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Tess Gallagher poems in Southword JournalTess Gallagher is the author of eight volumes of poetry, including Dear Ghosts, Moon Crossing Bridge, and My Black Horse. She is presently working on her New and Selected Poems. In 2008 Blackstaff Press in Belfast and Eastern Washington Press in America published Barnacle Soup—Stories from the West of Ireland, a collaboration with the Irish storyteller Josie Gray, and a collection of short stories, The Man From Kinvara, appeared in 2009. She has also spearheaded the publication of Raymond Carver’s Beginners in Library of America’s complete collection of his stories. She spends time in a cottage on Lough Arrow in Co. Sligo in the West of Ireland and also lives and writes in her hometown of Port Angeles, Washington.

Photo © John Minihan














Not waving but drowning.
                           ~Stevie Smith


One minute they were laughing,
the next they were drowning, four
young men elated with their catch.

Had they not been tempted, had they not
pulled their skiff ashore
at Ballinafad and indulged too freely,
the trout would have made the pan.
As it was, dead trout and live men
went into Lough Arrow, and only
dead men came out.

One minute they were laughing,
the next they were drowning.

Three of them farmers, and Charlton
slated for goodbyes to America.
But he made no goodbyes and never would be
found, for the lake takes a drink
any way it can, and four good men, careless
on a Sabbath make a party.

It was cold that day and fair.
One minute they were laughing,
the next they were drowning.

Had it not been the Sabbath, had
there been no pubs in Ballinafad, had
they caught no trout, all might have been well
and Charlton gone to America
with good leave taken.

One minute they were laughing,
the next they were drowning and soon
the fishing was for men.

The lake kept one of the four in 1848
to cry on foul nights, to laugh
and to linger far from shore, as if
a death now and then is needed
to freshen and sustain
all unsaid goodbyes.

When the lake is wild, laughter
can be heard from Charlton, bound
for America, washed by river currents
under continents, pulling him
this way and that.

One minute they were laughing,
the next they were drowning.

Charlton alone floats deep, folded in
and under with companions all merry,
those farmers who went home to land, as he
stayed endless with water, transformed
by the general mind of all who carry him now
as a voice inside the wind.








Horse Dealers



I’m speaking like a mother
in my silk voice to the new foal
but am warned off. The man says
the book says not to get cozy
or the horse won’t jump.
I whisper to the foal, “Your eyes
are stamped with moonbeams
and midnight grass.”

He loves this strange silk
and if I wished
would stand under my hand
all morning, his muzzle so
prickly velvet. What a nice penalty
for disobedience.

My first horse
pushed his nose into my armpit
to drink in my scent.
Man O’War, after his last race,
nuzzling his groom’s pocket
for one cube of sugar.






Small and Indestructible



Her fingers, harmed
with arthritis, hinge
to the cup handle
like a backward wing.
A ruff of brown-red fur
tufts each wrist, cloaks
the neck. She and her
lady-friend are fully engaged,
having tea at the bakery
in their village–Virginia, near
Cavan. Her hat queens her
in the swirl of home-going
bread-buyers. Like a plover
on its nest, she adjusts herself
to her chair. It is plain
she cannot rise to flight, but
like a bee inside a foxglove,
she has nuzzled out
something sweet from life
and is sharing it in this
sustained intimacy abroad
with the multitudes. We,
who take more than strength
from her, buy our loaf
and go.

                        for Sheila Gray



©2010 Tess Gallagher




Author Links


Tess Gallagher at the Poetry Foundation

Bloodaxe's Gallagher page

Interview with Tess Gallagher in Poets & Writers magazine








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