John Gallaher

Current Thinking Regarding Your Anniversary

And then you’re a little bit older, and “time heals all wounds”
becomes “time does not heal all wounds.” Well, that’s not much
of an anniversary wish, is it? I’ll try to fix it. Thought one: “experience
is asymmetrical,” which, repeated, will make you sound wise,
symmetrical even. The trick is your mindset, how you’re to get forward
with these things, to keep yourself in a mindset or how
you’re to move yourself to another mindset. Later, which option
is better will reveal itself, but by that time you’ll be several events
down the road of whichever road you chose. The plan is to keep going.
I think it’s a good plan. Still, the idea that what’s down
that other road might be something beautiful is enough to keep
a lot of people circling back and forth a long time. And some
wounds heal in a fashion but leave their marks on you, and scars,
they say, are proof, a solid argument regarding the past. “See?”
I can say to my brother who almost took my finger off once,
in 1976, when we were throwing bricks into a manhole, and I had
my hand on the lip looking in. Three stitches, though, is all it took
to put me back together again. Little scar. But what if you can’t remember
where they came from? For instance, what does this scar
on my forehead mean? The scar just under my left knee?
There’s no balance to it, like how they used to believe in the balance
of nature and now they’ve moved on to say there’s neither innate
balance nor purpose to any of this, and as for learning from scars,
you know how kids are, as things rise up in the guise of Christmas presents
or ice cream trucks to scoop out parts of their caution, and off
they go across the yard and into the street, like I did once,
six years old, to the sound of screeching tires and a woman shaking
behind her steering wheel. I wonder how many childhood accidents
and near-accidents ice cream truck drivers witness, if they ever flinch
at the sound of their own music. They say the greatest tragedies
derive from hubris and/or greed, but I think it’s from a lack
of attention to traffic. Other wise thoughts include “don’t build
a house on a floodplain” and “when fire speaks, do whatever it says.”
And sometimes, just because someone approaches you
in sheep’s clothing, doesn’t mean they’re not a sheep. It rises
like candyfloss and lite rock, this current thinking, like saying
“conventional wisdom” or “life is a series of awkward phases
and then you get to be a kid all over again.” Happy anniversary’s
a thought, too, like how one can be hanging on by a thread
and continue to hang on that way for years, and call it a lifestyle.



I Will Match the Universe Its Disposition

Every urge I ever had is in the other room going through magazines.
Panel One. And then, once again, I start out toward my new life,
new thoughts. This time it’ll turn out right because I’m going to do
everything differently. Today, for instance, coming out of the personnel
meeting at HR, exiting the building, I closed my eyes from
the brightness, and it felt so good I wondered how long I could go
that way. An occasional backwards blink, just so I’d not step into traffic
or a wall, with a pennywhistle backdrop as the notes of my life
overflow the notebook, so I’m writing up and down the margins
across the floor to the yard. Write TREE on the mailbox maybe.
Confuse whoever gets confused by such things. It’s a series of panels,
this thinking about my new life, where each panel is this expanding
constellation of ideas half drunk on themselves, their making,
as I’m all the way to the front desk where the hotel clerk tells me
how to get to the running trail, gesturing in several directions
I retain little of, but then find the running trail anyway, which turns out
to be a different one than the one the clerk was directing me to.
Yeah, that explains it, I’m thinking. There are a lot of things in this life
one can call a running trail. And there’s always some last panel
in these things, some “expanded consciousness” that has just enough
window view in it to warrant buying volume two in the series,
a rather boring story on a mountain top or tent, always waiting,
that we secretly yearn for. A cornerstone the builder has rejected,
that sort of hut, endorsed by the Bible and four out of five gurus,
where there’s nothing left but the mind, expanded past the life,
past the conference room and all the files in it, where I’m returning,
as I’ve forgotten my hat, say, my hat I’ve worn for years, inseparable,
and when I come across it, which once meant so much to me,
that once meant everything to me, the nostalgia is almost
as overwhelming as that initial moment I first put it on my head.
I turn down that road, going long enough that all traces are gone
of my passing. Who knows, there might’ve even been a great
industrial civilization on Mars once, or even, long, long ago, on earth,
and we’d really only know by a smudge of sediment with an odd level
of nitrogen thinly weaving through it like the wave you might give
to someone you loved once as you pass at an intersection.



John Gallaher’s forthcoming book is Brand New Spacesuit (BOA Editions 2020). He lives in rural MO and co-edits The Laurel Review.