3 Poems

Shamala Gallagher

In a Cathedral of Only Dark

                                                                                                                                  Rothko Chapel, early new year

In every black there is
              violet. I am speaking to you,

              violet. When you come to the
precipice of your life and sit
                                          in the dark.

              Once a woman
drove out where
              the stars sharpened

hard. I’m writing this
                            on the back
              of a receipt. The stars sharpen

like there’s desperate light
              behind. I like ugly dialect
best. And roots

              that rattle in the frozen
soil. Black alive wires
              wanting out of

themselves. I
              quit drinking
so that I would find

              this, the world
a frail hull. How a coin
              of false gold twinkles

              on the floor
                            of an empty
room. I took drink away

knowing it meant I would trudge
a black sand beach
past trash-strewn harbor towns

a long time. Knowing
              I would trudge. But how long

is the dark? A man blackens
a canvas
alone. Tired child, you are lost

a long time. How the old years of joy
              lodge in you like fevered
stars. Worn-wood lodge

in some forest, the present.
              I am saying there is good

              in asking, good in asking again,
good in staring and asking. Though I don’t

know. How the dark is made
              of so many

smudges, how you can call
                                          that prayer.

How dark is made
              of bareness, of

doors, of gold.


To my friends
who all live
in other

I write suicide notes
with a needle dipped
in salt water.

I write them
on the neon wrappers
of lime and rose candies.

Then I toss
them in the air

and let them drift
to the dull

and I go out
for groceries.

I cross some food
off my list

and talk
to the cashier.

I go home.

Now I don’t
want to die.

The floor
where I glistened
with morning sobs

is splendid
with false


Untitled (Bed with Laptop)

Elsewhere,  some later year,  I’ll try to be good.  Today I don’t
care.  I’m mongrel-skinned, bramble-haired, white-seeming,
whatever.   And  I  am  abed  with a headache.   I’ve given  up
drink;   I  will invent  new  excesses  and name  them mine;   I
refuse  to get  the  scum  of myself  off  my  fingers,  jasmine-
scum,  low-jasmine,   too-sugared.   I  am  typing  this  finger-
stuck  from myself.  That boy kept his fingers in me for  years;
these are  mine.  I have smeared them on the keyboard,  lily-
smeared,  you get it.  Poets let  Apple  off easy:  it gives  them
shining  silver and a clean  page.  Capital  shines to let us feel
artful. Now in my bed reclines the laziest vandal.