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Flock of Gulls – (c)Michael J. Whelan

 

THE CLEVERNESS OF HUNGER

 

In my garden on a wet summer day,

while big crows mustered

and seagulls squawked in anger

at the cleverness of hunger,

small birds clustered

to feed each other damp crumbs,

and there I witnessed a tiny sparrow

drag a half slice of bread

(which I had just thrown

onto a flat-roof shed)

under a small table

to keep it from the reign.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in A New Ulster Magazine, issue No. 60 – Sept’ 2017 –  See: https://issuu.com/amosgreig/docs/anu60

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

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

 

BATTLE SIGHTS

 

(Rifleman John Curley, U.N. Observation Post 6-40 – Haddathah,

 Irish Area of Operations, South Lebanon – 1989)

 

 

Everyone was shooting before anyone was killed.

Sometimes you have to defend yourself.

Your body was tense, selecting through your battle sights

the one trying to kill you, his bullets

kicking up dirt on their way to your head,

you never took the shot.

Being a Peacekeeper in a warzone

and being prepared to use your weapon

was a lesson you learned very early.

 

Later, when you smashed their Russian

made machine-gun to bits on a rock,

you were only venting your rage at the carnage.

Two AMAL dead and five Irish injured

after a stand-off at a U.N. checkpoint

over who was to keep possession of the thing.

Flesh has no resistance to bullets

aimed by dead freedom fighters

squeezing triggers as they fall.

You still see it all.

 

After the fire-fight blood filled your vision.

It poured from the floor of an APC,

where two of your friends lay wounded,

their bodies punctured.

 

You worked on them as they screamed,

rolling the most serious onto his side to drain his lungs,

while he pleaded with you to keep him alive

to see his daughter.

 

When you destroyed the machine-gun that day,

with blood on your face and on your hands,

everyone remembered how a human skull

is disintegrated by a rifle switched to automatic

and no one dared stop you.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

AMAL – Lebanese Resistance

APC – Armoured Personnel Carrier

 

Published in A NEW ULSTER Magazine, issue 60, Sept’ 2017

see https://issuu.com/amosgreig/docs/anu60

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Rifleman Shay Singleton, South Lebanon 1988 (Copyright – used with permission).

 

THE SOLDIER YOU WERE

(Rifleman Shay Singleton, U.N. checkpoint 6-38 Alpha, Haddathah Village,

 Irish Area of Operations – South Lebanon,  winter 1988)

 

I will always remember

that Peacekeepers, like Icarus, sometimes soar

too close to the flames of a violent sun,

that warriors are drawn by the gods

to the night-time’s phosphorous tracer

bouncing like molten solder

under a welder’s torch,

 

that glory and honour take many forms,

and a Greek falling at Thermopylae

was as real and important to antiquity

as you buying shoes for a near barefoot child

and your reading these words now.

 

So these lines are for the soldier you were,

for that Peacekeeper all those years ago

because you’ve often wondered

if the months you spent in that burning land

were worth the time away from home

and your family’s fret,

what the things you did and witnessed meant,

 

for though all warriors seek the glories of the Spartan

and armies, for millennia, have ploughed the soil of Lebanon,

history shows that enemies aren’t always victims of a war,

the poor and innocent too are taken by the sword.

 

But, even warriors are known to save lives,

like the day you refused to let a schoolboy die

or the greatest pain explode among that winter’s classroom,

or his home.

Though he thought better

than gift a secret hand-grenade to you – an Irish soldier,

you gave him every dollar you could muster from your pockets

for the deadly contents of his bag.

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in A NEW ULSTER Magazine, issue No. 60  – September 2017

see https://issuu.com/amosgreig/docs/anu60

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Hi everyone, please read Sophie Grenham’s interview with myself  published today  in Writer’s Block section of The Gloss Magazine #peacekeeper

see: http://thegloss.ie/writers-block-with-michael-j-whelan/

Thanks

Michael

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

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

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

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Michael J. Whelan

Michael J. Whelan - South Lebanon -1994

Michael J. Whelan – South Lebanon 

Michael J. Whelan – Kosovo

 

https://michaeljwhelan.wordpress.com/

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Today Monday 31th July 2017 is the centenary of the death of Irish poet Francis Ledwidge who died in Flanders during the First World War 1917, it is also the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the 3rd Battle of Ypres in which he was killed or ‘Passchendaele’ as it was known.  Yesterday I attended in uniform the ‘Poetry Reading and Wreath Laying Ceremony with Gerald Dawe – Professor of English and Fellow of Trinity College Dublin in the National War Memorial Park, Islandbridge, Dublin.’ It was a special event organised by the Inchicore Ledwidge Society to honour the Irish soldier-poet Francis Ledwidge.

Being a poet and member of the Irish Defence Forces (a soldier poet) it was important for me to attend and remember Francis Ledwidge 

 

Michael J. Whelan at the grave of Irish Poet Francis Ledwidge – killed In Action WW1. Photo (c)Michael J. Whelan

 

This is a poem I wrote some time ago after a visit to Gallipoli where he fought and later to his grave in Flanders, Belgium.

 

 

SPARROWS SING


(For Francis Ledwidge, 

Gallipoli -2011)

 

I cross the world

in search of you,

to walk where you walked,

dream where you dreamed,

same ground – different dawn.

 

No trenches now only peace.

Where you wrote

I sit to read your poems.

Sparrows sing above these quiet hills

though they didn’t for you.

 

In the depths of despair you sang

of little fields and robins remembered.

Nature brings you back to life

and I breathe it in,

find you in the landscapes of your words.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

 

Michael J. Whelan with Professor Gerald Dawe at the ‘Poetry and Wreath Laying Ceremony’ in honour of Irish poet Francis Ledwidge on the centenary of his death in Flanders during the Great War 1917. (Irish War Memorial Gardens 30th July 2017) Photo: (c)Michael J. Whelan

 

 

 

Professor Gerald Dawe addresses the audience at the ‘Poetry and Wreath Laying Ceremony’ event to mark the Centenary of the death of Irish poet Francis Ledwidge during World War One (Irish War Memorial, 30th July 2017) Photo: (c)Michael J. Whelan

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Kosovo Sky 2001 (c)Michael J. Whelan

Nectar of War

The ground could feel them,
returning to nests with the arsenals
of their colonies,
rotors vibrating the air
on convoys of black silhouettes
zipping by,
dozens of helicopters
swarming overhead
like eager wasps,
tail-booms jutting out
like giant stings
with artillery pieces,
heavy mortars and vehicles
slung beneath their painted bodies
like sacs full of the nectar of war.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in the ‘contemporary Irish poets feature’ in issue 22 of Rochford Street Review – July 2017

see https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2017/07/06/michael-j-whelan-five-poems/

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