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Re-sharing this for World Poetry Day 2017

Michael J. Whelan - Writer

Michael J. Whelan - Lebanon 1994 Michael J. Whelan – Lebanon 1994

PARADOX OF THE PEACEKEEPER IN THE HOLY LAND

I am forever walking upon the shore

       betwixt the sand and the foam.

       The high tide will erase my footprints,

       and the wind will blow away the foam,

        but the sea and the shore will remain forever…’

 

                                                                         Kahlil Gibran

In Lebanon I sought redemption

like the pilgrim at the crossroads of Heliopolis,

on the Bekaa’s great range where Bedouin caravans met

and Romans laid their bodies down in supplication to their gods,

to Aphrodite and Jupiter, and long before this peacekeeper came

on what seemed…

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Irish U.N. Patrol - South Lebanon c.1990s Photo by Michael J. Whelan

Irish U.N. Patrol – South Lebanon c.1990s.Photo by Michael J. Whelan

ROAD TO AT-TIRI

 (South Lebanon)

‘The sun is not to overtake the moon

nor the night to outstrip the day

and each swims in an orbit’ –Qur-an 26;33-58

 

 

Ancient minaret,  

sentinel monument marking

this splintered place. Village of the old,

counting days and mourning their dead,

the young flung to the corners of the Earth.

 

Beneath your silence quietly we pass

through battered streets,

guns pointed at the ground,

peppered walls keep your story.

 

Loud in flags of nations but enfeebled

by ghostly eyes whispering fear from the dying

our patrol follows the paths worn by many,

afraid to disturb their memories.

Our footsteps bear no echo

on this broken road.

 

Michael J. Whelan

Published recently in the USA as part of a sequence  in ‘From the Cradle of Civilization: Contemporary Arabic Poetry”, the fifth edition of Life and Legends’ http://lifeandlegends.com/cradle-civilization/

Bunker S. Lebanon, 1994. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

THE SHELLING

 

In the darkness

you feel it

hunting you,

smells your blood,

vibrations pulsing

through the valley

like a beast.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published recently as part of a sequence  in ‘From the Cradle of Civilization: Contemporary Arabic Poetry”, the fifth edition of Life and Legends’ http://lifeandlegends.com/cradle-civilization/

 

Dark kosovo (Michael J. Whelan -2001)

BLACK BLOOD GROUND

(Kosovo)

 

Children huddled together on high ground,

barefoot in the freezing mud, no adults found.

 

The police had come like hunters

pictured victorious over their fathers.

 

Bodies hanged by distended knees

from branches of petrified trees.

 

Protecting arms reaching down

surrendering to the black blood ground.

 

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published recently as part of a sequence  in ‘From the Cradle of Civilization: Contemporary Arabic Poetry”, the fifth edition of Life and Legends’ http://lifeandlegends.com/cradle-civilization/

 

Photo by Vasil Kunchev – free stock image from Pexels

PEACEFUL SUNDAY

(Haris – village in South Lebanon, 1990s)

 

‘I remember a peaceful Sunday

and an empty classroom in Haris,

and thinking how their enemies didn’t need

to teach the children of that old village

the grammar of adult hate.

 

It was written in the rubble

of the four walls of that place,

in the shattered hanging ceiling

where a rocket spelled its fate.

 

I could read the yellow markings

on the rocket’s splintered case,

I heard the teacher’s lesson in the silence

of an empty shoe.’

 Michael J. Whelan 

Published recently as part of a sequence by Kalpna Singh-Chitnis  in ‘From the Cradle of Civilization: Contemporary Arabic Poetry”, the fifth edition of Life and Legends’ http://lifeandlegends.com/cradle-civilization/

 

Michael J. Whelan - poet, Tibnine Castle, South Lebanon 1994

 South Lebanon 1990s. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

BLOOD SUN

 

They say ‘peacekeeping

is not a job for soldiers

 

but, only a soldier can do it.’

And tonight as the blood

 

sun goes down, spilling out

onto a hundred black horizons,

 

they steel themselves

rebuilding bunkers,

 

fixing strong defences

and pushing barbed-wire obstacles

 

across roads, preparing

for the reckoning.

 

Michael J. Whelan

Published by Mark Ulyseas in a sequence of poems titled ‘A Hundred Black Horizons’ in L.E. Poetry Magazine, February 2017

Lebanon landscape 1994 -Michael J. Whelan

Lebanon landscape 199os -Michael J. Whelan

 

METAL IN THE SKY

 

After the shelling – stillness.

The air is clean, nothing hurtful comes their way,

no more metal in the sky – for now.

 

The hills whisper to the survivors

‘live again, breathe deeply,

go to the wells and greet your neighbours,

count the missing and the dead and be glad,

for you’ll never feel so alive

as when you are close to death.’

 

Michael J. Whelan

Published by Mark Ulyseas in a sequence of poems titled ‘A Hundred Black Horizons’ in L.E. Poetry Magazine, February 2017