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Posts Tagged ‘United Nations Peacekeeping’

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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Lebanon landscape 1994 -Michael J. Whelan

Lebanon landscape 199os -Michael J. Whelan

 

METAL IN THE SKY

 

After the shelling – stillness.

The air is clean, nothing hurtful comes their way,

no more metal in the sky – for now.

 

The hills whisper to the survivors

‘live again, breathe deeply,

go to the wells and greet your neighbours,

count the missing and the dead and be glad,

for you’ll never feel so alive

as when you are close to death.’

 

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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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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Damaged house Kosovo, 2001. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Damaged house – Kosovo, 2001.  Photo: Michael J. Whelan

THIS PLACE

In the depths of your despair
I come,
enlightened.
With these eyes I see
those who would purge you,
desecrate your identity,
your existence.
With these same eyes
I see your vengeance
meted out, tenfold.
I see the scars,
the landscape,
the missing,
the future.
I will leave this place
and one day bear witness
to your glories.

Michael J. Whelan

Published in Tinteán online magazine – an initiative of the Australian Irish Heritage Network https://tintean.org.au/2017/01/06/poetry-12/

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Michael J. Whelan - Kosovo

Michael J. Whelan – Kosovo

 

 

This day 16 years ago (Christmas Day, 2000) I was serving in Kosovo and was part of a small team visiting a local family, an event that would eventually inspire this poem and photo.

The Family
(Kosovo)

There were nine of them.
Eight children under the age of ten,
existing in the rough shell
of a house with a hole in its roof
and a young mother, whose
sanity had run out.

I stood there in the bowel of
her existence,
slack-jawed in the middle
of that frozen room,
rifle under my arm.
It was Christmas time at home.

How do I sort this out?
No one can threaten hunger with bullets.

Tiny hands were in my pockets.
I gave her my watch.

Michael J. Whelan

Published in the ‘Moth’ Magazine & ‘Peacekeeper’ (Doire Press, 2016)

Photo: Michael J. Whelan – Kosovo.

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An Irish peacekeeper’s war poetry

Michael J Whelan’s collection Peacekeeper draws on his experience as an Irish soldier serving with the UN in Lebanon and Kosovo

I saw all that I witnessed, I just didn’t realise I was absorbing it and though it was hard and sometimes it is still difficult to reconcile to the world I lived in I hope at the end of my days to be able to say this was one of the good things I did with my life.

Distant Whisper

Do you remember
how drops of water
trickle down stone walls
in the wadiis of south Lebanon,
as they have for a thousand years,
over contours, between grooves,
slowing on rough rendering?

How it reminded you of the west of Ireland,
white lines on her hills?

Do you remember
liquid moving like a teardrop,
trickling in a whisper of life,
the hum of a bee, or an insect
living in its own significance,
going about its business
as time stands still
long enough for you to study
the erosion of war,
knowing that a belt of Point Five ammunition
fired at you could turn this feature to rubble
in an instant?

Do you remember thinking
if you die here today – behind this old wall,
trickles will go on forming slow grooves
and you will be that distant whisper?

Deliverance
(Lebanon)

In the orphanage a child
cowers from cursing men outside.
She wants to climb back into
her dead mother’s womb
and hide inside its warm, soft,
un-edged safety,
where no explanation is needed
or reason to hide under splintered
staircases or run the gauntlet to basement
bomb shelters, existing minute to minute
with strangers until the dawn arrives with her
deliverance and she refuses to be born.

Broken Spade
(Kosovo)

You lay in your frozen field, slack-jawed at how you
came to be there, your mouth caked in last year’s mud,
limbs twisted about your body as if in the midst of some
remembered dance or tempered at your rotting crops,
bent over in disgust, yielding in the half light and startled
at the cold – they have never felt.
This harvest, un-reaped and yet reaped upon you
hides the stale shoe and crushed spectacles,
the broken spade that hastily covered you in the soft
clay you loved, now steeled hard against the sharp sky.

I imagine the fears of your kin as they searched the high
golden horizon that summer day.
They might have felt the distant calamity that took you
following the bullet casings along the beaten track,
and I wonder if they found you,
then I see the scars of cluster bombs and scorched
stalks of your petrified labours and there, there in the shrapnel
of this bitter harvest I behold your seed,
torn apart but reaching out to the one who bore them.

Michael J Whelan is caretaker of the Military Aviation Collection at Baldonnel. He holds an MA in modern history from NUI Maynooth. His poems have won second place in the Patrick Kavanagh and 3rd in the Jonathan Swift Awards. Peacekeeper was published in 2016 by Doire Press and is available from good bookshops at €12. 

Massive thank you Martin Doyle for publishing this article see original here http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/an-irish-peacekeeper-s-war-poetry-1.2897917?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

'Peacekeeper' by Michael J. Whelan. Poetry collection published by Doire Press - April 2016

‘Peacekeeper’ by Michael J. Whelan. Poetry collection published by Doire Press – April 2016

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