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Irish Peacekeeper - Lebanon 1990s. Photo: (c)Michael J. Whelan

Irish Peacekeeper – Lebanon 1990s. Photo: (c)Michael J. Whelan

 

IN THE PERIPHERY

 

Irish United Nations area of peacekeeping operations during Israeli Lebanese wars, 1990s

 

SHELL WARNING! SHELL WARNING! SHELL WARNING!

over the tannoy, it’s 4.30 in the morning,

I can feel the distant rumble already,

we shake the night fever from our heads,

an orchestra of activity, grab our weapons, flak-jackets, helmets,

sling identity discs around our necks, half dressed

we shuffle like the waking dead towards the bomb shelters.

 

I can feel her heart beating. I am so alive right now, can sense the fruit bats

finding their way back into the bowels of the Crusader’s castle,

the sound of every cricket in the wadi is about me, I picture the delicate cobweb

harp strings in the corner of my bunk, smell eucalyptus on the air.

I know the history of each leaf falling from the Cedar tree, the black faced men

in darkened rooms planning war, the pawns who perish in their violence

and I wonder what my parents are doing at this very moment,

what time it might be at home if an officer arrives to their door.

 

The stars are drawing my eyes, the moon vibrates in the periphery as I rush.

It’s not raining but a raindrop touches my eyelid, runs down my face.

I’m thinking now about her lips, the perfume of her wrists.

There is enough time to gather up the local civilians and so we go,

under flashing lights and blue flags our troops escort them to the shelters,

soldiers mix with refugees, one or two carry children on their shoulders,

another wraps an infant in her own body armour.

 

Yesterday the Resistance attacked the compounds on the hilltops using the mist for cover,

tank fire and mortars chased them back through the villages.

This morning is the Occupier’s reprisal, but when the dawn comes

these few innocent’s will not be seen, they are safe, we will keep them

beneath the overcrowded sandbags. At times the screaming child rattles my brain,

makes me want to climb back out for peace and quiet – an illusion!

 

I close my eyes to see my lover. I imagine the solitude of our garden, I hold onto it.

Then comes the reign of fire, the whooomphs of artillery, the staccato of bullets

and I remember from experience the plumes bursting upwards from their falling houses

like pillars of salt rising on the Dead Sea, spilling into the sky along all of their horizons.

In this strange cave-light, on every vibration, sand falls like gold dust onto a mother’s face.

I make myself small, we could be in here for hours, even days.

 

I feel so alive and I ask the universe if it sees the woman

waiting for me in the future, who hungers for me,

the one I hunger for, my need of her touch?

Outside, the Gods are deciding who lives and who dies,

the shelter keeps the hum of prayers to Christ and to Allah,

fathers feed worry beads through their fingers.

Death is prowling the perimeter; and we have no permission to fight.

 

(c)Michael J. Whelan

 

This poem was shortlisted in the University College Dublin ‘Voices of War’ International Poetry Competition for the Centenary of the Armistice 2018 in the Irish State’s Decade of Centuries commemorations and is published on their websites on New Years Eve 2018.

See – https://www.facebook.com/voicesofwar2018/photos/a.594079697691846/618256728607476/?type=3&theater

Also – http://centenaries.ucd.ie/events/voices-of-war-international/

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Irish Naval Service rescue operation – Mediterranean Sea 2015 Photo: L/CommOp Mick Ahern

 

 

HOW DISTANT THE SUN

(For Ruairi de Barra – Sailor & Poet,

Irish Naval Service,

Refugee/Migrant crisis, Mediterranean Sea) 

                            

 

Unlike your ship the world is adrift,

washed out by the fury

of a million refugees,

all those processions

that you bear witness too,

a life experiencing the long

desperate moments in a day,

and all the days

that become a sentence

only you, a poet, can register.

You navigate towards home

and I ponder

how distant the sun is,

and yet I use it

as if torchlight in a cave,

to watch poems form

in the depths of oceans.

 

Michael J. Whelan 

 

Irish Naval Service rescue operation – Mediterranean Sea. CPO Ruairi de Barra in Has/Chem suit carrying child – 2015 Photo: L/CommOp Mick Ahern

 

Published in FLARE 09 (October 2018) a quarterly publication dedicated exclusively to poets and poems heard at The Sunflower Sessions, edited by Éamon Mag Uidhir & published on behalf of The Sunflower Sessions by Declan McLoughlin. See https://www.flare.ie/?fbclid=IwAR2L3bRApeMpeYMrXeAqEtbcH6hSxByFHk6FNhwDk9yHvzbLF6k_UBSr9p8

 

Photos credit: L/CommOp Mick Ahern – Irish Naval Service and show Mediterranean Sea rescue in progress, also shows CPO Ruairi de Barra in Has/chem suit carrying child  – 2015.

 

WWI Scene – Soldier on Wire (c)Michael J. Whelan, 2009

 

TO ALL THE PRESIDENTS, ALL THE KINGS, ALL THE GENERALS AND POLITICIANS

I have seen the wire
that caught on the uniforms
of unlucky soldiers,
touched the pointed barbs
that pierced their skin
before the bullets
that took them,
stood where the missing lie.
In my pocket
is a poem
that brings me back
like a bridge.
In my pocket
is the blood coloured rust
of the rage of men.

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in ‘One Hundred Years From Now,’ a sequence of poems by Michael J Whelan in LE Poetry & Writing, Edited by Mark Ulyseas, Volume One December 2018

see

https://liveencounters.net/le-poetry-writing-2018/12-dec-pw-vol-one-2018/michael-j-whelan-one-hundred-years-from-now/

War Graves – WWI. Photo: Michael J. Whelan 2017

AWAKEN HISTORY’S DEAD

The impacting shells of modern wars
always threatens to awaken history’s dead.
If vibrations disturb old battlefield’s bled
would the warrior ghosts recognise the modern cause
as we have claimed their allegiance to ours,
if not – who would be our enemies then?

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in ‘One Hundred Years From Now,’ a sequence of poems by Michael J Whelan in LE Poetry & Writing, Edited by Mark Ulyseas, Volume One December 2018

see

https://liveencounters.net/le-poetry-writing-2018/12-dec-pw-vol-one-2018/michael-j-whelan-one-hundred-years-from-now/

Thiepval Memorial to the missing on the Somme, World War One. Photo: Michael J. Whelan 2018

AFTER THE GREAT WAR

do not ask what all the sacrifice was for
or ponder on its worth,
the future should fear no vengeance
from the past
for in the years of remembrance
a hundred years hence,
when the last veteran has finally passed
we shall be at war again.

Michael J. Whelan 

 

Published in ‘One Hundred Years From Now,’ a sequence of poems by Michael J Whelan in LE Poetry & Writing, Edited by Mark Ulyseas, Volume One December 2018

see

https://liveencounters.net/le-poetry-writing-2018/12-dec-pw-vol-one-2018/michael-j-whelan-one-hundred-years-from-now/

At the graveside of war poet Isaac Rosenberg, killed during the Great War Photo: Michael J. Whelan, France 2018

ONE HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW

I was reading lines from a famous poet
killed while fighting in the Great War.
We never met but through his poems I know him,
what he saw and felt a hundred years ago.
He resonates with me, now,
we are connected,
his emotions are mine as I read,
his body – gone, but he exists
and I know his feebleness as I write.

 

Michael J. Whelan

Published in ‘One Hundred Years From Now,’ a sequence of poems by Michael J Whelan in LE Poetry & Writing, Edited by Mark Ulyseas, Volume One December 2018

see

https://liveencounters.net/le-poetry-writing-2018/12-dec-pw-vol-one-2018/michael-j-whelan-one-hundred-years-from-now/

TIME PASSING – ROWAN TREE (by Michael J. Whelan)

 

AUTUMN COMES

 

It happened so fast I almost missed it,

the Mountain Ash turned to red,

a magpie stole berries from the Rowan,

each year two trees in the place of one.

 

*

 

My mother had blue woolly socks on her feet

when she waited in the coffin,

told us she didn’t want to be cold

when they placed her in the ground.

Seven years later my father’s socks were orange,

his funeral was in June, hers in November,

same plot.

 

*

 

The carnage of fuchsia flowers

fallen to the pavement

under weight of rain,

like the battlefield remains of the rearguard,

over-run, piled high at their last post,

a bed of blood near the greenest grass.

 

(c)Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Magazine, September 2018 Issue

https://liveencounters.net/2018/08/24/live-encounters-poetry-writing-september-2018/