Mike Gallagher

Smoker

It was the way she asked, I suppose,
casual like – yeah, that’s what caught us
by surprise: Kathleen, giz a fag. Not one
of her own brood, note – wouldn’t give us the
satisfaction. She had never smoked, railed
against it, and all of us smoking like troopers.
No, she asked the daughter-in-law. Light!
Strange that, not even a splutter; didn’t inhale, mind,
(we could tell), but still, not the splutter you’d
expect. Just sat there, casual like, in her chair by
the fire while all around her the laying of
table, the grandkid’s scribbles, the reading of paper,
even the nine o’clock news, stopped. Dead.
No one spoke. Oh, we all glanced – askance at her, quizzically
at each other. Some raised eyebrows. Half way through,
she flicked it fire-ward. Pressed the pause button.
Life re-started.
I’m glad I stole the photo. Still look at it. Glad I caught
the mischief in the eye, the fun-of-it-all curl of the lip,
the rebellion on the tongue, unspoken, daring a challenge:
Feck ye all, I could smoke, too, if I wanted to.


Mike Gallagher was born on Achill Island, Co. Mayo but now resides in Lyreacrompane, Co. Kerry. His poetry, stories, songs and haiku have been published in Ireland, throughout Europe and in America, Canada, Japan, India, Thailand, Nepal and Australia. His work has been translated into Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, German and Japanese. He won the Eigse Michael Hartnett ‘viva voce’ contest in 2010, was shortlisted for the Hennessy Award in 2011 and for the Desmond O’Grady International Poetry competition in 2013. He is the editor of thefirstcut, an online literary journal. His first collection Stick on Stone was recently published by Revival Press.