, the squealing wheels-
screaming back from the underground-

Out again into the light- I rise above the prison where
the orange clad men pace round and round and round-
and I ride on- up, over the poisoned water-
muddy clouds billowing up from deep under the surface-
a fog floats above the river-

I pass an abandoned station stop-
part of the city no longer worth stopping for-

And as I leave the train with all the workers
scurrying off to beat the 8 A.M. time clock,
I shake off the shiver that isn’t from the cold…

3/3/95

Odysseus’ Crew


There are voices calling out…

Many and varied with each their own agenda.

All calling for attention-

for action- for reaction.

The voices should challenge and stir,

but somehow we have been numbed,

not deafened but anesthetized.

Even though retreat had been called,

the voices can nevertheless be heard,

luring us to the rocks and we, bound to the mast,

are singed in their fiery breath and

writhe beneath the ropes of our impotence

made mad by our inaction

wondering if the wax,

meant for the ears of Odysseus’ crew,

has, instead, filled our mouths.

And what will be the call when we are the ones

still bound but being devoured,

locked in the claws of Harpies, of vultures,

of the voices…

5/5/95

marked and unmarked


rain clouds off to the right

dull and darken afternoon skies

portent of the gathering distant storm

blue and green signs

off to the left beckon

towards tranquil recreation areas

diversions

time killers

C’mon, dear, the kids’ll love it, ‘n’ we could use some peace and quiet.

brown signs direct to the right

to the memorials and battlefields

where were made the greatest number of

widows and orphans and grieving others

by those who held the high ground

their cries still rang out in the minds of the visitors

“The High Ground… Hold for the High Ground…”

Oooohh, Daddy, do we hafta?

Aw, shaddup Sis, gees Dad, she never wansa do nutin’ cool.

they died for the high ground

and now the high ground passes by on the right

looking no different from the interstate

than the next rolling Virginia hill except this one’s spotted with

the occasional marble marker and that one’s spotted with

the occasional cow

C’mon, Honey, the kids’ll really love it!

‘N’ it’ll teach ‘em a little ‘bout the war

there are so many brown signs on this interstate

they seem to come almost every exit

named after another hill

covered in graves

7/6/95

Rittenhouse Square


Dusk creeps into the city’s park

ushering droves of the solitary.

Some scurry off to beat the sunset home

to electronic companions

who will share the blue dim-lighted cells

despite the canned laughter

and droll dialogue

where phones don’t ring and

doorbells never need to be answered.

Two sit and converse

sharing a variety of chocolates and lies.

They are old and meet here often.

They really don’t have much to say.

They comment on the young women’s bodies as they pass.

Others linger spotting the separate benches,

as if they were still searching for someone.

A man moves from one refuse container to another,

talking to an imagined listener,

not missing a single aluminum can or any food scrap.

Runners lope by

isolated in their earphones

breathing, padding

the square’s perimeters and pathways.

Slipping out from under the trees

hurrying after the retreating day

the light catches only

in the eyes of the children,

the dogs and the squirrels.

As darkness approaches, a choir of hidden sparrows

Accompanied by the endless drone of traffic

Lull the city into an unquiet stillness.

9/14/95

Faces of the City


There are faces in the city that seem always to be in change.

There are faces in the city that seem always to remain the same.

They are made of flesh and stone, steel and bone.

In the streets there is an intimacy

within the anonymous surging crowd.

In the windows there are secrets and visions.

In bright eyes flash love and joy,

in hollow eyes lurks despair.

And isolation is crushed between the arms of lovers.

And from the faces the city speaks to me,

in silent ancient languages that

the heart and soul always understand.

1/29/95

New Moon


Orion hangs above the treetops

in the bitter, night air.

Above the stillness of these empty spaces,

the quiet of these orderly divisions,

sets apart each of the lives

within every single dwelling.

And looking down upon it all

unnoticed,

only a ghostly silver ring

almost invisible,

frozen not only with the winter wind

but from the indifference

stares down the new moon,

shivering in the sky

chasing the stars

across the heavens.

The icy, insulated, separate spaces

sit,

under Orion

under the new moon.

1/8/95

Forest Floor


The shrouded woodland seems invaded
by the seeping mist leaving
not even an acre within my gaze.
Closely packed at attention
each tree in the barren stand
stares down to the fallen
which lie parallel, each to each,
submerged beneath the caustic fog,
half awash in flares of the retreating light.

If I were to move,
if I were to stir
within this moment’s stillness
they might forsake inertia.
Even their fallen comrades on the forest floor,
along with all the still standing
would in lock step be up and off,
vanishing behind the dark mask of evening.

And I-
I might fire out roots from under my feet
down deep into the earth,
shift the soil,
latch to the rocks,
lock my legs to ground,
and freeze fast,
as if petrified by Medusa.

Wind nudges the fog gently on down the hill
as if the approaching night itself were
forcing the darkness in and the vapors out.
I breathe a very small sigh, stir my numb toes,
teach my legs to move again, to slip away,
then whisper farewell to the fallen
and listen to hear what is whistled above me,
through the branches, in the frigid night.

2/12/96

Darkest places


I hear it calling

calling me back

inside calling

as if it had never gone

and my name floats in the air

carried within the winds of my mind

places so deep inside

that they cannot

reach out

screaming up from within

the darkest places

pull me down

pull me under

pull me back

call my name

1/19/95

Serengeti


Memories dart and dance around me.
Hyenas circle, lash in at me.
Each bite’s gash leaves me weaker.

From under the clouds’ swollen ceiling
through the ashen, motionless, indifferent air
voices flail away flesh, snap and snip,
and shred me in the silence.
I collapse, surrender to relentless fangs, spent,
drained of blood, awash in my tears and viscera.

After the hunt, and the feast,
my dried carcass, stripped in the sun,
whispers your name.

6/4/95

Every Fall I Remember…


Every Fall I Remember..
Every fall I remember…
Every fall there is a day just like that day.
Every fall I remember the bright crisp blue sky
and the light reflecting everywhere-
reflecting into the 8 mm home movie camera-
reflecting in their eyes-
reflecting from her roses-
reflecting from the Lincoln-
reflecting from the halo of blood and brain at frame 313-
reflecting from the piece of his skull as it danced across the trunk.

And I remember a time
before that moment
when people had more faith-
when people had more dreams-
when most people actually had ideals.

Every fall I still remember-
silently-
like a prayer, not quite whispered, but said to bless us-
like a plea, never really spoken, but made to save us.
At exactly 12:31 Central Standard Time,
I remember how much the world has changed-
changed direction-
lost it’s way.

Every fall I remember
because despite the long shadow of that dark moment,
cast from then to now,
I see a bright crisp blue sky
and I remember.

Written 11/22/94, on the thirtieth remembrance.

My father was a hero in the war.


My father was a hero in the war.

He was a flier and he got a medal.

He lost his stomach to an ulcer fifteen years later.

That didn’t kill him either.

That was when I was thirteen.

I remember his cries and screams in his sleep no matter how much he drank to try to silence them.

That was when I was twenty-one or so, a quarter century after the war.

He used to wake me when I was home from college.

I am almost forty now.

Last night I went to bed late.

He doesn’t scream anymore.

Now he only mutters and groans.

But I can still tell that he is dreaming of Messerschmitts and nightmare bursts of flak that were a part of his daily life in war.

As a child he told me all about it. I learned all about it at my fathers’ knee.

He flew in B-24’s. No one knows what they are anymore.

I didn’t fight in Viet Nam.

I had learned at an early age that war makes madmen, cripples, addicts, and corpses.

My father was a hero in the war.

I wasn’t.

I hope my son understands.

Fall 1987

Cobwebs


Somehow they just seem to appear,
in the mornings,
draped over all the senses,
clouding perceptions,
wearing on joints and synapses.

They hang across our lives
in intricate networks
as complicated and intertwined
as vineyards in the Autumn.

As if made of steel,
they are binding,
constricting
and crushing inward
like wet leather
shrinking in the sun.

Like falling snow,
dust is settling on them,
each strand encrusted
as if under layers of sleet,
frozen like the caked rigging
of an ancient ship in a bottle.

And looking out, from within,
from on its dust drifted deck
with the ship’s wheel
motionless in my hands,
I can barely see you.
Yet you must be out there,
towering somewhere above,
between the cobwebs and the fading light.

1/20/96

Memorial Day Picnic


In the cool May wind and rain a lot of picnics were not happening.

We are supposed to reflect on Memorial Day.

Instead we often picnic.

It isn’t that we shouldn’t.

Freedom is worth celebrating

just like it was worth fighting for.

Reflecting isn’t much to ask.

But most of us don’t really,

unless we maybe knew or

were related to some one

who didn’t come home.

The price was too high

paid in Mays long forgotten

paid in the wind and the rain

paid in full.

5/29/95

Urgency


In youth there is urgency,

in the blood,

pounding in your temples,

when desire is only

inches and an instant away.

It’s like falling.

You can no longer catch yourself.

You can’t even look back,

the inevitable screaming up at you,

the consequences racing down behind.

After youth, when urgency prevails

it is somehow tempered.

Yet in deeper, more compelling ways,

there is a demanding spirit set upon your will.

Although the mind more dominates;

the body still responds,

still flirts with the precipice,

tempts the fall and baits the will.

“Follow me.” It whispers,

“There is nothing out here but the night.”

4/5/96

I knew that you’d be pacing too…


I knew that you’d be pacing too…
sometime after 3:33
in the stillness
in the dark
your memory drifted by me
the meaning of friendship has never eluded me
the value of time well spent
the love of more than heart or flesh
the union that hands can never make
the bond that eyes and words alone can forge
like oaths will hold us in an embrace an embrace
more than time or touch could ever bear
somewhere after 3:33
a breath of you passed into me

7/29/95

Pottery Sherd


Both at once:

The smooth sleek line

of its creation on the potters wheel

and the jagged shredded edge of destruction.

The crusty vessel could have

carried water and food of people long gone

or be simply the remains of a clay flower pot

lost to a simple twist of an arching cat’s back.

From soft wet clay

into fiery heat

to a solid utility

to random deconstruction

the remains are

both at once

quiet and

so suggestive.

7/11/95

Escapes


We escape into the tube,

into the flicks,

into our earphones,

into our books.

Hell, I’m escaping as I’m writing this.

But the voices of the secret whisper within-

always come around-

come sneaking back in-

come to the front-

and face us down.

And as that awful soul-freezing moment

is about to pin us quickly down,

we race like our lives depend on it.

We run for the computers and the phones and the toys,

for the bottle, the joint, the lines, the pipe, or the needle.

We run inside to places no one else goes.

Making our escapes we use up our lives.

5/20/95

Monsters


Monsters used to live under your bed or in your closet.

Monsters, you thought, came from the tube or the big screen

and moved directly into your consciousness.

Monsters were bigger, more powerful and more dangerous than you.

Monsters had an evil agenda.

Then you grew up and you found out that monsters weren’t real.

Not that kind anyway.

Monsters lived instead in headlines, news-flashes and sound-bites.

Monsters lived in chemically unbalanced brains.

Monsters lived in ideologies and in beliefs found in people’s minds.

Monsters lived within the institutions that we thought made us safe.

Monsters, we later found out, came from the tube or the big screen

and moved directly into our consciousness.

Monsters are people in and out of control.

Most of the monsters in the world are people you see any day of the week.

6/2/95

Mobius Soul


twisted into itself

inverted onto its

one and only surface

writhing in circuitous

self contemplation

interior endless loops of

self analysis raging doubt helpless terror

self analysis raging doubt helpless terror

self analysis raging doubt helpless terror

self analysis raging doubt helpless terror

self analysis raging doubt helpless terror

self analysis raging doubt helpless terror

to break out of the ring is

all one can hope for

but to do it is

as easy as

it is to see

before time’s beginning

after infinity’s end

to leap

inside

a black hole

to climb back out

9/3/95

LINES


I see through the lines

I simply ignore the lines

I see through the lines when I see the roots and the leafless tree at once

I see through the lines of the page to the wooden desk below

I see through the lines of air and water through to the life below

I see through the lines of the horizon beyond the night and the day

the and the the and the the and the the and the the and the the and the

I see through the lines of your youthful face

I see through the lines of independence to the power of the dependent

I see through the lines of these keys qwertyuiop[]\asdfghjkl;’return

zxcvbnm,./shift

I see through the lines of this madness

to the lines

drawn and not drawn

this and not that this and not that this and not that this and not that

12/30/94

Late Summer


Late summer and the river has run dry in its bed.

Cracked like lips with fever,

drawn taut under the indifferent sky

a void has risen imperceptibly above the banks,

as the vapors of the afternoon dance off,

whirling around into it like stellar gases

collapsing on a black hole.

Uninterested, mute and aloof the sun

blind to the vortex slips dangerously near.

The Theory

not Law

prevails and

nature

the seemingly unconcerned

victim

of the afternoon

bleeds axioms and inferences

all over its colorless horizon

as the river

considers better of itself

in presuming to call it a day,

splinters the suppositions

and plods towards certainty

wondering.

1/31/96

paupers grave


sixty-eight pine wood boxes
a big deep trench a back-hoe
on a god awful hot august afternoon

some had family
but the family was
so poor
they could not afford to claim the bodies
some just plain had nodody
too old to live up stairs
they had to choose
open their first floor windows
and invite in
the street’s mayhem
or sit in quiet fear
with the windows
closed locked and covered
in motionless smothering air
air so hot that every single movement
soaked their clothes
each degree of heat factor
clouded their reason
they dehydrate
grow dizzy
fall and
slowly die
alone

some better part of us all
was plowed under with

sixty-eight pine wood boxes
a big deep trench a back-hoe
on a god awful hot august afternoon

9/2/95

PE + PO


dead T.V. on the curbside, useless tires stacked in mounds

landfill mountains leaking anything into the water table

bundles and bundles of tomorrows tiewraped up

in a plastic that will out last everyone alive

back in the fifties they had the smarts to invent transistors and plastic but I can never forgive

them for not teaching us to reuse it and reuse it and reuse it and reuse it and reuse it

and not to fix things but to just throw them away just throw them away just throw them away

just throw them away just throw them away

I think of the thinning out of the starving populations

and I think of all the people I know on diets and

I think about poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences poisoned essences and planned obsolescences

3/9/95

McThoughts


Minds!

Antiseptic Minds,

cleansed by the new and improved multi-managed medium,

dictated to incessantly

by omission (if nothing else) and by all the

bytes and bits that

we make

time

for-

TIME!

Time for

Andy’s 15

the evening news’ 2, and for

every products’ (pantyhose to presidents) :59 and :29 and :15 seconds

just to remind us

when to byte again,

when to buy,

and just exactly what to think

with our own

minds.

Which are, of course,

quick,

sanitized,

preformed,

preshrunk,

premedicated,

individually wrapped,

sealed,

completely planned,

packaged,

and prepared for us in advance

for our own protection.

12/5/94

Cool-Not Cool


Cool-Not Cool.

Just think of all we have suffered

to be cool or not to be cool?

All the broken hearts-

all the broken bones-

all the broken spirits-

all the damaged livers-

all the butchered psyches-

all the brain cells sacrificed

at the altar of

Cool-Not Cool.

I used to think we were capable of growing out of it-

the anger of youth-

the insecurity of puberty-

the pressure to conform-

the competition of the work place-

the conflicts of

the sexes-

the races-

the political fools-

the nations and peoples who war.

I used to believe that the answer was

the power of knowledge-

the satisfaction of understanding-

the wisdom of age.

And now it seems so foolish to wish

to be or not to be

Cool-Not Cool.

2/3/96

Disconcerting


The discussion concerned membranes, lesions,

reconstruction and even skin grafts.

I never realized as a child

how important an organ my skin was.

Brain, heart, lung, liver got all the attention.

All I needed to do was eat right.

Who knew that all these years later

it would be hours by the pool

that would cause these lesions,

these skin termites.

When I was 13 I fell asleep

in a blazing August sun

and got “sun poisoning”.

At least that’s what Mom called it.

I lost three days to hallucinations,

fever and de-hydration.

My bed had become a raft

bobbing on a sea of writhing vermin.

The beaded eyes of the rats and the venomed fangs

punctuating the waves as huge centipedes weaved.

I remember my fingers trying to hold me fast.

If she hadn’t sat up with me

feeding me ice chips,

cooling my body with alcohol rubs

and treating my red, blistered skin with Noxema,

they say I might have died.

The small pain of the needle jab.

The pressure of the scalpel.

But most disconcerting is the smell

During cauterization.

I can smell

my own flesh burning.

1/29/96

Harbinger


The wind is in conspiracy with the new leaves.

Only yesterday these were budless, bony statues

motionless, framing my window box.

Now a dancing pointillism mesmerizes me.

The light fluctuates in proportion to the clouds.

On the trunk a small woodpecker puffs

its downy belly against the scaly bark.

Among the greys of the chilly midday

a blue jay explodes through the frame

its unexpected plumage punctuating the afternoon

with a flash of luminence just to remind me,

the reluctant harbinger is as apparent as

the forsythia suddenly splashed

by the cloud break and the silent spectacle

of the branches conspiring with the wind.

4/17/96

Parasites


invisible

insidious

burrowing catastrophe

born in the fluids of life

feeding on a liver

a lung

a brain

officially

of course

there’s nothing to worry about

but not a drop

has touched my lips

let them dig

unofficially

in you

9/29/95

Last Night I Cried In My Dreams


In childhood I learned to laugh fully.

Joy and sadness come quite naturally.

But I was taught

that crying was not something I should do,

easily.

I’m not sure if it was a male thing,

an American thing or

a family thing.

I do not forgive whomever is to be blamed

for this habit of our society

that teaches young men

that weeping is not allowed.

Last night I cried in my dreams.

I cried so hard that it woke me.

It was a deep soul cleansing relief of a cry.

It felt good.

What’s odd to me is that

it’s only real for me in my dreams.

5/25/95

Who Knew Another Way?


If you didn’t fill the space the pain came howling in to fill it for you.

Half way through the game

and a whole lot of crushed and collapsed catastrophes later,

I, at last, really revolved,

turned around,

turned to find myself,

and turned to find you.

For Pam

12/31/94

Coincidences


In summer late at night
moths, gnats and mosquitoes
drunk, enshroud a backporch light.
Slamming into it and each other
as if the light, or is it the heat,
has made them mad.
The night air so thick with them
I imagine them taking up the same space
at one time.
Dancing wildly on the humidity
like an electron cloud
they flurry.
Never matter nor energy,
simultaneously both,
simultaneously neither.

In summer late at night
when the weather wouldn’t let me sleep
and I come down to the kitchen to get a drink
and I see them
in their all-night fury
surrounding the forgotten
backporch light
I switch off their universe
and go back to bed.

I wonder if they, like electrons,
their nucleus having been split
fly off erratically in the dark
smashing into back porches
all over the world.

6/12/95

The Orrery


In a museum the other day I saw an orrery
from the time of Jefferson and Franklin.
It was very wrong.

Those tiny orbs arching out from the sun’s center
were not only disproportionate to each others relative size
but they were not even close to the correct order
of their relationship out from the sun that
we now know with great certainty.

Some orreries from those days and even ones made today
are clockworks and are driven by some engine which
makes them revolve in a scaled-down, sped-up,
miniature precision, as if to mirror nature.

Engines still drive us invisibly to orbit certainty,
peering in, gleaning all we can.
Engines, forged by a greater clockmaker,
drive the very stars themselves
and power us with our curiosity.

Every time I am reminded of our narrow view,
and note how much these
“Ages of Reason and Enlightenment”,
are at best in infancy, I stop to realize:
people, two hundred years from now,
will look at artifacts of our time,
as we look at the skull drills of surgeons in ancient Egypt,
the knives and trays of blood-letting barbers who practiced
from the middle ages through the eighteenth century,
and say, “How barbaric!”
6/2/96

Temptation


As she moved before me

I knew my will was to be tested.

My resolve was on the line.

The smile creeping into the corner of her mouth

teased my own to part and slowly lick my lips.

As her hands moved delicately through the air

I had to wring mine together just to keep them from reaching out.

Her eyes were locked in a steady gaze toward mine

as mine roamed from one of her offerings to another.

I could barely discern her words

but the sound of her voice said only one thing:

“Take what ever you want from me”.

I heard my own voice, as if from outside of myself,

“Give me the ‘Death by Chocolate’, please.”

6/7/95

Draft


The periods just freeze me.

Even without them-

even with out capitals I can’t!

Sometimes all it takes is a phrase-

or a simple sight-

the slightest trigger.

I just need a simple little block buster-

a little push.

Once I get rolling it’ll be a down hill coast.

I just saw a dog trot by…

The locust leaves are really yellow in this morning’s sun…

The phone’s ringing and neither of us are answering it…

11/5/95

The author gratefully acknowledges the editors of the following publications in which some of the included work or earlier versions first appeared: The Witness The Poet’s Attic The Penn Review.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Copyright © 1996 – 2017 by James P. Gallagher All rights reserved.