A Salute at Sunrise

There are boys I grew up with
that I will never grow old with.
Who took all of their tomorrows away
because they saw no way out of yesterday.
I found my peace with their choice to leave,
through tombstone testimonies
of my own survived suicides,
and eulogies that sang praises
we never said
when they still had ears to hear.

I know the battles they fought
behind the veil of their smiling eyes,
for every man I have ever met
was a soldier fighting a father’s war.
A son taught how not to feel,
whose tongue twists,
unable to speak
the language of his own heart
until it becomes metal
and as mute as our early graves.
A brother who thinks vulnerability a weakness
at the cost of something as valueless as pride.
Flowers only lay atop our resting place
as death follows the fatal burden
of man’s deaf desperation.
Live for those boys claimed by their war
who don’t get to see today.
Bring them your flowers on their battlefields.

How I wish I could have been there in those trenches
with you during your blackest night,
when dawn seemed such an impossible distance.
With tears masked by the morning dew,
I will think of you at sunrise.

– ian galloway

A Lesson in the Leaves

I’ve been thinking a lot about death recently, or perhaps, it is death that has been thinking of me. Did I ever tell you I can see ghosts? It’s true; I see ‘em all the time. On the freeway, under florescent lights, at the dinner table, in the mirror. When you’ve known Death and its many faces, you know that the thing about the dead is–they remind us to live. So, I suppose, what I really should be saying is; recently I have been thinking a lot about life. 

There are many ghosts to be found in the fall. Not just in the painted faces donning Halloween’s grin, but in the way death litters the ground with it’s decayed trinkets heralding summer’s end. Autumn has finally arrived in California, and the last leaves atop my family tree have begun to wither away like the last lick of embers in an arid hearth. All the men who had raised me are either dead or dying, and I steel myself for what will be a long and weary winter chasing the spirits of my fathers.

I am trying to find the beauty in the changing of leaves, but it’s all I can do to seek some semblance of warmth amidst the coldest season of my life. Indeed, I am reminded by the mist of their dwindling breath, to live the life they couldn’t. To do what I must to survive until spring’s sun thaws the ice that made a home in my heart. For now, I dream about life, and I think about death, and I see ghosts in the shivering trees. There will always be a longing to see green leaves back on those barren branches; now I know this is called grief. 

– ian galloway

Dance with the Dead

Sometimes, the things we think we’ve killed and buried are still very much alive. How those terrible things can rise from their poorly dug graves when we don’t properly lay them to rest. How they take and they take until we make it right; for the living are the envy of all the dead. 

They rose from the mud, mangled, ugly, and unloved. They reached out with longing limbs, and I burned every one of them that dared to touch me. Only after staring at my own singed flesh did I see that the only thing I was killing—was me. 

So I went down. Way, way down to that great graveyard within myself, and finally let the dead have their say. They showed me the path I sought was always the path I’d avoided. That way meant going back, and I’d come so far from that awful place. Together, we traced the fractures back to their foundation, and gazed upon all I had refused to see. Staring at the epicenter of every tremor in my life that caused the earth to open up to swallow me, I did not blink.

As I smiled back at that malicious maw, I learned that bravery is not defined by the absence of weakness; but measured in how many paces we move forward when we are weak. Step by fumbled step, I will walk weakly into its jaws. For the only way out is through. 

The dead are all sleeping now, having finally completed their great work. I couldn’t tell you if that rest is forever. But you’ve seen what happens to people who get used to the ghosts.

We are, all of us, haunted. We must, all of us, be brave.

– Ian Gallows

In Defiance of Disorder

I open my eyes
and set my sights to this moment,
and cheap prices on Misoprostol only this moment.
I let go of all I used to hold
and leave it behind me,
for they cannot touch me
unless I choose to stay.
My thoughts matter not,
no matter how beautiful,
or deplorable.
This breath is the only truth.

I am not whole,
nor am I incomplete.
Adversity introduced me to myselves.
I am many things
They are all true.
Neither wholly good,
nor devoid of goodness;
they simply are and deserve to be.
Hands that only used to break
now long to build.
Please, let me show you.

– IG

Son of Saturn

After five years of silence
the man who made me spoke,
“If my sons could stand up to me,
there is nothing in the world they couldn’t face.”

How the barbed flowers of hate again did bloom,
as I heard those words and ate that truth.
I would trade all of this strength for you,
a million times over,
to have a father instead of a monster.

And when I did finally face you,
the great dragon of my life,
I realized after all this time
you were only a snake.
A deceitful beast without wings,
armed only with poison in it’s teeth.
I’d made of you a Titan in my dreams,
that devoured his children
drunk and gluttonous off curses and a prophecy.

I was the son of Saturn.
The Patron Saint of Patricide
with thunder in my heart
and lightning in my eyes.
When I brought the storm you conjured
you cowered and slithered beneath the ground,
and I parted the sky out of pity
lest you drown.

I know well the myth of our legacy,
so I offer unto you a new prophecy;
the curse of Saturn’s Father
is broken by me.

– I G

Venus in Virgo

In my dreams
it comes;
the thing I flee.
It feels me recede,
like a low tide being dragged
by an envious moon.
Love only looks for me when I leave,
and I am all out of goodbyes.
Insomnia always did suit my eyes.
All black and blue beaten by the truth;
that we are helplessly tied
by these invisible threads.
Felt only by the heart
and always fucking with my head.
The strings that coil and entwine
and bind you to these dreams of mine.
Do I dream of you
because you pull
on the other end of that line?
Tethered so tender to the softest parts of me.
How I’ve tried to sever the strings
and stop all of it,
cause I ain’t no ones puppet.
But I have yet to learn
how to kill the things I can’t see.

– ian gallows

The Advent of Aries

I stand before an ocean, a waxing tide of illness and waning resilience. In fevered dreams come profane desires that quicken the flame I keep low, lest it overtake me. These nights, I burn alive. The fire must go out. So I have come to drown those dreams beneath the waves, holding them down in a place where they cannot scream. But they resurface, baptized in the wake, with blue faces and forgiving eyes. Mercifully, they lay siege upon my shore, and all my walls are now made of sand. I hear them now; they tell me I was born to burn. The fire will not go out. All defenses laid bare by a patient sea, I gaze into the eyes of what I once thought of as an enemy. As Aries heaves his heavy axe over all the stars, I ready myself for his bloodied blade. Unmake me.

Ian Gallows

The Quiet

Sometimes I tell myself that there is a day, not too long from now, where things will be quiet. Where the weariness of constant conflict has been replaced by a hard won tranquility. When the mud from these trenches will be left on my boots, and I will tramp barefooted in the long grass of green valleys under the bluest skies. A day when these deafening moments of unceasing fire linger on only as a ringing in my ear to be drowned out by the crashing of gentle waves and the soft breath of a sleeping lover. 

On that day, in the quiet, I will be forced to confront who I am when the fighting stops. Adversity introduced myself to me–but who am I, in times of peace? What is a warrior without his war? Why is the mightiest foe the stranger that greets me in that space of silence? 

Sometimes this part of me, the sharpest part, howls through the noise and pierces through the silk of this delicate dream I dare to sow. Because it knows well; this thing we fight–we fight forever. For there is soldiers’ blood in me, no matter how much I bleed. Though that voice cuts deep, it is the same voice that talked me down from every ledge and told me to remove the gun from my temple. The same voice that saw me through every long night when demons whispered louder than the angels screamed. The voice that tells me that the quiet comes in small victories found in daily and often quite invisible miracles; where the beautiful fragility of life shines boldly in contrast to it’s horrible cruelty. It passes, elusive and fleet footed, seen only by weathered eyes that have gazed at death and did not blink. 

Sometimes I tell that voice that there is a day, not too far from here, when I know that the war will be over, and serenity will find us in the solace of solitude and I am no longer a stranger to peace. Where under a familiar roof, my aching feet will have finally laid roots and I can lay my weapons down; for I will have slain every dragon and taken back what treasures they stole from me. When the name I’ve inherited is no longer a curse, but a gifted and holy promise. A day, a most glorious day, when avarice has had it’s fill, when the wounds have finally been sewn shut, and I no longer need to listen to the voice of a solider.

Sometimes, in the quiet, I even allow myself to believe in these things. Because today, in the trenches, in the mud and the blood, under a blackened sky of gunfire, belief is all I have.

– Ian Gallows

No Safe Word

I had never held love
but it held me;
hostage with a shotgun pointed at my knees.
Staring back and forth between its eyes
and the iron sights
I gave in to its many demands,
it was all I wanted–just to be wanted.
Thinking if I ever stopped giving
that it would leave
and I didn’t want to be alone again. 
So I gave it all I had.
It left anyway,
leaving a trail of gunpowder perfume.
Looking down at the hole it blew straight through,
I have the audacity to ask myself
if perhaps they were in the right. 

It came to my door a beautiful beggar. 
It knocked with anxious hands of alabaster,
tiny things that seemed incapable of pulling a trigger
because of the way it nervously played
with its hair between their fingers. 
I let it in and it took everything, 
and I parted with those precious parts gladly;
hoping the very skin off my back 
that they had peeled off
with those perfect little hands 
would help see them through the winter. 
When you’ve known the cold your whole life,
real cold, 
all you want is to make others warm;
even if the only way for them to survive their own storms 
is to set you on fire.
They will baptize you in oil and anoint you in pitch. 
They will take the torch you carried for them 
and place it atop your pyre.
Your freezing bones will finally feel the warmth 
as they burn you like a witch.
All the parts in you that were broken
and in dire need of repair
will think this is what it means to love,
and you will have every right to fear it,
such as you perceive it.
Now the windows are closed
and the doors are all locked
and we bark like mad dogs at anyone that knocks.

But what if I did all of that to me?
What if I always knew
what those hands were capable of 
when they knocked on my door so long ago?
Maybe I was so utterly about the business 
of destroying myself completely
that I took down the gates of my city,
begging to be sacked and  plundered.
Cause honey, I am a masochist,
and there ain’t no fucking safe word.
I opened the door
so I could find a reason to keep it closed. 
To preserve what remained of me,
in a fortress of my own making
that would become a mausoleum;
because the only things in life that do not grow
are dead things.

I did this to me.
So that I could show the world the wound
that the wind still whistles through
as inarguable proof,
This is what love does to you.

So we close our windows and lock our doors.
And bones break against our stone;
but it’s not us that hurts anymore.
We are wounded creatures wounding creatures.
Fulfilling our own prophecies,
and building safe and quite predictable futures.
They may have pulled the trigger
but I placed the gun in their hands,
walked up to the firing line
and showed them where to aim. 
Cause back then, there was nothing 
I was more in love with than my own pain.

– ian gallows ©

Somewhere South of Zero

I don’t have the words.

In my weakest moments
I sought the power of symbols,
learning how to weave a series of lines
to name the monsters of my life.
Dragging them out from the shadows where they hid,
reducing them from nightmares to mere scratches on parchment.
Or orchestrating a divine procession from a pen
that would paint a better picture of life in my mind;
like a spell spun from a sorcerer’s tongue.

As I struggle now to articulate and name these things,
these most monstrous things,
I am reminded of that helplessness
as I stand static in their shadows;
crippled and bereft of all magic.

I don’t have the words.

Because I am somewhere south of zero. 
In a cold place of long night, 
that consumes all of me 
just to make it to that far off sunrise.

To that first break of quite luminous warmth
shot straight through this night’s dark chest, 
that dares me to hold fast the hope
that soon, very soon, 
I will have the words. 
I will again have these devils named 
and make grand parades of their funerals.
I will capture the very essence of that resplendent dawn
that crowned my head in golden victory,
and there I shall leave it.
Etched in the icy ground with my frostbitten fingers,
a most glorious spell,  
for all the others who find themselves
somewhere south of zero.

– ian gallows