Jack Galmitz

Three Poems from Background Noise

               I have an urge to make a box collage. I don't have the box yet, but I think I can find something for the purpose. I don't have an idea about what to put inside. My father once owned a small tailor shop in Washington Heights. I liked the wooden spools when they were bare of thread. I think I'll begin there.


               It was the first day of autumn and I was excited. Autumn was the start of something new even if it was really the beginning of the end. School started in autumn and I was in school so long it was embedded in me that it was the beginning of new things. This year I wanted to do what I hadn't done in twelve years: buy new things. I wanted a red and black plaid wool coat; a pair of moccasin work boots without insulation and with leather laces; and some flannel shirts. These things were totemic: they would bring me back to my teenage years when I had a future.


               Today is the anniversary of my father's death. I had spent that day with him, as my mother was in the hospital and expected to be released in the evening. It became clear as the day went on that he didn't know who I was. He thought I was a man sent by an agency to look after him, feed him, and monitor his insulin. He couldn't tell time, either. Later that night he got confused trying to find the bathroom, which was just beside his bedroom. He went into my mother's room asking for her help and then collapsed dead. I don't have anything to remember him by. He was a quiet man and never imparted anything that stayed with me. I do have his forehead and nose.


Suddenly, I’m face to face

with the fact that I’m not
who I thought I was:
I can’t paint or draw &
my photographs are raw.
Honestly, I’m raw, too.
I was like that when I liked myself.
And I’m back.
My dungarees are cuffed.
My black low top sneakers are scuffed.
I can’t speak Portuguese.
I’ve never been abroad.
I no longer read books.
And when I walk the street
my stomach is a stroller
and I’m the mother.
Look at those apartment buildings.
None are outstanding- all squat, rectangular;
yet they serve their purposes.
On the pedestrian islands on the boulevard
there are trees. They blossom here
as do those in Belize.
And the light, the light here
is the same that shines
on the white buildings
of the islands of Greece.

Jack Galmitz was broken in the world when he was around twenty-seven. He never found a way to repair himself. His poems and photographs are vestiges left by his efforts.
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