John Gallaher

Planned Obsolescence

Our washing machine went out a couple months after
our air conditioner. My father countered with his washing machine
going out, and then upping the ante with his refrigerator,
only to cap the whole thing off by dying. So he wins that one.
And now it’s December and our refrigerator just stopped.
Happy New Year. Robin’s down in St. Joe
getting last-minute gifts. A couple gift cards, because
you never know, and if nothing comes of it, we can use them
ourselves. But something always happens. It’s our maxim.
That all outcomes must equal 100%. Like I have a 90% probability
of drinking this cup of coffee, and a 5% chance
of not drinking it. Another 5% has to be somewhere.
It could bloom into a field of roses! That’s the sort of thing
my parents would watch for, back in the Rosary boom

of the 1970s, where you’d pray awhile and roses would appear.
Why not just buy some? Or at least go by a florist and walk around
awhile. I think of myself as a practical person. It’s a life
of mechanical engineering and spellcheck. It’s a life
of rainy day funds, and it sure would be nice to have a rainy day
fund. Like how I’m supposed to be saving for my retirement,
blooming like the proverbial rose. Where to place the knob
of possibility? What color was the carpet? 1979, Long Island,
NY, Farmingdale, corner house by the bank? What bank?
How far did I walk with my cup of coffee? As this can be a yes, no,
or imaginary construction. Like standing here looking
at the washer, which has become a full orchestra, “My Gal Sal,”
performed by Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats. The streets are filled
with rain and the next century. A susurration in the evening fog.



Enter a Scene as Late as Possible, and Leave as Soon as You Can

It’s Tuesday, April 25, 2023, and I’m getting tired of April, and it’s
National Poetry Month, and who talks about that, not even poets.
I was walking up the stairs at work and misjudged the landing,
thinking about Emily Dickinson’s “a formal feeling comes,”
and I wobbled, twice, drunkenly, and I thought that, that I looked drunk,
and I said oh shit, and so now I’m drunk and disorderly, at work,
at work, on the stairs, just as two people round the corner.
Maybe I just look befuddled, which would be better, I guess,
but not tons better. So then I’m going home, because what else
is there to do, and Kenton passes me walking, and he’s quick
about it, and doesn’t say anything, but I don’t know, I’m listening
to John Lennon on my headphones, so maybe he said
all kinds of things and now thinks I’m ignoring him, which
maybe I should mention tomorrow. As I start my car, “Imagine”

starts up, and I think I’m in the closing scene of an indie film
which probably couldn’t afford the rights to “Imagine”
so they’d use “Do You Realize??” by the Flaming Lips.
No sooner do I get to the first stop sign past the second jogger
than a white SUV hurls past me with a flashing blue light
on its dash. I didn’t think this town was big enough
for SUVs with flashing blue lights on their dashes, and what
must that person’s life be, where they finally use
their flashing blue light? “I’ve been waiting years”? Looking up,
there’s this large military helicopter landing at the hospital
just out of view behind the trees surrounding the high school. I’ve felt
fragile before, but this is different, like a pocket full of smoke
feels different, and I turn in my seat and this pain zips through
my body, up my leg and neck. And then I’m just sitting there.



John Gallaher's newest collection of poetry is My Life in Brutalist Architecture (Four Way Books 2024). Gallaher lives in northwest Missouri and co-edits the Laurel Review.