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,
until my body was stretched suddenly
in every direction. Fields of hair
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
like the figure
on the wall.
click his fingers
I would dress,
slump at my desk,
I must not tell!
I must not tell!
I must …
All he left was his brolly,
and that dismissal note.
No severance pay,
no letter propped
on the stove.
For thirty years
I was his hearth
I followed his footprints
across the fields,
of the man
I thought I knew.
His tracks stopped
at a level crossing.
The lines were still warm,
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