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Posts Tagged ‘Peacekeeping’

 

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

ROTATING

(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

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Michael J. Whelan  – RTE Nationwide (screenshot)

 

Hi all, please see the link below for recent exposure given to my PEACEKEEPER poetry collection on a popular Irish television programme. I am really very pleased with the feature and very grateful to all those involved in its production… Michael

SOLDIER POET/REPORT VALERIE WATERS – RTE Nationwide 20th October 2017, 7pm

‘When we think of the War Poets, those of the era of WWI usually come to mind. We have today a serving airman in the Irish Air Corps who is a published poet. Reporter Valerie Waters went to meet Michael J. Whelan to find out about how the experience of serving as a Peacekeeper over seas influenced his writing’

Section on Peacekeeper is in part 2, or after the commercial  break – see link below!

https://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/nationwide-21/10792379/

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

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

 

CHECKPOINT

 

The peacekeeper,

flak-jacket buttoned to the neck,

blue helmet fastened tight

under the chin,

rifle slung across the chest,

muzzle pointing at the distant ground,

trigger finger tensed

along the trigger guard

switched to automatic.

 

Alone he stands there,

holding the road

in front of wire entanglements

and tank-stops

in the narrow chicane

of a sun trapped checkpoint,

left arm raised high,

the palm of his hand

facing the threat.

 

Michael J. Whelan

Published recently in L.E. Poetry Magazine April 2017 issue  http://liveencounters.net/le-poetry-writing-2017/04-april-p-w-2017/michael-j-whelan-the-hero/

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

 

THE SHELLING

 

In the darkness

you feel it

hunting you,

smells your blood,

vibrations pulsing

through the valley

like a beast.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published recently as part of a sequence  in ‘From the Cradle of Civilization: Contemporary Arabic Poetry”, the fifth edition of Life and Legends’ http://lifeandlegends.com/cradle-civilization/

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Dark kosovo (Michael J. Whelan -2001)

BLACK BLOOD GROUND

(Kosovo)

 

Children huddled together on high ground,

barefoot in the freezing mud, no adults found.

 

The police had come like hunters

pictured victorious over their fathers.

 

Bodies hanged by distended knees

from branches of petrified trees.

 

Protecting arms reaching down

surrendering to the black blood ground.

 

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published recently as part of a sequence  in ‘From the Cradle of Civilization: Contemporary Arabic Poetry”, the fifth edition of Life and Legends’ http://lifeandlegends.com/cradle-civilization/

 

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