Monday Jul 22

GalvinJames--creditKirkSMurray James Galvin has published seven books of poems (Copper Canyon) and two prose works (Henry Holt). He teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.


She said it was Like Talking to a Post

When talking to a post
That the post hears everything—
Every nuance,
Every innuendo.
You can’t let your mind wander.
Try structuring an argument:
If, but, therefore, or
In the first place, the second place
And so forth.
Talking to a post requires
Absolute attention;
That the post is not a post.
The post is Heraclitus,
Hitler, or a fire hydrant.
If that doesn’t work,
The post was once a pine tree
With greeny needles
That sang in thin wind
High on the snowy slopes
Of the Rocky Mountains.
Talking to a post
Is the hardest thing there is
The post is talking to you
Beyond your understanding.


For most of us belief
Is the opposite
Of knowing.
Little is known
About Michelangelo
Detto Caravaggio.
In any room that has a Caravaggio
(The Vatican’s
Art historian
Told me)
All the other paintings disappear.
We believe
He treated his canvasses
With a powder
Made of dried
To create a photosensitive
Surface to paint on.
We believe he belonged
To a gang of swordsmen
Whose motto was “no hope:
No fear.”
We believe he died of wounds
Sustained in a duel.
Who cares.
Only the paintings matter.
The paintings of Caravaggio
Make all the other paintings disappear.

During the restoration of the Sistine Chapel
I stood on the scaffold
Under God’s finger
Touching life into Adam.
“Go ahead,” said the restorer,
“You can put your finger there.”
I didn’t dare.
When I asked the art historian
Who God was
Hanging off of,
So as to touch Adam
And not fall out of the sky,
He replied,
“God can’t fall out of the sky.
We believe she is the uncreated Eve.”

If I told you my daughter
Was baptized
In the Sistine Chapel,
The first child to be baptized there
In more than three hundred years,
You might not believe me.

I’ve seen the Pauline Chapel,
The Pope’s private chapel,
The memento mori
Of Saint Lawrence’s burnt and grinning head
(We believe as they were roasting him he said,
“You can turn me over now, I’m done on that side.”)
Can you believe it?
I’ve seen Saint Lucy’s eyes.

If I told you I’ve seen
The vault Saint Peter’s bones were hidden in,
A plumb bob drop
From the top
Of Michelangelo’s dome,
Right through the altar,
And way underground,
And the man in the crypt is carbon-dated spot on,
And missing his feet
(Remember he was crucified upside down).
Think about it.

Time doesn’t change,
Nor do times.
Only things inside time change,
Things you will believe, and things you won’t.

Chainsaw Dreams

The extended family
Of restless chainsaws
(The Stihls, the Husqvarnas--
Mostly Swedes)
Has the same collective
Dream every night.
Last week their dream came true.
The extended family
Of restless chainsaws
Dreamed high wind,
And by morning there were broken trees
All over town—
A chainsaw’s life and heaven.
The extended family
Of restless chainsaws
Did not rest.
They shrieked to life at dawn.
They did their worst.
They shrieked demonic
Shrieks of joy for days.
They outshrieked freight trains.
They outshrieked the Interstate.
They outshrieked the memoirists
Who feature themselves
As victims.
Serious shrieking.
Chainsaws—banshees with dreams
That sooner or later
Come true.
They remonstrate us
To lower our standards
While dreaming.
They want us to plant more trees
For them.


photo credit: Kirk S. Murray