Silent witness

by Jim Gallagher 6/28/04


silent witness

like this tree

to the endless rape

of our sky

our lands and seas


I won’t stay silent

I will speak out

I will cry out over the scream of the bulldozer

over the howl of the chain saw

over the deafening silence of the impotent law

I will call out to the end of my days

I will cry out against all the damage done

all the poison spilt

all the forests fallen

all the life


gone and never considered

never revisited

never saved

I will speak out all the days of my life

and some day in the silence of a deep wood

I will sleep in the heart of things green and flourishing

at peace

I Saw You There In Paris…

by James P. Gallagher © 1999

I saw you there in Paris
in the bistros on All Souls Day
with all the other sons
sitting in the afternoon sun
beside their mothers
having a holiday cafe noir
with their cher mama
and I saw you sitting there beside me too.

I saw you there in Paris
when I walked the Champs-Elysees
and I knew how much you would have adored it.

And I saw you in the eyes of the children
playing with the boats in the fountains
in the Jardin des Tuileries,
eyes that reflected you as a child
and I as a child
both loving
both beloved.

And I saw you in the yellow kitchen
in Monet’s house
and reflected in the light
of his pond
beside the lilies.

I saw you there in Paris
in the words on the tomb
in the cemetery at Montmartre
which read,
“You lit (illuminated) all our lives, dearest mother”.

And I saw you there in Paris
shining in the eyes of my beloved
for she loves life as completely
and as fully as did you.

And I saw you there in Paris
when in the Louvre
I happened to see a reflection of myself
and knew that, if I have been able to love myself at all,
enough for even the very primal need to survive,
I owe it foremost to you.
As I looked into my own eyes
and I saw yours staring back at me,
loving me as only you could.

I saw you there in Paris
beside me
and I missed you so…


by James P. Gallagher © 1996

The river running wild leaps its banks,
bursting its borders like a wayward child.
Escaping, ravaging the roots and soils of fertile fields,
it defies the invisible lines of counties, states,
and nations, and even the confines of gravity’s unrelenting grip,
spouting suddenly skyward then slamming down
in the fierce thrashings of tormented winds.
Petulant and brooding it pouts after it batters the docks and
the filthy edges of the city,
angry that something could be harder and dirtier.
Yet currents shape more than earth and wood and stone.
They bend the places inside where the child still resides.
Eddies and riptides of foul, repugnant invasions
of fists and cocks and tongues and
furious, fevered, sneering, venomous, vile
words spat at light speed that
slice and carve into open and innocent
ears and eyes and mouths and hairless orifices;
places they haven’t even been told a name for yet.
Roughly hewn,
carved from alabaster and ebony flesh,
rugged from the river’s razor edge,
scraped raw, wayward they flow,
children once
and yet still as young as yesterday
and not at all,
like a river running wild leaping its banks,
losing its borders from places and times and people
without boundaries.


by James P. Gallagher © 1997

Next to me on the train
the lady with her Bible was studiously
reading the Word.
Working to unlock the wisdom from some 3000 years ago,
she plunged from the Bible schoolbook
back to the Scripture checking and
rechecking the references
to peoples and places long ago gone.
Faith is a transient thing
as immeasurable as a feeling,
as fleeting as misplaced emotions.
Little betrayals, larger losses, or
lesser deaths
are awash amid
comfort and joy,
inconsolable sorrows
and the grinding pain
of heartache and remorse.
I want to reach out to touch her hand
and let flow into me
some infinitesimal measured
part of her faith,
let it flow through me and
wash my soul into stillness,
into peaceful trust
in some
some message from somewhere
to find again all that is

A Malformed Moon

by James P. Gallagher © 1996

Painting by Fred Danziger

The mis-shapened waning moon
creeps above the stark marbled names
rinsed colorless under the metamorphosizing clouds
as the shadows slip and slither around and over each stone.
They are not alone.
Passing through the graveyard are not only shadows but also dreams.
Dreams of more than life lost.
Dreams of futures never seen, never realized.
And they are not just the dreams of the sonombulent residents.
They are our own as well.
Your dreams and mine.
It is not strange that they sometimes
are snared by an icy finger,
snatched from below.
It is the same for us
even when we are away from here.
Even in the brightest day on joyful beaches
we allow these thefts.
We want to reach up,
out from beyond the grave
to filch a thought,
to have changed the world in some way,
to leave behind more than a marbled name
shaded below a malformed phasing moon.

Cardboard Boxes

by James P. Gallagher © 1998

The distillation
of all the different bits of
paper, photos and odd items
that had been so important to a life,
dwindle down to an afternoon
punctuated with questions,
memories, tears, laughter
and cardboard boxes.
Collections from a lifetime
are shuffled from box to box,
from life to life along
with considerations of future generations
and distant ancestors.
Time shrinks the collected treasures
of each of us down from households,
to a roomful,
to a shelf or two,
to just a couple of cardboard boxes,
as the valued knick-knacks-
the flotsam and jetsam cast off as the fragments-
of the most important and cherished memories
of a lifetime
get passed around the room,
get considered,
(“Wouldn’t so an so like this?”)
get disputed,
get decided on
and find their way into
someone else’s household,
someday only a room
and then a shelf or two and then
ultimately just
a couple of cardboard boxes.

in the distance

by J. P. Gallagher © 2000

in the distance
peeking over the horizon
far off mountains stand and stare back at me
they defy the curve of the earth
whisper from behind me
and all around me
secrets of the surface
secrets of the center
and only the honesty of the open sky

the choices and charms
speak silently of
fantasies and flesh itself
both are calling
from beyond the mountains
from within my mind
for without the
voices and the visions
we are empty
we are void
and the foreign mountains
and the familiar fantasies
will fool us
or frighten us
or find us fallen
dreaming helplessly
of the past


Tender baby shoots
undauntedly raise their heads
kissed by morning snow.

In every blossom
and from every single leaf
I sense God’s spirit.

Brilliant daffodil!
A hummingbird’s cup or a
couch for napping bees?

Soft, white, ashen sky
proclaims the uncertainty
of the new morning.

Wonder of wonders!
This cold world has made it through
to see the crocus!

Cascading petals
floating on a gentle wind
Join my dancing feet.

Stretched out in the sun
magnolia blossoms and I….
await the iris.

The purple, yellow
and greens are not diminished
by the harsh cold rain.

God makes days like
this so you could bask in glory
warm ruby tulip.

This dew splashed morning….
tell me lonely pansy face,
please; your tear or mine?

Shining as brilliant
as the eyes of a child….
blossoms in the rain.

I’ll never get home
if each bright blossom stops me
with heavenly scents.

What joy God bestows
when on his canvas of sky
He brushes such clouds.


Last night the frigid
maples wrapped my garden in
a yellow blanket.

My neighbor’s mountain
greets this morning adorned in
many colored coats.

Frozen harvest moon
burdens the scarecrow’s shoulder….
quiet golden night.

The fat golden moon
had me transfixed ’till an owl’s
quick flight broke its spell.

Much too quick to night
the glorious embers of
sunset fade away.

Quiet wet meadow
bathed in sunlight, washed in fog….
morning kissed by God

“…he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted…”
Luke 4:18

by Jim Gallagher

lost in a sea of heartache

chronic tears within

knitted brow without

assessing the horizon is fruitless

revisiting the past is painful

tension tears at the soul

foolishness florishes

focus is lost completely


the healing is promised


never felt

never even witnessed

never fulfilled

never delivered

how long can we hold on?

how long is the wait ?

how long does the pain last?

can the heart recover?

is there any end to all this?

or do we need to make our own ends?


Unfinished Business

by James P. Gallagher © 1996  

I put out my arm, give him a steady handhold as we descend the icy stairs.
His left foot descends one step then his right foot descends one step.
I wait for each to alight.
I am still thinking of how very thin he was within my hug.
“The pace is slow” I say, “but we still get there don’t we, Dad?”
I remember a time when his giant hand engulfed mine and lifting me off
my feet swept me over the sidewalk and I looked up into his eyes and
he was bigger and stronger than anything else I knew.
His left foot descends one step then his right foot descends one step.
I do the same.
“How was the trip?” I ask, to help fill the silence as a couple, one by one,
swing around past us on down the stairs.
But I can’t help but remember one night like a thousand other nights that
I watched him, I a child, he a man, sitting and drinking sitting and smoking
sitting and drinking sitting and smoking sitting and drinking sitting and
talking, sometimes to others and sometimes to no one.
If and when he did speak to me, the words only cut into me deeply.
His left foot descends one step then his right foot descends one step.
“Oh, it was O.K. I guess, but I ate too much before I left and it shook up
my stomach all the way here. But it was my own fault for eating so much.”
His left foot descends one step then his right foot descends one step.
I stare down at our feet, mine mirroring his as we descend.
I can’t help but remember.
“There is some unfinished business between us.” I think,
“Some issues we never have quite put to rest.”
But I just smile at him and feel his hand on my arm.