Disappearances in the Guarded Sector

By Tess Gallagher b. 1943 Tess Gallagher

                               Belfast, Winter, 1976

When we stop where you lived, the house
has thickened, the entry
level to the wall with bricks, as though
it could keep you out.
Again the dream has fooled you into waking
and we have walked out
past ourselves, through the windows
to be remembered in the light
of closed rooms
as a series of impositions
across the arms of a chair, that woman’s face
startled out of us so it lingers
along a brick front.
You are leading me back to the burned arcade
where you said I stood with you
in your childhood last night, your childhood
which includes me now
as surely as the look of that missing face
between the rows of houses.
We have gone so far into your past
that nothing reflects us.
No sun gleams from the glassless frame
where a room burned,
though the house stayed whole. There
is your school, your church,
the place you drank cider at lunch time.
New rows of houses are going up.
Children play quietly in a stairwell.
Walking back, you tell the story
of the sniper’s bullet
making two clean holes in the taxi, how
the driver ducked and drove on
like nothing happened. No pain
passed through you; it
did not even stop the car
or make you live more
carefully. Near the check point we
stop talking, you let the hands
rub your clothes
against your body. You seem to be
there, all there.
Watching, I am more apart
for the sign of dismissal they will give me,
thinking a woman would not conceal
as I have, the perfect map
of this return where I have met
and lost you willingly
in a dead and living place.
Now when you find me next in the dream,
this boundary will move with us.
We will both come back.

Tess Gallagher, "Disappearances in the Guarded Sector" from Amplitude: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1987 by Tess Gallagher.  Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved. www.graywolfpress.org

Source: Under Stars (Graywolf Press, 1978)

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Poet Tess Gallagher b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Living, Time & Brevity, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Tess  Gallagher


Poet, essayist, and short story writer Tess Gallagher was born in 1943 in Port Angeles, Washington, to a logging family. Her early years were marked by the rhythms of seasonal work, as well as the landscape of both the Northwest and the Ozarks, where her grandparents lived. “I don’t know how many children really get to explore vast amounts of territory like that,” she has said in interviews. “It builds something in you.” . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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