Owen Gallagher – Red Snow

Profile Owen Gallagher LE Poetry & Writing June 2018

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Red Snow, poems by Owen Gallagher

Owen Gallagher was born of Irish parents in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland. He now lives in London. His previous publications are: Sat Guru Snowman, Peterloo Poets. Printed 2001. Reprinted 2004. Tea with the Taliban, Smokestack Books, 2012. A Good Enough Love, Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2015, which was nominated for the T.S. Eliot award. The Boy who Swam Nightly in the Sky will be published in 2019 by Smokestack Books.

The Cold War

Desperate to ditch short trousers and dump my glasses
I became Secret Agent 008. My mission?
To undermine parental control.

I appointed myself Minister of State for Children,
recruited cousins and friends, scheduled
training for sleepers and informants.

I held passing-out ceremonies in the ‘Goldenshed’,
pinned milk bottle tops on those who went
beyond the call of duty.

Parents cruel as Stalin were tailed, aunts who silenced
a house with a look and uncles who broke into
piggy-banks were logged.

We drilled peep-holes and took fingerprints,
ordered duplicate keys, learned Russian,
Mandarin, Irish…

until my body was stretched suddenly
in every direction. Fields of hair
appeared overnight.

My testosterone levels exceeded all known
medical records. Renting my brother’s
long trousers I assigned myself a different mission.

A Very Private Crucifixion

I want Mr Johnston stripped,
nailed naked to the page,
crucified with every word,
the way he had me stripped, limbs pinned by classmates,
against the blackboard.
His binocular vision
focussed on my
thirteen-year-old body;
head bowed,
body drained
of resistance,
like the figure
of Jesus
on the wall.
the lookouts
he would
click his fingers
three times.
I would dress,
slump at my desk,
and write:
I must not tell!
I must not tell!
I must …

Red Snow

All he left was his brolly,
his briefcase
and that dismissal note.

No severance pay,
no letter propped
on the stove.

For thirty years
I was his hearth
and home!

I followed his footprints
across the fields,
perfect casts

of the man
I thought I knew.
His tracks stopped

at a level crossing.
The lines were still warm,
weeping snow.

The Darkening Shamrock

When my pint was capped
at Reilly’s Bar in Darwin
with a creamy head
in the shape of a shamrock

I thought of the cream of Ireland
pouring from every county
and how I flinched at the airport

when Mother’s tears flooded
the Departure Lounge like those
of thousands of mothers before her

and Father stood to one side
looking as if a hearse
had hauled his heart away.

© Owen Gallagher