From a Remote Past: Mother Goose Returns

by Lou Gallo


the clink of my mother’s wedding band
on a cold bottle of milk
delivered fresh to the front door
by the local dairy man.


Grandfather stands trembling
in the doorway clad in flappy underwear,
his mind flappier, startled
to see me, a stranger now, smiling
at him as he stares.


Grandmother slides a jar of honey
across the table to where I sit;
she asks me to open that jar of honey─
her fingers can’t manage it.


In Uncle’s yard we clacked
stalks of sugar cane
and with Jack’s knife we whacked
a stalk and sipped its sweet juice clean.


My mother beating on the chest
of Mr. Barker lying slumped
behind the wheel of his Plymouth
in the driveway across the street,
the women screeching, I pale
with horror.  I had never seen death
before.  I was Columbus veering
into unknown seas.  I was tomorrow.


The peg-legged dead man clomped along
our sidewalk in the fog of dawn.
His long lost love they say he sought,
that lady with the frozen heart. 


MaMaw screeching on the porch
Jackieeeeee—she blasted bananas
from our tree.  Jack was deaf.
I heard for him and he heard me. 


We balanced on the cobblestones
of Bayou Road.  The women
charged into the butcher shop
for prime cuts and t-bones
and then to the Choctaw Market
for a living chicken
as all along we teetered on
those cobblestones. 


A rag & bottle man’s wagon
aslant on the concrete,
his junk strewn
all over the street,
the rag man himself dazed
and down, a wheel spoke
splintered across his lap,
when the horse collapsed
of a heat stroke. 


Riding with Dad in a pickup truck
to unload trash at the city dump,
a place aswirl with fire and ash.
Ruthie and I hop and jump
amid the waste as Dad slips cash
to the man in charge of this burial mass
of rusted springs and bones and shattered glass.


We swung on Grandpa’s wooden back yard gate
until it creaked, sagged and split
in half.  And Grandpa had a howling fit.


One-hundred-year- old Miss Yunt,
the witch, cursing me and Jack
for tossing street shells at her screen,
her voice a hoarse cream that
only I could hear since Jack
had ripped apart the straps
criss-crossing his chest and back
that held the clunky hearing aid


Grandma mashes garlic with
her mortar and pestle;
the scent throughout the house does drift.
Before long we all can tell

we shall shortly eat that smell.

LOU GALLO's work has appeared in Fiction Fix, Glimmer Train, Hollins Critic (forthcoming), 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 CHANGES and THE ABOMINATION OF FASCINATION. He is founding editor of the now defunct journals, THE BARATARIA REVIEW and BOOKS: A NEW ORLEANS REVIEW.  He teaches at Radford University in Radford, Virginia. 


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