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Galloglaich - poem by Daniel Wade

Wealth of my wayfaring and mud-smeared,
The halberd slashes off necks at the root
For mounting over hearths; blood rinses my beard


Of the day’s trudge. Breathing hard, I slog about
This field, corpse-carpeted, air smudged in silence,
Lifting keepsakes from pockets, flames put out


Of my sword’s iron lightning, brandished headlong
And notched. The sun sinks to its nightly grave
As crows swoop down on haggard wing


To munch eye, gnaw jowl; heaven’s amber glows
A still-warm breastplate, as bodies burn on-site.
Why do I no longer flinch from decomposition’s fizz


On each dead, staring face? Indifferent to frostbite
I’ve had the run of ditch, glen, valley, borough;
No enemy may slip from my smell or sight,


Lying in ambush at Antrim, charging Knockdoe
Hillocks, limbs sweat-sopped. Their anthems whirl
In my ear, their pyres conjure up ashen shadow.


I won’t be swayed by priestly pleas for my soul,
Nor fall at the feet of some perfumed pontiff
To beg clemency, yank at God’s apron-string. I’ll


Sleep through a drab sermon, that dives like a dove
To catch in the bishop’s craw, to persuade
Me to defect from my warring self.


Because, from what do I need salving? The road
Where the death blow misses me by inches?
The yesterdays, the tomorrows? Yoked neither to God


Nor home soil but a chieftain’s bidding, I am
Scriptured in this life of palisade and charge,
Ground-holding and glassy rock to dam


Fords in hurdle. As for the cavalry, they call
My name as if I were commonage to rack or rent,
Or one of their hunting bitches called to heel


While I cut and run across their continent;
Repeated axe-bashings splinter apart
Meadows of frozen water and the dent


In my skull taps bone like a glass clinked
To health. Price my loyalty. I flee from no
War-heat; better always to die in the face


Of a javelin’s lunging hiss, or retreat through
Underbush where armoured horse can’t follow,
Than kneel before a blood-blind banner.


Hoist no monument for me. Let my grave vanish
Under the steepened sky. Hold my name from ever


Passing your lips. Let my bones sink back to ash.



*meaning ‘foreign warrior’, anglised as ‘galloglass’.


Albrecht Durer's drawing of a gallowglass and kerne, circa 1521.

Albrecht Durer’s drawing of a gallowglass and kerne, circa 1521.



Daniel Wade is a poet and playwright from Dublin. In January 2017, his play The Collector opened the 20th anniversary season of the New Theatre, Dublin. His spoken word album Embers and Earth, available for download on iTunes and Spotify, launched the previous October at the National Concert Hall. A prolific performer, Daniel has featured in festivals including Electric Picnic, Body and Soul, Culture Night and the West Belfast Festival. Daniel was the Hennessy New Irish Writing winner for April 2015 in The Irish Times, and his poetry has appeared in over two dozen publications since 2012.

Website http://danielwadeauthor.com/
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