Architecture 19: You Are in the Ghosts by John Gallaher

The online quiz to find out where I should have lived, based on my test
scores says, “YOU GOT: Tennessee.” That’s where I belong, like sin
in the work of Genesis, the sin itself a kind of machine. In this way,
each of us is a whole civilization as yesterday, with the scent
and the yellowed flowers of our first parents, eventually wrecking in a deadly insult.
Step four on the Impact of Adoption list
is “A Sense of Grief or Loss Related to Their Birth Family.”
“That’s why you belong in Tennessee,” the quiz continues, “you are polite to the ghosts.”
And it might as well be right, as I used to love playing the flip-augury game,
where you open a book at random, closed eyes, put your finger down on a page,
and the phrase you land on is your fortune. I used to do it with the Bible,
and then John Ashbery’s Selected Poems, and I just did it with Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle:Book Six, for a bit of nostalgia,
and I landed on page 372: “firstly in the fact that he was searching for meaning, in all seriousness and with eyes open.”
Well, that was fun! But I can’t help wanting all that happens to carry the meaning
of all things happening, that if this moment isn’t the meaning then no moment is,
how I’ll be 2/3 of the way through a thought and remember the children at school,
or when I was young, the casting call for My Fair Lady going out,
the office director nomination forms last month. “You’re a good person,”
the quiz concludes, impeccably gracious. But one grows tired of making things up,
guessing, having to put ‘unknown’ on medical forms, so the adopted and misplaced go out in search, or at least a good excuse for the search,
with metaphors of dreaming, a failed transcription of scribbled notes
upon waking. The next quiz
pairs me with Leopardi, saying “All that is fixed and certain is much farther
from contenting us than that which, by its very uncertainty, can never content us.”
The world bespoke. The bush fully itself as it burns,
filling the countryside with fragrant drapery.
John Gallaher’s newest collection of poetry is Brand New Spacesuit (BOA 2020). He co-edits The Laurel Review and lives in rural Missouri.