Mike Gallagher was born on Achill Island, Co. Mayo but now resides in Lyreacrompane, Co. Kerry. His poetry, stories and songs and haiku have been published in Ireland, throughout Europe and in America, Canada, Japan, India, Thailand, Nepal and Australia. His haiku have been translated into Croatian, Japanese and Dutch. He won the Eigse Michael Hartnett viva voce contest in 2010. He was shortlisted for the Hennessy Award in 2011. He is the editor ofthefirstcut, an online literary journal.
Six poems by Mike Gallagher
That iconic picture…
young trooper vaults the barbed wire coil.
casting aside his Kalashnikov;
he had been coaxed for hours
by the crowd in Bernauer Strasse:
Come on over. Come on over.
seize your chance for freedom.
In that all-too-easy leap
he switched from protector
to deserter, to traitor, to hero to pawn;
feted by the one side, hated by the other,
a tool in Cold War’s armoury.
But honest man cannot escape
the judgement of the all-knowing self:
Conrad Schumann: convicted,
found freedom in a noose
on an apple tree.
Four and ninety years apart, stand my bookends,
an uncle, now grown old, a grandson, not yet two.
Between them, stacked, are tales of war, none won,
of nations born and great empires undone;
stories of romance, of broken hearts,
joy of births, painful deaths;
dispersal of our island race,
the blooded drag of clan’s embrace;
weariness of a world worn down,
hope of a world cheerily young.
Distanced by an ocean, a disparity in age,
my bookends could now, and ever after,
our cares and worries soon assuage
were we to share their laughter.
You rested on a low-slung wall by the salmon weir,
your close-curl perm caught blue-rinse rays from arching sun,
strayed far from the path to Shrámore strand, our errant quest;
we could never keep the easy road, you or I, always
rummaging through byways, searching,
not for the new, but for what had been lost;
old sheepdog toddles past the lens, focus fades;
at pilgrim’s feet, cold waters lap bleak Shrámore strand
on this, another, Mother’s Day.
All through December
I tried to save him
From fluorescent bulbs,
From a snapping dog.
Finally, I gave him sanctuary
In my workshop,
Snug in a warm nook.
On Christmas morning, I found him
On my Stanley blade, dead
In all his tortoiseshell glory.
He had come back to say: Thanks
For all your wasted effort;
Since my right to die, you me deny
I decide to die by DIY.
I bequeath to you, the wings
You covet. Happy Christmas.
Mourned a wagtail today,
He only hurt a fly;
But he wont get to Heaven,
So why should you or I?
You saw him at the hurley gate
Laid out in black and white;
You thought of him, that he, like you,
Should try to be contrite.
You say he didn’t have a prayer,
Did not adore our god,
But that was hardly his fault,
No one told the bloody sod!
You say he hadn’t got a soul
But he loved and ate and thought,
Did everything we humans do,
So pray tell me, why not?
i.m.o Charlie Armstrong 81
And buried now this second time
in column five, the snippet tells:
driving to Mass, you happened on
an exercise, passed up the chance
to gift your car to our great cause,
passed up your right to life. Stashed away
these thirty years in Colgagh Bog,
a reputation putrified by inuendo, by
cold cynics’ coy denials.
Your murder taunts my rebel’s soul.