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Mike Galagher, Poetry

Dance of Life

(For Spoken Dance)

This is life
in all its rough and tumble;
he, wheelchair-bound,
she, lithe, supple
as blade of corn,
taut as sprung guitar.

Foreplay; eyes, smiles, a challenge,
a chair spun, a pirouette returned,
a reconciliation, a recognition
of desire’s surge; manoeuvre.
See! We can! We do!

Rolling across a hardwood floor,
rough, primal even,
playful as lambs,
razor sharp – tiger cubs;
she, laced across the upturned chair,
limbs stretched, erect, fertile
temptress, goddess, woman;
he strong, gentle, able man.

And priest and poet applaud,
acknowledge the need,
the dance of life.


Day of the Wren.
I pick a hart’s- tongue fern
On its leaf are hieroglyphs
Dark brown gnarls that bear
A message more ancient
Than script or scripture
Than language or dialect
Than ogham or rune.
Etched before
Stone-age drawings
Before Torah or Toath
Before religion or writing
Before Greece or Rome
Before philosophy
Before theology.
Before Adam.
It tells of
Survival, of renewal
Of harmony, of balance
Of beauty, of tolerance.
Writ by nature,
It asks
When will Man
Learn to read?

McGahern’s Lake

The alder screen is threadbare now,
Its scant leaves hang in rags of gold
Two swans still fish the shallow reeds,
Three cygnets now long flown.
November sun breaks through white cloud
And casts a beam that’s bright and deep
It catches heron’s loping flight,
It lights on perch’s hungry leap.
What was he like, where did he live?
The eager pilgrim asks;
Who inspired the master’s pen?
Why did his ink run black
With guilt in stories of the dark?
The answers snarled in sullen tones
Unveil scorched souls that strayed
Too close to one at ease with truth,
Too lucid, it is said.
Pilgrim explores another view-
Then turns to face the setting sun.

On Listening to Sean Tyrrell

(St. John’s, Jan 04)

He sat, slightly dishevelled
Stuck together, John said
A good dancer, Kath said
See, he taps with both his feet.
Notes were picked;
They hung, dangled, dropped
Filled spaces
Nudged into corners
Cuddled up to form
The sweetest whole.
Notes are picked.
Light, fragile notes
Are coaxed, coddled, cajoled,
Played with. Sped, slowed,
Placed, meshed, immersed in harmony.
Songs are sung
Tonight no lush baritone
Rather a plaintive, brittle wisp
Reaching out, drawing in
Mining my very soul.
Dan O’Hara stands in a Dublin street
Dignity, context restored,
Spurning the easy tear.
Bobby Sands is sung
His words dignified
Quiet words; a poet’s words.
Strings are tickled
Notes linger, hover; cascade
Into a river of sound
Trickle turning to torrent,
Swelling, drowning, overpowering
The private, primal soul
The vibes pierce the drums
Of these stone-deaf, tone-deaf ears,
Beguiling, bemusing,
Leaving in their wake
A warm contentment.

Waiting for my Biopsy

The atrium well’s
steeply pitched skylight
shoots a sharp rectangle
of intense sunshine onto
the bulkhead wall, framed
in straight lines, pure planes,
and strict geometric shapes,
bringing to mind
the art of Piet Mondrian;
vertical and horizontal forms,
objects of meditation,
the pluses and minuses of life,
stripped of emotions,
of the chains of attachment,
of the clutter of memory,
of the confusion of knowledge,
reduced to this stark sense of order,
the bold, simple lines
of our coming and our going
the needle numbs,
drawn to the vanishing point,
the nothingness
of our before, our after.

Spent Chippings

Hepworth-like figures
in a TV studio
amorphous faces
identity hollowed out
vitality swallowed
by voids
spent chippings
disgorged long ago
on an orphanage floor
empty eyes nailed
to a mid-distant chasm
the core pierced
blunt truths reveal
us the sculptor.


Mitching Sunday’s sermon,
defiant and in love,
we headed out for Keem.
We stopped there
on the world’s rim,
mountain quartz above,
the Atlantic far below;
from amethyst’s purple shard
a single bead lured the sun,
shimmered in the gentlest breeze;
all life’s beauty caught
in its kaleidoscope spin,
life’s mystery sought, here, too –
surmised as well –
the bead’s eternal journey
much like our own,
sparkling here for this short while,
then dropping back
into the ocean that always was
and that will forever be.

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.

A Tangle of Threads

Sometimes you howl your way through the slit in the window,
sometimes you are the raindrops sizzling on the tiles above me, mostly
you wait, silent, in the red-black tangle of threads between me and the ceiling;
Whenever someone laments a missing son, brother, father,
you nag me to shout your name, to be remembered.
And I wonder if you visit Cunny Sean or Tipp or Peadar,
all there, scrumpied up, on the night that Tallaght put it up to the stranger;
they cheered as he threw the skelp that flattened you; I got stuck in,
down there, too, in the melee of wellies and hobnail boots and cheap life.
I saw the steel toecap split your forehead, wondered if that really was a bit of brain
… and ran.
Next morning, we sat in the back of Murphy’s wagon,
heading off to repair a burst main in Harlesden. I glanced
at Tallaght Tom’s steel toecap, at the thin red line on its tattered leather.
Thought better.

Mike Gallagher is an Irish poet and editor. His prose, poetry and haiku have been published throughout Europe, America, Australia, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Japan, Canada and Mexico. His writing has been translated into  Japanese, Dutch, Croatian, 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.
In 2018, he was placed in Listowel Writers Week and in 2019 he won the Westival Poetry Slam..
His poetry collection Stick on Stone is published by Revival Press.



Read in Serbian HERE.

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