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Posts Tagged ‘War Poems’

 

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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WWI Scene – Soldier on Wire (c)Michael J. Whelan, 2009

 

TO ALL THE PRESIDENTS, ALL THE KINGS, ALL THE GENERALS AND POLITICIANS

I have seen the wire
that caught on the uniforms
of unlucky soldiers,
touched the pointed barbs
that pierced their skin
before the bullets
that took them,
stood where the missing lie.
In my pocket
is a poem
that brings me back
like a bridge.
In my pocket
is the blood coloured rust
of the rage of men.

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in ‘One Hundred Years From Now,’ a sequence of poems by Michael J Whelan in LE Poetry & Writing, Edited by Mark Ulyseas, Volume One December 2018

see

https://liveencounters.net/le-poetry-writing-2018/12-dec-pw-vol-one-2018/michael-j-whelan-one-hundred-years-from-now/

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War Graves – WWI. Photo: Michael J. Whelan 2017

AWAKEN HISTORY’S DEAD

The impacting shells of modern wars
always threatens to awaken history’s dead.
If vibrations disturb old battlefield’s bled
would the warrior ghosts recognise the modern cause
as we have claimed their allegiance to ours,
if not – who would be our enemies then?

Michael J. Whelan

 

Published in ‘One Hundred Years From Now,’ a sequence of poems by Michael J Whelan in LE Poetry & Writing, Edited by Mark Ulyseas, Volume One December 2018

see

https://liveencounters.net/le-poetry-writing-2018/12-dec-pw-vol-one-2018/michael-j-whelan-one-hundred-years-from-now/

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Thiepval Memorial to the missing on the Somme, World War One. Photo: Michael J. Whelan 2018

AFTER THE GREAT WAR

do not ask what all the sacrifice was for
or ponder on its worth,
the future should fear no vengeance
from the past
for in the years of remembrance
a hundred years hence,
when the last veteran has finally passed
we shall be at war again.

Michael J. Whelan 

 

Published in ‘One Hundred Years From Now,’ a sequence of poems by Michael J Whelan in LE Poetry & Writing, Edited by Mark Ulyseas, Volume One December 2018

see

https://liveencounters.net/le-poetry-writing-2018/12-dec-pw-vol-one-2018/michael-j-whelan-one-hundred-years-from-now/

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At the graveside of war poet Isaac Rosenberg, killed during the Great War Photo: Michael J. Whelan, France 2018

ONE HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW

I was reading lines from a famous poet
killed while fighting in the Great War.
We never met but through his poems I know him,
what he saw and felt a hundred years ago.
He resonates with me, now,
we are connected,
his emotions are mine as I read,
his body – gone, but he exists
and I know his feebleness as I write.

 

Michael J. Whelan

Published in ‘One Hundred Years From Now,’ a sequence of poems by Michael J Whelan in LE Poetry & Writing, Edited by Mark Ulyseas, Volume One December 2018

see

https://liveencounters.net/le-poetry-writing-2018/12-dec-pw-vol-one-2018/michael-j-whelan-one-hundred-years-from-now/

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Yesterday, 27th July 2018, I was a speaker representing the Irish Air Corps at the unveiling of a stone plaque memorial at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin to commemorate an Irish pilot of the Royal Air Force Major Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock, who perished during the Great War. I was asked to write and deliver a poem and some historical context to that period of history and the connections of Irish military aviation to it and afterwards.  This was an event forming part of the RAF100 anniversary and I am extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to contribute to the remembering of Ireland’s role during the conflict and beyond, but especially the commemorating of the Irish who were part of those sizemic events. The poem was included in the Glasnevin Trust’s event programme (shown in images), for which I am also grateful to the manager, historians and staff.

 

‘WHEN WE FLEW; Death of an Irish Airman in the Great War’ by Michael J. Whelan – published in THE Glasnevin Cemetery event programme for commemoration of Irish WWI pilot Major Mick Mannock VC  – 27TH July 2018

 

WHEN WE FLEW

 

 (Death of an Irish Airman during the Great War)

 

 

O how I witnessed worlds amongst the clouds,

that peace, the freedom, those futures and the past,

to patrol a morning’s sun to its final spark,

spilling out a day’s horizons.

 

Remember, I alone, chose this path,

to roam the skies above the autumnal Earth,

short lived but truly spent.

 

And, when that moment came

to fall from heaven’s breaths,

only the fields of France embraced me.

Yes, I am of Ireland, do not blame the enemy,

for as brothers, in that same ground, we rest.

 

But think of us,

in all the years to come,

when you contemplate our war,

that when we flew

we were part of the few

who gave for you our all.

 

Written and recited by Corporal Michael J. Whelan at the RAF commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery on 27th July 2018

 

‘WHEN WE FLEW; Death of an Irish Airman in the Great War’ by Michael J. Whelan

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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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