021.1: John Gallaher:: Cake for the Groom:: Part I 021

I first became aware of John Gallaher with The Little Book of Guesses, a work that won him the Levis Poetry Prize in 2005. Since that time, I've become something of a stalker of his work and his blog. Gallaher's poetry, filled with inquisitiveness & wonderment, takes on a bittersweet tone in this four parted poem. However, Gallaher manages to sing his blues with the right amount of twang. Clever, earnest, entirely self-aware, this poem hits the reader with the unexpected delivery of a forgotten Top Ten hit, reminding us how quickly kitsch grows into our experiences and becomes profound with them during recollection.

But what are the notes it sings? "Cake for the Groom" strides the shores of lamentations and well-wishing. The speaker laments the slowing down of new experience in the midst of the world's open-ended possibility; but this slowing down also affords an observer's perspective, the ability to fall in love with titles and to offer at least an experienced "good luck" to those he cheers. The sentences roll with rumination and then trot with a staccato rhythm. Such variety indicates an encounter with a world mostly familiar, that season's "rest of the week", with small details remaining enchanted. It is with the crasher's enthusiasm that I get to introduce Gallaher's poem; I think you'll find those little, unexpected details make this event a memorable one.

The first part of "Cake for the Groom" will be released on Monday. Each subsequent part will be published the next day, culminating in the fourth and final part on Thursday. Ryan Winet

Cake for the Groom:: Part I

It’s Everywhere You Want to Be!

On our way toward thinking the unthinkable, we passed by much
of the 20th Century. The flowers were very metallic, as we began
with the discomforts and statuary, knowing we’d a lot of catching up
to do. Penny only wanted a cigarette, for instance. And Blousey
did a lot of sleeping back then. And kissing sailors. Now we’re here
at the big wedding with homeowner Frank Fontaine,
and we’re ready to begin the retaining wall, as well as dado joints
and tough talk, as we’re heading for the ear-popping altitude
with beer lights and cake, looking for opportunities. But candidates
and landmarks obtrude. They noted it with a frugality
to be admired, before the aperitif. In fact,
if it wasn’t for being half outside our lives, we’d’ve had no time for salad
or forced marches here and there. “Find a bakery near you,” they said.
Now look at us. The yards are full of oblong people.

It’s possible to make the entire trip in under three hours, if you step on it, I’ve heard,
when the day really is the wonderful day, simple
in the way the light casts about, the feel of the air. Along the way
is a collection of dogs barking off and on, but it seemed
too dreamy to make oneself go through with it. Things like this
happen all the time, the guests decided, over the rice
pilaf. On the way there, we found a station we could agree on. All talk.
And then some country gospel. And to change, but to change slightly,
back and forth. A flutter really.

Later, through the buffet line, many disappear in a glaze
of equations. It’s all very alarming, but they promise
to write soon. One could wish for more such moments. But that’s just an opinion,
of which we have several. Up past the sweet potatoes,
things begin to get a little hazy, and alien to any sense of purpose
of which we speak and do not speak. It’s a good thing
the world is limited, since our bodies are so
slow. We ended the season that way,
several points down. The girls studying their hands. The Jell-o salad,
too, seems chintzy, along with the recent present.

As their food of celebration, ancient Greek couples split a sesame cake
to ensure fertility. And then our tools
took over. If things can be said to have beginnings,
that is, especially when wishing is prevalent. And the bride and groom
arrive. Sure we shared experiences awhile, but it was mostly
just matching terms and fill-in-the-blanks. What chaplain where, and why,
that sort of thing. It sure was a pleasure though,
to see the young couples really trying to overcome their
diffidence. Our grandparents call
to say they’re finding memories that fit their style
more comfortably. It’s important we remember the line may move
and waver a bit, as we’re wondering how the night arrived
and how the future gets made
from what’s just lying around. I’ve been thinking about it,
though. I’m ready now. And I’m working from slogans,
called Stem Cell, or Running Dry, perhaps. I like slogans. And a good kiss
in the dark. Remember? That was back
when I thought I was sitting in a folding chair surrounded
by white table cloths. Which was back when we could still carry a tune,
over there, and under the birches. Sending Johnny
right over. It sounds ordinary enough now—but have you seen
what Carol’s mixing into the cake batter?