“Rosa” and other poems by Bernadette Gallagher

Hanging #2

(Things Fall Apart)

For JL

As I relax in Inchydoney
reading ‘Things Fall Apart’
by Chinua Achebe

you encounter a real life
hanging and with no time
to think you scale the tree
and save a man’s life.

Twenty four hours later
I could do nothing to save
Okonkwo, only read to the
end of his story.

First published by HeadStuff.org
as Poem of the Week on 11 November 2015; Editor – Alvy Carragher;

Audio recording by the poet


(After ‘To Any Dead Officer’ by Siegfried Sassoon)

In memoriam: J.J.J.

Well, how are things in Heaven?
Better than 1916 when you were born?
Humans fighting humans.

Are there quarrels amongst the shades?
Does he who shouts
loudest get heard?

Have you met Robert Tressell
whose book sustained you?
He, who died a pauper, yet unpublished.

How many others have you met
who died unsung or poor?
How are Rembrandt and El Greco?

And how fares William Blake who was
buried in an unmarked grave?
Have you heard the music of Vivaldi or Mozart?

Do those who died poor, genius or not,
walk beside those wealthy, intelligent or not?

Oh, if only the ways of Heaven, Hell and
Purgatory were applied here, what a comedy
it would make.

First published in ‘Boyne Berries 1916’ special edition literary journal commemorating the centenary of the 1916 Rising published by Boyne Writers Group in Spring 2016;
Editor: Orla Fay; [ISNN: 1649-9271]

Video recording of the poet reading Shades at the launch of Boyne Berries 1916 in Trim, Co. Meath in March 2016 – https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0WlfOxmvrkyLUZUMU5OZzdGbUE/view

Young Urchins

In memoriam Aylan (Alan) Kurdi

We walked on the beach, heads down,
to find the white heart shapes of the
Sea Potato, light as a feather, delicate,
empty of life, small holes in a precise
pattern visible now that the soft
spines to fend off predators
are no longer needed.

These young urchins washed
up from their sand homes
and thrown onto the beach
already dead.

First published in Issue #3 Picaroon Poetry, July 2016; Editor: Kate Garrett

The poet reading Young Urchins as part of the invited Ó Bhéal Closed Mic event during the Cork Winter Warmer Poetry Festival, November 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8sb-iF951Q


Do not prune the roses said Vita Sackville-West,
strung together let them grow to four feet at best.
Dig the hole deep and fill with rotted waste
filtered by worms to our taste.
Flowers, white, red and colours
in between decorate our food.

The rose metamorphosed in Istanbul
bringing squares of pale pink tossed
in ice to tempt my love
until death cuts off
a branch dropping
a single white

Do not prune the roses said Vita Sackville-West.

First published in Boyne Berries 20: Autumn 2016, Editor: Orla Fay; Published by Boyne Writers Group [ISSN: 1649-9271]


After Derek Mahon’s translation of the poem ‘L’ignorant’ by French poet Philippe Jaccottet.

My hair shows a hint of grey.
Clouded lens, they call it cataract.
Skin a little wrinkled.

Garden of weeds, mint, parsley, sage, oregano.
Seeds in my brain sprout into
song, poetry, dance and a little gentleness.

Surrounded by computers talking in bits.
Still learning, still working, still digging
as day turns into night and autumn into winter.

A swing returns to my garden
after many years, taunting me:
What has changed?

First published by Stanzas in Stanzas – Ekphrasia August Chapbook MMXVI;
Editor: Shane Vaughan

Video recording of the author reading Seeds at the launch of the Ekphrasia Chapbook in August 2016 in Limerick – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxugA4iXJ8k&feature=youtu.be

Father to Daughter

For Rafiq Kathwari

Do you realise there is a war
going on? I didn’t.

Used to being stopped
at security checkpoints
Strabane – Aughnacloy

Sounds of war do not
stifle a 22 year old.

An Arab friend gently plucks
stray hairs from my face
working thread with fingers.

High fashion – hand made
from Burda patterns – covered
for Mosque with Abaya.

Five women dressed in black
on our way to Gaylani Mosque.

A letter goes astray to Tehran
but finds me safe on Haifa Street

“Rosa” and other poems are © Bernadette Gallagher.

Bernadette Gallagher, one of eight children, was born by the seaside in Donegal in 1959 and now lives on a hillside in County Cork. At 22 years of age she accepted an offer of a job in Baghdad where she lived and worked for 2 years. Ever since she has had a special affinity with the people of the Middle East. While working full time Bernadette studied for a B.Sc. in Information Technology and an M.Sc. in Internet Systems and continues to work full time now as a project manager.

Bernadette Gallagher has been writing a personal journal for many years and her poetry has been published in print in Boyne Berries, Ropes 2016 and Stanzas, and online at HeadStuff.org, Picaroon Poetry and The Incubator Journal.

On most Monday evenings Bernadette reads at the Open Mic during the Ó Bhéal Weekly Poetry event in Cork.
Bernadette Gallagher’s blog.