Poems & Lyrics: Julian Gallo


Soul’s On Fire

If I could kiss the morning,
the daylight, and the dawning
in our lives
I’ll meet you in the sky.

And if it seems inspired
and not hung on the wire
in our lives
I’ll be there when you cry.

And I could always love you
if you so desire
and I would fly above you
but your soul’s on fire.

If I could feel the torture
the lessons I have taught you
in the rains of a very frightening day.

And when it rains it’s pouring.
At least it’s never boring
when you see me kiss the enemy.

And I could always love you
if you so desire;
and I could fly above you,
but your soul’s on fire.

Lyrics: Julian Gallo
Music: Third Eye Butterfly
c 1991

Goodnight, Mary Magdalene

My attention, my intention
ready for the fall
Your inspection, your rejection
never wavers at all
I would like to steal your heart and hold it in my hands
For all the very special things were simply your demands

This is our time to sing
and watch it all fade away
Everything is everything I often heard you say
But everything and anything will eventually decay
I would like to steal your heart and roll it very thin
But all I’ve left to say is goodnight, Mary Magdalene

This is our time to sing
and watch it all fade away

Lyrics: Julian Gallo
Music: Third Eye Butterfly
c 1996


All fall down, you disappear from view
I’ve been here before so it’s nothing new
Conjure me through the smoke your nightmares bring
The hand that burns rubs in the suffering.

If you want to touch me now, I will burn
If you want to kiss me now, I will burn
If you want to hold me now, I will burn
If you want to kill me now…

Come on in, there’s a carnival inside
Take my hand as we board this magic ride
One, two, three, what exactly do you see,
when you look at what burns inside of me.

Lyrics: Julian Gallo
Music: Third Eye Butterfly
c 1993

My Idea of Torture

I saw you walking on the water
and you led me to the slaughter
What am I supposed to say?
If I were to reach for your hand, would you walk away?

I saw you turn water into wine
and you took my sight and left me blind
What am I supposed to say?
If I were to reach for your hand, would you walk away?
My idea of torture is your idea of pleasure
I am looking through you and your soul’s too much to weather

I saw you hanging on the cross
Now you are the one who’s lost
What am I supposed to say?
If I were to reach for your hand, could you walk away?

Lyrics: Julian Gallo
Music: Third Eye Butterfly
c 1993


The Mirror Reflects A Fractured Spirit

Some say the revolution begins
when one is staring down the barrel of a gun.
Others say it begins through elections,
isms, and philosophy.
The revolution will begin when
one looks in the mirror
and tries to put together
the pieces of the fractured spirit
that stares back at them.

From the chapbook ‘Standing On Lorimer Street Awaiting Crucifixion’ (Alpha Beat Press, 1996)


A large shadow is cast over
the generations,
marching, keeping order.
Disorder is the disease
of our time;
a disorder of the spirit, of the mind;
a schizophrenic lullaby
a child-like circus
of cynicism and loss of reason.
But you stalk the streets in search of
a meaning that no longer means anything.
Rounded up and tortured,
eyeless in Nazareth
the rape of the sister
by a past ghost
which refuses to fade into history.

And bag lady prophets
hunt for a scrap of dignity
and Bowery bums
hunt for sleep and wine
and Ludlow Street demigods
search for tattooed messiah
and Rivington Street girls
dream of orgasm,
a quick but satisfying escape
from the horrors of Rome.

Buddha in the steppes,
shitting on paper plates,
handed out amongst the multitudes.
Jesus lying homeless on Houston Street,
empty bottle of wine and a stale piece of bread.

Rome is burning
while we sleep.

And the crucifix on the tenement roof
looms over the next unsuspecting victim
of the postmodern nightmare.

From the chapbook ‘Standing On Lorimer Street Awaiting Crucifixion’ (Alpha Beat Press 1996)

An Ashcan Burns At The Feet Of Christ

Through the iron bars
beneath paint stuck windows
along littered dirty streets
amongst the rat infested playgrounds
there is a voice crying out,
a voice being heard but not listened to;
a voice in pain,
an incantation lost in the howling winds
of apathy and indifference;
verbal regurgitations bathed in streetlight
and cloaked in maniacal laughter.
There are eyes looking through those grimy windows,
looking down at the wasteland of human endeavor.

In the back alleys of Jerusalem
a prophet lies naked,
drunk and covered in sick,
pissing against a brick wall
and gazing at the stars
which appear dim over the skies
of New York City
but bright in the hearts of every man,
woman and child who still have hope —
a cheap dime store dream
washed down with a glass of water
scooped out of the East River.
The prophet snores through the
immolation of desires
immolation of lives
immolation of dreams,
where pint sized Al Capones
draw their guns, deal their dope
and crush the dreams of children
who sit on sandstone stoops
and rusted fire escapes
counting the stars they see
as nothing more than blotches on their future.

Whores fuck and pimps are getting paid
whores dance amongst the orgasms
and suck off the lonely man
who wander the asphalt desert in search of meaning.
In the dark alley, an ashcan burns at the feet of Christ
and his shadow shimmers on the wall
amongst the graffiti and scriptures of the urban prophets
too hungry or dope sick to give a shit
about the clouded jewels on his crown of thorns.

And I hear your voice in the night,
a whisper, faint and sweet,
and I feel your presence in my heart
and see your eyes in the dark,
feel your pumping heart
and loving hands
opening the window to my soul.

And despite the scenery outside the window,
you are the shining light which illuminates the world.

From the chapbook ‘Standing On Lorimer Street Awaiting Crucifixion’ (Alpha Beat Press, 1996)


There is absolutely nothing I can say or do that will ever put together
this haphazard puzzle that is scattered across my table.
Something sublime yet never sweet;
just an ordinary heart which sometimes basks in foolish drivel
and clouds which resemble tubes, floating effortlessly
above black holes and sewer pipes clogged with dirty memories
and shit stained melancholy remembrances.
There is no glass cleaner here to make me see things any clearer.
What it is, a silent memory, a distant scream in the labyrinth of time,
a fortune to be mined with a stick and a mound of wet dirt.
Ants have more fun at this than we do, yet our ant farms are truly equal.
Never mind the accolades, just point me to the stars and
set the controls for the center of your heart.
It’s so nice and warm in there.
A sweet oil in which to lose myself and swim towards the banks
of an unbelievable dream.

From the chapbook ‘The Terror of Your Cunt Is The Beauty of Your Face’ (Black Spring Press, 1999)

The Architecture Of Circles

Poems are forms — elastic and often three dimensional.
Equation is hard to solve and the meaning lies hidden behind eyes
that penetrate the skeleton that wants to desperately step out of me.
Rattle your dusty old bones, O great one; the circus is in town
and the elephants are contagious.

Circles, the black one spins, shooting sparks into the evergreens;
there are morsels to be discovered here,
just reach out your hand and have a taste.
It isn’t poison. It will not harm you.

The architecture is precise although the foundations
may often be shaky at best. It will say occasionally.
But understand this movement is not out of ignorance or malice;
it is out of love but sometimes love hurts.

I sit in the shadow of circles that spin out of control at times,
but I ache to hit the target, though sometimes I miss.
I am the zen archer with arthritis, the Buddha with bulimia,
but I try.

From the chapbook ‘The Terror of Your Cunt Is The Beauty of Your Face’ (Black Spring Press, 1999)

Julian Gallo is the author of 'The Penguin and The Bird', 'Last Tondero In Paris', 'Existential Labyrinths' and other novels. He lives and works in New York City. 

Editor’s Note:

My inspiration for asking Julian Gallo to send a few of his older poems and still older lyrics for QMT consideration is an essay I first saw in “Liberations: New Essays on the Humanities in Revolution,” edited by Ihab Hassan (Wesleyan University Press, 1971). In the company of the likes of John Cage, Frank Kermode, and R. Buckminster Fuller, Leslie A. Fiedler, who walked the streets of both academe and city pop cult and spoke of their intersections, takes up the argument of poetry vs lyrics in what is at least notable for having the longest title in Hassan’s collection, “The Children’s Hour: or, The Return of the Vanishing Longfellow: Some Reflections of the Future of Poetry.”

As it has turned out, that future now includes continuing studies of Fielder’s theme, including N+1’s “MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction” (FS&G 2014), and, tangential in theme to that collection of arguments, a discussion of pixel vs paper from Or Books, “The Digital Critic: Literary Culture Online,” edited by Houman Barekat, Robert Barry, and David Winters (2017). Meantime, Russian poet Kirill Medvedev renounces his copyright and begins to post his poetry on Facebook, and joins a rock band, Arcady Kots. “Make it new,” Pound said, stepping over the iamb, anything to get the word out, or the sound out, the shout out. And get the word out Bob Dylan did, and while Fiedler considers in his essay Dylan, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Donovan, Smokey Robinson, Johnny Cash, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), and more, he doesn’t come close to suggesting a Nobel for Dylan, or anyone else, for that matter. That’s not his subject, yet his subject is criticism: “…in the recent past by critics, including me, who assumed a hierarchy of literary works in prose and in verse, which provided at its broad, not-quite-respectable base a vast demi-literature available to everyone, but at its narrow summit offered only a few winnowed works to be appreciated by select handful of readers, who turned out to be, in fact, not merely adults as opposed to children, sophisticated as opposed to naïve, ironical as opposed to sentimental, but also male as opposed to female, white as opposed to black” (170).

Fiedler references an inspirational essay that informed his own in “Liberations,” which includes a garden strollers were prevented from taking flowers into, a “restrictive idiocy precisely analogous to the Modernist critics’ injunction against bringing into the new poem lovely commonplaces, long-honored phrases, language blessed by association with other poems. … That puritanical, authoritarian, police-state ban, that deliberate impoverishment of possibility, Paulhan chose to name, evoking the darkest aspects of the French Revolution, ‘the Terror’: and the metaphor seems to me apt, for that is an especial kind of self-righteousness joined to a particular brand of chutzpah in the interdictions of the cliché – of the sort which only movements convinced they are truly revolutionary can afford. But all revolutions become, alas, institutionalized, confronting the future they never quite imagine as counterrevolutions, even when they do not betray their own past. And it is high time, at any rate, for us to be through with a Terror set up to defend the achievements of a cultural revolution now a century old and ready to fight to the death the next one. God forbid that we should end by setting up a counter-Terror: require the cliché as opposed to the eternal pursuit of originality, demand sentimentality in place of irony, forbid free verse in the name of song.”

Maybe we should demand of poetry nothing at all, nor even ask for anything, where lyrics become a substitute goods when the price elasticity of demand in poetry far exceeds one.

Joe Linker

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