Issue > Poetry
Frank E Gallimore

Frank E Gallimore

Frank Gallimore lives in Seattle as a sign language interpreter and editor of Kiss-Fist Magazine. His poems have appeared in Slate, Measure, Verse Daily, and Smartish Pace.

Broken Hammer

It's split to the hilt
and the rose-brown rooster head,
a question mark on the floor
I lift and tilt into the light,
the steel's patina a useless
sort of grace, its weight a law
my hands learned before anything
could be built or destroyed
in my image. Or it's the tiny ossicle
suspended in my deaf father's ear
before the stirrup and the anvil,
rising out of a time
when no word had been
cradled yet by my tongue.  
I dreamt it out of its tunnel
in the back of the mind
when my father stayed out
past dusk, hammering, hammering
the coop until it coughed
and popped, hammering
the fence into an argument
for his usefulness.  
Only the sign for father,
thumb on the forehead,
fingers splayed as a rooster's comb,
would shake him out of that
soliloquy. Imagine the shaping
by such imperceptible instruments
as a gene, a cell,
the smallest bone in the body.
I used to watch the whole day
lean into my father's right hand
as he rose early to see to it
that the sky's edges
were wedged together
and flattened into cobalt,
the sun dragged up
and pounded into its slot.

Styx Is A River In Nebraska

where brothers arbitrate the fate
of nine frogs in a candy-blue pail.
Whoever taught the cornered
to writhe and strike must also
have invented dancing. The way
they circle, stab, and stoke a bonfire
of gasping mouths, the way
their deaf father harangues
them indoors,
his hands local and meaning
nothing past the three-mile limit,
what once was cannon range.  

Stare long and every hill begins
to prick the eye with bare elms
like hooks to hang the weather on.  
The frogs, the bloodied wreckage of frogs,
stay out in the rain
opening and closing
the blossoms of their mouths
to a rhythm set by the engine
that makes blue-black night
seep relentlessly from the ground.  

Here is where the river vanishes,
recoiling as a reclusive intellect
recoils into gurgles of a drunken tongue.  
And so too no record is kept but this.

Each moccasin hovers
in the exact center of its quiet.
Ice and ash loosen and wash the horizon
into the last of the gorgeous light.
A silhouette fades from the weeds,
no longer clenched with frost. Bruises soften
and swales stop accumulating hurt
in thorny cups. Everything,
if not forgiven, is forgotten,
as streets that are shot to death
come back each dawn
with names like Shangri-La.


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