Row Back by Michael Gallagher
by Steven McCabe
Petulant sun quarrels with crabbed sky
It probes, prods, sneaks
Through gaps in broken cloud,
Catches the crests of waves that roll
In deep swells across the estuary.
Gales lash the craggy headland
Pummel long-stemmed grass into submission;
Rain shards pierce weathered faces
While wrens search out the whin’s snug core.
It is midsummer’s day and Nature rages:
Brother Man, row back, row back,
Our world is not, is not, yours to destroy.
Mike Gallagher lives in splendid isolation in Lyreacrompane, County Kerry, Ireland. His collection ‘Stick on Stone’ is published by Revival Press.
So pleased to see this collaboration. This is one I will revisit often.
Thank you for this thought and your visit Heather.
Wonderful, Steven. I really like how you handled the sun’s varying luminosity throughout the post, clear, then distorted, then pale and veiled. I always feel like your drawings are layered into sandstone. It doesn’t help that I have been knee deep in brilliantly colored layers of the stuff all the past week. But I like the association. It lends your work an ancient quality. …And the testament of creation’s persistence born out in the strata of elder drifts is fitting in light of your collaboration with Mr. Gallagher.
Thank you for your observant and always insightful eye Jack. Oh to be knee-deep in brilliantly coloured layers of sandstone something ancient stirring all round you. I actually googled ‘elder drifts’ wondering if it was a phrase I didn’t know. Poetic words: ‘…born out in the strata of elder drifts….’
These ‘signals’ turning us to the warning in Michael’s poem.
Wonderful interpretation of the poem, Steven. Thank you.
Thank you Michael for trusting me to do it justice and for the writing in the first place. The poem is a beauty.
The poem is a beauty indeed, thank you for birthing it Mike…and thank you Steven for your sensitive and evocative visual accompaniment, like a cello interweaving with a singer’s voice in the Cathedral at Chartres…
Thank you John & thank you for the suggestion & scenario for this beautiful word: ‘interweaving…’
an interdisciplinary intersection of Chartres, cello and voice: a silent echo to such a possibility
now you’ve got me looking at windows but living here in this post-modern world they have a ‘play’ button…for voice & this poem… as ancient hymn, perhaps prophecy…
It really is wonderful that something born out of a real sense of frustration and desperation and fear for our future has not only been turned into a thing of beauty but, more importantly, has had its message reinforced by Steven’s ability to sift through a poems many layers and home in on the truth that at the core of all art.
Thank you for this understanding of your thoughts and emotions Michael in poem-ing on this fearful subject you have imbued with mythic elements: the sun we see and hear, a boat we imagine. Those words ‘Brother man, row back, row back,’ struck me with a fairy tale clarity.
A voice has come from, and through you, with great resonance.
I sympathize and identify with what you are feeling. If we have truly & utterly undone ourselves, it is terrifying because of who and what we love, and how beautiful the dream could be.
The sun comes up..the sun goes down. The words, the images, make me weep from the pores of skin I refuse to toughen. “Tis a beautiful thing you’ve done together….
Thank you j.h., for your poetically phrased thoughts/
both thoughts and feelings/ truly as you say
the sun will rise and fall shining upon (or darkening) tears…
and if I may be presumptuous:
In the beginning was the word
I wish this poem had been part of that word.
I hope it’s not part of the end!
I hope not as well Michael! The beginning perpetually circling back to the beginning, a spiritual principle of reconnection, in tune with the voice in your poem…’Row Back…’
Thank you, j.h for your kind words. I like your way with words.
Stunning images! Amazing! Puts me in mind of North indigenous people’s art
Thank you for your visit and thoughts sunnysmile. I’m a self-taught artist (as much as anyone can be self-taught bearing in mind all we learn from others) and as far back as I can remember imagery from the non-industrialized world has escaped my dna. This poem was perfect for igniting images of our dependency/place of being nurtured within the ‘elements.’
“Brother man, row back, row back” … Yes, yes.
The beauty and the urgency of it all swirling in our minds.
“A beauty within an ache” – these are not my words but they seem fitting.
Isn’t it a haunting phrase…”Brother man, row back, row back…”
How fitting these words ‘A beauty within an ache’ for the sentiment/thought expressed in the poem
& perhaps what I sought to mirror…
You have pinpointed an emotional weight…
Any day now I expect to hear on the news that vast crowds have headed for your place of isolation. They will be seeking you out for your words of wisdom. The peace that you now prize will be shattered and you will have to take to the highways and byways to seek a new fortress of solitude.
Do you remember what happened to the last guy who attracted such crowds, Michael? You’ll get me crucified!
Was thinking of Dan Paddy Andy until you mentioned the last bit.
Michael O Meara always raises some titters for me. The images are beautiful and so are the words.
Thank you Iambethgal.