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Posts Tagged ‘United Nations Peacekeeping’

 

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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Young boys near village Mass-grave, Kosovo 2001, Photo – (c)Michael J. Whelan

 

Children of the War

(Peacekeeping in Kosovo)

 

Once, on the outskirts of a future memory,
we stopped our convoy
on a narrow road
near a fallen tree.
I was in the lead vehicle
bringing supplies to a forgotten village
the war had touched,
our first time on that ground.
The tree blocked the route
as if booby-trapped.

There was movement in the woods
as we pushed through,
we didn’t shoot.
It was good to see them,
we drove by and they came in to view
hands raised high- begging.
The ambush turned out
to be scared children
weary of uniforms,
we gave them chocolate
for their little victory.
There was nothing to fear
though they didn’t know it
when they saw us coming
and in the long run of things
their tactics worked –
their smiles keep me awake sometimes.

 

Michael J. Whelan

Published in the ‘contemporary Irish poets feature’ in issue 22 of Rochford Street Review – July 2017

see https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2017/07/06/michael-j-whelan-five-poems/

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Birds – (c)Michael J. Whelan

 

Days of Peace

There weren’t many birds
in the hills of South Lebanon
when I was a peacekeeper,
they were never a feature
of the historic landscape
that I can remember

except for the vultures
circling up high on summer thermals,
the smaller creatures had all been killed
by the time the spring had ended,
nothing to stir poetics in a future poet.
But there were times during days of peace
when villages came to life
with the call to prayers from ancient minarets
when the local people spoke
of a recent Barhah – a gift from God,

the moment when they personally encountered
a new born child and the Adhan was recited –
the first words a baby hears
(a call to prayers whispered into the left ear),
and I think now how abundant the skies must have been
before the crusades

and how many times since
a new born child
has encountered that same call to prayers.

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in the contemporary Irish poets’ feature in issue 22 of Rochford Street Review – July 2017

see https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2017/07/06/michael-j-whelan-five-poems/

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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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Irish Peacekeeper on foot-patrol in South Lebanon -1990s. Photo: (c)Michael J. Whelan

 

ECLIPSED

 

You say I’m the hero.

I save you, saved your broken heart

but I am stilled,

eclipsed forever in a burst

of perfect colours,

a flash of brilliant light

where I am killed.

Ever waiting

in this living moment

I become the Universe

and all the world within.

I touch you

and I am saved again.

 

Michael J. Whelan

(In memory of Irish Peacekeepers

killed on U.N. Peacekeeping service in Lebanon)

 

 

Published 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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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

ROAD TO AT-TIRI

 (South Lebanon)

‘The sun is not to overtake the moon

nor the night to outstrip the day

and each swims in an orbit’ –Qur-an 26;33-58

 

 

Ancient minaret,  

sentinel monument marking

this splintered place. Village of the old,

counting days and mourning their dead,

the young flung to the corners of the Earth.

 

Beneath your silence quietly we pass

through battered streets,

guns pointed at the ground,

peppered walls keep your story.

 

Loud in flags of nations but enfeebled

by ghostly eyes whispering fear from the dying

our patrol follows the paths worn by many,

afraid to disturb their memories.

Our footsteps bear no echo

on this broken road.

 

Michael J. Whelan

Published recently in the USA 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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