In a Landscape: I

By John Gallaher John Gallaher
“Are you happy?” That’s a good place to start, or maybe,
“Do you think you’re happy?” with its more negative
tone. Sometimes you’re walking, sometimes falling. That’s part
of the problem too, but not all of the problem. Flowers out the window
or on the windowsill, and so someone brought flowers.
We spend a long time interested in which way the car would
best go in the driveway. Is that the beginning of an answer?
Some way to say who we are?

Well, it brings us up to now, at any rate, as the limitations
of structure, which is the way we need for it to be. Invent some muses
and invoke them, or save them for the yard, some animus
to get us going. And what was it Michael said yesterday? That
the committee to do all these good things has an agenda to do all these
other things as well, that we decide are less good in our estimation,
so then we have this difficulty. It just gets to you sometimes. We have
a table of red apples and a table of green apples, and someone asks you
about apples, but that’s too general, you think, as you’ve made
several distinctions to get to this place of two tables, two colors.
How can that be an answer to anything? Or we can play the forgetting game,
how, for twenty years, my mother would answer for her forgetfulness
by saying it was Old-Timer’s Disease, until she forgot that too.

On the television, a truck passes left to right, in stereo. Outside,
a garbage truck passes right to left. They intersect. And so the world continues
around two corners. The table gets turned over, with several people
standing around seemingly not sure of what comes next. Look at them
politely as you can, they’re beginners too. And they say the right question
is far more difficult to get to than the right answer. It sounds good,
anyway, in the way other people’s lives are a form of distance, something
you can look at, like landscape, until your own starts to look that way
as well. Looking back at the alternatives, we never had children
or we had more children. And what were their names? As the living room parts
into halls and ridges, where we spend the afternoon imagining a plant,
a filing cabinet or two  ...   because some of these questions
you have with others, and some you have only with yourself.

Source: Poetry (June 2014).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2014
 John  Gallaher


John Gallaher is the author of, most recently, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts with G.C. Waldrep (2011) and In a Landscape (2014), both from BOA Editions.

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, Time & Brevity

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.