Fred Johnston – Calum Sgaire

fred_johnston_1Fred Johnston  is an Irish poet, novelist, literary critic and musician. He is the founder and current director of the Western Writers’ Centre in Galway. He co-founded the Irish Writers’ Co-operative in 1974, and founded Galway’s annual Cúirt International Festival of Literature in 1986. His Recent work has appeared in The Spectator, The New Statesman, STAND, and on RTE’s ‘Arena.’ His most recent collection is ‘Alligator Days’ (Revival Press) and he is working on a translation of Béroul’s prose edition of ‘Tristan et Iseut.’


: Dublin, 1976:
– ‘S fhada ò mo luaidh anochd mi –

How that summer witched us
through the denim-blue air of Grafton Street
musical pubs, the light going-nowhere
of day into night
your breath on my breath, a white sheet
tumbled on a high Georgian floor
stone steps, black railings, a Georgian door –

in Enniskerry of the hushing hill
a café window, Powerscourt gardens falling
away in a giggle of water
the urgency of time-tables, a ‘bus
to take us back, time was not time enough
yet soon enough the city steepling
and rough-roofed and the browny river –

for what damage were we prepared
silly as infants and full of high mockery
while that island song rowed round my head
day into night
and back again, circling its own calamity –
and still we slept in our sheltering place
breath to breath, face to face.

{‘Calum sGaire’ is the name of the composer of the song of that name, in English ‘Malcolm Macauley’, born in Bernera, near the Isle of Lewis, in 1822. It’s a song of unrequited love and emigration. The poem is not an interpretation of the song, but was inspired by it.}

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