Michael J. Whelan is an Irish soldier-poet & historian. He served as UN Peacekeeper in Lebanon and Kosovo in the early 1990s. 2nd in the Patrick Kavanagh and 3rd in the Jonathon Swift Creative Writing Awards and selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions, Michael’s Debut collection PEACEKEEPER was published in 2016 by Doire Press. More at – https://michaeljwhelan.wordpress.com/
ROAD TO AT-TIRI
‘The sun is not to overtake the moon
nor the night to outstrip the the day
and each swims in an orbit’ -Qur-an 26;33-58
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.
(Haris – village in South Lebanon, 1990s)
I remember a peaceful Sunday
and an empty classroom in Haris,
and thinking how their enemies didn’t need
to teach the children of that old village
the grammar of adult hate.
It was written in the rubble
of the four walls of that place,
in the shattered hanging ceiling
where a rocket spelled its fate.
I could read the yellow markings
on the rocket’s splintered case,
I heard the teacher’s lesson in the silence
of an empty shoe.
In the darkness
you feel it
smells your blood,
through the valley
like a beast.
A steely mist waited
through the night
to storm the hilltop hiding
the warriors approach
in resistance and stealthy guile.
They paused at pre-ranged paces,
unleashed hate from guns,
to whence they came
before the mist released
a battlefield, and enemies
BLACK BLOOD GROUND
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.