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scarred landscape - Michael J. Whelan - 2014

scarred landscape – Michael J. Whelan – 2014

 

THE TRUCE

 

 

(Exactly one hundred years ago in 1914

the world was at war and the soldiers

believed it would all be over by Christmas)

 

 

 

All winter we fought to go home

and in the end we killed and they killed us,

a promise never kept.

Now it’s far too late, too late you see -

for the robins rest on frozen fists

in the great corpse trench,

snow blankets all the dead,

where every night we ran to ground

‘neath furrows of blood and guts

when thunder strafed down

devouring all our hearts,

before the midnight moon

picked out the forlorn path

above our little war,

between the trapping wire

where some brave lads ventured out

on hearing the Silent Night

cross over No Man’s Land’s red stains

of men where once men were;

and there they met between the gaps

to sing the chorus, kick a ball,

share rum and schnapps,

light candles in the dark,

until the Generals ordered – shoot that moon,

and new friends warred and maimed

but every dying soldier knew

it was  Christmas time at home.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

 

Published in Tallaght ECHO newspaper (Christmas Supplement) 18 December 2014

Artwork: Michael J. Whelan

 

Military Installation - Kosovo - 2001 , Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Military Installation – Kosovo – 2001 , Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

RETRIBUTION

 

Inside the citadel

cinders flickered in the dusk,

sparks rose up from the ashes

like desperate ghosts escaping the future.

 

Outside, on the gathering hills,

while the city smoked,

the embers of burning history

glowed in the growing dark.

 

Out there you huddled with your great guns

around the warmth of thirsty fires,

boots off, souls circling the forgiving heat

as you vanquished past enemies,

relived victories, dismissed defeats

and gloried in the new justice

your liberations would soon bring

on the people within.

 

The conquered would learn to accept

their new landscapes,

and you their liberators tapped cigarettes

into empty fingerprint shell casings

building up behind your crusade,

a brass trail of stained retribution

for all the world to see.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in The Ofi Press Magazine: International Poetry and Fiction from Mexico City -December 2014

Photo; Michael J. Whelan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael J. Whelan - South Lebanon -1994

Michael J. Whelan – South Lebanon -1994

TOUR OF DUTY

 

There is this memory of violence,

this sand on Tel Aviv Beach,

like warm powder between my toes,

what I imagine the moon is like

when warmed by the sun, and I stand there,

white waves rolling in like silent dreams

I haven’t had yet, the sea distorting the curve.

 

I wake suddenly to a blue sky,

welcome myself again to the great

encapsulating dome of reality,

the peace torn by a low flying jet

dropping strings of chaff, bursting

through the valley to hide safely behind the hills,

mission complete, ordinance delivered over Beirut.

 

I welcome myself back again,

collect my bearings,

remember where it is I am.

 

The pilot will be home soon.

I count the days.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in The Ofi Press Magazine: International Poetry and Fiction from Mexico City, December 2014

Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

 

 Chaff  = a jumble of tiny metallic and silica fibres

ejected by an aircraft  to confuse an enemy’s

radar-directed or heat seeking weapons.

 

 

 

Contrast - Winter - Kosovo, 2001, Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Contrast – Winter – Kosovo, 2001, Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

THE PLACE SHE WILL NOT WALK

 

Pusto Selo Massacre,

Kosovo, 26 June 1999

 

 

Believe the emptiness when you see it,

the pain that saturates soil with souls

of the half living.

 

Believe it when a husband praying for his sons

collects acorns for his wife at the place she will not walk,

under an old tree devoid of leaves still bending into

the shape of yesterday’s storms,

sheltering proud saplings and scraping the sky

like a harrowed claw, its own seed long fallen.

 

Believe that she has no more to give the world

when she plants them in the ground

next to her heart.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in Paragram Magazine’s ‘REMEMBER’ Anthology (UK) December 2014

Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Defence Post, South Lebanon -1994. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Defence Post, South Lebanon -1994. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

DISTANT WHISPER

 

Do you remember

how drops of water

trickle down stone walls

in the wadiis of south Lebanon,

as they have for a thousand years,

over contours, between grooves,

slowing on rough rendering.

How it reminded you of the west of Ireland,

white lines on her hills.

 

Do you remember

liquid moving like a teardrop,

trickling in a whisper of life,

the hum of a bee, or an insect

living in its own significance,

going about its business

as time stands still

long enough for you to study

the erosion of war,

knowing that a belt of Point Five ammunition

fired at you could turn this feature to rubble

in an instant.

 

Do you remember thinking

if you die here today – behind this old wall,

trickles will go on forming slow grooves

and you will be that distant whisper.

 

Michael J. Whelan

Published in Paragram Magazine’s ‘REMEMBER’  Anthology (UK) December 2014

Photo: (c)Michael J. Whelan

 

 

Michael J. Whelan (L) with local children, Haddatha Village, South Lebanon -1994

Michael J. Whelan (L) with local children, Haddadtha Village, South Lebanon – 1994

SHOWING THE FLAG

 

Sometimes it felt peaceful

in the hills above south Lebanon.

Minarets called the faithful to prayers

and in the mornings when clouds

hung like fruit,

you could almost pick them from the sky.

 

On sunny days on patrol

showing the flag,

local men greeted you with

‘Marhaba Irish, Keefek Sadiki,

and invited you into the shade

of their houses with hot cups of chai,

their wives and daughters offering you figs

and dates,

Shoukran, shoukran’ you said

over and over to their smiles,

‘Ahlan wa Sahlan’

was always their reply,

the smell of tobacco mixed with olive oil

somehow helped you relax.

 

Sometimes in the evenings

unmarried girls trooped up and down

the streets in front of young men and boys

as peacekeepers observed.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in PB$ – The Poetry Bus Magazine Eds Colette & Peadar O’ Donoghue, December 2014

Photo: (c)Michael J. Whelan

Michael J. Whelan, Bonny Cassidy (Visiting Australian Poet) & Brian Kirk. Tallaght Library 04 December 2014

Michael J. Whelan, Bonny Cassidy (Visiting Australian Poet) & Brian Kirk. Tallaght Library 04 December 2014

The Writer and the City – Australian poet Bonny Cassidy is currently touring Ireland and this week she is in the south Dublin County libraries for readings and conversation with local writers. This evening, December 4th – 2014, the County Library Tallaght organised an event with local Poets Brian Kirk and myself Michael J. Whelan with Bonny where we read poems and discussed poetry and place. Bonny’s specific interest is in chatting to poets about the notion of “cities of literature” broadly (not just Dublin, and not just major cities), and about the relationship between place and literature more generally.

It was a wonderful event, especially because Brian and myself had the opportunity to  meet Bonny a very lovely lady and brilliant writer, hear from her work and learn about her experiences and inspirations and we were able to answer questions about our work, which was fielded from the audience. So a big thank you to all involved in organising the tour and the readings and to those who attended. Wishing Bonny all the best on her tour of Ireland.

Bonny Cassidy is a Melbourne poet, educator and critic. She has published a chapbook, Said To Be Standing (Vagabond, 2010) and a full collection, Certain Fathoms (Puncher & Wattmann, 2012). A second book is forthcoming from Giramondo in early 2014. Her work has featured in Best Australian Poems (Black Inc) for four years running, as well as Young Poets: An Australian Anthology (John Leonard Press, 2012), the Age, the Australian, Jacket2 and many journals in Australia and internationally. Bonny has taught literary studies and creative writing at a number of institutions in NSW and Victoria, currently at RMIT University. Also interested in alternative modes of teaching, she has worked extensively on producing and facilitating poetry education programs for schools and public institutions such as the NGV and Dax Centre, and has co-ordinated a poetry course at the Melbourne Free University. She co-edited The Salon Anthology: New Writing & Art (non-generic, 2007), and is the current essays editor for Rabbit Poetry Journal.

The Australian Poetry International Tour of Ireland

The successful applicants for Australian Poetry’s one-month tour of Ireland in 2014 were Bonny Cassidy and Simon West.

Check out what Paul Hetherington, who undertook the tour in 2012 had to say about it here: http://www.australianpoetry.org//2012/10/18/when-in-ireland/

And also - Diane Fahey talks about her experiences in 2013.

ABOUT THE TOUR

The Australian Poetry International Tour of Ireland is part of a three-year program supported by the Australia Council.  The 2014 tour builds on those undertaken by Paul Hetherington and Petra White in 2012, and by Diane Fahey and Ali Cobby Eckermann in 2013.

The aims of the tour are to provide a professional development opportunity for the participating poets, promote the profile of Australian poets and poetry, strengthen ties with the poetry community in Ireland and develop further collaborative possibilities between our two countries, especially to explore links and opportunities with Dublin, another City of Literature.

For more information on Bonny and the tour see   Australian Poetry Org.  http://www.australianpoetry.org/news/2013-international-poetry-tour/

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