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Posts Tagged ‘Poems about Irish Peacekeepers’

 

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

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

 

IN THE PERIPHERY

 

Irish United Nations area of peacekeeping operations during Israeli Lebanese wars, 1990s

 

SHELL WARNING! SHELL WARNING! SHELL WARNING!

over the tannoy, it’s 4.30 in the morning,

I can feel the distant rumble already,

we shake the night fever from our heads,

an orchestra of activity, grab our weapons, flak-jackets, helmets,

sling identity discs around our necks, half dressed

we shuffle like the waking dead towards the bomb shelters.

 

I can feel her heart beating. I am so alive right now, can sense the fruit bats

finding their way back into the bowels of the Crusader’s castle,

the sound of every cricket in the wadi is about me, I picture the delicate cobweb

harp strings in the corner of my bunk, smell eucalyptus on the air.

I know the history of each leaf falling from the Cedar tree, the black faced men

in darkened rooms planning war, the pawns who perish in their violence

and I wonder what my parents are doing at this very moment,

what time it might be at home if an officer arrives to their door.

 

The stars are drawing my eyes, the moon vibrates in the periphery as I rush.

It’s not raining but a raindrop touches my eyelid, runs down my face.

I’m thinking now about her lips, the perfume of her wrists.

There is enough time to gather up the local civilians and so we go,

under flashing lights and blue flags our troops escort them to the shelters,

soldiers mix with refugees, one or two carry children on their shoulders,

another wraps an infant in her own body armour.

 

Yesterday the Resistance attacked the compounds on the hilltops using the mist for cover,

tank fire and mortars chased them back through the villages.

This morning is the Occupier’s reprisal, but when the dawn comes

these few innocent’s will not be seen, they are safe, we will keep them

beneath the overcrowded sandbags. At times the screaming child rattles my brain,

makes me want to climb back out for peace and quiet – an illusion!

 

I close my eyes to see my lover. I imagine the solitude of our garden, I hold onto it.

Then comes the reign of fire, the whooomphs of artillery, the staccato of bullets

and I remember from experience the plumes bursting upwards from their falling houses

like pillars of salt rising on the Dead Sea, spilling into the sky along all of their horizons.

In this strange cave-light, on every vibration, sand falls like gold dust onto a mother’s face.

I make myself small, we could be in here for hours, even days.

 

I feel so alive and I ask the universe if it sees the woman

waiting for me in the future, who hungers for me,

the one I hunger for, my need of her touch?

Outside, the Gods are deciding who lives and who dies,

the shelter keeps the hum of prayers to Christ and to Allah,

fathers feed worry beads through their fingers.

Death is prowling the perimeter; and we have no permission to fight.

 

(c)Michael J. Whelan

 

This poem was shortlisted in the University College Dublin ‘Voices of War’ International Poetry Competition for the Centenary of the Armistice 2018 in the Irish State’s Decade of Centuries commemorations and is published on their websites on New Years Eve 2018.

See – https://www.facebook.com/voicesofwar2018/photos/a.594079697691846/618256728607476/?type=3&theater

Also – http://centenaries.ucd.ie/events/voices-of-war-international/

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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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Ethnic Cleansing – kosovo (Michael J. Whelan, 2001)

 

FOUNDATIONS

(Kosovo)

 

There are times

when you question the truth,

the wisdom of being in this place,

and if what you’re doing helps

when the digger sits dejected

gleaming yellow

in a bitter winter sun,

‘cause the C.O. wants his inspection done,

while the homeless need foundations dug.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

C.O. = Commanding Officer

Published in a sequence of poems titled TRUTH by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. Poetry Magazine, January 2018 issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Irish U.N. Patrol - South Lebanon c.1990s Photo by Michael J. Whelan

Irish U.N. Patrol – South Lebanon c.1990s Photo by Michael J. Whelan

 

TRUTH

 

Sometimes a muzzle flash

follows the bark of a gun barrel.

 

Sometimes the ground erupts

before anyone hears the screaming shell.

 

Sometimes a house disappears in the silent distance

all that echoes is a mother’s tears.

 

Sometimes a peacekeeper hears belligerents say

war is ended, there is no enemy

 

But they would kill him

those enemies of truth,

 

he being a witness

and standing in their way.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in a sequence of poems titled TRUTH by Mark Ulyseas (Ed) in L.E. Poetry Magazine, January 2018 issue

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DUST: Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

 

DUST

        (Kosovo)

 

Returning to base each night

covered in a layer of grimy dust

that fell from the sky,

thick and slimy when wet,

I was always reminded of extermination camps,

(people were still missing from the war’s

ethnic cleansing),

but we were told by our superiors

that we had nothing to worry about,

the dust was from the chimneys in Obilic.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

 Published as part of a sequence of six poems titled TRUTH by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. Poetry Magazine, January 2018 issue

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Michael J. Whelan. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

HAUNTING FLIGHT

(Irish U.N. post coming under attack,

South Lebanon, c. 1990s)

 

 

Vibrating rings expand to edge of cup,

if I close my eyes it will be gone.

The one o fives and one five fives are curving through the night,

my ears pick out the distant crump, crump, crump.

 

A tank-round bursts the silence,

transforming blast-walls in a multitude of sparkles,

lit up by a million flechettes puncturing concrete slabs.

The dancing shrapnel illuminates our billets to the violent night,

the echoes search, as red flares pop into haunting flight.

 

Then our radios whine up, their fans belch out a constant drone

of shoot reps and a firing close in response to RPGs,

panicked non-human voices fill the sweating room,

the carnival is back again but much too soon.

 

My chest rotates in anxious sickening trip,

it’s nights like this I feel that I could quit

the arc of noise and traffic through my sleep.

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

 

RPG = Rocket Propelled Grenade

Flechette = Isreali anti-personnel shell filled with long shards of metal

One o fives and one five fives = Artillery shells

Published by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. Poetry Magazine, January 2018 issue under the sequence title TRUTH

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Michael J. Whelan – Tibnine Castle, Peacekeeping S. Lebanon 

 

 

CRUSADER’S KEEP

 

There is a fire sky hanging

over Tibnine,

a blood sky, drowning

the ramparts of the Lionheart’s keep,

transforming white walls to red.

And I wonder if the Christian king

who built this castle saw skies like this,

heard the echoes of Alexander the Great

as he sacked Sidon and Tyre

two thousand years before,

like I hear the drums of Saracens

and Crusaders in this disputed place.

 

 

Michael J. Whelan

 

(Richard The Lionheart is said to have slept in Tibnine Castle.

The castle, built during the Crusades, is currently

situated within the Irish battalion area of peacekeeping

operations in South Lebanon).

 

Published in a sequence of six poems titled TRUTH by Mark Ulyseas in L.E. Poetry Magazine – January 2018 Issue

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