Jeff Gallagher

Conversations

The ones in which I only asked questions 
and got no satisfactory answers
or the ones in which the only word I heard 
(repeatedly, in different tones) was No

or when I listened in silence as I was given
clear instructions about what to say
and when to keep my mouth shut to avoid
some trace of accent or ill advised remark

and the long inconsequential dialogues
with girls of assorted shapes and sizes
whose life histories I dutifully recorded
while repeatedly failing to complete my research

and the conversations I never had
with bullies still not forgiven and those people
who employed a delicious truculence obstructing
my attempts to follow orders and do my job

or the riotous banter with old friends
some even then veering into a different orbit
(and some now dead) always avoiding those words
that would clarify my gratitude for their love

or the conversations when I hurled abuse
at the telly as crooks and shysters
and psychopaths and the chronically corrupt
were paraded as some form of entertainment

and the things I would have said if only
we had not lost touch until tracking down your tag
on social media I made some inane comment
which you politely liked and promptly forgot

or the conversations that came much too late
at funerals or in courtrooms or the ones
that could only be monologues recalling those
no longer known to those who never knew them

and the sombre words spoken at the bedside
holding a hand that patiently waited
for the last full stop and an end to anxious questions
repeated in a gradually fading voice

or a final imagined vital conversation 
in which I recall those things I should have said
and move my dry tongue and lips only to find
that nobody is listening any more

WAR ZONE

We were just different colours on a map
till we found we had much in common regarding
our cultures, our aspirations and our beliefs.

We agreed to be allies and partners
while publicly undertaking to preserve
our independence, our identity and our pride.

We signed a contract containing numerous clauses,
mutually advantageous, providing for
our settlement, our prosperity and our health.

I struggled to understand why you ignored
the terms of our agreement, tossing aside
my privileges, my assumptions and my faith.

I stood and listened as your bland rhetoric
persuaded me to grant you sole control over
my liberty, my resources and my life.

I lost my boundaries as the old map was redrawn
and my territory invaded and occupied, altering
my expectations, my obligations and my rights.

They heard, after many months of captivity,
my faint signal, a cry for help, activating
their outrage, their sympathy and their silence.

They said I should escape from this assault 
on all accepted convention, which only exposed
their apathy, their cowardice and their guilt.

They praised my courage and found me a new home
where sad stares and shy smiles underlined
their distance, their disapproval and their scorn.

We cautiously allowed third parties to obtain
a degree of reparation, seeking to guarantee
our honour, our security and our peace.

We left behind casualties to view our battlefields, 
forced to change sides, then rebuild what was destroyed:
our friends, our wounded children and ourselves.

We have built a wall between us now, and exist
an ocean apart, yet still I carry the history
of our grand alliance, our promises and our love.

I Thought It Was Just The Sun Setting

Crisp, honeyed, fluid, steel-sheened and oozing,
A shock of oils from an artist’s brush,
A furnace distilled through an ice cold prism:
Astride the sky’s jawbone, a young girl’s blush.

Horizon, heavens, welkin, pale rising moon
And shafts of light both sharp and tender
Draw chthonic cries from Gaia’s soul:
Sunset over East Grinstead, November.

Jeff Gallagher is a poet and playwright from Sussex, England. His poems have appeared in a number of magazines including One Hand Clapping, The Journal and Spellbinder. He has had numerous plays for young people published and performed in various locations nationwide. He has also appeared in an Oscar-winning movie. He has no handles, tags or other distinguishing features.

Flights, Issue Three, December 2021