A Poem By John Gallaher

In a Landscape: XXXVII

I think “getting out of the way” is a great way to be helpful
to most people most of the time, especially
when I meet one of those people who reminds me
of the truth behind “killing someone
with kindness.” And so we’re all, no matter what, trapped
in our own heads, of course, and there’s usually nothing different
about the day you started, it was the day you started,
that’s all. What that has to do with being overly helpful, I’m not sure,
it just kind of came to me. Maybe it’s just that it’s all
some version of the unknown, and getting out of the way
seems an idea that assumes the least about other people.

It’s good, I think, to assume as little as possible at all times. I had that
“ass of you and me” thing drilled into my brain
early on. Now, though, I find that you really can tell a lot about a book
by its cover. Currently I’m wearing a brown belt
with sneakers, and thinking, as I was always taught,
that sneakers aren’t meant for outfits that require belts. Maybe we’re all
right or all wrong or these distinctions are insignificant
over time. But isn’t this just the sort of thing
people from the future will be seriously researching?

The book I’m OK, You’re OK was floating around the house
when I was a kid. It was the 1970s, you know? The author, Thomas Harris,
postulates that the brain records past experiences
like a tape recorder, and keeping to the simple math, comes up with four
“life positions” that each of us may take. The four positions are: 1.
I’m Not OK, You’re OK; 2. I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK; 3.
I’m OK, You’re Not OK; 4. I’m OK, You’re OK.
It’s a dumb idea, most likely, but that’s probably fine too,
because if you take a dumb idea far enough,
it could touch glory. You never know. And sitting here,
as we mostly do, talking about all the people
we know, we’re just census takers. We have these forms to fill out.

John Gallaher is utterly ordinary in all respects, and is learning to be OK with that. His next book, In a Landscape, will be out in fall 2014 from BOA Editions.

You will find more poems here. You may contact the editor at poems@theawl.com.