Friday, August 08, 2008

Review of the Ed Galing Propaganda Press Series by Pam Rosenblatt

(Ed Galing)

Diner (Propaganda Press, Alternating Current, P.O. Box 398058, Cambridge, MA 02139)

By Ed Galing

Bargain Basement and other selected poems (Propaganda Press, Alternating Current, P.O. Box 398058, Cambridge, MA 02139)

By Ed Galing

Out On A Limb (Propaganda Press, Alternating Current, P.O. Box 398058, Cambridge, MA 02139)

By Ed Galing

Shadows on the Wall (Propaganda Press, Alternating Current, P.O. Box 398058, Cambridge, MA 02139)

By Ed Galing

Chasing The World never catching up (Propaganda Press, Alternating Current, P.O. Box 398058, Cambridge, MA 02139)

By Ed Galing

Five of Ed Galing chapbooks have been reprinted by Propaganda Press in 2008: Diner (Peerless Press, 1999), Bargain Basement (Peerless Press, 2001), Out On A Limb (Peerless Press, 2002), and Shadows on the Wall (Peerless Press, 2006) and Chasing The World never catching up (Propaganda Press, 2008).

In each of these chapbooks, Ed Galing reveals poetry that is down-to-earth, concrete, and filled with wit. The typical reader probably thinks he can create poems just as wonderful as Galing writes. But, most likely, the reader turned poet is wrong. Galing’s poetry isn’t easy to recreate. Galing makes everything he writes look easy. Even the designs of his five chapbooks are plain and simple: 8 ½” x 11” standard white paper with a muted colored covers folded in half and held together with two regular sized staples along with no tables of contents pages or page numbers. Even the chapbooks’ titles are down to earth. Each title is developed from a poem within each of the chapbook, except for Chasing The World never catching up, a collection of poems first published by Spare Change. The titles’ simplicity make the reader wonder why Galing has chosen these particular titles, these particular poems. While Chasing The World never catching up, is a more complicated title to go with a more difficult read, Shadows on the Wall really has some controversial, difficult poems. Yet, Galing is an ordinary, no-show-off type of person. What you read is what you get. Or is it?

In life, Ed Galing is not your everyday type of guy writer, though he writes about life’s everyday happenings and progressions. He is a renowned 91 year old poet who was Poet Laureate of Hatboro, Pennsylvania in 1978; was nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice; has written over 23 books; published his works in over 400 magazines including RATTLE, POESY, MAIN STREET, QUERCUS, and IBBETSON STREET. He loves to play the harmonica and enjoys dining out, especially at diners. He was married for over sixty years, and has two sons, two grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.

In the chapbooks, Galing discusses things like diners, diner employees and customers who frequent diners, Pennsylvania, poverty, homelessness, home, mental illness, the Jewish holocaust, Jewish lifestyles and customs, old age and it’s implications, the ‘simple’ life, music and musicians and burlesque, dancing, the Twin Towers bombing, and family.

A lot of different themes run throughout Galing’s chapbooks, but the one we will write about today is Galing’s “home”, as in where home is, and how he keeps finding home in the various places he frequents. Many of the poems seem to be autobiographical.

In Diner, Galing writes about “diners, and those who work them”, the “restrooms”, the “counter work”, the “cashier”, “customer blues”, and a “diner”. After reading these poems, the reader gets the sense that diners are a friendly, surrogate family world to the speaker. Galing mentions the word “home” in “diner”, which is the title poem of this chapbook, and the reader understands that the diner is a place where the speaker feels comfortable enough to call “home”, a place where he has laid down roots, in a sense.


it’s only a diner.

i eat there a lot.

people are nice here…


waitresses smile

and make you feel

at home…

it’s only a diner…

yeah… but it’s more than


it’s the place where

i feel like i’m with a family

feel less lonely

feel happier

knowing that other people

eating in their own little


feel the same way too…

it’s only a diner…

but the men and women who

work here spend almost all their


doing a hard day’s work and night’s work

and some of them call it

home, too…

just the way i do…

it’s only a diner…

it’s only a diner…

Through simple description, sentence structure, word usage, and repetition, Galing has conveyed his philosophy that home isn’t necessarily found in a square building structure with four walls, windows, a front door, a doorbell, and green lawn in the suburbs, but it is simply where you feel like you fit in, as Galing writes, “it’s the place where/i feel like i’m with a family/feel less lonely/feel happier/knowing that other people/eating in their own little/booths/feel the same way too…”

Galing’s chapbook, Bargain Basement, deals a lot with “home” and where home is, as can be viewed in the first poem, which is once again the chapbooks title poem, “Bargain Basement”:

bargain basement

one of the best things

about Horn and Hardarts

was the way they

treated me;

like a gentleman,

even when i was down

and out, not

a nickel in my pocket…

i could always get a cup

of hot water,

and help myself

to the ketchup…

made the best tomato soup in town…

and even the napkins

were free.

In “bargain basement”, again, Galing has journeyed outside the traditional view that

a real house is what a person should call home. Here Galing describes a restaurant, which is in a “bargain basement”, to be like “home” to the speaker who is probably homeless and receives “a cup/of hot water”, “ketchup”, “the best tomato soup in town” free of charge. The speaker says, “Horn and Hardarts/…treated me:/like a gentleman,” Such a warm and friendly environment makes the speaker, who may be Galing himself, feel at “home”.

Galing actually writes about a disruption in his family home life in the poem, “farewell to paradise”, also found in Bargain Basement:

farewell to paradise

the day my father

left and didn’t

come back

i was sixteen

i remember

walking into

a room as quiet

as a tomb,

my mother sober

faced standing near

the mantle

told me she had

news for me,

and when she told me,

i listened but

felt like dying,

and inside my heart

drummed a death song

and i watched my

mother dying too,

and i wanted to

take her in my arms

and tell her that

everything would still

be all right,

but i didn’t do it…

instead i walked out the door,

went across the street

to the small park

and it was cold and

i sat down on a bench

and i cried my

fucking eyes out

In a progressively sad and then suddenly angry tone, Galing writes about a very personal experience, an experience that had a traumatic affect on him. He was so distraught that he “…sat down on a bench/and (he) cried (his)//fucking eyes out” His once perfect family structure had broken. In “farewell to paradise”, Galing’s speaker says goodbye to the home life he once knew.

Through lower case the entire poem, including the first person, “i”, Galing has gently eased the reader into his life, though the ending line, “fucking eyes out” reveals

the speaker is not happy. Galing tells the reader things as they are. Simply put. No jargon attached. And it’s a relief for the reader to understand concretely where the poet is coming from.

Galing reveals more about his early home years in “GOOD DAYS AND BAD”:


we had our good days

and our

bad days

just like

anyone else…

people think when

you live in

south philly

you’re bound to

be different

cause maybe you

don’t have a

lot of money

and you live in

a row house

in a small


and sometimes

the garbage

and rubbish

is all mixed up

and scattered


and the cars get

snowed in so

deep in the


sometimes you’re

wishing you were a

million miles away…

but hey,

when you live in

south philly

you’re special

Obviously, Galing’s speaker identifies “south philly” with the place where Galing himself lived, the place where “we had our good days/and our/bad days”. Galing seems to write autobiographically about his poverty as a child living in South Philadelphia, as when the speaker explains, “cause maybe you/don’t have a/lot of money/and you live in/a row house/in a small/street/and sometimes/the garbage/and rubbish/is all mixed up/and scattered/everywhere”.

The speaker has been subjected to South Philly’s poverty, which isn’t such a pleasant memory, but Galing ends the poem on a positive note, writing that “when you live in/south philly/you’re special”. The speaker may have lived in the impoverished city of South Philly, but he knew it was his home, the place where he had roots.

In Galing’s “FAREWELL, SOUTH PHILLY”, the speaker again autobiographically talks about his mother. The whole poem is about “home” and identity, and about how

….These are the real south Philadelphians…

my mother was one of those.

long after I had left the old neighborhood

to get married

she remained behind

living poor in the third floor front apartment

where I had left her

taking care of the outside marble steps,

sweeping the street;

always cheerful and happy,

hardly any money, being on welfare.

she loved her surroundings at fourth and


and always looked out the third floor window

waiting for my return visit…

Galing writes how the speaker’s mother has found “home”, especially revealed

when he describes her “taking care of the outside marble steps,/sweeping the street,/

always cheerful and happy, hardly any money, being on welfare./she loved her surroundings at fourth and Tasker,…” She had found permanence, while Galing’s speaker has left this solid place for somewhere else. The speaker returns to the building site after a long time, long after his mother’s death. The speaker admits, “And I never cried so long, or so hard, in all my life.” The speaker has closure on the place where he was raised, where his mother was “at the window where my mother used to wave to me so many times/when I returned to see her…/I could swear that I saw her face looking down/at me, now, and waving,/and suddenly I smiled and waved back,/and whispered, goodbye, Mom…” Again, Galing has revealed a sense of “home” in Bargain Basement. Although his mother has died, the speaker still has a sense of belonging to a place which holds many memories for him.

Galing writes about “home” quite often in the five chapbooks mentioned in this review. But the strongest sense of “home” and permanence that Galing conveys is in “Because You Asked” in Chasing The World never catching up when writing about his relationship with his wife:

Because You Asked

For my wife, R.I.P.

are we dead?

she asks me

no, i say

we are still


but we are

old, she says,

we have to die

some day, i tell

her gently,

not yet…

but when you’re

old you die

my wife says,

don’t you know that?

we all die, i agree,

but even the very young


the rich die,

the poor die,

the homeless die,

the soldiers die, too;

unless an accident happens

when we will die,

let’s not rush it,

it will come soon enough…

do we live here?

she ask again, as

if she forgot we have

lived in our home for

fifty years,

of course we live here,

i reassure her softly,

you and me… we live here,

where are our children?

she wants to know

they have long gone away,

i reply,

it’s just you and me.

we hug each other

eighty-eight isn’t


neither is alzheimers.

Galing has composed a wonderful poem about his wife and his kind, and gentle caring for one another. The poem flows from line to line, enjambment after enjambment. And, once again, the concept of “home” is discussed, this time Galing uses the words, “our home”, to show that the speaker, Ed Galing, knows what a strength there is in having a real home, family, and wife, as read when he writes, “do we live here?/she asks again, as/if she forgot we have/lived in our home for fifty years/of course we live here, i reassure her softly,/you and me…we live here,…”

Galing has written about the different stages and kinds of “homes” he as speaker

has encountered throughout his life, ranging from diners to bargain basements to south philly to the home his mother and he lived in during his early years to the home he and his wife raised their family in.

Diner, Bargain Basement , Out On A Limb, and Shadows on the Wall , and Chasing The World never catching up all poetically describe Galing’s journey to find “home” whenever and wherever he can.

These short and sweet chapbooks are excellent reads for people who want a down-to-earth, gentle, often humorous, and sometimes eye-opening as well as mind-opening, reading experience.

Hopefully, these chapbooks will make the permanent move to a shelf in your bookcase.

Pam Rosenblatt/ Ibbetson Update


Monday, August 04, 2008

Ries Reviews : Mindock, Sonnenfield, Witte


By: Gloria Mindock

Ibbetson Street Press

25 School Street

Somerville, MA 02143

Price: $13.50 / 62 Pages / 45 Poems

IBSN: 978-4303-1034-1

Review By: Charles P. Ries
Word Count: 270

In her third book of poetry, “Blood Soaked Dresses” Gloria Mindock raises horror to transcendent allegory. With language that has a lyrical soft quality to it, her new book of poetry becomes the perfect vehicle to express moments (sad, horrific, and glorious) that are set in El Salvador during its civil war from 1980 to 1992. When we see the massacre of innocents continuing in Kenya, Somalia, Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan – the list becomes painfully endless. Her book becomes a timeless poetic prayer for peace.

Her book of poetry is about the most painful of subjects. Through Mindock’s love of this culture, its people, words, and many flavors, she creates transcendent metaphor after transcendent metaphor. Here are a few cherry-picked from her poem, “Seeing Is Only a Flawed Secret”: “A long shadow filling my body”, “I have conversation with the abyss”; "My weary mind is just a symbol.” “The sky is gray today. / healing itself back to blue.” Jesus, rearrange your schedule. / Go, show me your lips. Make your kiss / a compass so I know where to go.” “I look out the window and feel / like a fool. / Everyone carries on with no ears. / Such motionless supervision – a crime!” Amazing - and these lines and phrases are taken from just one of her 45 poems.

Mindock’s success with “Blood Soaked Dresses” is all the more remarkable given how very hard it is to write about horror. If a poet can enter into this world, speak to this blackness and create a wisp of hope, then the poet is by demonstration is a great writer indeed.


typewriter art

By: Mark Sonnenfeld

Marymark Press

45-08 Old Millstone Drive

East Windsor, NJ 08520

Price: $4 / 16 Pages

ISBN: 978-0-9798819-9-2

Review By: Charles P. Ries
Word Count: 308

Mark Sonnenfeld is a unique creature in the small press. His world is one that lives at the intersection of poetry, word, and visual art. Many times his use of language has nothing to do with complete thought or meaning, but rather the splattering of words in a random cascade. We might call his work “experimental”, but for the fact that poetry, as one of writings shortest forms, lends itself to constant variation and experimentation. His new book, “typewriter art” is no different. Dedicated to small press pioneer and all around good-guy Joseph Verrilli, he takes words, or rather the ink-on-paper-image of words, and collides them with a phrase. On page 8 we find word the word “Mark” in 68 point type face and below it the phrase, “Magazines from the stack”. On page 5 we find the phrase “I woke to head pressure” in 14 point type laid onto a page that has a series of letters extracted from words in 68 point bold black type face. His work is so conceptual that it is even hard to clearly describe – it must be both seen and read.

So what is one to make of this? Is it poetry or is it visual art? Certainly it is experimental, and in each art form there is a mad scientist who will push the medium’s relevance toward the absurd, toward meaninglessness, through the trap door of context, and perhaps, toward yet new meanings. Will this become the rage? Will thousands of writers try to do what Sonnenfeld has done? I doubt it, but the highest form of flattery isn’t always imitation, sometimes it is our acknowledgement to artists like Sonnenfield that we have experienced their creation and encourage their continued exploration. The great literary unknown will be a richer friendlier planet because we have pioneers like Sonnenfeld orbiting the “word”.



By: Francine Witte

Muscle Head Press Chapbooks

Boneworld Publishing

3700 County Road 24

Russell, New York 13684

Price: $7 / 40 Pages / 25 Stories

Review By: Charles P. Ries

Word Count: 366

Francine Witte’s book of flash fiction/prose poems gives us two wonderful things. The first is her nimble and effortless use of story, form, and technique. This collection of 25 short form vignettes shows us how quickly a skilled writer can create place, character, conflict, and move a story to a stratifying conclusion. Witte who is also a poet and a playwright applies these two forms into interesting, fast moving short stories. Her technique is effortless and invisible, but central to making these stories move forward.

The second gift of “The Wind Twirls Everything” is her reflection on love, clueless good hearted men, place, and family. The men who populate her stories “try” to do the right thing, they are not without heart and soul, but still they do manage to stumble. Into this mix are the women who love, long for, or try to stay away from them. This collision of interests and abilities gives the stories in this collection their strong core. She is quick and nimble as she riffs around a variety of topics: a chair, a love, a city, a time, a man, a woman.

There are many great stories in this collection: Jake Is A Forgotten Place, Someone Keeps Calling, My Husband’s Mistress, Joe and Sue Get In The Car, to name a few. The open paragraph of her story, “The Romance Of Sadness” gives us a taste of how well and how quickly Witte invites us into her world, “One day, she fell in love with the sadness. Unlike the man who had given it to her, the sadness would stay with her long into the night and never leave. If the sadness did leave, there would more sadness. And that was good.” And again her opening paragraph of “Someone Keeps Calling”: “A faraway voice. Like a voice underwater. He says hello. Nothing more. He hangs up. Calls back. His breath is angry, inviting, sexual. He’s distant, but intimate. Saying nothing. Saying everything.”

What a treat to see Witte bob and weave structure, pacing, and story with such alacrity. How wonderful to read stories that run no more than 350 words in length contain so much heart, humor, yearning and meaning.


Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over two hundred print and electronic publications. He has received four Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory and five books of poetry — the most recent entitled, The Last Time which was released by The Moon Press & Publishing. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot ( He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore ( and a member of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. But most of all he is a founding member of the Lake Shore Surf Club, the oldest fresh water surfing club on the Great Lakes ( You may find additional samples of his work by going to:

Nancy Milnor: The New Director of The Somerville Public Library

Nancy Milnor: The New Director of The Somerville Public Library

The last thing you expect to encounter is a lilting Southern accent when you walk into the Director’s office at the Central Branch of the Somerville Public Library. But that’s part of the package you get with the new Director Nancy Milnor. Milnor is a native of Tennessee and has run libraries in Galveston, Texas, St. Louis Missouri, to name just a few locales. Milnor’s last job was the relatively “genteel” position of director of the Connecticut Historical Library. She left those tony environs to work in the milieu that is her first love: the public library system.

Milnor said: “I came to Somerville because I wanted a change. I love the rich cultural life in the Boston-area and Somerville is the most active, and participatory community that I ever worked in.” She finds Somervillians, young and old, interested in the library and the community-at-large.

Milnor has several projects she is pushing including: the continuation of free English as a Second Language classes, and the improvement and preservation of the Historical Archive. She said librarian Kevin O’Kelly is the head of this department and will be working on a survey with an outside agency concerning the needs of this valuable depository.

Milnor has an eye on the future, and is aware that libraries are rapidly changing with the high tech world. Many older residents and lower income folks use the library for computer access, often because they can’t afford to have a computer at home. The Young Urban Professionals among us use all the collections that the library has to offer according to the Director. Milnor said: “ We use product technology, databases, but we use books, and books are and will still be read. I don’t see the disappearance of the physical book.”

The library, according to Milnor, still orders reference books, magazines, fiction, nonfiction, —the whole range of literature.

The modern library, Milnor said, has a broader role as an educator and as a community center in which people can search for job opportunities for instance. She said that the Swedish retailer IKEA is going to have an online application station for Somerville residents at the Central Branch soon.

The Central Library is in the midst of renovation, and our interview was often punctuated with the sound of workmen, and the scuttle of painters and carpenters outside Milnor’s open door. Milnor said that the plaster is being repaired, new carpets are being appointed, and she expects all this to be done by the fall.

Milnor said she is an “amateur poet”, and that one of her advanced degrees from the University of Tennessee is in English. She lists her favorite bards as Eliot, and Plath, among others. She said she may even sample the poetic fare of Somerville’s literary group the “Bagel Bards” that meets every Saturday morning at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square.

Milnor is a dyed-in-the-wool archivist, and realizes the importance of preserving Somerville’s newspapers not only on microfilm but also in hard copy. Unlike the writer Nicholson Baker she doesn’t feel that there is a systematic plan to destroy books and newspapers by university or public libraries.

Milnor said she is dedicated to making the library “Even better.” As I left her office she was already on the phone -- undoubtedly making that vision happen.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

This is where you go when you are gone by Tim Gager

This is where you go when you are gone
by Timothy Gager
Cervena Barva Press, $7.00

A review by Mignon Ariel King

One might expect less poetry from a natural-born fiction writer than appears in Tim Gager's "this is where you go when you are gone (2008)." The collection is indeed narrative, and the poet rarely jumps through linguistic hoops to display metaphoric magic. Yet, the emotion is raw and unapologetic, much like the Blues. There is no introduction to this distinctively masculine tale-like delivery. Instead, in the first poem "Moving Boxes" simply "sit like office furniture/like martyrs,/[...]full of contained memories"(11). Ouch.

Be prepared for the narrator to just barely contain himself as he observes and records the details of his "once great relationship"(11) as if merely talking to himself. He pretty much is talking to himself--walking, sitting, standing, drinking, drinking, and drinking some more--in a daze in an empty room. There is an overabundant supply of bitter break-up poetry to be had, so much so that this narrator is actually a refreshing change. What rescues the brokenhearted voice from boring the reader is his consistent questioning and lack of focus on himself. His longing is enticing. There is no disembodied "she" plaguing him. There is always only "you."

Oddly, poems in the collection that are not about the dissolution of a marriage have greater literary complexity, are darker, and can be harsh. When the narrator discovers that a baseball bat from his grandfather's barn belonged to "no silver slugger/he never hit a lick"(13) he sounds pretty ticked off about it. He even chastises his younger self for asking a stupid question after his uncle loses a limb in the war. He seems furious with everyone except "you" and booze. Halfway through the collection, a sarcastic and annoyed voice is at full volume. "I've Drunk the Holidays" sums up major avoidance and complete self-awareness rolled into one. The narrator drinks everything he encounters in twelve stanzas: "the sea...the limestone of Mount Rushmore...the sun always rising...the last slice of apple pie...the car payments...."(18-19).

Gager's "reply to someone who said my poems are all sad" is hilarious. The first line is "fluffy white cotton tail bunnies"(29). You'll have to go read the rest. Certainly, "sad" does not do the poet justice. A narrator who makes gritty references to Tom Waits, carries cash and no cell phone, so must "[drive] miles in dust/to find this pay phone/to whisper in your ear/i love you baby" is much deeper than "sad." He is pure melancholy, and in these poems, melancholy is a beautiful thing.

To truly appreciate the collection: turn off the overheads, skip the tea, and read like a man, dammit, for Gager is best in a dimly-lit room accompanied by an ice-cold beer. This poetry might break your heart, but you will survive, and learn, and ultimately want more...

FALLING THROUGH THE EARTH: A Memoir by Danielle Trussoni

A Memoir by Danielle Trussoni
Henry Holt and Company, LLC
New York, NY 10010
Copyright 2006
Pages = 240

“Memoir is, for better and often for worse, the genre of our times…..there is no faster way to smother the core meaning of a life, its elusive threads and connections, than with the heavy blanket of narrated event…..”
Sven Birkits
The Art of Time in Memoir
Then, Again

Birkits is only suggesting that we now have a compulsion to write about the events of our own lives, seemingly like never before, and that a straight linear narrative of these events is rather bland and pointless. I happen to agree, drawn myself to memoir as a way of trying to expiate, redeem and capture something about what I’ve moved through and what’s moved through me. So it was that I encountered this extraordinary memoir by a young Italian-American woman from Wisconsin called, “Falling through the Earth.” Relieved that it wasn’t a story about drug rehab, or serial killing or a shop-a-holic chick, I was eager to dive into a memoir about a father-daughter bond overshadowed, or even pre-determined in this case, by his participation in the Vietnam War. In one sense it is a “coming of age” story, but unusual because it’s the father-daughter, not the mother-daughter alliance/wound reckoned with.

Danielle Trussoni is practically my contemporary, growing up in the 1970’s, after her father has returned from active duty in Vietnam. After an incredibly tough childhood, spent mostly with her Dad in a dive bar in the boonies of the mid-west called Roscoe’s, she manages to graduate from the University of Wisconsin and then to attend the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Through it all, her father’s ghost haunts her – his toughness, his broken heart, his humor and his mad denial of what the war actually did to him and his family. Danielle, who her father Dan calls, “Danielle-my-belle” as they find bar stools next to each other, remains under his spell through a divorce, through many abusive and neglectful emotional episodes, and finally through an adolescent stint living with him in a shack-like house on the shady South Side of her town, La Crosse. She hones her brilliant mind, which remains a bedrock of sanity and observation, toward flashing light on the wreckage through which she grew, like the Japanese root Kudzu, up through rock to sweeten the earth with her wisdom and generosity and story-telling.

Rather than give us the David Copperfield version of life, the, And then, and then that Birkits rather dislikes, she refracts our attention, leaping from turning point to turning point, with a parallel story of herself visiting Vietnam to understand her father’s journey for perspective on “the other side” and the present there. We have the young Danielle’s growing up in a quickly disintegrating childhood nuclear family where once a stalwart and loving father planted three trees on a place called, “Trussoni Court” for his three children, two girls and a boy. The mother is loving, practical and seemingly capable of dealing with all her husband’s bravado and alcohol abuse. One day Danielle finds a notebook in which her mother has marked, like a bar graph, how much she feels she’s loved by her husband and three children. While her son Matt and daughter Kelly score high marks, Danielle is chagrined to find that she and her father share a mediocre 4 on the scale. Gradually, her father’s womanizing and temper drive her mother to simply edge away from the family and seek autonomy by getting a job and a college degree. The house falls into disrepair and disorganization as Dad is incapable of much but working as a laborer and then hiding away at his local bar. Danielle’s mother divorces him and marries another man-- safer, more prosperous and more “normal.”

Danielle is the daughter who serves as her father’s protective shield, his charm. She is also his main confidante about what happened in Vietnam, where he was drafted after an angry ex-girlfriend turned his name into the draft-board. One day Danielle finds a skull that her father has brought home as a talisman or prize for his own dubious valor in carrying out the bloody agenda of the U.S. government. A stocky and hard-headed Italian from a big family of boys, with a handsome face and devil-may-care attitude, Trussoni falls in with a platoon whose main soldier-leader chooses to be what’s known as a tunnel rat. This gig involves braving the Viet Cong constructed underworld of tunnels and rooms where they go ingeniously to escape U.S. bombing raids and Agent Orange. Obviously, there’s not much to cover your back when you’re many feet under the earth. As it happens, Trussoni’s best buddy and partner in this undertaking is a man named Goodman, who ultimately, takes an AK-40 bullet explosion to his head, instead of Trussoni whose turn it was to flash a light and go down himself. He will later pay a visit to Goodman’s family and explain what happened. They are grateful. He begins to see what the brutality of the war meant. It is almost too late, as he has cancer of the esophagus and his daughter has finally told him what he did by his denial to the family.
For this, she is granted no mercy but her own realization is worth her father’s punishing silence.

The book never falls to melodrama and it moves with an unusually humane love-bond which takes Danielle through many changes but keeps her a fair and honest witness to the family’s and her own story.

In one comically black humor scene, Danielle, finds herself alone with her traumatized, lonely father, even though custody after the divorce was given to the mother. Danielle still feels she’s the outsider with Dad. He stocks the pantry with his cold-cuts and beer. She takes to wearing fishnets and an old trench coat, finally finding a lover in another Italian high schooler who likes high-speed sledding and seems super-cool. When caught in the love-making act, her father is with his new girlfriend Debbie, an alcoholic ditz who winds up pouring tequila shots for the four of them, while Danielle offers biting responses to her father’s intrusive questions. He’s been balling every trashy middle-aged woman from Roscoe’s since the divorce and Danielle’s been left alone most of the time to fend for herself. The dialogue goes something like this:

“Dad sized up Tony. He said, ‘You sit down too, Romeo.”

Tony said, “I really have to get going.”

“What?” Dad said, pretending to be offended. Can’t have a drink with your girlfriends’ old man?”

In the end, the two lovers are separated, not by this busting, but because Danielle’s father puts her to work under-age at as dishwasher/ busboy, which eventually leads to her economic independence. It is, in fact, her mother’s Deus ex machine like return to teach Danielle to drive at 16, that finally makes her realize the real value of her mother and the love they share. It actually gives her back a lost piece of her own feminine sanity.

While visiting Vietnam, in her mid-20s, Danielle falls in with a married couple from the same hotel. She is strangely shadowed by an American in dark sunglasses who seems to know who she is, or who her father was, but this is never clearly resolved – a small weakness in the book. Though the tunnels have become museum pieces, Danielle still goes down into one, kissing the earth and insects of her father’s captivity. She tries to dig up some earth and the tour guide stops her. In another turning point, after her hotel room is almost broken into by the mysterious stalker, Danielle walks out of her zone into another part of Saigon where she finds a Buddhist temple and winds up praying for the spirits of the dead. It is the one time that she seems to find a sanctuary for reconciliation and forgiveness in a country still showcasing their victory over America, but also still impoverished and strangely based on a tourist principle of luring Americans back to see the war-sites.

This is an engrossing and masterfully composed account of a young woman’s tough love for a half-mad Dad whose fate has been irrevocably twisted by the Vietnam War and his own stalwart and addictive bent. It manages to jump-cut in time while etching vivid details in dialogue and description of what really happened, how it unravels, and then sort of ravels back together in a new way.

As Shawn Colvin sings on “Steady On:” “China gets broken, and it will never be the same. Boats on the ocean, find a way back again.”

So it is with Danielle Trussoni, who like Marguerite Duras, escapes a collapsed family to become a brilliant writer, using old ghosts to meet her own destiny with light and hope.

Lo Galluccio’s prose-poem memoir “Sarasota VII” will be released on Cervena Barva Press in the fall of 2008. She is also a vocal artist and poet.