By Harry Gallagher
Hemmed in, she and Valparaiso
were never on speaking terms.
In a world smaller than her eyes, so
isolated in her yearning
for more than table setting
and a part time typing job. He
smiles once weekly when she lets him
cackhand his way round her body.
Children gone to the factory,
husband gone to the dogs.
Dreams gone the way of flesh, she
burned them with the fireside logs.
Amid these pottering blackstreets,
in clipclop tracks she found her trap.
Wrapped up tight in shipcanal sheets,
held her breath and never came back.
Harry Gallagher is a poet from the North East of England. Much of his work is inspired by his experiences of industrial life and post-industrial upheaval. He’s spent a lot of time in the Black Country and this poem came about during a span working in Darlaston. In a recent chat with Harry, he told me: “I quite liked the town but there was just a feeling I had that if you were stuck amid heavy industry and you felt out of place, then it was a very long way to the sea. As if the canal was a clue to a whole other world that, back in the 1800s/early 1900s, would remain forever out of your reach”. Hemmed tells the story of heartbreak, isolation and disillusionment – from a personal and domestic sphere as well as the wider social one. His images are simple and direct, like L S Lowry’s snapshots of everyday life. The message, however, is brutal, gut-wrenching and tough to swallow – you’ll find this trope in much of Gallagher’s work, he’s a poet who’ll gi’ yo’ a proper cogwinder wi’ ‘is lines!
You can find out more about Harry Gallagher’s poetry here.