MASS-GRAVE near Prizren, Kosovo-2001. (c)Michael J. Whelan


Old Man’s Tears



Wandering through ashes and misery
of memories daily desired,
landscapes of loving existence entwined
to a day of infamy fired.
Why graves in back garden we enquired
through interpreter we witnessed tragedy,
for old man’s tears trapped on beard
told a story of brutal savagery.
Burnt shell of home – on hurting ground,
daughters and wives ravaged within sight of sons.
All put to death by order of state
in front of old eyes,
no more to sire ungrateful children.


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/


Young boys near village Mass-grave, Kosovo 2001, Photo – (c)Michael J. Whelan


Children of the War

(Peacekeeping in Kosovo)


Once, on the outskirts of a future memory,
we stopped our convoy
on a narrow road
near a fallen tree.
I was in the lead vehicle
bringing supplies to a forgotten village
the war had touched,
our first time on that ground.
The tree blocked the route
as if booby-trapped.

There was movement in the woods
as we pushed through,
we didn’t shoot.
It was good to see them,
we drove by and they came in to view
hands raised high- begging.
The ambush turned out
to be scared children
weary of uniforms,
we gave them chocolate
for their little victory.
There was nothing to fear
though they didn’t know it
when they saw us coming
and in the long run of things
their tactics worked –
their smiles keep me awake sometimes.


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/


Destroyed house – Kosovo 2001. (c)Michael J. Whelan


(Kosovo, Winter 2001)


Cold day
Old woman
Ancient urine
Matted hair
Dirty clothes
Filthy skin
In ruin
Burnt out shell
Gone mad
Charred remains
Her family
Inside home
Inside her
Of strangers
Would not be helped
Could not

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/

Birds – (c)Michael J. Whelan


Days of Peace

There weren’t many birds
in the hills of South Lebanon
when I was a peacekeeper,
they were never a feature
of the historic landscape
that I can remember

except for the vultures
circling up high on summer thermals,
the smaller creatures had all been killed
by the time the spring had ended,
nothing to stir poetics in a future poet.
But there were times during days of peace
when villages came to life
with the call to prayers from ancient minarets
when the local people spoke
of a recent Barhah – a gift from God,

the moment when they personally encountered
a new born child and the Adhan was recited –
the first words a baby hears
(a call to prayers whispered into the left ear),
and I think now how abundant the skies must have been
before the crusades

and how many times since
a new born child
has encountered that same call to prayers.

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/

Engine of AVRO XIX – Michael J. Whelan



(Baldonnel – home of Irish aviation)


Every year in the museum where I work,

the place where old aeroplanes long to fly,

blackbirds build nests

in the wheel wells of a Vampire Jet,

the engines of an Avro Anson.

It’s very difficult to prevent

but once they get in

my mission is to protect the chicks.

Sometimes we photograph them

from a safe distance – zoom lenses.

Sometimes they sing outside my office door,

their yellow bills and fine dark plumage gliding down

to perch upon the framed pictures of vintage aircraft

standing on top of tall display cases

full of plastic models.

Now and then I’m allowed to get close,

as if they appreciate my words of gratitude.

One morning a fledgling collided with my window,

got my heart racing, a tragedy for the parents,

new feathers blowing everywhere.

Now and then a sparrow hawk

flies into the hangar to prey

and I watch it in the rafters

where it has the best views of a historic collection

alive in my imagination,

no flesh, no blood, no vibration in their wings

but once they roamed the skies majestic.


Michael J. Whelan


Vintage Aircraft (Irish Air Corps Museum collection) – Michael J. Whelan



Published in The Galway Review on 27 June 2017, see https://thegalwayreview.com/2017/06/28/michael-j-whelan-now-and-then/

Programme titled: ‘WHEN THE WAR IS OVER,’ (a phrase from ‘The Place’)

Centenary of death of Irish Poet Francis Ledwidge 

Friday 23 June at 7 pm on RTÉ Lyric FM Radio.


Hi all, just a quick reminder for your diaries, Claire Cunningham’s radio documentary produced to commemorate the life, poetry and death of Irish Poet Francis Ledwidge, and which I was honoured to have been asked to contribute toois due to be broadcast by RTE Lyric FM on Friday 23rd June 2017.

Francis Ledwidge Irish Poet killed in action WWI


This year marks the centenary of the death of the poet Francis Ledwidge. Known as the Poet of the Blackbird, he was born at Slane, Co. Meath. He served as a soldier in the British Army fighting in World War One and was killed at the third battle of Ypres on the 31 July 1917 just seventeen days before his thirtieth birthday. I know how much work has been put into the making of the programme and it promises to be a fantastic production, hopefully you can tune in wherever you are in the world.

Poet Michael J. Whelan at the grave of Francis Ledwidge- Artillary Wood Cemetery, Belgium

1 am very much excited and looking forward to reading with the other contributors to the collection at ‘Circle and Square,’ an International Literature Festival Dublin event, on Monday, May 22nd at 6.30pm in Tallaght Library. Please come along and say hi!

The International Literature Festival Dublin, founded in 1998, is Ireland’s premier literary event and gathers the finest writers in the world to debate, provoke, delight and enthral. Described by the press as ‘boasting a stunning array of top international literary talent’ and ‘the country’s most successful and easily the best annual literary event’, International Literature Festival Dublin line-up is sure to impress.

Writer and editor Eileen Casey will present an evening of live readings from Circle and Square, an anthology of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, all inspired by experiences at The Square, Tallaght.

Date:  Monday, 22 May 2017
Tallaght Library
Admission:  Free (Book Here)

Confirmed contributors to the collection reading on the night include:

Michael J. Whelan
Mae Newman
Doreen Duffy
Susan Condon
Tony Sheilds
Vivienne Kearns
Orla Donoghue

Details for the evILFDublinent are available here: http://bit.ly/2pKTovb