Bird

I slept like a baby in a strange bed
The unspoken mystery of love and everything
While far away in my own town
My house and home burned to the ground
I am a bird that sings

It was nobody’s fire, and no one’s fault
Gone to ash, the box that kept my mother’s ashes from scattering
This wire and melted tin
Held a yellow canary in
I am a bird that sings

I slept like a baby in my lover’s bed
The deepening mystery, love is everything
And I am a bird that sings

 

©2010 Annie Gallup

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My War

I was not ready for my war to be over when it ended on the fifth of July
I was still hungering to hear jets come thundering and to see wildfire flare across the satellite sky
I was not riding with the king and the choir, I was singing in the crossfire while the generals surrendered or died
I was not ready for my war to be over when it ended on the fifth of July

I was not ready for my war to be over. I was not backing down a ribbon of dust, yes and
I was not standing down, stepping down, falling down, not hauling down my ploughshares to the river to rust, yes and
I was not raising up that ragged white flag, I was raising up my hand in a fist
For human rights and justice
I was not ready for my war to be over when it ended on the fifth of July

I was not ready for my war to be over, not ready to let my brothers and my lover cry
I was not calling out for blood or for money not for holiness or happiness or consequence, just for more time
I was not writing my last verse and chorus in some hold out in the forest
I was living out the stories I might pass on and on, by and by
I was not ready for my war to be over when it ended on the fifth of July

 

 

©2010 Annie Gallup

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Hitchcock’s Thrillers    

All of the women
In Hitchcock’s thrillers
Died for the camera
In holy terror
With inescapable beauty
Half a century later
Offstage, unrehearsed
With unerring instinct
Suspension of disbelief
They are dying again

I did not turn
Away from the screen
I was a child of the 60s
I never fit in
But my eyes were wide open
And I wanted to learn
Everything
The sidelong… the slow fade… the gasp…
And how beauty
Changes what everything means

All of the women
Cast with their killer
Lay their beauty down
For the man with
That distinctively unlovely silhouette
Half a century later   
Beautiful still, as
The funeral march for a marionette
Plays
A slow fade…

 

 

©2010 Annie Gallup

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Sixty Eight

What I remember about that year
Is a snowstorm and a fever
And a black and white TV with lousy reception
And Uncle Sam, my family’s yellow lab retriever
I remember dreaming and waking, wrapped in a blanket on the sofa
My brother Ben was clearing sidewalks with the other neighbor boys

My father tweaked the rabbit ears on the TV and that
Familiar, speechifying drawl surfaced through the white noise

1968 was a snowstorm and a fever

Spring exploded in a riot of color that year
Azaleas on fire, and the tulips flashed a brilliant red light
After school I stayed outside with Uncle Sam and no one called me home
Not even when the sun’s heat cooled, and colors fade to night
Inside the house was bright, loud TV static, dad and Ben leaned in
My mother crying in the dishrag, I said “what...?” and dad waved for quiet
As choirs sang “through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light”
Then in the morning snow was falling, falling back to black and white

1968 was a snowstorm and a fever

Late summer heat soared like a siren above the hum of the fan
And the house lights down, just the sifting blue of the screen
And my ice water glass sweating rounds on the linoleum
As we watched those cops in short sleeve uniforms wade into the crowd swinging clubs
And a kid who folded down, then tried to run, bleeding black
Black running down his face onto his shirt and a handkerchief girl
And the whole world watching, the whole world watching
The whole world watching, the whole world

1968 was a snowstorm and a fever

I remember lighting eighteen candles, singing happy birthday to Ben
With a broadcast crackling from the den, election results pouring forth
We quiet then, maybe we were just listening
But later dad said something and Ben said “I’m thinking I’ll head north”
Then I was in the den with Uncle Sam, playing tug of war
And on the TV Brinkley saying something about honor and peace
After a while Ben came in and sat on down on the floor
He said, you know, if he wanted to, Uncle Sam could bust your leg with his teeth

1968 was a snowstorm and a fever

 

 

©2010 Annie Gallup

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All Night Rain

Longing is like water, always moving, changing form but never really gone
That’s what you said
As I unbuttoned your shirt. I was clumsy, happy
I lay back across my bed
All night rain came down
A curtain around our crime
Then you confessed the whole sad mess
And I lost track of time

All night rain

Longing is like salt dissolved in water turning back to salt
That’s what I said to you
As you woke me in the morning with your longing, attention
Pouring over me like glue
In every corner of the Annie bedroom
The Annie sunshine through the lace
Oh, my sweet lost emptiness
You and I, love, were a sticky mess

All night rain

What are you longing for now?
All this time gone, love, I lie restless in my bed
Are you there beside the one who still wants you,
Still forgives you everything you never said?
Do you ever remember?
Falling all night just to fall
And do you think -- thank God that Annie turned me down
That was a close call

All night rain

 

 

©2010 Annie Gallup

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Late

I’ve spent all of my lateness stuck in traffic, I said to Ted. We were stopped at the corner of Riverside and Affleck. The light was red. Now we’ll be fumbling to find our seats in the dark, stumbling over stranger’s knees, whispering our excuse me, excuse mes, if the light ever turns and we get there at all, I mean, look at the trees, even leaves have turned red, we could be here until spring waiting for the green, just think of all the things we’ll be late for by then, the dental appointments, quarterly taxes, Christmas at Max’s, Valentine’s, oh never mind, it’s just one minute here, two minutes there, then entire days or weeks or years are gone, Like fortunes pissed away a latte here a latte there, until it’s too late to spend it on something that matters, like, oh I don’t know, saving the whales, or walking the Mexican coast before the oceans rise and everything’s lost…
Hey, said Ted, Light’s changed, let’s go

Do you know how late it is, I said? We were driving into Boston, city lights coming into view. You mean late in our lives, or in the history of civilization, said Ted and I said, well, yes those both are true, but what I meant was late for the party. Everyone there will be drinking since eight. We’ll come in late, too straight and completely out of synch. Ted said, why don’t we pull off here then, find a place to have a drink, then no one will grok we weren’t already there, and anyhow we’ll be too crocked to care. I said, there was a time that’s what we’d do, stop, share a drink or a bottle or two, then laugh our way sideways through the red lights of Boston, maybe never make the party, didn’t we never make the party a time or two? I remember waking in the back seat in my ruined J. Christo dress, bells ringing and the sidewalk thronged with people in Sunday best, well, there was a time we could live on piss all and whatever but, you know, now it’s too late, I guess. Ted said, Late in our lives or in the history of mankind? Damn it, yes, I said. And yes…

All of that time, and all of this time, you were and are somewhere, Lou, but by the time we met, it was too late for me and you. Some stories start in the middle, I said. Did I make too much of too little? Later I said, Some stories end in the middle too. You were in the middle of mortgage and mornings with good coffee waiting for you when you wake, too middle of the road for your riotous dreams, but too good to leave, and too true. And I was in the middle of my steady unsteady romance with the thought of walking away from whatever, whomever I’d promised myself to forever and starting new. Look, you said, there’s Mars, and I followed your hand , saw the sky swimming with stars that were planes coming in to LAX to land. And we stood together there by the quay, and I felt the pull of your gravity. I said, which one is Mars? The one that’s not moving, you said, but then nothing was moving, nothing at all, and especially not you or me
I said, what if we had met when we were both free? It would be brilliant, you said, we would torment each other. Infinitely. Later I stood in the terminal’s glare as you pulled away in your late model car, then I ran through the concourse to race down the runway and leap towards Mars

Ted was late to meet me when I touched down by that other ocean. I sat by the curb watching the sky until the light changed and stars disappeared. The Late Edward Lear, I said when he drove up. He said, there was traffic and the Way Cup isn’t open this early, and I couldn’t find my key Ted, I said, Aren’t you happy to see me? We drove toward home in familiar discord, dully on edge, half pleasantly bored, and the sun rose up catching us in its searchlight, and I thought about you, Lou, far away, still in the dark of your gathered night, and I felt the gravitational pull of you, measured the distance between us in miles and hours and years, and I ached to reclaim all of  my lateness right then, and sometimes, I still do.

 

 

©2010 Annie Gallup

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Regrets

The night you closed the White Horse down, far off sound of the train you missed
The night you walked through Chinatown and halfway home, unkissed
The night you swore off gambling, the royal flush you played for free
All your regrets led you here to me

All the seeds you sowed in perfect rows, then moved away
All the stops you slept through then woke at Sheepshead Bay
All the friends of friends who let their hand rest on your knee
All your regrets led you here to me

The one who threw your pocket flask under a moving train
The one who watched her diamond ring slip down your bathtub drain
The one who slept with all the lights up bright, the one who kept your key
All your regrets led you here to me

The only letter you wrote home returned unknown address
The foxhole you dug deep enough to lay yourself to rest
The match you couldn’t light on a night too dark to see
All your regrets led you here to me

 

 

©2010 Annie Gallup

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Unmapped World

His eye is on the sparrow that flies from the fire
His eye is on the pharaoh bird caught on barbed wire
His eye is on the sparrow hawk high over the land
With his eye on the sparrow that flies from my hand

I built a shelter from a helicopter rotor
Hung with parachute cloth drawn tight by the slack
The baby sleeps on a dusty car seat
I pulled from an overturned jeep and dragged all the way back

And I built a cart from the hood of a transport truck
Bolted to a trailer tongue and the helicopter’s wheels
I don’t have to go far to find the ruins of cars
Tanks, trucks, machines I deconstruct
When I find just the right tools and the bolts yield

His eye is on the sparrow that flies from the fire
His eye is on the pharaoh bird caught on barbed wire
His eye is on the sparrow hawk high over the land
With his eye on the sparrow that flies from my hand

Look at all these parts, all the pieces I collected from the wrecks,
Perfectly designed for something, but it wasn’t this rough homestead, pieces to a puzzle, house of cards, game that it ever was

And look at all these guns, everywhere I find guns and guns
I stack them like firewood; I drive the long barreled ones
Into the ground for a picket fence
They have a sort of beauty now that makes no sense, and nothing to shoot

His eye is on the sparrow that flies from the fire
His eye is on the pharaoh bird caught on barbed wire
His eye is on the sparrow hawk high over the land
With his eye on the sparrow that flies from my hand

What was I dreaming? A rooftop garden, red roses in bloom, sounds from the street, a handful of seeds, the sky quick with gathering birds
But morning is breaking, ghostly and high
The baby is waking, but she does not cry

His eye is on the sparrow that flies from the fire
His eye is on the pharaoh bird caught on barbed wire
His eye is on the sparrow hawk high over the land
With his eye on the sparrow that flies from my hand

The baby sits in the circle of a tank track, cradling a pistol, scooping sand into its muzzle with her tiny perfect hands at the perfect unmapped center of her world

 

©2010 Annie Gallup

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India

I’m bringing bandages to India
The box is heavier than I can hold
I will dress walking wounded in clean cloth
Weave a silk cocoon around a lost child
There is nothing could prepare me for this. I bind my own feet with rags
Wrap my own wounds to stop the bleeding, and to ease my back
I’m bringing India more bandages than I can handle
But she needs more hospitals

The way I love you at first light
Unspoken words: we’ve made it through the night
I photograph you asleep on your bed
With a view of the Hollywood Hills, no less
Now if you don’t wake and I don’t sleep, this tenderness might keep
And I might believe myself when I say it’s love brings me here, yes.
The way I love you at first light, until your eyes unclose
And everything I have to give is not enough

 

 

©2010 Annie Gallup

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Hound

When I was a dog, long before the days
Of pedigrees and papers, stud books or standards
No one’s mark on me, just the instinct I was born to, oh, the faith it took
To run a fox to ground
But I had faith. I said: I am therefore I am.
And so I was, incarnate in the wild hills
With unbounded views of the living world that shaped me, oh the long run
When I was a hound

When I was a dog, all leg and heart and lung and senses,
My yen for motion made my world wide, deep and potent,
I had the speed to close distance in a heartbeat, oh the endless earth
My passion its measure.
So, coming back as you see me now, bookish, myopic
And strung out on the subtleties of love and manners,
I long for that other life, all sight lines, blood lines, urge, reward
Pursuit of pleasure.
.

When I was a dog, I knew what I knew, absolutely.
Now, for all my education, and opportunity,
I thwart myself, resist sweet stirrings across my blurring vision all the world’s a riddle
My instinct falls apart
This confuses that, and confounds this, compromises the other.
Why else would I complicate my need to tell you this:
I see you
I want you
I’m coming after you
I will cover the space between us, love
In the beat of my heart.

 

 

©2010 Annie Gallup

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Blacktop Boardwalk

Streets of Venice couldn’t be hotter
All I wanted was a glass of water
Well the waiter brought wine when I did a pantomime
Later brought whisky when I drew a picture
Venice, sun is setting on Venice
City is sinking
And if you had understood me too honey
I would not be up all night drinking, no, babe

On the blacktop boardwalk babe
On the blacktop boardwalk babe
On the blacktop boardwalk babe

There was carnal wine at the carnival church
Blackbird sitting on the redbird perch
Flies in the spider webs, spies on the pews
Where the choir sang Nearer My God to You
Oh yeah, they were ringing up the rafters, yeah
They were calling up the ethers
Higher and higher on a crackling wire
But the gods weren’t answering and you weren’t either, no babe

On the blacktop boardwalk babe
On the blacktop boardwalk babe
On the blacktop boardwalk babe

Red tailed hawk on a high wire tether
I was lost in the crowd but I found a feather
Floating to the ground with a hoof heel mark
Where the horses spooked and the wild dogs barked
Oh yeah, was a fine quill feather
Oh yeah, so I wrote you a letter
Rolled folded in a bottle, then I gave it to the waves
And though you’ll never get her
I felt better, yeah babe

On the blacktop boardwalk babe
On the blacktop boardwalk babe
On the blacktop boardwalk babe

I fell in step with the carnie band
Stunt man reaching for my downhill hand
With a hi hi hither in the words of the song
That I sang like a wild bird all night long
Oh yeah, with a hi hi hither
Oh yeah, with a lie to my side
Yes, I rocked my soul on the bosom of a troll
But it’s you I cried for all night wide, oh yeah

On the blacktop boardwalk babe
On the blacktop boardwalk babe
On the blacktop boardwalk babe

Red sun shaking in the rattle of the train
And the smell of bacon like a prayer for rain
And the bowl of my belly flipped upside down
Rolling round the ripe gutters of this rip tide town, oh yeah
Singing one for the monkey, oh yeah
Singing two for the shoat
Singing three my soul in the sign of the crosswalk 
Stop while the wild blue rolls by babe

On the blacktop boardwalk babe
On the blacktop board walk

Sell my soul at the sign of the crossroads
Sing like hell while the credits roll by babe
On the blacktop boardwalk babe
On the blacktop boardwalk babe
On the blacktop boardwalk babe

 

 

©2010 Annie Gallup

 

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Ground Zero, Written in Chalk

Was it already true on that morning I walked
Through the square and saw those words written in chalk?
Late July morning, high early light, heavy dew
Trash from the night before strewn on the grass
Green plastic bottles, broken glass,
Ruined umbrellas and over there a pair of high heeled shoes
I can still picture those shoes
And I tried to imagine the scene in the park
Under cover of darkness, the flutter of chalk marks
A hush in the shadows, the promise of risk
To be brave in the face of, and escape by your wits
But with sweet morning sun pouring down like honey
The words on the sidewalk seemed darkly funny
And just written in chalk

You and I were still speaking that September
At least on occasion and I remember
We spoke sometime in those first few days; seems I spoke to everyone I knew
You ran, you said, you ran and as dust overtook you, you threw off your shoes and
ran faster.
Streets, you said, were ash and plaster
Trash and paper and shoes
Hundreds of high heeled shoes
I remember your call and the way that we spoke
Quiet and fierce and afraid and focused
And shaken and steady, and most of all, true
We were bound to each other; I told you I loved you
But later I heard that you’d bought a new car
Moved from the city, then time got away
Now I don’t even know how you are

In a magazine photograph taken that morning
Smoke is rising and time is frozen.
The streets are still clean then and they are clean now
And I’m walking north, I’m covering ground
And I can hear my heels on the sidewalk and I know how to love that sound

 

 

©2010 Annie Gallup

 

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