Owen Gallagher (British Working Class Poetry)

Owen Gallagher is a working-class writer, born in Glasgow, Scotland. He left school at 15 and worked in factories and on building sites, also as a street-sweeper and bus conductor. He lives in London.


His recent publication is: Clydebuilt, Smokestack Books, England, 2119. Shortlisted for The Scottish Poetry Book of The Year, 2021.

 

 

Striker in a Sari

I can still see her at the far end of the street,

a small woman in a coat with a sari beneath,

 

hoisting a placard: ‘The workers united

will never be defeated!’ She’d probably

 

just walked her children to school and was

making her way to join the picket line

 

demanding they all be reinstated in their jobs.

Nothing could stop her, not the state, nor

 

the courts. Hundreds of police held back

the shouting supporters. She walked the middle

 

of the closed road as if on a red carpet.

When she reached the workplace, she was handed

 

a megaphone. You could hear a leaflet drop.

From her body came words that changed lives,

 

gave hope. When the odds against me

are cliff high I think of Mrs. Desai.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Bindi

 

I loved how her name matched the mark

on her forehead, the red silk scarf, and her sexy drawl.

 

‘There’s very little on offer today,’ she said,

and ever so slowly proceeded with a litany of proposals.

 

‘I can offer you a position as a porter in a fish market,

or as a Deliveroo rider. Would you consider retraining?’

 

My hands twitched to soothe the aches from her body

after her day behind a desk. I’d like to train as a masseur,

 

I stammered. She lowered her eyes. ‘I’ll leave it

for today and check in tomorrow,’ I muttered.

 

Thinking I’d blown any hope of asking her out, I rose,

bowed and said in Hindi, which I’d practised,

 

‘Thank you for your help.’ She replied, ‘Cindy’s Bar

are looking for staff.  I’ll be there at nine tonight.’

 

 

We don’t like to make a fuss

 

We drop coins in cans for far-off countries,

     recycle our shoes and linen,

          pass on our phones and our blood,

               pledge our hearts and livers.

    

We watch children in occupied lands

     shot by soldiers we have armed,

          and families in oil-rich lands

               being bombed by missiles

                    with a British lion mark.

 

We watch our leaders shake

     the hands of ministers

          in the United Nations

               who authorise death

 

                   and then insist we support

                        organic coffee farmers. 

 

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