Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


RULES OF ENGAGEMENT – Forthcoming new collection by Michael J. Whelan in October 2019


RULES OF ENGAGEMENT Photo: (c)Michael J. Whelan


So some great news that I have been waiting to share with you.

My forthcoming new book titled RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (poetry) will be published by Doire Press (who published my last collection PEACEKEEPER in 2016). Rules of Engagement will be launched at the Red Line Book Festival 2019 in October this year. I will also be going on a short reading tour of the county in the Autumn with fellow writers from the Doire family so hopefully I’ll see you on one of the organised events and maybe at the launch.

I am very, very grateful to the team at Doire Press for taking on my poems again, for believing in them and for the continuing encouragement of many people over recent years.





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Niamh & Me

Niamh and Me. Photo(c)Michael J. Whelan


The Reservoir

For Niamh


It was one of the few days we had off together,

we walked the full route of the waterworks,

chatting about our jobs, our kids,

we spoke of our parents, mine gone,

yours still involved though separated.


We were married a long time, but we were

only catching up with each other the way couples do,

a time out from the unnatural world, a couple of hours

just for me and for you when we plotted the future.


We examined the trees, the flowers, listened to the river

and the breeze, the heat was amazing, and the day was beautiful.

There was a sign on the fence warning us of Japanese Knotweed,

we had no idea what it was but we found some near the wire,

we were careful not to bring it home on our clothes

to infest our garden.


You spotted a faun in the distance,

we stopped and watched for a while.

Hairy caterpillars raced across our path on the hot surface,

I hadn’t seen one in years, so you continued to point them

out as we climbed slowly towards the upper reservoir,

crossed the dam onto the far side of the water

and into the woods on the side of the valley. We were high up,


and I think I held your hand for a few moments then,

or maybe you held mine, it doesn’t really matter –

it was special holding a piece of you there.

I wasn’t taking in what you were saying part of the time

or what was passing me by in the landscape,

I was just looking at you, just looking at you

and remembering all the very first times we were together,


the first time I really felt part of the world, of all this nature.

You were a seed bursting open in my heart, you still are.

It was your idea for us to walk the upper reservoir,

for both of us to stand on top of the dam and see the colours.


(c)Michael J. Whelan

For our 22nd Wedding Anniversary


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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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Photo  Tibnin bridge, Lebanon 1985 | Captpaulf | Flickr





Empty shells on the ground

on a bridge

at a crossroads.


Shell of a post

on a bridge

at a crossroads.


Echoes of soldiers who died

at the hands of comrade

on a bridge

at a crossroads,




resonates in Ireland.


Michael J. Whelan


(In October 1982 three Irish

Peacekeepers were murdered

by a fourth member of their isolated

post in South Lebanon)



See also Ruairi De Barra’s piece below on Paper Never Refused Ink

see link here  – https://paperneverrefusedink.com/2018/10/20/748/

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Why, when I have taken off my uniform

and examine the canvas – a river scene,

in the detail of things,

does my story pick out

the turpentine in the rushes?

Why does the fringe of furry trees

against a blue sky

conceal an army,

the grave of a village?

I would go there

but it’s cold in the shadows

and a cruised-up submarine

lurks beneath the surface.


You have led the way

for all the horrible injustices,

the dark that humans

keep in their hearts

but decency tries to keep at bay

are dripping through the cracks

that you have made to smell of incense.

Petrol will catch fire in water and in the air,

it’s the 21st Century for fuck sake

and all the bridges are burning.


Michael J. Whelan


(c)Michael J. Whelan

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Today I stood above the Aegean Sea

listening for echoes I could not hear.

The silent tempo of the ground

resonates still on unnatural landscapes.

The zig-zag lines where dead men toil

dug deep into blood smeared soil,

buried now with their bones

on beaches and gullies where once

they fought the Turk,

stormed the shores and hills as if thrown

against the wind by Agamemnon himself.


The silence bade me look towards Troy

across the Straits from Helles.

I still could hear no voice, nor thunder in the sky

except the launching waves pushing ancient

pebbles up the beach to rest,

where once they drowned the hearts of men.


Then behind me I could feel it,

the noise of peace and echoes of war

in a thousand monuments to the dead,

stretched out in marching order.


And there, watching me my shadow

took on the specter of a ghost and spoke,


‘Like Hector I was the defender

brave and virtuous – but of Irish stock,

I am the soldier my country forsook.’


And in response I said

      I have come at last to pay my respects,

I have come to take you home!


Michael J. Whelan

25th April is the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings of 1915, during the Great War

V- Beach Cemetery Gallipol, where many Irishmen rest: Michael J. Whelan 2011

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Border Issues 2019

i.m. Lyra McKee


I hear the grass holds your shape

in the ditches and lanes

where you were abandoned,

that the blades are still crushed

where your body pressed down,

that they are still a little yellow in the shade

where the soil keeps a grip of the early warmth

of your chest, your final breath,

and that the memories of blood could easily

pool out like an ocean of grief from the ground,

enough to overwhelm continents.


I hope there’s still a chance for peace,

that someday a great oak grows in your place.


Michael J. Whelan


A poem I wrote some time ago but means something more to me now after the murder of Lyra McKee and whose funeral took place today. I hope her death is the last and that because of her voice and what happened to her that the peace lasts. RIP.




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