2019, by Harry Gallagher

(With apologies to Orwell)
On a warmer than normal
Autumnal morning,
the clocks all struck thirteen.
No one heard as England dreamed
of Spitfires and bunting,
streetparties, fox-hunting.
Somewhere in the distance,
three doors down your street,
bobbies on the beat
whistled a merrie tune,
while loosening bricks,
smithereening the front door
of planet-hugging peaceniks.
No warrant needed,
no cause for alarm,
a warning well-heeded
will keep you from harm.
When the siren calls, muster
in the Churchill Pavillion,
repeat after the speaker
from one to a million:
There was only ever one Winston
There was only ever one Winston
There was only ever one Winston….
“Extinction Rebellion eco-warriors arrested as police batter down doors in raids….”

You Do Not Speak For Me, by Harry Gallagher

You do not speak for me.
The sparrow has my voice,
busying between hedgerows,
English as a cloudy day,
more English than you anyway.

That oldman and his dog,
out at dawn beachcombing,
letting the morning tickle
his mouth up at the edges,
his gait carries my weight
as he lightens the day.

The wildflowers on verges,
reaching for something
they can never quite touch,
but stretching all the same,
smudging their glories
all over the mundane.

These Saturday kids,
smiling through braces,
serving ice creams on days
when ‘hot’ doesn’t cut it,
learning that patience is
waiting for sainted grandmas
to choose between
sprinkles or flake.

The policeman, the plumber,
the teacher, roadsweeper,
prampushing mums,
gleaming proud dads,
the Sunday funrunners
replenishing the sweat
with a pint of English best
after winning their bet.

The lifesaver doctor,
last hour of her shift
who hasn’t slept since
God only knows when;
as kindas kiss it betters
to the latest in a line
of confused oldladies
who all ask the same thing;
‘But where were you born dear?’
and ‘Ooh what a lovely smile,
what lovely skin’,
as she holds their hands,
asks them where it hurts.

This is my England.
Its voice is not scabrous,
its sound is soft.
Its fingers reach down
to pick up the fallen,
brushing them down,
to hold them aloft.

Your tone is shrill,
a study in antipathy.
You are not my England
and you do not speak for me.

White Feather, by Harry Gallagher

How many young men Emmeline?
How many slouched off to slaughter,
stabbed by white feathers,
pinned by you and your daughter?
Did you find out what colour
white runs under gunfire?

How many cowards did you find Emmeline?
How many trembling wrecks
within sanatorium whitewalls?
How many missing legs,
heads that never recovered
from the mud and the blood?

How many feathers would it take
a boy to make wings,
fit them to his back
and fly away?

The NHS Is Full Of Layabouts by Harry Gallagher

The NHS is full of layabouts,
lounging good for nothings,
veins coursing with drugs
paid for by you and me,
drips dangling from flesh
like platinum handcuffs.

The NHS is full of layabouts
bedded down in corridors
like the Lord God almighty.
Some talk of meeting Him.

A feckless junior doctor
sneaking in a sly snooze
in a secret shady corner.
Mumbling red eyed excuses
about a snatched ten minutes
on a twenty hour shift.

The NHS is full of layabouts,
unproductive units claiming
coronaries, car crashes,
cancers and sad lonely endings.

So here I come with my scalpel
and my smoke and my mirrors
and by the time I’ve finished
you’ll all be in stitches.

Smear by Harry Gallagher

Before they even pull the charcoaled out,
zoom lenses poking through smashed windows,
they scratch the charred remains for blame,
scapegoating through the cinders.

They’re choking in slurs at the sharp end,
the chip pan fire man “snuck out the back”,
the all tornup shouldering the sores
whenever the almighty are under attack.

It seems like it’s always been this way,
tramping all over the bones of the broken.
Miners blown to bits, the owners of the pits used to smear
“they must have been smoking”.

It’s back to the good old, bad old days
when you hear that siren sound.
Down the ages, nothing changes.
There must have been a miner smoking underground.

Human by Harry Gallagher

The little brown child, cherubic;
drowned or bloodied, lost,
appears to spark debate about
The Cost Of War. Suddenly
Something Must Be Done,
just Not In My Name.

No longer, then, One Of Them.
We are assuaged for a day
by a picture crassly reminding:
all blood is red. Yesterday
and tomorrow it will be just
a pity, but for one bleak moment

we allow ourselves to feel
what it must be like
to be a human being.

England by Harry Gallagher

Jackboots are going cheap
in the freefall stores,
while the rest of us weep
over the land that’s now yours;
your leader’s cheeks are deepest
red as he pulls up his drawers.
England is a meaner place today.

And at the Polish Embassy,
they’re scrubbing off the paint,
while old Mr Dubicki’s
punched head is feeling faint
at the thought of going to see
the police to make a complaint.
Yes, England is a meaner place today.

Out on the streets they’re singing
their number one song,
the market stalls are ringing
to “Go back where you came from”.
I’m desperately still clinging
to a place I no longer belong.
England is a mean place today.

The Lunatics Have etc… by Harry Gallagher

And if the battlelines are drawn,
what then? And who draws them?
But open arms and soft voices
are feather bedding for blades.

And goose stepping goons
know no reasons for stopping.

If you’re raised in a world
where kindness is weakness,
synapses, once snapped,
can never grow back.

When the tide blocks its ears
and refuses to turn,
maybe we should all just
blame the moon.

Are We Happy Yet? by Harry Gallagher

So there is blood upon the street.
Hatred’s vein has slit a servant,
vented its bile onto black tarmac.

As the gimlet eyed ring master,
taking lessons from the fuhrer,
unveils his identikit Nazi cartoon,

we Anglo-Saxon sons and daughters
watch as England’s wasted youth
smash up our neighbours’ cafes.

The nation who wrote
the world’s history books
has plainly forgotten how to read.

Are we happy yet?

Fit for Work by Harry Gallagher

As the low tide’s quilt
is pulled back, sleeping in
on a comfy bed of silt.
Too idle to ever move again,
but fit enough for work.

Sunbathing in sleet,
lazing on paving, crazy
for loose change and
something for nothing,
like heat and horizons.

Opulent hostels, swimming
pools on landings, whose
landlords kiss away
the sobbing at midnight
by nursing plump purses.

All the too far gones
drinking to no future,
once some mother’s sons;
now unproductive units.
Are there no workhouses?

In God’s Name by Harry Gallagher

Well he sang to the skies
for his sisters and brothers
and he howled to his God
for sweet deliverance.
And his fingers twined like wire
and his palms they clasped,
blood locked wood blocks,
stabbing at the Heavens

While all around his shade
the church bells hollered
and the walls, they groaned
a thousand years of mourning;
of heartbeats ceased
at the points of swords
on a timeless crusade
in the image of his saviour.

And his tears, they wring
in time with the belltower,
echoing its doom to no one
but the lacerated priest,
his rosary count embedded
in that space in his head
where a life would have lived,
but for men in God’s name.