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Yesterday, 27th July 2018, I was a speaker representing the Irish Air Corps at the unveiling of a stone plaque memorial at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin to commemorate an Irish pilot of the Royal Air Force Major Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock, who perished during the Great War. I was asked to write and deliver a poem and some historical context to that period of history and the connections of Irish military aviation to it and afterwards.  This was an event forming part of the RAF100 anniversary and I am extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to contribute to the remembering of Ireland’s role during the conflict and beyond, but especially the commemorating of the Irish who were part of those sizemic events. The poem was included in the Glasnevin Trust’s event programme (shown in images), for which I am also grateful to the manager, historians and staff.

 

‘WHEN WE FLEW; Death of an Irish Airman in the Great War’ by Michael J. Whelan – published in THE Glasnevin Cemetery event programme for commemoration of Irish WWI pilot Major Mick Mannock VC  – 27TH July 2018

 

WHEN WE FLEW

 

 (Death of an Irish Airman during the Great War)

 

 

O how I witnessed worlds amongst the clouds,

that peace, the freedom, those futures and the past,

to patrol a morning’s sun to its final spark,

spilling out a day’s horizons.

 

Remember, I alone, chose this path,

to roam the skies above the autumnal Earth,

short lived but truly spent.

 

And, when that moment came

to fall from heaven’s breaths,

only the fields of France embraced me.

Yes, I am of Ireland, do not blame the enemy,

for as brothers, in that same ground, we rest.

 

But think of us,

in all the years to come,

when you contemplate our war,

that when we flew

we were part of the few

who gave for you our all.

 

Written and recited by Corporal Michael J. Whelan at the RAF commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery on 27th July 2018

 

‘WHEN WE FLEW; Death of an Irish Airman in the Great War’ by Michael J. Whelan

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Ethnic Cleansing – kosovo (Michael J. Whelan, 2001)

 

FOUNDATIONS

(Kosovo)

 

There are times

when you question the truth,

the wisdom of being in this place,

and if what you’re doing helps

when the digger sits dejected

gleaming yellow

in a bitter winter sun,

‘cause the C.O. wants his inspection done,

while the homeless need foundations dug.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

C.O. = Commanding Officer

Published in a sequence of poems titled TRUTH by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. Poetry Magazine, January 2018 issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

TRUTH

 

Sometimes a muzzle flash

follows the bark of a gun barrel.

 

Sometimes the ground erupts

before anyone hears the screaming shell.

 

Sometimes a house disappears in the silent distance

all that echoes is a mother’s tears.

 

Sometimes a peacekeeper hears belligerents say

war is ended, there is no enemy

 

But they would kill him

those enemies of truth,

 

he being a witness

and standing in their way.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in a sequence of poems titled TRUTH by Mark Ulyseas (Ed) in L.E. Poetry Magazine, January 2018 issue

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DUST: Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

 

DUST

        (Kosovo)

 

Returning to base each night

covered in a layer of grimy dust

that fell from the sky,

thick and slimy when wet,

I was always reminded of extermination camps,

(people were still missing from the war’s

ethnic cleansing),

but we were told by our superiors

that we had nothing to worry about,

the dust was from the chimneys in Obilic.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

 Published as part of a sequence of six poems titled TRUTH by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. Poetry Magazine, January 2018 issue

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Michael J. Whelan. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

HAUNTING FLIGHT

(Irish U.N. post coming under attack,

South Lebanon, c. 1990s)

 

 

Vibrating rings expand to edge of cup,

if I close my eyes it will be gone.

The one o fives and one five fives are curving through the night,

my ears pick out the distant crump, crump, crump.

 

A tank-round bursts the silence,

transforming blast-walls in a multitude of sparkles,

lit up by a million flechettes puncturing concrete slabs.

The dancing shrapnel illuminates our billets to the violent night,

the echoes search, as red flares pop into haunting flight.

 

Then our radios whine up, their fans belch out a constant drone

of shoot reps and a firing close in response to RPGs,

panicked non-human voices fill the sweating room,

the carnival is back again but much too soon.

 

My chest rotates in anxious sickening trip,

it’s nights like this I feel that I could quit

the arc of noise and traffic through my sleep.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

 

RPG = Rocket Propelled Grenade

Flechette = Isreali anti-personnel shell filled with long shards of metal

One o fives and one five fives = Artillery shells

Published by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. Poetry Magazine, January 2018 issue under the sequence title TRUTH

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Photo: Michael J. Whelan

ASYLUM

Kosovo

 

Winter; at the great gates,

numb peacekeepers stop for a moment

at the edge of a journey home,

snow falling heavily on the asylum,

like ash on a map.

 

Inside, half-dressed, inmates hover like insects

around burning tar barrels,

warm their limbs over naked flames that lick at their faces.

They gather by the iron cage,

heavy eyes, skinny necks and runny noses.

 

They watch the soldiers light cigarettes to the cold,

push their hands through as though offering peace

but reaching for a long remembered taste.

Whole packs are surrendered, thrown over the coiled wire,

sweets and chocolates too.

 

Faces transform, all are prisoners,

no conversations, none needed.

 

Michael J. Whelan

Published by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. PoeTry Magazine, January 2018 issue,  – sequence of six poems titled TRUTH

 

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Michael J. Whelan – Tibnine Castle, Peacekeeping S. Lebanon 

 

 

CRUSADER’S KEEP

 

There is a fire sky hanging

over Tibnine,

a blood sky, drowning

the ramparts of the Lionheart’s keep,

transforming white walls to red.

And I wonder if the Christian king

who built this castle saw skies like this,

heard the echoes of Alexander the Great

as he sacked Sidon and Tyre

two thousand years before,

like I hear the drums of Saracens

and Crusaders in this disputed place.

 

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

(Richard The Lionheart is said to have slept in Tibnine Castle.

The castle, built during the Crusades, is currently

situated within the Irish battalion area of peacekeeping

operations in South Lebanon).

 

Published in a sequence of six poems titled TRUTH by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. Poetry Magazine – January 2018 Issue

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