onavirusEveryone’s Hearts Were Clapping
by Owen Gallagher
Everyone stood outside their front door.
As the clock struck eight they began to clap
slowly as if someone was coming on stage
but as more in the street joined in, they clapped
louder and louder as if they were freeing
something within, perhaps a patient who never
had the opportunity to thank everyone
who looked after them when they were ill.
Everyone was clapping all over the country
banging lids, pots. Fireworks lit the sky.
Their spirits zoomed. They felt how a patient
must feel when administered good news.
Their hands will never finish clapping.
Everyone has been a patient.
Everyone’s hearts are clapping.
As long as hearts clap, hands will too.
by Owen Gallagher, with image by Jon Addison
When a Conservative candidate calls
Ruth wears a blue rosette.
When a Labour candidate knocks
she reaches for red.
If there’s a rapid rap she freezes
at the thought
of her grandparents rising as smoke
from a chimney.
The Arms Trade
by Owen Gallagher
Hearing of a request for an instrument
of death they swoop onto our estate.
They have no website or business card
to sell rifles and guns from the boot
of a car alongside pit bulls guaranteed
to eat and excrete your enemies.
Knuckle-dusters and machetes are two for one.
Drop-dead poisons are on special –
bouncers and minders on speed-dial.
A sliding scale of rates range
from teeth extractions to assassinations –
backhanders to the boys in blue not included.
Police records can be erased,
new identities created with the assistance
of Her Majesty’s employees.
Limb and corpse disposal is available
to Gold Card holders.
Late payments are taken in severed ears.
by Owen Gallagher
Everyone sped off at the end of their shift.
No one saw him sobbing in his car.
No one paused to say he deserved a star
for speaking out; that his courage was a gift.
He feared his wife’s reaction to the news,
he’d been sacked instantly without pay,
and was on a blacklist for his views,
this was his last working day.
No one saw him reverse his car
into the river and drop out of sight.
His workmates sent a sympathy card.
His wife set his boss’s car alight.
Owen Gallagher introduces Mike Jenkins's latest poetry collection.
Mike Jenkins is a politically active poet of the street, the estate and the countryside. He is also known among Cardiff City Football Club fans as their ‘unofficial poet’. He writes prophetically on behalf of the oppressed in towns and valleys, not just in Wales but, as witnessed in this collection and in previous volumes, across the globe.
Mike’s poems are accessible and always memorable, and if there’s any justice in the literary world, he will be the next Poet Laureate of Wales. His loyalties are clear. His subject matter is the working class and their struggle to survive under capitalism. He stands with them when they show acts of resistance individually and collectively - and also shows them being thrown out of pubs and clubs on Friday nights.
The title of this collection and of the opening poem, Bring the Rising Home! suggests that there are uprisings taking place elsewhere in the world, but that one is urgently needed in the UK – particularly in Merthyr Tydfil. It is beautifully illustrated by Gustavius Payne’s haunting cover image. Most of the poems in this booklet are derived from Mike’s experience of working and living in the Valleys, and the same can be said of Gus’s paintings.
As one of Wales’s finest contemporary painters, Gus’s paintings are bold and striking in colour and composition. Like good poetry, the longer you look at them, the more meanings they reveal. They are lyrical and expressive, revealing his concerns about politics and the individual, social class and the environment. He is a figurative painter who paints primarily in oils and is influenced by mythological themes with a contemporary context, drawing on Welsh culture, globalisation and exploitation.
The images he presents here are Goya-esque, and as powerful as the poems they accompany. Like the poems, they are rooted vividly in the post-industrial towns and countryside of the Welsh Valleys, but reveal our common history and our shared struggle under capitalism. In Gus’s own words:
My work is generally concerned with the human predicament, using the notion of a collective unconscious. There is a rhythm seen throughout human cultures via art, religion and mythology, showing that myths, fairy tales, folklore and religion all originate in a place deep within the unconscious. They allow human beings to make sense of the world.
This statement reminds me of John Berger’s words in 1985:
I can’t tell what art does and how it does it, but I know that art has often judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown to the future what the past has suffered, so that it has never been forgotten.
The subject matter of the poems varies widely, including drunks, jailbirds, footballers, a mining disaster, Northern Ireland, and other locations. The poems’ real concerns, however, are with giving voice to individual isolation and alienation – see Outa Jail and Fuckall t Lose – and ultimately the urgent need to recognize that collective action is necessary to change the conditions of people – see Bring the Rising Home!
Isolated, people are powerless, but collectively they are strong. They need to organise into trade unions and join a socialist party to challenge the ruling class. As Marx said:
The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.
Here is a union of two socialist Welsh artists who, in their own brilliant, artistic way, are doing just that: bringing the Rising home.
The Accumulation of Capital
Marx and Engels almost drained this bar in Soho,
finishing ‘The Manifesto of the Communist Party’.
Thirsting for another round, I consider pickpockets,
not the ones working streets and malls,
or those in pulpits pilfering what’s left in minds,
but the one kitted out like a toff,
currently lifting my friend’s wallet. I ram
the full force of justice behind his knees
and haul him to his feet, lecture him, mercilessly,
on the nature of Capitalism, how it encourages thieves.
First published in the Morning Star
I Saw A New World Being Assembled
In the tenements
there were workers
who built dreams for others,
singers who got drunk
on rebel songs,
fighters who fought
in the workplace
and lost every round.
All were in revolt
against their masters
one way or another.
I saw a new world
in a sweatshop, dreamers,
singers, fighters, unfurled
a union flag, voices
were bolted and welded into one.
From Militant Thistles, militantthistles.moonfruit.com