Lifting from the water (c)Michael J. Whelan




I imagined

someone’s last breath

caught with little

droplets of moisture

on the spider’s web

in my garden,

a dream catcher

of what might

be carried on a final sigh,

words resembling

a gesture of love

to be heard

if the breeze

passed through

the glistening threads

in the right fashion,

when the web curves

like an instrument

returning the pulse

of someone lost,

who left something

unheard but gifted,

and so I steeled myself

each and every day

with a prayer

and the memory of faces

to protect what might

be there

until it came

to its natural end,

till the silver faded

even though sunlight

always told me

where it was

and then, in my head,

just before a hurricane,

the voice of reason

spoke a poet’s verse

and said

open your notebook

and listen

for words

falling from your pen.


(c)Michael J. Whelan


Published in Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Magazine, September 2018 Issue




Herons- Sean Walsh Park, Tallaght




Sean Walsh Park, Tallaght


I was throwing bread and became surrounded at the water’s edge,

engulfed by gaggles and screams, of birds of all kinds,

as if I had entered the wrong place at the wrong time

and my intrusion was being discussed.


A bawldy magpie digging a hole stopped every so often, stared me

up and down, paranoid, tilting its head, listening for bugs.

Its body seemed swollen, the wings raggedy and tired, feathers in tatters,

it seemed confused, limping, beaten upon and outcast by its peers.

Even the ducks and seagulls kept their distance.


I never throw bread into the water; it isn’t good for pond life,

the magpie seemed afraid to approach where I had left a crust

on the ground, I felt sorry for it.  A heron stood watching like something wise.

Some humans passed by, crossing the red bridge on their way

to the children’s playground. The heron turned to study them.


When all the bread was gone some ducks waddled up to my feet, a little non-plussed

at my recent behaviour. I could see their beautiful colours, it felt like communication

having to prove my worthiness by showing empty hands, the aviators left then

and I was alone for a while with the wonder.


(c)Michael J. Whelan    

Published in Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Magazine, September 2018 Issue



Kosovo (c)Michael J. Whelan – c.2000




It’s 18 years later and I’m strolling down O’ Connell Street.

I notice a rough-sleeper in a shop doorway. There is a queue

for the bank machine contouring around his limbs

as he lies face down on the hard ground talking loudly to himself.


I remember how the investigators worked flat out in Kosovo,

almost captive to the corners of fields and the cruelty

of the events they sought to prove, the soil they touched

became a membrane surrounding remote scars.


They lay face down at times in abandoned crops,

measuring tracks, listening for crowded spaces,

recording the gossip of trees.

They reminded me of Indian scouts from the movies,

feeling for the signature of passing armies

in the broken grass beneath their fingers.

They were asking the dead for directions, the way somebody

might search a cemetery, calling on long deceased

relatives to whisper if they are close or not.


Soon the world will discover another war crime and the skeletons

of civilisation will once more bear witness to its own murder.

As the Earth opens recent wounds I imagine the rough-sleepers

as skeletons of society communicating with scouts,

investigators leaning over precipices,

contemplating what goes into the filling of a trench.


Michael J. Whelan

O’ Connell Street = Main Street of Dublin, capital city of Ireland,

Published in Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Magazine, September 2018 Issue




Aircraft Hangar, Baldonnel 2017 photo: (c)Michael J. Whelan


(Irish UN Peacekeeping troops deployment from Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel)


Queuing up along the wall in the dining hall,

an early breakfast before the long haul,

their camouflaged uniforms separated hearts from bodies.

For them the most difficult part was over, they had said their goodbyes,

their families already returned to the car park, preparing for home.

It’s always the same, the wrenching away, the not knowing.


Later on I saw them in daylight, crowding by platoons and companies

on the ramp between the hangars – waiting, the dark bunched up camouflage

resembled small copses on the landscape, a long hedgerow here and there.

There was a delay so they wandered round a bit before the orders came to form up,

the pilot had signaled time to board, and the busses shuttled them out to the taxiway.


Old sweats and red arses, though even the well-seasoned soldier

always has a slight churning in his gut before departure. I’ve been there,

know the feeling well, the twisting anxiety, stomach rotating

that only really leaves you after a couple of days in the AO. I nodded to a few

faces I recognised, shook hands with others and wished them a safe return.


I knew some who never got one, their tours will last forever.

In each of those uniforms was a life, a family, a story.

They were going into the brutality of the world and every one of them was a poem

that would never be written, giving their all when there was always more to give.

I am glad of some things my country did.


Michael J. Whelan


AO = area of operations


Published in Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Magazine, September 2018 Issue https://www.google.com/url?q=https://liveencounters.net/2018/08/24/live-encounters-poetry-writing-september-2018/&source=gmail&ust=1535200460627000&usg=AFQjCNE__cspg6fKq3qgSVFA4jkJa8ZkvA

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




 (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

A collection of responses to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh edited by Eileen Casey

Very happy that my poem titled MELANCHOLY, inspired by Patrick Kavanagh’s Wet Evening in April,was published recently in The Lea-Green Down collection of responses to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh edited by Eileen Casey and including work from many poets, including:
David Butler, Gavan Duffy, Geraldine Mills, Joan Power, Tanya Farrelly, Brian Kirk, Doreen Duffy, Mae Newman, Paula Meehan, Brigid Flynn, Trish Nugent, Eileen Casey, Enda Coyle-Greene, Grace Wells, Marie Gahan, Maria Wallace, Orla Grant-Donoghue and Susan Condon.

This collection of responses to Kavanagh’s work contains many pieces of diverse and interesting verse, please seek it out, you wont be disapointed!


It is Spring time,
birds sing in the damp trees
a poet’s song recorded through the ages,
and because I once witnessed a crow
rise up from a skeleton forest
in a medieval winter, I will listen,
I will spread open a tulip with my fingers
to watch the bumble-bees gather nectar,
the petals will be like warm skin,
the flower an amplifier for the beat of wings
and I’ll be reminded of
Kavanagh’s Wet Evening in April
where upon my lips will speak the words
When I am dead a hundred years from now
when the Autumn has its time,
each cluster of fallen leaves
will be a crowd of voices
lamenting my melancholy.
 Michael J. Whelan




A new snow covered the meadow

and I didn’t want to touch it.

I wondered, too late,

if ever a season had passed

where man had not left his mark

crossing this landscape.

I knew the lives of wild animals were short,

a year might be their whole existence,

the winter their declining months,

this snow would one day disappear.

I felt ashamed then among the whispering trees,

ashamed that such beauty

could be ruined by a single footprint.

I wanted to leave that place to the deer,

to the hibernating bear,

to the rabbit and the fox,

to retrace my steps to the road

and in my mind

scrape the human race

from the surface of the moon.


Michael  J. Whelan


Published in FLARE 06, Winter 2017-18 – Readings From The Sunflower Sessions.

FLARE – the narrow-sheet journal of the Sunflower Sessions held in Dublin is edited by Eamon Mag Uidir and published by Declan McGloughlin