Page 1


G u i d eb o o k ab initio p oe ms by J o h n G a ll a h er .


B lu e H o u r P r es s 1709 8 t h S t T u s ca l o o s a , AL 35401 www.bluehourpress.com editor@bluehourpress.com Copyright Š 2009 John Gallaher. All rights reserved.


G r at ef u l Ac k n ow led g em en t s. American Letters & Commentary: “A Guidebook to the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time.” Chicago Review: “A Guidebook to the Learning Curve.” Denver Quarterly: “A Guidebook to Nostalgia.” “A Guidebook to the Labyrinth.” Fence: “A Guidebook to Gallaher.” The Iowa Review: “A Guidebook to the Soul.” Notre Dame Review: “A Guidebook to the Beautiful People.” “A Guidebook to the Eternal Verities.” Quarter After Eight: “Chapters on the Avoidance of Grief.” “Chapters on the Dewey Decimal System.” “Chapters on Ghost Towns.” “Chapters on Hot Dogs with Mustard.” Colorado Review: “A Guidebook to Contretemps at the Contredanse.” “A Guidebook to Their Latest Convictions.” “A Guidebook to October.” Indiana Review: “A Guidebook to Questionable Practices.” The Journal: “A Guidebook to the Yard that Read Itself to Sleep.” “A Guidebook to the Landscape Described by Rivers.” Salt Hill: “A Guidebook to Gettin’ Outta Dodge.” Verse: “A Guidebook to Sweating the Small Stuff.” “A Guidebook to Cowboys & Indians.”


Ta b le of Co n t en t s. Hopperville . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 A Guidebook to Nostalgia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 A Guidebook to the Labyrinth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 A Guidebook to the Beautiful People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 A Guidebook to the Eternal Verities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 A Guidebook to the Avoidance of Grief . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 A Guidebook to Logomachy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 A Guidebook to Ghost Towns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 A Guidebook to the Learning Curve . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 A Guidebook to the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time . . . . . . 39 A Guidebook to the Soul . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42


A Guidebook to Hot Dogs with Mustard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 A Guidebook to the Contretemps at the Contredanse . . . . . . 47 A Guidebook to Their Latest Convictions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 A Guidebook to October . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 A Guidebook to Questionable Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 A Guidebook to the Yard that Read Itself to Sleep . . . . . . . . . . 59 A Guidebook to the Landscape Described by Rivers . . . . . . . . 62 A Guidebook to Gettin’ Outta Dodge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 A Guidebook to Sweating the Small Stuff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 A Guidebook to Gallaher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 A Guidebook to Cowboys & Indians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74


G u i d eb o o k ab initio


H o pp erv i lle . Welcome to Hopperville, and the entire panoply to now. Carol waved her hand toward her desktop in disgust. So let’s begin from the beginning: the Latin phrase “ab initio,” meaning “from the beginning,” is located on the first page of the book. In the very first chapter, the neocons took a much more alarmist view. Here, then, is the diary from the beginning. 6 Jan 1999. Things we visited that day were the Gateway to India, the Taj Mahal Hotel, and three railroad stations. Yes, but we haven’t seen any significant benefit from it. At the end of the Jubilee, as we go back to our ordinary lives, we will write one page stories from their very beginnings. We both remain fierce competitors in many of them, which we have

11


heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and which our hands have handed us. These are the methodological assumptions that have guided our project from the beginning. So we built a water tower about 86 feet high, and mounted the camera at the end of a long pole. All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this administration. So we set the type, we printed. We sewed and glued the pages into a hard cover book. Since then, it’s become a historical document over which we no longer have any control. So we planned to go to Branson on Wednesday, the 15th of October. Wednesday finally came around and we found that we believe in “the American way,” as best we can. It has been at once the inspiration of the human soul. We start by choosing a finite number of years from the beginning or end, and evolve

12


forward or backward accordingly. These were some of the questions we were eager to put to the senator, knowing from the start that privacy was going to be a huge issue. Then we sat out on the edge of the earth, with our feet dangling over the side. It’s a good place for a picnic, we thought. And a pleasant little town in the corn.

13


a G u i d eb o o k t o N o s ta l g i a . Here, true to principle, walls tend to disappear in an interesting interplay of many colors. We’ve turned back to the use of old things. Peter and Jenny had hoped to meet on the 13th at the hôtel l’ordinaire with a precise play of light and shade. In these experiments, chance plays an important role, we’ve found. It’s all silver-blue, mignonette green, rose, and ivory over by the book alcove where they’re modestly recounting events of the last few decades (or some motion picture or book). And tired that we were thinking at all, all should’ve been well out by the hot tub with your old lover. There were several good reasons for staying right there. But her serenity’s real

16


nice anyway. As well the silhouettes, driving scenes, and studies of everyday life, as we talk, crowd the tables, year book photos, and works of art. Ah, the enjoyment of a moment in the lobby, says Peter. Yeah, says Jenny, but we live very little in the lobby (& all your natty friends, too). As well, we can read little or nothing at poolside of the swimmers’ feelings for anything outside the pool area. And look how she stands apart from subject matter and other synthesis activities. (Even the girls are staring!) What was her name again? We wonder, as interesting effects are produced by the slow process of weathering. Before and after don’t serve us well either. There’s only what we see with our eyes open or closed. Yet nonetheless a world we seem to know. And what a charming place, with the strong vibrant colors of deck chairs and swim wear. They lied, you know, when they said

17


we’d always have to write in cursive . . . It was clearly a joke, there in the bye and bye. And it’s not that I intend to do things with my face, it just happens this way.

18


a G u i d eb o o k to the Labyrinth. We arrived home late from the Mona Lisa scored for chorus and orchestra. We were pleased, by and large, with the performance, stating that there are times when it’s necessary not to flinch from the obvious. And our fancied moral advantage helps, Bob added. Pass the salt please, he continued, mostly through gestures and facial expressions. But at least he was lovely. And the radar of bats, Mrs. Cloppart said, but that was last week. We didn’t have the energy to get into it with her though. And it’s much too late in the day to say anything in Latin, anyway. Luckily this’s a pitfall that can be avoided. Well, mostly. And tomorrow’s show’s sure to be a big one. It’s called

19


Raft of the Medusa, but it’s by no means clear what they really mean by that. Similar behavior can often be observed in nature, Bob says, looking out over the savanna. Each night he’d ring the buzzer before supper, until last Tuesday when little Chester ate it. We thought that might happen, Carol said at the time. But what good does that do us now? And Bob’s been understandably nervous about calling us after that. I’ve an idea, but ideas are private things. Like that experimental production of American Gothic, remember that one? I’m still finding things in my hair. We would’ve helped you, but we were busy being not naive. I’ll stop everywhere some inconvenience appears, and not before, Carol continues. There’s a catalogue here for her, by the telephone. But more serious examples are not uncommon, as we all know. Well, we refuse to be frightened by such things. And

20


besides, we’ve become themes. Gracefully, we might add, though we all have this melting sensation.

21


a G u i d eb o o k t o t he B e au t i f u l P e o p le . I love to cuddle up with the white sandy beaches, Buffy said, there on the ladder. And I’m really good at quitting smoking, to boot. She knew more than she was saying, we could tell. I get a kick out of guava and windward island settings, she replied. We’re really very curious is all. Maybe champagne can help? We’re into weddings here, where we can all be dressed as the other person. That would be something. Especially since we enjoy talking to people, all kinds of people. Bucky was very attentive and I was watching the boats. The circus school’s another basic requirement, he said. We called it The Mini-skirt Episode, complete with flying trapeze, trampoline,

22


and the locals. Buffy didn’t know what to do with it. I’m still a little jet-lagged, she told us. She was built with weather in mind, we knew, looking out on the patio where she was swimming with a philanthropist. They were taking photos the way one might take a bath. I also love to talk, she replied, so let’s talk. The whole thing is why I love coffee with high quality introductions and end notes. And I love to tan and wear sunglasses as well. Other highlights include scuba diving, horseback riding, several mirrors, and little plaid skirts. Other school girls weren’t so lucky, and are subject to availability. They’ve their common interests, so the concierge told us not to worry too much. Enough’s enough, we shouted, and wrestled them to the floor. As the name implies, Lover’s Leap didn’t let us down either. And that’s a place where you could stick your Thanksgiving or New Year. In

23


fact, Buffy found Mexicans and Italians as well as a night out dancing. And I really enjoy showing off for hours, she said from the landing. Look at her there, Bucky called, waving his flashlight. We were lost from the beginning, we knew. So we skipped the funeral entirely and concentrated on the cake. It was short of us, but life’s shorter. And dotting the horizon, as the signs say.

24


a G u i d eb o o k t o t h e E t er n a l V er i t i es. Last Saturday on the Rim of the World Highway we were waiting in a parking lot which was blue. We tend to have good intentions. He was waiting there as well. Blue with a hint of white, they opened all the doors of the visitor center. He’s the guy from the ad, we decided. Where’s my phrase book? Rosie asked. No est á olvidado, she informed us. Her new confidence caught us all off guard. How many languages does she speak then? Spoke, have spoken, whichever. Or suppose that’s an event of which we want to calculate the probability. A hint of white. It was a terrible moment, though it’s good to be proved right. There are hundreds of places here to choose

25


from. Casual, one adds, but space limitations pared our coverage down to a blue Chevette. And how the pines are empty. That can easily be explained. She hurries to close the door behind her. Which stood them in good stead as well with historic data, and the gray and purple barrier of the approaching mountain range, full of rotten granite and chaparral tangle and oak and critters. We were waiting and the day was blue hinting of white. Maybe they’ll come. It’s all we’re trying to accomplish, the Ranger says. We were there together saying it’s good not to be alone. And all around come clattering in blue, houses and basketballs as though a bell must’ve rung. When in doubt, boil water, the book says. Then the mail becomes more frequent, it continues. Things begin badly and quickly get worse. Say we weren’t waiting then, or really waiting, as the case may be, in Terminal

26


Flats. Or Platas. We all smiled at one another. She turned at the mailboxes, failing to notice us while word of the good life spread and another mile or ten of road was ground out. These are generous mountains. Who’s right? What do I know? Either in distance or from it, as he’s stepping from the blue Chevette. Which was the better route would embroil travelers, surveyors, and historians for years to come. Though we never would’ve thought that of Rosie and the Ranger. The long ridge out to the south is called Cloudland. It’s always either not too late or it is.

27


a G u i d eb o o k t o t he Avo i da n c e of G r i ef. This’s the recipe, I think anyway, that Peter and Jen are so nostalgic for. But what’s cooking, really? Peter thought, with all the necessary discretion down by the duck-pond. Something with corn mash, I think, he decided. At his father’s funeral, he finds the letters while eating pecan pie with vanilla ice cream. We both have ideas on this, but there’s really no sense in asking which of us is right, since familiarity blunts the wonder. And I’m sure he’s other things on his mind. Sassafras and ginger, for example, coming from the kitchen. And Jenny lost her father at a carnival some time back, but received a stuffed rabbit. And do you see this bridge there? It’s good to talk about

28


something tangible every now and again. You know, he does the most amazing things with grains, as well as his carefully hidden feelings of superiority. And with what poise she turns. On account of the wind, like she says. Or a mysterious and unpleasant illness, either or. Such evidences of changes of mind can often be seen, in and out of the bunkhouse. My father was here a moment ago, and then poof, we add, and look around. It can really throw a loop into your holiday plans. Peter was sitting by the campfire mumbling, when we came in. Corn mash would help, we said. He had to agree. When his mother remarried, he found the envelopes and read the addresses to us over the gorge. We’re still worried about him of course, but his pronunciation’s improving by leaps. He never thought he looked much like any of us, he says. He wouldn’t say a thing like that unless he wanted us

29


to say something back, Jenny informs us. The end explains the story, don’t it? he adds. And do you see this car there on the bridge? I don’t think I’ll ever get over it, you know, how all these damn clowns keep coming out.

30


a G u i d eb o o k t o L o g o m ac h y. And to suddenly find ourselves in a bookstore 50 years ago, when books were really books, and everyone we saw there meant something. It was insufferable. And then, of course, we all die, but are given, through a twist of fate, the chance to fix all this business back at the library. Please shut the window, Bob asks, for starters. It’s not dirt so much as matter in the wrong place, you know? (Arranged there is a collection of examples which helped me keep up.) So how’s your plot organized? Carol asks, holding flowers. We’re disposed to respond, but we’re afraid to get caught saying things. They seem prone to tragedy. And similarly for the rest of us. But that’s easy. And their

31


labials and dentals as well. It’s much more difficult with our late charges, though competent experts may well be outraged. Bob is, at any rate. He’s great at accents too, you know. Then we’re back to plodding along, trying to keep a little distance, which is why we no longer talk of the afterlife, or when things were better, or everybody’s business. They’re in The Little Book of Guesses now, and no help to us here. Busy lives and private people, as they say. Our ideas remain general on this. With bad penmanship as well, I see, Carol whispers, over the forms. So far so good, but we’ve still some hard revisions ahead. And when it begins to get dark, we turn on the lights. Language conveys thought, and a few other things, we decide at the water fountain. With repetitions allowed. Gutturals, glotted stops, and vowels with umlauts, to name but a few. “So what’s that book about you’re

32


reading?” they ask. Buffy’s shows its use at both the bottom and the top. I like it very much, but not in that way, she says. We’ve been sitting here a long time, but that too has its dangers, as we’re hunkered down, trying to keep things going, trapped here with only our inside voices for company.

33


a G u i d eb o o k t o G h o s t T ow n s. Then Peter’s cousin Monica invited us to recuperate at her place in the country, with daily and seasonal clothing changes. As always, there are complications. And high-conflict neighbors. It’s been a custom of five years standing now, Monica said, drinking plenty of coffee. In fact, Adam stayed to have another cup and we returned to find him covered in the front porch. This might be considered a fault in some people, but we rather liked him for it. I beg you not to try to pay me any compliments, Rosie begged us and our nervous driver in the wide car, dodging the guard dogs. They seemed to care little for food, but sometimes they’d gobble fingernails ravenously. We

34


chop wood to keep healthy. You’ve to try to decide on a straight line, the neighbors admonished us, with a good deal of indignation. They were naturallooking persons, except for the eyebrows. And we’re made uncomfortable by their knowing smiles and sly winks, not to mention the monkey. I’m an imperfect woman, Monica says, but we’ve plenty of time, come out into the frog-pond and get a breath of trouble brewing. Then she went out into deeper water and disappeared. She has remarkable faith in the barber’s tonic, Rosie said. What a tall, resolute woman, Adam mumbled, but he always mumbles in late afternoon, face down in the reeds. Audience analysis should’ve opened our eyes a bit, but we were awfully tired by that time. So there we go, off yonder where they are, with our limited knowledge of the system in question. And sometimes we can’t see the mountains at all, not

35


to mention the grain elevators or lingering illnesses. We brought some candy while the dogs dug holes out back. Adam saw a trout. They called him the wit of the village, though no one could find the place.

36


a G u i d eb o o k t o t h e Le a r n i n g C u rv e The disaster had begun. The route to Cazan was filled with fugitives on foot, in cars, alone, or occupied with the long line of furniture. We took a ride for the length of the river, moved, as we are, by their spring fashions. Speaking of continuing education, Pa’s interested in bayonets and the dancing girls honing their skills all down the valley. It’s been at least a half an hour so far, the band’ll be starting soon. Both Sadie and Ma agree, though the birds are circling each other, and children march by in columns. And the domes and minarets, the class notices, with ostinati, stretti, and canons everywhere. And lactation as well, Ma says, for most of her miserable life. Another case

37


involves couples struggling to find a way to disappear. They’ve decided this road isn’t stylish, or warm. They obviously hadn’t seen the Winchester alongside her leg. And every now and then a cappuccino. What a March! Into the vasty deeps, the class adds. They’ve sayings for most things, like, One more year and we’ll be vested. And, Please, get us out of here. Anything.

38


a G u i d eb o o k to the W ro n g P l ac e at t h e W ro n g T i m e . Slogans don’t mean anything unless you’ve the girls to back it up, they told us out on the sundeck, in something more comfortable. It’s just that I get this sense of adventure, Buffy said, slipping on a banana peel. So it’s important to limit oneself, we see, as in Bruce and Ronald in the fixed distance, waving. We tolerate them here on the houseboat with the drug dogs, we’ve decided, making for the cocktails. It helps relieve the tension. And after the great love affair was over, none of us were really sure which one to still be friends with. Time to move on, they quipped, there in

39


the undertow, amid their twills and long-sleeve knits. I hear we’ve all caught it now, and there’s nothing to do but buy things. Which doesn’t sound so bad really, given the transitional phenomena and intermediate space of things. For Captain Bucky though, history’s more recent than that. He remembers the way they never much liked the way they looked. Our friends the Marinettes, for a couple (Peter & Jenny). He’s off boiling lobsters and the other things he wants out of life. And still they’re always wanting to tell us what we should think of things over their vacation slides. Human experience, they call it. And we’ve the dry mouth, dry eyes, and dry cleaning to prove it. And so they lived there ever after, happily, which is the standard model from the beginning. You know how mom loves stories, just ask her sometime. It must begin, rise to a crisis, and be resolved, though

40


not necessarily in that order. And we’ve bright little maids that’ll take care of most of it. It’s good to say so, Captain Bucky mutters, all smiles and epistolary, motioning to Buffy, who’s visualizing the rugged natural features . . . OK, Bubblegum, a change’s on its way then, as we’re left watching the wake. Ardent maybe, or blue.

41


a G u i d eb o o k to the Soul. It would please me to go back, I’m thinking, looking off the balcony at the moonlight flaking over the Pacific Ocean. Turns out, they can take that away from you as well, Jenny says, one leg over the rail. And yes, I agree, as in some of Frost’s happier poetry. And folk speech, don’t forget, Peter reminds us from behind the potted plant. Something’s ending then, we can tell. We’re just not sure what, like when I first saw her and began to understand hunger. And it’s funny how we’re not other people by now. In purely personal terms. So she hates him because of her hurt, though hate’s too strong a word. Love, maybe. By the same token, we veer easily into sentimentality

42


and often repeat ourselves. Repeating ourselves is another of the ways in which we resemble each other, particularly about the eyes. It makes her little forehead get all crinkly. Weather’s rolling in, we say, looking off the balcony at the weather rolling in, one in pentatonic and one in modal. Whitman does so very often, Peter says, trying to make it up to her. It was an experience whose crucial moral character we can only surmise. But what of the palms that had just begun to flourish? as I often don’t know what else there is. OK, let’s return to an earlier moment then, a time when we’re elegant conversationalists who survive by special devices. And our rich inner lives.

43


a G u i d eb o o k t o H o t D o g s w i t h M u s ta r d. It’s not a “gettin’ in” lake, but there’s plenty of fishing, which’s what we really love, anyway, as the point’s not to do something, but to appear to have done something. Attending with heart and mind to the keg, Bucky found himself singing. It’s somewhat puzzling, he says, causal as good luck. But we can’t make it out. I mean, we don’t intend to minimize its importance when we go on so, but we invariably find ourselves lapsing into apologia as well as the passive voice. And to the sorrow of many, nothing’s known of the Queen Anne commode I spent all afternoon stripping as they swam. That’s when the fire pumps were taken away and Carol brought chicken. The

44


commode turned out to be an American Standard, and therefore no longer suitable. And of course she turned her nose up at it. Perhaps her plan to go to Paris has become a more real possibility. (France has been her dream kingdom since before the tennis court discussions.) Well, we all thought her terribly naive, but true to the formal parameters of Tragedy, the rescue came too late, bound as we were by debts and miserable children. Here and there the city remembered us, but not well and not often, though they named a sign in our honor. It simply had to be that way, they said. Well enough for Bob, who packed up his grill and scooted, forgetting the basting brush and the baby. These days, we’re finally beginning to have some affection for it. And Carol continues in much the same manner, though seething with repressed political and religious passions. We don’t

45


know exactly who was present. It’ll never be known, we’re told, but speculation’s possible. Encouraged even. And then fireworks.

46


a G u i d eb o o k to the Co n t r e t em p s at t h e Co n t r eda n s e . There’s this way of the moving of the body (the rooms, the curtains sway), during the which time, Buffy and Bucky, their contractions and traffics, get antsy and go outside. Go outside sometimes? Well, as we think, more serious than we remember, we all miss you and wonder about you. By rights the music, as well, swells. Déclassé, Buffy says. Gamboling in the antechamber, the flaunts and flutters (the whimsies & crochets), while outside, these voices, her dress careening and pastel, moving the story along. Yes and yes, as Jenny says, to wend about, well-nigh,

47


and giant signs dot the route. Everything usable has been salvaged or otherwise hauled away. The deuce, now, and two waltzes, now, by Chopin. Any last words? News travels fast in this meadow and canyon country, where orchards still grow. And by this time the weather had become something to reckon with. Fainting with interest, Buffy, wanting air, as Bucky wants air, and nifty. And the old fountain days, remember? There’s much attractive shrubbery around the pond, as Peter and Jenny make do. Take note to take notes (her décolleté, her taffeta . . .). Shh, the bushes are mythologizing. Shh, the secret of the universe is numbers (& roger-dodger), filled with these indiscreet noises. What about the way she turns? The glimpse? Something to pore over (often, now always, with admixture of sense b. [in the way of study with fixed attention]). Devoir to you, Bob.

48


And to you, Carol. Seeing as how these are bushes with two someones (leafage in full) out in the night, sky and weather both perfectly fine. The proviso, if this be an excursion, there. So good-night, Rosie. Goodnight, Adam. Keep in touch.

49


a G u i d eb o o k to their L at es t Co n v i c t i o n s. One acclamation lifted itself up. After that, we had to wait for the smoke to clear. More fireworks can be expected tomorrow. From out of this pressing need for change, we decided that forgetfulness was to be our fate. And that people relate easily and naturally to one another in the country. On the vestibule there’s a lot of waiting going on. Our negotiations on the sidewalk weren’t going well either. Their terms were unacceptable for whatever reason. And we inspected the newspapers and the opera guide out by the public phone, but to no avail. I’ve got a problem with my left eye, Carol says, dropping her

50


semi-precious stretch bracelet. I don’t get it and never will, Peter says. I was afraid of that, Bob replies, a stickler for decorum. We were more clever than that, we disguised our evening as streets and taxis. The occasional traffic light. It’s on this principle that our analysis’s based. But that was before I heard the endtimes were coming. A cheer arose from out the hotel window. At some point it ceases to be of interest to us. Around dinner, I think. And you shouldn’t try to sing that way, Bob said. We get the first public expression of that phase of his character over by the marching band, when Peter tried on Carol’s felt derby. The circular composition contributes to the sense of swirling action. But there the similarity ends. Sousa was also played, but never enthusiastically. You aren’t really playing if you’re aware of playing, right? Just like in physics, it’s all matter? Like being there?

51


We can’t do anything with that, we say. But what were we thinking? The way you’re hunched there, on the corner of the bed, over that postcard, I can tell you’ve read it too many times already. Maybe if you were holding something else? Look at us, we’re quite content with the tuba and cello. My kinda town, Jenny adds, though the coffee’s troublesome. And I’ve something in my eye. Maybe a story about dinner with an old friend. Maybe a book with a new introduction by the author. Or someone intimately associated with the author. Even better. The author thinks so, at least. On our lucky days. When there’s no doubt the world’s entirely imaginary.

52


a G u i d eb o o k t o O c t o b er . Though engaged in some task, she knew. She was sure. The interior lights shone overlapping shadows, seven densities in all, on the outer walkway. Tonight call me Frankie, and we’ve been here all our lives and we’re lookin’ to get out. To scram. Vamoose. Later, we’ll take a stroll. Maybe get some fried eggs and country ham. Or crispy bacon even. And the coffee’s good there. You can just tell. Rosie appears thoughtful. We all appear thoughtful, looking down on the city through the full-wall window. Say we’ve been here all our lives. A greasy spoon, you know. Well-lit with plenty of chrome to formally enhance the depressing horizontals of narrative. You know

53


what I’d like? I’d like to be asked if I’d like ‘the usual’ just once, as she’s dressed in Italian wool ankle pants with an extended-tab waistband and she looks pensive. And black coffee. Colombian or French Roast. And Adam’s there with the evening paper, humming. Perhaps reading a book or noodling on the radio. And dressed to match the furniture. Nearly dissolved in vigorous dabs of silver, black, brown, and gray. The general feeling’s that we’ll be waiting some time. It can feel like great stillness and clarity. And it can feel like we’re not generally descriptive, as she naturally transferred her attention to the elevated rail and, more especially, the dinner specials. Don’t forget the checkered red-and-white pattern, the yellows, black, and cadmium blue. The several ways that blue becomes violet. Several seats away, he slouched against the counter, his back to us, his hat down

54


low. Everything about the place is functional, they tell me. It was purely a happy accident. The idea’s that we’ll be better off not knowing. And ideas don’t usually help much, as we’re being graceful and welllit in a semi-upright position. Recognizable as well are wall moldings, parts of the blinds, the tiled floor, and a figure or figures from outside the restaurant. A vanilla coke and a malted. Here in Hopperville, everybody’s just left. Stages of an action, they say. A stairwell perhaps.

55


a G u i d eb o o k to Q u es t i o n a b le P r ac t i c es. First things first. They thought it was hot then they thought, no indeed, it’s fair, mostly. And she was aware she wanted a house with character. Something about the place. Tumuli, you might say, or picturesque. Abandoned farm machinery, perhaps. Disagreeing though, he’s saying there’s a power in the obvious (the what is). We spent the morning in some perturbation. The whole thing’s seeming odd again, we notice. And how things seem to move, or seem later to have moved (which he doesn’t like), as in M. Foucault’s pendulum making around its daily round, the concentric and eccentric movements over

56


the living room. What’s it finally about, then? he asked. The drapes? Them? American life? Life in general? We waited searchingly with the pitchfork and hoe. We’re just not sure how to begin. Oh happy infinitude, perhaps? As she was saying the furniture’s friendly, and how we should all be helpful parts of the mimetic (a husband, maybe, or a barn), moving us about (& how to consent to that? [& how to watch its approach?]). They present very well in reading, you know. An ideal home for their gothic years, the brochure ran. Trussed, he added, under the trellis. Over a box of quart jars, she was thinking the whole wealth of accumulated zeros (in Tennessee). Only when rain visits, and a sheet of white obscures the blue-green mountains. Then the crossings became more frequent. And don’t picture a dog in the yard, either. Or the fluency of the weather. And when

57


was this door painted? I don’t remember that. Sure and good night, it was caressed in the tidying up, this plane of oscillation, this whole homesick century.

58


a G u i d eb o o k t o t h e Ya r d t h at R e a d I t s elf t o S leep. Then the locusts came, thirty miles wide. And then the ants. Well, it fills a void, he said, with an ear to the contrivance and a model of organization and efficiency. We usually call her Buffy though, unctuous and all the rest of it. She’s in the midst of dogwood in a room with two windows. Where or if the easel and chair, as she’s making her way carefully. The lawn goes lime to blue between transpiration from clover and the reclining nude. So he’s painting a picture, soil to the enclosure (& the flower bed). I hope so, at any rate, she says. She was a demanding hugger. And he’s

59


working way back there behind the scenery. What she’s cut out for, we think, thinking that a number of people are taking advantage of today’s great weather to spend some time outdoors with their pets. This’s only a sample of what can be done there in the curve of her back. Like the choice of foundations is the ultimate choice. I wish I had the knack for it. And let’s say “we,” the house altogether too quiet. And then the birds let loose above us. A fullness about a fullness, you might say. Today, however, we’ve grown tired of such trophies. Then the flies come. Perhaps this’s the real reason for such journeys. And all these benches fastened with couples. But we never counted on the odalisque. And other self-regarding acts. Like plush flowers and a continental menu. And say a road’s a road passing. A working out of the yard in time. Then the frogs. Won’t we be in clover? Buffy

60


asked, all topiary and gadgeteer, though it’s a product line we’d like to see in stores. Look, they’re at it again. And what reason can he possibly give for his absence? I’ve been thinking about that very thing all the time we’ve been talking here. See you at the hippodrome, they call, dreaming up another afternoon. There was a brief outburst, but nothing fancy. Several mosquitoes then, as they recede apace. And the world we’re looking at. It gives and gives.

61


a G u i d eb o o k t o t h e L a n d s ca p e D es c r i b ed b y R i v er s. All we are of this fine and regular evening is walking to the mailbox, again. It seems an easy thing to do, though it’s a business I swear I could never love. And then it becomes a great burden; it was considered a grievance, calling ourselves occasions (how it is to be walking down the walk at the bluest of dusk). Dusk like a clarinet from behind the shrubbery and three fine trees (the echo from across the road like the flourishes of F#), off and busy, making no place special. And Bob and Carol strolling. But remember not to look too closely, as they tend to evaporate under scrutiny (see above, Chapter II). Call it the lateness

62


of summer, or winter in the middle distance. Your crippled uncle Willy always does, Bob says. Your winsome and strong willed cousin Irene always does, Carol says. We watch the boys play baseball at the mailbox where we stop. Do you see how dexterously they avail themselves of every cover which a tree or bush affords? As well as your crippled uncle Willy, Bob says. And your cousin Irene’s journey to find her spiritual core, Carol says. All around, the believably human: redbuds and cardinals, telephone poles and houses (French Colonial mostly) making sporadic acquaintance. Making the evening hum. And Bob and Carol all hither and thither (to outward appearances, anyway, strolling hither & yon). How solid the walk feels (ambling), with the trace of an afternoon’s rain. And through these redbuds, the similitude, in due course, with the dark of our porch.

63


A show in a box, we say, and a cold front as well. What a day. And me, always the last to find out! I’m sure they’re right around here someplace. Here, JoJo, help me find my glasses . . .

64


a G u i d eb o o k t o G e t t i n ’ O u t ta D o d g e . Another risky venture he and Carol began recently was trying to get it all said. Maybe next time it’ll end differently? they said. Or asked; we were never quite sure. But their fragrances are quite invigorating. We know. We’ve been here since Wednesday with the interested onlookers and town elections. I’m dreaming about the spare room, she said. It implanted in her feelings of heritage and responsibility. It’s true, we have a king-sized mess on our hands. Take that Hemingway cat, he knew what was what with bulls. And he spends a lot of time outdoors, getting through the morning paper. Other than that, we’re going to workshops. We like

65


workshops. Everyone has to go sometime, as they say. We stayed in identical bungalows. And if trouble does erupt, they say to resist the urge to go out and have a look. It was really neat, she said. And we learned to dance in minutes. We’re building a relationship now. We’re predicting it’ll click with white, black, and Latino fans, ages 15 to 35. And four seasons as well. Somewhere where there’s a football team. And I’ve had it up to here with whispers. And certain tête-àtête situations. So this is how you studied music in those days. Take that Fitzgerald dude, he was in the 20s and 30s! See how Bob stops, for example? He says he saw one today. That was before we marshaled our forces. Carol says they all miss the International Style. She’s letting it go, but she’s not giving up, she tells us. And she hasn’t much time for us these days, or our scholarship on the subject. So we were asked

66


to step back behind the ropes, which indicates our level of stress and group building exercises. And the bus tours, which vary in quality and amenities, as well as the cash bar, right? We all summered there, for a bit. There needs to be conversation. There needs to be travel. This’s a huge country.

67


a G u i d eb o o k t o S w e at i n g t h e S m a ll S t u f f. When the day of the big concert arrived, Jenny, for one, was relieved not to be going. She’s never been much for dance accompaniment. And she never much likes surprises, unless they’re subtle. Crossword puzzles, for instance. Behind the filling station she showed me her panties, though. After that, I never could picture her in the uniform. A whistle interrupted our reverie, reminding us of those bygone eras when Lily ran off with Jane. So much for waiting around, Buff said, now going, that’s easy. And this’s a time for the future, Jhané said, stepping out of her towel, even if the hotel’s filled with drunks every evening,

68


and laundry lying across the bed. Bucky showed me the proper way to hold it and now I’m much more comfortable, she said, squeezing into her two-piece. We love them, of course, but we’ve gotten in front of ourselves again, at the wet bar. The concert was grand for all that, and all the matchless punctilio of an iron discipline colored our daily round. Farewell, happy fields, we exclaimed, and headed for the cars. These noodly motifs Rosie brought, along with the sun visors and spaghetti straps, made great souvenirs. But it never lasts, does it? she said, tripping over the ottoman. We suspect there’s no craving for privacy, as they’re hanging their clothes out to dry. And then there was the problem of the dental floss. As well the hose and garters. The girls agreed it was tough luck and something should be done. Maybe change the room assignments or get a dog. These days Rosie’s

69


an aviculturist living up on Kearny Mesa, behind the billboard on Route 3, with the powerful claims of the highway’s vanishing point to keep her company. And Jhané prefers dressing to match her distant vacation plans, but mostly she just finds her separates troubling. And the injury’s too small for any real satisfaction.

70


a G u i d eb o o k t o G a ll a h er . He was a sociable yet private sort of person, and a variety of other subjects. Like such severely rectilinear buildings, for one. And their solitariness fosters a sort of inwardness. At least that’s what he says, interested as he is in such things. The impressions of his evening in New Haven never left him. The sounds of people are comforting, Jenny says. You oughta have yer eyes examined, she says. The rug’s composed of angles and counter-angles that accentuate the crisp verticals of the blue, purple, and beige couch. The mysterious lump in the drapes is their other cat, Henry. It’s a long story. I’ll remind you next time it’s appropriate. Meet me out at the reflecting pool, and

71


bring that da Vinci manuscript. That, and how have you felt about me since Tuesday? His attitudes and gestures have a convincing naturalism. The second cat is Dixie, making noises in the guest room. If there’s a companionship between them it’s implicit or otherwise subtle. We also find interest in such archival subjects as children at play, restaurants, and candles. However, there are differences. At rest, each draws back into a self-contained world. The soft glow through the sheers lends further warmth to this engaging theme. Typical figures were the mail carrier and getting in and out of cars. Within the boundaries of the office are a number of vignettes. The lacy foliage of silhouetted trees, for one. My own impressions don’t go so far. And there are some letters for you on the stand. Correspondence, as you like to call it. Any note in the entire gamut of this mood

72


may be struck. The coffee cup on the one side and the long low bench on the other make up the bottom and one side of a stable pyramidal composition, going by way of disappearance.

73


a G u i d eb o o k t o Cow b o y s & I n d i a n s Simply stated, then, Jedediah and Pegleg were having coffee in the coffee shop when the plan was put on paper. After that, there was circle dancing. Now look at what you’ve done, he said. Calm your black ass down, he said. The horse whinnied and the bear growled. Outside, some of the old junipers are conical shaped, like teepees. Ma’s favorite’s the purple one. Pa likes the typical dwellings for sloping ground which often give the impression of movement. The dog barked and the cat meowed. Behind that, the stadium and circus for country fair and other pageantry. It was considered, in those days, to be a spooky sort of road. Aw shucks, we said. (There’s

74


a collection of them off to your left.) And there’s the doc who’s looking for the parents of the victim, the ones with the parrot. A few of our officers went into Hopperville. They came back to report it was deserted, with a motel for transients seen beyond. And there’s the doc that we met at the hospital. The camel chewed and the parrot said Cracker. All structures will be removed, and, in time, each tree and branch will be mounted, Jed said. When they had finished their coffee, they got their ducks in a row. Detailed styling includes chimney and barnyard cat. With a mind to an Indian chasing foray and later skiing, they started in to using this historic byway around noon, Pegleg lagging. Heavenly aerial beauty, it seemed. There are protruding plans imbedded in the hard packed roadway, they consist of dun boulders of all sizes in random disarray. This

75


one, for instance, is steep, narrow, and rough. Your mother, he said. Calls may be monitored, he said. The birds twittered and chirped. Beyond it, it’s a scattered grove of aspen. Long abandoned, it still has a charm about it, the squirrel nattering and the river flowing among parks embellished with Crazy Horse and Winnebago. The code’s broken. The elephants have left the haberdashery. We’ll wait for you there. Things are going to happen . . .

76


This book was designed by Justin Runge for Blue Hour Press, printed digitally and distributed online. The typeface used in this chapbook is Caslon, designed by William Caslon in 1725.


Guidebook  

A chapbook by John Gallaher.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you