We stood around the fire

that night,

strangers to ourselves,

souls far from home,


on this far-flung and forlorn

fold of the vast wasteland of form,

in some kind of interdimensional waystation,

someone’s back yard.


We were all the main characters in separate stories,

long and wild ones, but

somehow, we all ended up in that scene together,

wondering if destiny had a purpose,

all awestruck and quiet

around the fire

that night.


I strummed soft smoky bittersweet notes,

steady, simple, continuous,

a blanket of consolation

that wrapped us each in our separateness

and kinda snuggled us all together.


Notions flared up occasionally,

wispy and wistful

or sparking and popping out of the fire ring.

“How did I get here?”

“I wonder what ever happened to so and so.”

“What could I have done differently?”

“How am I gonna get out of this place?”

“My soul isn’t from here,

but it can’t remember where home is.”

“I wish the child-me could know how loved he was,

but he never really knew and now he’s dead,

and buried somewhere

inside me.

But maybe he can hear me

tell him now;

I see his ghost playing and running around in my dreams some nights.”

“Dreams make perfect sense.

Why is being awake such a mindfuck?”


Now and then

we looked into each other’s eyes for a moment,

maybe a little more,

with sad smiles and

soul’s light glowing through

those sweet heartache eyes

of warm moist clay,

cheek bones and brow worn down

to an earthy grace

of surrender and determination.


Yeah, now and then

we look into each other’s eyes for a moment,

but mostly we all stare into the fire,

half hypnotized.

Is it because behind the flickering

flames of this life,

a constant light and warmth

reminds us of some kind of eternal home,

a place to rest in belonging?


Or do we stare into the fire

so we can put our backs

to  home,

the cold dark space surrounding us,

stretching beyond the beyond,

whispering to us

reminding us that sooner or later

we must  return,

whenever our spirits decide they’re finally done with this samsara.


Did we stay too many times in this world

clinging to some kind of self?

Are we the abandoned orphans

or are we the runaways?

Nobody can remember.

But I know that whether we live infinite lifetimes

or die a final death,

not one of us will make it out of here.


Almost Full


The table was so long

I couldn’t see where it ended.

An incredible banquet

of countless dishes crowded

together and out into the distance.

I picked up a plate and excitedly moved along

sampling this and that.

Many dishes were marvelous and delicious,

many shockingly foul and bitter,

but I found while the flavors faded,

all were worth trying.


I grew anxious.


Some dishes emptied,

but I wanted more.

And it occured to me

that my stomach couldn’t possibly fit

a taste of everything.

It hurt to see all the

tempting treats

I would have to leave



Half way down the table,

with the beginning and end both in sight,

I noticed so many things I wanted to taste

weren’t even

on the table.


Rage and disappointment!

How could this be my banquet?

This is all there is?


I felt a hand on my shoulder.

It was the chef.

I was just about to complain,

but she spoke first,

in a voice of wry and friendly humor:


“It’s funny!

You are here

and you have been given

an exquisite banquet,

and yet you’re upset,

because all you can think about

is what you couldn’t have.



She handed me a glass of water,

almost full,


and walked away.

Original Face


The smooth, fresh snow of youth,

glowing with light still whole,

conceals the rough rock faces

sculpted countless lifetimes.


What spring-born creature could know

the land’s shape before the winter?

The melting reveals,

but not before it alters.

Cracked rock tumbles

and loose earth washes away.


Blue, pink, and yellow surprises

speckle receding white,

as the land awakens slowly,

slipping the blanket off

its bed of green grass,

blood brown soil,

scattered, quiet stone.

The frozen white light shatters

into the many colors.


The mask melts at last,

and the terrain

of a well-worn face



I wanted to meet you

while we still wore some snow.


I wish I could have seen

you through your seasons.


And I wanted you to see

how I became.

I wanted someone

to know.


But it’s just as well.

We will be glad to find each other already unfrozen,

wearing our warm ridges lovingly.

We will share stories of spring and summer,

imagine the blossoming and burning.

Sometimes story is better than sight.


Like neighboring mountains,

have we already seen each other

shaped through the countless cycles?

Who can remember?


But I will know you when I see you.

You will have, as I do,

a snow capped peak,

a special and secret place

standing out above you,




I want to gaze up at your original face,

hidden forever by first snow,

so the light can tease me

with your wink.

Strange Bird



I grabbed at a thought and missed.


as two flew from my arm’s hold.


I was clutching a wild flock to my chest.

Obsessed eyes scanning back and forth,

trying to notice which would try to escape next.

Wings fluttered in my winced face and

beaks pecked at my eyes and

another slipped out and flew off and “I NEED YOU!”


One had an urgent message still tied to its leg,

another was pretty,

and another I wanted to wear on my shoulder,

to repeat and validate everything I said,

and another,

the most crucial of all,

was for dinner.

My precious thoughts!

My precious…


I couldn’t hold them all.

One by one I let them go,

sacrifices made in anxious surrender

and faith.


Watching them fly off,

I was caught by the wide view of heaven.



I remembered

it had been right in front of me all along,

I hadn’t been holding my thoughts.

They had been holding me.



and facing the spacious fullness of life

I raised my empty arms in wonder and gratitude.

A strange bird landed

in my palm.

I didn't grasp.

I held it graciously, like the ground holds our feet.


The strange bird looked me right in the eye

and said, “The important ones will come back

exactly when you need them,

but they will need a place to land.”

Ash to Ash







Do I have it?

Is this how my lungs usually feel?

I don’t even know.



0.2% of people aged 30-39


I hear her coughing in the kitchen,

like someone smacking and scraping

an empty cardboard box.


“Like an iron weight on your chest,

like breathing through a pinched nose.”





Dizzy cold falling fuck oh my god this is it I have it

I remember that it could be


and interesting.

It would be alright to die like that.



OK, I feel alright

I think.


I/we can’t see what’s happening.





With stones and bamboo poles.

they killed thousands,

even children.

She said they knew he was innocent,

but the people stoned him until he was broken

into pieces that mixed with the gravel path,

desperate to prove their own innocence.


One third of Europe


I should quit anyway.




13,000 Americans die

every day from







“I don’t take responsibility at all.”





Man, sometimes I get so fucking scared.

It’s hard to get comfortable with the fact

life is just

ash to ash.


When I dream in my next life


Sometimes in dreams

I have tea with a sweet Russian lady.

We sit in our cottage

at our little table

between the open door and window.

The ever fresh days,

white, blue, and yellow,

rush in and around us

with the children.


She was once my wife,

and this cottage and these children were ours.

We meet here

so we can remember, reminisce,


relive that lifetime, feeling

all it’s moments at once,

folded into this place


in time between all times,

resonating even through the fog

of a new life.


I wake up crying.

There’s never enough time.


I lay wondering who she is now.

Could we recognize each other awake?


When I dream in my next life,

I hope I’ll visit this one I live now.

I hope I can sit with Mom and Dad and John,

and hold Lady and Penny while they bark and lick my face

like I just got home.

I hope I’ll read again with the children I taught in my classroom.


When I dream in my next life,

I hope I’ll visit this one I live now.

It was a good one.

Forgive Yourself


It is time to forgive yourself
for all the things you did

do wrong.

Forgive yourself
for all the times
your innocence was
made to feel like guilt.

Forgive yourself
for carrying the boulder of
shame they put on you.
No wonder you couldn’t fly
for all those years.

Forgive yourself.

Forgive yourself
for showing yourself
only to have people tell you
to hide.

Forgive yourself
for every time you shined
with child-like pride
and got pissed on for it.

Forgive yourself
for the times your brilliance
was rejected.
They had to close their eyes,
because they were too accustomed
to seeing in the dark.

Forgive yourself
for the lies
they told about you.

Forgive yourself
for the self-mutilation,
trying to fit
into their categories and concepts.

Forgive yourself
for the self-hatred,
for getting so lost in their madness
that you couldn’t even see yourself anymore.

Forgive yourself
for compromising your integrity,
hoping to be loved.

Forgive yourself
for helping more than you should have,
for being unable to save a lost cause.

Forgive yourself for trying too hard
for too long.

Forgive yourself
for getting so lost.

Forgive yourself
for all the things
you did not do wrong.
Forgive yourself
for not loving yourself
for so long.

You are not bad.

You are good.



I’m always digging

I don’t know why I can’t stop.


Maybe I always want to know what’s underneath.

Or maybe I’m never satisfied with what I see.

There’s got to be more.


Sometimes I see a glint down there

or imagine what’s below those

unremarkable surfaces

and then I just can’t help it.

I dig. I'm a digger.


You can always uncover a new space.

Sometimes it’s bright under there.

Maybe part of me knows that the only way out is through.

Maybe there’s another sky down there.

So I dig.


Often I want to go wandering out wide

and sometimes I do.

But mostly I dig.


I’m getting somewhere.

Maybe a wiser part of me knows

the greater adventure is to go in, inner, in-est.



I'd really love to see you tonight

but, um, actually

I have this really important digging thing I have to work on...”


Maybe I can’t help digging through the past,

piled up and decomposed.

I extract nutrients,

organic matter reduced to elements

that can become new life,

old materials to combine in new ways.

I find artifacts

that can help me see my way backward

and forward

at the same time.


Maybe some part of me remembers that,

while I’ve tried so hard to build myself a

certain way,

the real me

was already built


but got buried long ago,

and its excavation is now an emergency.


Or maybe I’m really just looking for a simple home,

A place to plant myself.

Maybe my secret is that I’m a seed


So often I ache to rise

to new heights.

Instead I just keep digging down deeper.

But maybe a wiser part of me knows

like a tree does

That you can only reach higher if you stretch deeper.


Maybe I’m digging a well.

Maybe I’ll strike the aquifer beneath all forms,

feeding each variation into being.


And one day,

after a lifetime of digging,

if nothing else

I’ll have a grave

and I'll crumble into it,




There’s dignity and purpose in digging it yourself,

starkly aware

that is what you are doing.


July 7: Ben Gallup at Third Place Books/Raconteur

"Ben Gallup will share from his new book of poetry, 'I Want to Meet Your Light.' More than just a reading, he wants everyone (including himself) to heal through poetry, improvisation, and participation. Far from hocus pocus, Ben helps us find ourselves and each other by getting down to the immediate, humble, and human."

There's a bar at the book store.  Let's hang out afterwards!

Sunday, July 7, 2019 at 7:00pm

Third Place Books

5041 Wilson Ave S

Seattle WA 98118

New Book, “I Want to Meet Your Light”

Now available to wholesalers via Ingram

I’m excited to announce my first poetry collection will available online and in independent book stores on July 1, 2019! I’ll be selling advance copies at special events leading up to the general market release.

What readers are saying:

The poems in this collection are raw and earnest. Often conversational, sometimes beautifully minimal, and always honest. What threads them together is the expression of longing and desire in all of us to connect.”

– J. Yoon, Psychotherapist

Most poetry leaves me unmoved; it doesn’t make me feel anything.  Enter Ben Gallup with the most raw, original poetry I’ve read in years. Reading Ben’s poems will rip off emotional scars and twist a knife in your deepest aching, yet somehow leave you buoyed and filled with life. His simple words evoke beauty and love side-by-side with heartache and yearning. His preoccupations are life-and-death matters: rebirth, identity, meaning, alienation, trauma, nostalgia, growth. Ben makes you feel human. Ben makes you feel.”

-John Michael, Firefighter
Book Specs

ISBN/SKU: 9781733966115

5.5 x 8.5 in or 216 x 140 mm

Perfect Bound on Creme w/Matte Lam

Page Count: 84

Spine Width: 0.20120  in

Weight: 0.261  lbs

No Compensation


An excess of one kind of strength


weakness somewhere else.


Find where you have become too strong,

rigid, brittle,

and you will find your weakness

in its shadow.


Compensation does not correct the imbalance.


It reinforces the imbalance.


It is a temporary solution,

an emergency measure to save you from disaster.

But left uncorrected

it becomes its own disaster.


You are soft in ways you should be stronger.

You are too strong in ways you should be softer.


Let your brick walls breathe and stretch.

Let them become flesh again.


Seize your weakness.

Plunge it right into your frenzy of fears.

Let it stay there and struggle

and tear and resist and persevere

day after day.

Let it become strong like a tree,

bending with every wind

and always returning to impeccable posture.


Life needs structure to flow.

Life needs structure to flow.

I Could Tell He Never Saw Me


I could tell he never saw me
because his sight couldn’t reach me,
because it stopped before it left his eyes,
because it couldn't shine
past the clouds
in his pupils.
It just reflected right back
into to his self-contained world.

I could tell he never saw me
because his sight couldn’t reach me,
because the usual traumas of becoming a man
had blotted out the pure and tender lens
he was born with.

I could tell he never saw me
because his sight couldn’t reach me,
because his light couldn’t escape
the gravity of his own pain
and hunger and despair.

I wanted to help
but there was nothing I could do;
he couldn’t even see me,
because he couldn’t see
beyond himself.