Archive for May 5th, 2019

War of the Worlds


Concrete, stone, metal

all drawn from earth.

I want to climb the white pylon,

this alien thing and search the horizons,

spit on the power lines if I could reach above them.


I feel the urge to be a god too, though not Arcadian,

to be more powerful than Agamemnon at Troy, braver than Achilles.

I would turn this empty world upon its head,

shake the tribes of Babylon and Sodom & Gomorrah

out of these empty streets, see them fall towards Elysium.

They would have newspapers between their hands

with the scripture of Abraham and Mohammed, the WORD

etched on the tablets swallowed by Moses every night

with a glass of water.


It seems this empty stage is the apocalyptic amphitheater,

cold like the ancient tiered steps of history – tired.

I imagine the exhausted voices of actors

reaching up through the epoch’s throat,

reciting the tests of time much like democracy’s genesis

might have imagined us in our failing landscapes,


as if commandments warning us ‘What use is the flyover, the streetlight, the motorway,

the playground if their only witness is the grass?’

Each was first an idea, they measure better as the arteries of a city,

the meter pulsating with lives – not these rinsed holograms

that the Cold War and the Twilight Zone planted in our minds.

There was no dying, no droves of bodies once pitted

against the scythes of enemies, they did not go down like flies

under gas, before the scouring guns. They were marched.


The streets are cleansed, uncrowded, but why does my conscience hurt?

See there, there – the fly that scouts the half empty coffee cup,

the flurry of cherry blossoms twisting on the wind above the trash heap,

the shadow clouds roaming over the hills, look at them, see their existences!

Life – you occupied my senses for so long but where have you gone?

what are you doing?


Michael J. Whelan


Truth or Dare Response to “An Altered Land”, exhibition by David Fox at the Olivier Cornet Gallery, Dublin on Thursday 2 May 2019, where I read this poem for Poetry Ireland Day. Exhibition runs until May 12th 2019.

The paintings by David Fox in his exhibition reminded me of empty streets, villages and communal areas that had been affected by the ethnic cleansing and violence of the wars in countries I served in as a United Nations Peacekeeper.




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