Five Poems by Robert René Galván


The Submarine Theatre at Aquarena Springs, San Marcos, Texas
was completed in 1950 and destroyed in 2012.

When I was a boy there were mermaids in the river.
I saw them as we submerged behind tempered glass –
Their tails woven from mother-of-pearl,
Hair of golden seaweed,
And scallop shells for modesty,
Darted in a clearing where a leviathan
Gorged over boiling springs,
Or sunned on the rocks,
Adorned with violet hyacinths.
For years they sang to me across oceans,
Just as they lured the Argonauts to their doom,
Or beckoned to the Mariner as he sailed to the edge of the world.
I met them in Klimpt’s gilded dreams,
In Isamu’s animate stone,
Heard their voices in Volkhova’s grim lullaby
And in Rusalka’s paean to the pock-marked moon.
Desirable and treacherous,
To accept their kiss is to drown
In the chasm of their fathomless eyes.
After many years I returned to be with them,
But the sunken theatre blinded by algae,
Removed by great cranes and discarded,
A clear, still pool in its stead.
I searched the banks in vain,
But they had migrated to where the sea meets the sky.

Night Watch
Green trucks exude a toxic fog
As we watch from sealed windows,
The stifling house a barrier against
The night feeders –
A song of solace gathered by glowing tubes
And coiled wire as we drift to sleep.
The middle portal on the second floor
Reveals a streak, a brief scarring of the sky.
At midnight I steal from the house
In search of a glowing stone.
In those days not even a streetlamp,
Only the purity of starlight.
The boy drifts into the listless night,
Past the school and trickle of the creek,
The road to the cemetery lined with thistles,
But no spirits wander from their stones,
Only the Eddas of crickets and the multitude of bats
Feeding on the swarm.
Nothing ever happens here –
Why did it take so long to leave this place?
Each crystal, perfect in its own way,
Unlike the boisterous rain, no chatter,
Only a muted thunder that seems out of place
As the city of light braces with tons of salt
Against a force that seems so benign
But for its quiet persistence.

Uvalde, Texas 1961

The apartment was like a mausoleum
With its bare, concrete floors,
Full of echoes.
The moon cast rays
Through wooden blinds,
Drew a lattice on the ceiling
Of the room where the boy
Lay awake trying to imagine
Nothingness –
The ultimate darkness,
Elusive against night voices:
A train’s horn retreating
In the distance,
The odd car strumming
The highway,
A coyote’s lament
And the monologue
Of the horned owl,
A swarm of moths
Praising the porch lamp
And the tremors
Of a storm approaching
From the next county.
It is impossible to conceive
Of the absence of things,
For even darkness
Is something.


Tía Luz was my mother’s aunt,
but our entire family called her tía;
in the neighborhood,
she was known as La Bruja,
which is what the conquistadores
called indigenous healers
in their misunderstanding
of the art.
In her appearance
she could have passed
for those creatures
of European lore,
but embodied
a tradition that existed
centuries before
they arrived;
Her shelves were laden
with tinctures and vessels
containing herbs:
uña de gato for arthritis
chichibe for coughs
cuerno de vaca for impotency
lengua de perro for rashes
yerba Buena for an upset stomach
She could predict an infant’s sex
by suspending a skeleton key
over the mother’s belly,
depending on which way it swayed,
or avert el mal de ojo by burning the resin
of the copal tree, healed a young boy’s
nightmares after the padre’s
beads and holy water had failed.


My father’s protégé,
Tino, wrote a book
of poems entitled:
Scene from the Movie Giant,
a film he saw as a boy
at the Holiday Theater
in our hometown.
You know, the scene
where Rock Hudson
fights Sarge in his diner
because he won’t serve
a Mexican family.
By then Bick is a grandfather
and his nieto is half Mexican,
but puts up a good fight
as The Yellow Rose of Texas
blares as accompaniment
to the battle.
Eventually, Sarge prevails
and stands over a broken
Hudson and tosses a sign
on his chest which reads:
Ironically, the GM Steakhouse,
a few blocks from the theater,
was owned by a man named
Sarge who was the salt of the earth
and served burgers the size of 45 records
with a mountain of thick fries –
He was one of kindest men I’ve ever known.

Robert René Galván, born in San Antonio, resides in New York City where he works as a professional musician and poet. His last collection of poems is entitled, Meteors, published by Lux Nova Press. His poetry was recently featured in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Azahares Literary Magazine, Gyroscope, Hawaii Review, Newtown Review, Panoply, Stillwater Review, West Texas Literary Review, and the Winter 2018 issue of UU World. He is a Shortlist Winner Nominee in the 2018 Adelaide Literary Award for Best Poem.