The HyperTexts

Gail White

Gail White lives in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, in the heart of Cajun country. She lives with Arthur, Daisy, and Pushkin (the former her husband and the latter her cats). She has edited two anthologies and has appeared in numerous magazines, six chapbooks and two sets of postcards. She also received the prestigious Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award for 2012 and 2013, an impressive feat. So far, however, publication of her own solo book has eluded her. If you can help Gail quit her day job, please send the Standard Rich and Famous Contract to her, care of THT's editor (who would like to see and perhaps steal it).

Errata: Gail informed us that she does have solo books out now: The Price of Everything, from Mellen Poetry Press, Easy Marks from David Roberts Books, Sonnets in a Hostile World from White Violet Press, and Asperity Street from Able Muse Press. (She'd still like that SR&FC contract, though!)

"In her remarkable collection, Asperity Street, Gail White takes on the whole sweep of experience. The street becomes the road of a lifetime, beginning with a Southern childhood and ending with a hospice finale. Laconic, ironic and comic, White's drily resourceful, wickedly companionable voice takes aim on patrimony, matrimony, religion, money, and the myth that assumes we choose our lives. With her sublime linguistic choreography, these poems dance to complex metrical tunes. We feel and hear them pulse with equal parts sympathy and vitriol."―Molly Peacock (2014 Able Muse Award judge, author of The Paper Garden)

"Gail White has done it again: here is another collection by one of America's wittiest, most technically adept, funniest and most serious commentators on what it feels like to be human."―Rhina P. Espaillat (from the foreword; author of Her Place in These Designs)

"The first three sections of this four-part collection have wit and bon mots in good measure, socko endings, words I'd never seen in poems before ... but nothing prepared me for part four. Nothing procedural changed. The insights were as sharp as ever, the language exact and clear, the cleverness and dexterity with form as deft, the music as mesmerizing ... but this was a serious poet I'd not encountered before: there was a deepening of vision, an enhancement of feeling, the rueful treatment of life and death took on a cutting edge that slices to the bone."―Lewis Turco (author of The Book of Forms)

Ballade of Vanishing Species

The Yangtze finless porpoise knows
its future isn’t much at all.
The gray whale softly floats and blows
and sings of its impending fall.
The bonobo is meek and small,
but like its fellow chimpanzees
its chances are too close to call.
And where now are the honeybees?

The mountain plover may in vain
beat threatened wings against the air.
The bison on the western plain
is vulnerable now and rare.
Endangered too the polar bear
whose isles of ice no longer freeze,
vacant the Arctic vixen’s lair.
And where now are the honeybees?

Pacific salmon (future lox)
Leap high; the poison dart frog hides
beneath the once-protective rocks
that cannot save the white seals’ hides.
The narwhal bends its horn and glides
with dolphins through the damages seas.
Nothing will turn the dugong’s tides.
And where now are the honeybees?

Our life’s no more than to say “One.”
Our fellows fall by twos and threes
like dew before the morning sun.
And where now are the honeybees?


Somewhere along the primrose path
That led to my seventies,
I lost the blithe agility
Of the young springbok’s knees,

The swift gait of the wildebeest
Running with its herd,
And the keen eye of the crouching cat
Under the nesting bird,

Retaining only the stoic love
Of the elephant for its kin
And the fierce desire of the salmon
For the stream it was nurtured in.

The Prison

Childhood is wretched, even if you're not
abused and have no scars to show in court.
Children are powerless and moneyless
and worst of all, they're short.

You have no transportation. Taller gods
carry you where they will. You have to go
to school, to doctors, other children's parties,
powerless to say no.

No one believes your heart can really break.
No one respects the thoughts you bring from school.
Be cute, believe in Santa Claus, they'll laugh
and hug their little fool.

Escape as best you can. Jump from a cliff,
swim through a river, scale the prison wall,
run through a forest fighting off wild beasts.
At any price, grow tall.

Limits of My Knowledge

Along the beach the footprints wend.
I do not know where things will end.

You found yourself another friend.
I do not know why things must end.

Researchers tell us time can bend.
I do not know when things will end.

The plots of all the movies blend.
I do not know how things will end.

I've seen the way my white cells trend.
I only know that things will end.

Ballade of the Literates

The Inquisition's on the loose
(the dying Francois Villon said),
and poets' lives are little use,
so watch your step to save your head.
Remember, when your comrade's dead,
he left a short but useful creed:
Until you lie upon this bed,
tell no one you can write and read.

Said Jeremiah (that old recluse):
The Jews have reached a watershed.
The King of Babylon's tied the noose
and Judah's hanging by a thread.
The wise will leave their wit unsaid;
a clever slave is never freed,
but pity spares the dunderhead—
Tell no one you can write and read.

When politicians wax abstruse,
you know the budget's in the red!
Be sparing of your sage abuse,
and keep the IRS misled.
Hold all authorities in dread,
and memorize in case of need:
"What books? We watch TV instead."
Tell no one you can write and read.


Princes, the printed word is sped;
fluorescent screens have got the lead.
Now Apple reigns in Milton's stead.
Tell no one you can write and read.

Published in Light

Partying with the Intelligentsia

Poets will eat you out of house and home,
no matter how much booze you've squirreled away,
and afterwards they simply won't go home

till fading darkness warns of coming day
and then they burble "Goo'bye! Time to g'ome!"
Poets will drink you out of house and home.

Architects aren't much better, by the way,
and theater people have IQs of foam.
At 3 AM they simply won't go home.

These artsy types want someone else to pay
for dinner, want to use your car, your comb.
Poets will drink you out of house and home,

leaving your living room in disarray,
swearing they find your house a pleasure dome.
Even at dawn they simply won't go home—

some have passed out, others regroup and bray
a chorus of "Wherever I may roam".
Poets will drink you out of house and home,
and afterwards they simply WON'T go home.

Published in Light and Orbis

On Louisiana Politics

The politician, like the tabby's young,
Attempts to clean his backside with his tongue.

Therese of Lisieux

At fifteen she was beating on the door
of the convent, hounding the Pope to let her in,
though she was underage. He let her win.
Who knew that she would die at twenty-four?
She might have lived till eighty, carrying
that adolescent torch for Jesus Christ,
the only man she thought worth marrying.
She would have been his sister, been his priest,
been anything the stodgy rules allowed.
What they allowed was cold that chilled her lungs
and brought the taste of blood to burn her tongue,
laying the body low but not the proud
spirit that beat on doors until the day
love opened them and took her breath away.

Boomers on a Cruise

"Everything, O monks, is burning." — Buddha

The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece,
where we’ve obtained on credit cards
one tapestry of silky fleece,
two icons, three amphora shards.

Two noble truths: That life is pain
and that our cravings are the cause.
But here we’ve all grown young again
and laughter routs the cosmic laws.

On Delos, once a treasure town,
grey lizards flick the drying dust,
where once ambitious Greeks burned down
in anger, ignorance, and lust.

Our ocean-going steel cocoon
spins out the silk of innocence.
Only the water and the moon
bring whispers of impermanence.

On Santorini, once the home
of vampires, we look out to sea
from underneath a bluer dome,
and call this noon eternity.

The sun melts down in tropic gold
like Strega in a cocktail glass.
The moon and moon-drawn tides are old
and, like the dinosaurs, will pass.

We build up shelves against the tide:
our luxuries, our work-out tapes.
But slowly we burn down inside,
and find there are no fire escapes.

Searching for Muses

When I needed you, you weren’t there,
Anne Bradstreet (maybe just back from prayers
and packing the children off to bed
before you forgot what the pastor said).
What can a post-modern poet do
with a pious domestic wife like you?

When I needed you, you weren’t there,
Emily, having just flown upstairs
to hide from company out of sight
or change your dress to a whiter white.
What can a post-modern poet do
with a sad neurotic cliché like you?

When I needed you, you weren’t there,
Edna, combing your bright red hair
just before going out on a date
with your newest courtier—gay or straight.
What can a post-modern poet do
with a wayward scatterbrained nymph like you?

But Coleridge sits on the edge of the bed—
I admit he’s stoned, and his eyes are red,
but he still looks ready to talk all night
and tune each rhyme till it rings just right.
Dorothy Wordsworth liked him, too.
I need company. Col will do.

No Epitaphs, Please

The editor respectfully requests
no poems about your father's terminal cancer,
your mother's fatal stroke, your best friend's death
by suicide. The editor will not answer
your inquiries about them. Dust to dust,
ashes to ashes. One of every pair
of lovers must die first. It seems unjust,
but try to be objective. When you care
too much, you lose your head. It can't be worse
for children than adults. We've all made bad
investments in a mortal universe.
Sooner or later all of us are had—
involved in anger, bitterness, regret.
We're not philosophers or angels yet.

The HyperTexts