Mike Gallagher is an Irish writer, poet and editor. His prose, poetry, haiku and songs have been published throughout Europe, America, Australia, Nepal, India, Pakistan,Thailand, Mexico, The Philippines, Japan and Canada. His writing has been translated into Irish, Croatian, Japanese, Dutch, German, Italian and Chinese.
He won the Michael Hartnett Viva Voce competition in 2010 and 2016, was shortlisted for the Hennessy Award in 2011 and won the Desmond O’Grady International Poetry Contest in 2012.
His poetry collection Stick on Stone was published by Revival Press in 2013.
So, Jack, tell me;
What day is it?
And, now, the month?
Good man, what year?
The year stumped me.
John Wilson died
tying his lace
in nineteen thirty five,
a market day.
Does he live alone?
James Talbot choked
on a small carrot
in nineteen forty one,
straight after Mass.
Beyond the dusk,
ash boughs brush lit windows.
Cavan beat Kerry
in the Gaelic Grounds
in nineteen forty seven –
lost by four points.
Is he suicidal?
the five in a row
in nineteen eighty two –
last minute goal.
Violent at all?
I am the subject
of other’s interest.
I have lost interest.
I am eighty seven.
I am weary; I am lonely.
I tire of looking
through life’s empty panes,
counting the years.
My pastime now
the years that count.
The hardest winter since forty-seven,
they said, builders moved
indoors to the factory,
pushed trolleys, hauled loads,
chatted up the girls.
Boring though –
till Eddy Lynch
strayed to the roof,
found the sherry,
of Crosse and Blackwell’s
the coldest year,
the warmest year,
since freezing forty-seven.
Stick on Stone
We knew each other only as men
Emigration saw to that:
Him in London, me in Achill
Me in London, him in Luton.
Even living together, we remained
Strangers in a rented room,
Speaking, not talking,
Robbed of our relative roles.
Sure, there were memories –
One golden Dukinella day
When Mick the Yank, called;
We straddled a low stone wall,
Talked of Wimpy and McAlpine,
Roads and bridges,
Digs and pubs;
The boy was man!
A lunchtime booze in Wandsworth;
Three of us now living in London,
Yet chatting only the once.
Inheritance was split, spoils divided,
Unequally, but with good humour,
Paraic was always his favourite – and mine.
Nights in Castlebar hospital
After the emigrant’s dreaded summons:
“Come now, while he still knows you”
Between the awkward silences,
Came words of stuttered support;
And he survived – again and again.
I almost made it, that last time –
Got to Westport before news
Of our final silence.
Now, as I walk in Dromawda,
His gnarled stick, a stolen spoil,
Taps the unsaid
On the tarstone road.
Pas de Deux
Wagtails outside my kitchen door,
feed on a spread of broken crumbs.
The male, jet black, is debonair,
his mate, set back, slate grey, demure.
They bob and weave in ballet gait,
long legs light-stepping to and fro,
but closer gaze reveals a truth –
their dance unveils a darker skew.
Though food is scattered far and wide,
he harries her at each approach,
with his advance, the hen retires;
so slides and glides their pas de deux.
Why is he cruel? Why does she stay?
Why do not opposites repel?
Should we envy birds their freedom?
Are they not slaves to love as well?
Just another dosser on a London street,
another down and out too damn idle
to make ends meet; how we showed
our contempt for our fellow countrymen,
tossing the odd penny, a tanner on the spin.
We drilled our nostrils skywards
to avoid the rancid stench
of scrumpy or Red Biddy, the acrid pong
of piss oozing from park benches
where tramps, in wasted wisdom,
disputed loud another world’s mess.
O’Rourke, now he was different,
returned our scorn with a sullen stare
that mocked it for its faint timidity. A man
beyond pain, his future haunted
in a distant past; he treads, retreads Saint
George’s Road, in the stark unwanted now.
There came a story of war, whispered low,
of Coventry; a man running beneath
a bright November moon, running
through the rubble, through cratered streets,
through whish and whoosh and crump
of falling bombs, under a yellow sky
tinged with red and orange leaps of flame,
through stale, singed dust, through thickened
choke of billowed smoke, through Kingsway
to Clara Street, to flattened pile
of earth and stone and brick and tile,
wedding photo still on the wall and, underneath,
severed arm of youngest son, the others
mangled far below.
he treads, retreads Saint Georges Road,
like all of us, in life’s rude game of chance,
a creature, sometimes of choice,
more often, of circumstance.