Featured Publication – Northern Lights by Harry Gallagher

Our featured publication for November is Northern Lights by Harry Gallagher, published by Stairwell Books.

Northern Lights is a celebration of a world sculpted by industry and polished by grit now abandoned to archaeologists. Discover anew this tight close knit community as they were then and how they are now and of what they are truly capable of being. 




Ghost River

Cobbling over Hadrian’s trod,
going back, back, back
to river’s edge. Gulls idly
chatter with herons on bones
of conveyors, cranes, staithes
lodged in silt, water topped up
with ancient stevedore blood.

Ships playing pretend
that the old girl
is still thriving. Alive
with cries and roaring chains,
as virgin hulks slipaway
to Valparaiso or Cairo.

Off to countries never seen
by alchemists who hammered
shape into giants



Who remembers you now, Mary Isabella?
Darling George, whose fingers straightened
your Sunday bonnet straws, no longer
parts the ivy on top of your headstone.

Taken at forty by the Lord at Church Pit;
not your children either,
cradled into the earth as babes,
tuberculosis’ little coughdrops.

All these sons and daughters
of Hartley Old Engine, West Farm,
being swallowed in death
by what took them in life.

Bones backfilling the hateful hollows
they themselves dug out, as the coaly
caverns take everything back beneath
a greening Northumberland churchyard.


Two Boys Play in Evening Sea at Cullercoats Bay

No notion that they
are making memories
to last the rest
of their livelong days
(and why would they?)

No vision of the shadows
of lost waggonways,
nor the artists’ colony
that once coloured Bank Top.

No idea the middleage
spread men with children
(that they will surely become)
will look back on these nights
with salting eyes,
wondering where the years went.

They see only the depths
of the harboured sea,
holding their forevers
around them



When I was at school, perfecting
the fine art of disappearing;
blending into blackboards, coat pegs,
white lined tarmac and the bonding
to be had in inventing nicknames,
there you were. Ill fitting the backdrop;
a boy’s clothes not disguising
a voice and a manner which left you
no hiding place.

Sashaying in a hothouse
for the dragons it bred;
deliberately provoking
each beating you took.
Refusing to fit in with the rest,
who knew by instinct where
the invisible line was –
we picked it up and towed it.

Years later, long escaped,
I heard about you from my mum:
That Terence – he drowned in a canal, you know.
Well he was always a queer sort.


‘Terence’ has been previously published by Black Light Engine Room Press.

Harry Gallagher has been published by Interpreter’s House, Prole, Poets’ Republic, Rebel Poetry and many others. He has 3 pamphlets to his name and now this first full collection from Stairwell Books. He runs the Tyneside Poetry Society stanza group. Website: https://harrygallagherpoet.wordpress.com

Northern Lights (Stairwell Books, 2017) can be purchased from: http://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/html/collections.html#NorthernLights

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