John Gallaher

Night Life (Architecture 46)

You sit where you are, hoping to be found. / You sit where you are, 

hoping you’re hiding. And what we lose when someone dies 

is a library fire, as the Senegalese saying goes. And we burn also 

as each day before, browsing that library later from the ashes, 

as each unrecorded life is the fantasy Library of Alexandria, 

between 40,000 and 400,000 scrolls. There are scraps left 

you can’t do anything with. Like, when trying to find my birth mother, 

it would’ve been faster to go to her childhood home, 

now a vacant lot, and go door to door. She was about five miles away, 

working the desk at The Portlander Inn. I might’ve stayed there 

while looking. I might’ve caught a show at the onsite nightclub, 

The Ponderosa, which has been doing Portland nightlife “Pondo Style” 

since 1969, featuring local, regional, and national talent. 

I might’ve shown her these two photographs of Patricia Gormans, 

one, 1961, freshman year Centennial high school, and another, 

1962, sophomore year, Salem high school. 

“Could these be the same woman?” I could ask. 

 

We were talking on the phone last night about what it will be like 

to meet. We’re stressed. As Aristarchus of Samothrace, the head librarian, 

around 145 BC, got stressed and resigned, exiling himself to Cyprus. 

Hiding out. Philosophy, Aristotle tells us, begins with wonder, 

as if you’re running on an infinite loop, 

carrying a library, and all permanence is an egg timer. 

I was eating fried clams at Howard Johnsons when my parents told me 

that my birth father was dead, and they told my brother his birth mother 

was presumed dead, possibly frozen in a hotel room. 

“She’s living outside Seattle now,” my birth mother says. 

“You know,” she goes on, “your father died with hardly a mark 

on him. Just a small bruise on his temple. He visited me the day before, 

said he didn’t feel well, and slept on the couch a few hours. 

Do you think maybe some people just know?”

 

John Gallaher's most recent collection is Brand New Spacesuit (BOA 2020). He lives in rural Missouri and co-edits The Laurel Review.

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