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Michael J. Whelan - poet, Tibnine Castle, South Lebanon 1994

 South Lebanon 1990s. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

BLOOD SUN

 

They say ‘peacekeeping

is not a job for soldiers

 

but, only a soldier can do it.’

And tonight as the blood

 

sun goes down, spilling out

onto a hundred black horizons,

 

they steel themselves

rebuilding bunkers,

 

fixing strong defences

and pushing barbed-wire obstacles

 

across roads, preparing

for the reckoning.

 

Michael J. Whelan

Published by Mark Ulyseas in a sequence of poems titled ‘A Hundred Black Horizons’ in L.E. Poetry Magazine, February 2017

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Harvest Time - postcard - Lebanon 1990s

Harvest Time – postcard – Lebanon 1990s

 

HARVEST TIME

 

A 155mm shell

fired from northern Israel

collides with an orchard

in south Lebanon

 

villages shake

landscapes awake

and echoes

rush the wadii

 

fear clings to grass and stone

retaliation or a violation?

we listen for the small-arms fire

but there is only crying.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Painting on a postcard, which I sent to my parents almost 25 years ago, titled ‘Harvest Patrol’ by Commandant J. Coates of 72 Irish Battalion UNIFIL. A postcard depicting Irish Peacekeepers protecting local Lebanese villagers during the olive harvest. This was dangerous work for them during the conflict.

Published by Mark Ulyseas in a sequence of poems titled ‘A Hundred Black Horizons’ in L.E. Poetry Magazine, February 2017

 

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UN Gear

Personal issue UN Gear – south Lebanon 1990s. Photo – Michael J. Whelan

SPINE

 

You think you hear them,

cursing through the air, searching,

bracketing where you are,

feel the impacts creeping closer in your brain

and your spine plays that game again

exaggerating your predicament.

Your mind’s a constant train

as you lay in your bunk

deciding at which point you should run.

 

Michael J. Whelan

(Incoming artillery, mortar & tank shells – Lebanon)

Published by Mark Ulyseas in a sequence of poems titled ‘A Hundred Black Horizons’ in L.E. Poetry Magazine, February 2017

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Bunker S. Lebanon, 1994. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Bunker S. Lebanon, 199os. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

IN THE DARK VALLEY

 

The reign of artillery

is about to fall

 

in the dark valley.

We cannot see

 

the fear

but hear

 

the groundhog

sirens wail

 

about the bunkers

night and day.

 

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

(Groundhog = during periods of intense shelling,

UN troops and civilians in the UNIFIL area enter underground bunkers)

Published by Mark Ulyseas in a sequence of poems titled ‘A Hundred Black Horizons’ in L.E. Poetry Magazine, February 2017

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Part of the Irish Battalion area from Camp Shamrock with Hill 880 - 1990s (c)Michael J. Whelan

Part of the Irish Battalion area of operations viewed from Camp Shamrock with section of ‘Hill 880’ – 1990s (c)Michael J. Whelan

 

BATTLEFIELD

(Observations in Irish UN Operations area S. Lebanon – 1990s)

 

Early morning.

A steely mist waited

through the night

to storm the hilltop hiding

the warriors approach

in resistance and stealthy guile.

They paused at pre-ranged paces,

unleashed hate from guns,

then retreated

to whence they came

before the mist released

a battlefield, and enemies

were seen.

 

Michael J. Whelan

Part of a sequence of poems titled ‘Holding The Road’ which was published by Mark Ulyseas in Live Encounters Poetry Feast December 2016 see link below

http://liveencounters.net/live-encounters-poetry-2016/12-december-poetry-2016/3-michael-j-whelan-holding-the-road/

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Michael J. Whelan - poet, Tibnine Castle, South Lebanon 1994

  South Lebanon 1990s – (c)Michael J. Whelan

 

SPECTRE

 

There are nights when you have had enough.

Disappearing into the shadow corners of your room,

watching the fabric of grey days unfold again,

move about in strange colours on the walls,

the window open to the world,

white curtain hanging half in

half out like a trapped ghost

fighting hard to escape,

to find its former self,

go home,

sink into its own bones and flesh

and the smiles of a lover.

Then, somehow, you shut the window on those dreams

and wait for a moment while the spectre hangs by its neck

till stilled, goes silent, limp.

You switch on the light and the shadows disappear,

courage fills you up for one more day.

 

There are nights still when I remember the grey days

but in my house the windows have blinds.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Part of a sequence of poems titled ‘Holding The Road’ which was published by Mark Ulyseas in Live Encounters Poetry Feast December 2016 see link below

http://liveencounters.net/live-encounters-poetry-2016/12-december-poetry-2016/3-michael-j-whelan-holding-the-road/

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THANK YOU!

Hi all, as you know my début collection of poems titled ‘Peacekeeper‘ was launched last Wednesday 13th April by Peter O’ Neill in the County Library Tallaght. Peter gave an excellent introduction to my poems and to the place this collection holds in the literary and historical narrative of war/peacekeeper poetry in Ireland. Over 100 people from family, friends, writers, editors of history magazines, retired and serving personnel of the Irish Defence Forces including veterans of the various peacekeeping mission that Ireland has supported over the last 55 years with troop commitments came along to the launch, there was two retired generals of the defence forces in the audience too.

It was a very humbling experience to read some of the poems and to feel the warmth of the reception from that large amount of people. The room was choc-a-bloc and standing room only at the back. There was a wonderful energy in the room and I want to sincerely thank everybody who came along to the launch that evening, which by the way was the birthdays of Irish poet Seamus Heaney and the play-write Samuel Beckett. I didn’t realise the significance at the time (a friend and poet Enda Coyle-Greene sent me a congratulatory postcard depicting Heaney) and it wasn’t planned that way but to me, because of this, the book being launched on the 13th of April is now very symbolic.

So again I want thank everyone who came along to the launch, also  a big THANK YOU to Anne, Catherine, Sile and staff at the county library Tallaght and South Dublin Libraries, to John and Lisa at Doire Press for taking on the collection and publishing it, to Peter O’ Neill for launching the collection in such a fantastic way, to Maria Wallace and the members of the Virginia House Writers, to Eileen Casey and the members of Platform One Writers and to every literary journal, newspaper, magazine and person who has helped me a long my journey.

Michael

 

Michael J. Whelan reads from 'Peacekeeper' at the launch in Tallaght Library on 13th April 2016

Michael J. Whelan reads from ‘Peacekeeper’ at the launch in Tallaght Library on 13th April 2016

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