Ruins of Houses

Ruins of Houses

In the shattered ruins of abandoned houses,
Lie secret notes on scraps of paper,
Tucked beneath the mossy stones,
Silent questions to be buried under falling needles,
Hopes and fears unanswered in the rough pine forest,
The cairn of broken plates and white clay pipes,
The thick round pot rims, orange and smooth,
Marking the commitment to the woodlice,
Of the lonely pain.

By Ruairí de Barra.

Not all childhood memories are good.
A lot can be left unsaid in mid the forests and the wilds.

Published in ‘Live Encounters’ September 2018. You can read the four poems on the Live Encounters website or download a free .pdf copy just by clicking here.

Live Encounters is a wonderful publication and all of its issues, as well as special editions, may be found on its website at https://liveencounters.net/

I would like to thank Mark Ulyseas for seeing fit to include my work in the company of some incredibly talented people.

The image above is by Val Robus, who is a Social Media manager, photographer, and features writer. She is passionate about Sligo and Ireland and she is also very interested in adventures, food, exploring and events for both tourists and locals to enjoy.
You can find her blog here.
You can find her on twitter @magnumlady

Peters Fish

Peters Fish

Red, golden, green, the scales of Peters fish,
stretched and nailed to the curve of the dome,
held up by pious prayers, feverish pleas and hope of the wounded,
the hospital arches of yellowed stone, barred with wrought iron,
twisted and anchored deep into faith,
by head and feet, anointed shells of men, bent battered forms.

Monuments of glory, extracted from pauper’s pockets,
alms for the destitute and knives for the enemy,
brick and stone seated into the hillside,
suffer in your humanity, weep and be washed clean,
soldier return to maintain a homeland, soaked in blood.

Cassocked crucible redeemer, kneel and unto this ring press thy lips,
kiss, worship, bow, prostrate lie before fine marble,
whisper all into the grill,
bind thy limb, and mouth, choke off forbidden words,
in the darkness fear the retribution,
for untold sins at seven.

Cry out for the forgotten children,
wrapped in rags living in the doorway,
on the entrance to exalted palaces,
gleaming goods within, shining out from lust and greed,
stretching out across the broken pavement,
to illuminate the steps,
were the holy warriors bled and the drunk sleeps.

 

By Ruairí de Barra.

San Michele is a Jesuit church located in the ancient Stampace district of Cagliari, Sardinia between via Azuni and via Ospedale. The church has an attached structure, the former Jesuit Novitiate House, that nowaday host the Military Hospital.
It has a wonderful dome which seems to change colour with the passing sun and it struck me that it was like the scales of a fish changing as it moves through a sunlit pool. The beauty visible inside through the security bars and gates contrasted starkly against the beggar and the drunk sitting outside. A rich historic interior separated from the graffiti and general run-down condition of the backstreets surrounding it.
I sat for a while to take it all in for a little distance as I drank coffee and sketched, while on shore leave from Operation Sophia in the summer of 2018.

Published in ‘Live Encounters’ September 2018. You can read the four poems on the Live Encounters website or download a free .pdf copy just by clicking here.

Live Encounters is a wonderful publication and all of its issues, as well as special editions, may be found on its website at https://liveencounters.net/

I would like to thank Mark Ulyseas for seeing fit to include my work in the company of some incredibly talented people.

The Tower of Il-Gardjola

 

The Tower of Il-Gardjola

We hear it all,
the endless message,
carved high into the battlements,
conform and heed our call.

We see it all,
the lidless eye is never sleeping,
stays dry mid widows weeping,
for the husbands who lay bleeding.

We speak the truth,
if one can hear it,
stand on faith or simply fear it,
wearily silent, remain to bear it.

We are the day,
the endless power,
the bright sunlit gleaming tower,
careless now the hour,
brings no sunset.

We are the night,
deep everlasting,
pinned in stone,
the all enduring,
the world upon its mooring,
rotates on and on.

We are the Alpha and Omega,
the cross and holy sceptre,
the welcoming open harbour,
fruit laden timeless garden,
above trembling prison wall.

By Ruairí de Barra.

The Gardjola Gardens are located in Senglea, perched on the bastion with fantastic panoramic views over Marsa, Valletta, Grand Harbour and Fort St. Angelo.
The gardens were planned by Grandmaster De La Sengle in 1551 with a lovely guard tower built on the tip of the bastions. The guard tower, ‘Il-Gardjola’, has various symbols sculpted on in such as an eye, an ear and the crane bird, representing guardianship and observance protecting the Maltese shores.
The eye on the tower is a popular icon representing Malta, featured in many brochures about the Island.
The gardens have palm trees and provide a spot to relax under the shade while enjoying the view and I visited them many times during shore leave in Malta from Operation Pontus in the summer of 2015 and Operation Sophia in 2018.

I would also take the view that it gave a signal to even the illiterate peasantry, the rulers see and hear everything.

Published in ‘Live Encounters’ September 2018. You can read the four poems on the Live Encounters website or download a free .pdf copy just by clicking here.

Live Encounters is a wonderful publication and all of its issues, as well as special editions, may be found on its website at https://liveencounters.net/

I would like to thank Mark Ulyseas for seeing fit to include my work in the company of some incredibly talented people.

 

 

Towering Giants

rushbrooke cranes

Towering Giants.

The rusty frames have faded into the background,
beyond the comprehension of the busy lives bustling underneath,
the silent gaze of the towering giants,
steadfast vigil beside the dark river,
strangers eyes see the flaking struts,
derelict complaints can’t reach the pigeons nesting over Verolme,

These old familiar shapes once had motion,
the long lifeless chains once toiled,
hoisting plate steel upon the boom & jib,
dirt & sweat lowering bread upon the tables,
of those that climbed the ladders,
worn hands with black dirt engrained.

Tired forms slaked thirst inside the Smugglers,
read papers smudged by caulkers,
red eyed welders sat like monks,
in contemplation of the seam,
wreath in poison smoke,
attendant to the birthing bed,
of Irish Oak and Ash, of Aisling and of Emer.

Sickbed of a thousand weary hulls,
footings in the dock of industry,
outstretched arms into the air,
dismembered for the breakers yard,
to fade from memory of the passers-by,
rent asunder in the final days.

Lest the crumbling lattice remove a life,
crashing into the cool shadow below,
or casting a hoist or sheave into the channel,
hooking the weary rumbling merchants,
like the swift runs of summer mackerel,
frozen now in the rarest of snows,
as the towering giants get pulled down

By Ruairí de Barra.

The two historic cranes which loomed large over Cork Harbour for six decades were dismantled in early 2018.
The cranes were used for building ships at the Verolme Dockyard at Rushbrooke, which closed in 1984.
They have been central to the skyline of Rushbrooke, west of Cobh and across the harbour from Monkstown for over 60 years.
I passed them nearly every day and I feel the landscape will be a little less without the towering giants above us.

Published in ‘Live Encounters’ September 2018. You can read the four poems on the Live Encounters website or download a free .pdf copy just by clicking here.

Live Encounters is a wonderful publication and all of its issues, as well as special editions, may be found on its website at https://liveencounters.net/

I would like to thank Mark Ulyseas for seeing fit to include my work in the company of some incredibly talented people.

 

Empty

Empty.

If only the innocent could be kept afloat by faith,
until the rescuers come walking on the waves,
to carry the children to the cradle of their mother,
not let them tumble in the surf,
greeting the morning with their backs,
silent and stiff, the red shirt on the tiny frame.

A plague on the most twisted ideologies,
that poverty is the wrath of God upon the unworthy,
destiny a blissful eternity for wanton slaughter,
that charity is still valid when you have to bow,
tithe this mansion prophet for your redemption,
change your name to accept a bowl of soup.

Washing the feet of a four year old,
with water warmed by the omnipotent sun overhead,
her flawless ebony skin burnt white,
stripped by the chemical burn from the bilge,
her mother thanking you relentlessly,
in three languages invoking empty prayers.

I have seen no God in the ocean,
no belief in a deity almighty,
which allows such cruelty to exist,
capricious torturer demanding worship,
while the poor try to live off dogma,
when bread or lifejackets would be better.

by Ruairí de Barra

Delighted to be able to say that this was published in the 1st edition of the Bangor Literary Journal, it is a privilege to be in the company of many wonderful writers and poets within its pages.

You can view their current issue here and you can download the issue feature this work here.

The image above is the work of Daniel Etter.
A noted photographer who secured the Pulitzer prize in 2016 for this image which he titled ‘Exodus’.

It shows Mr. Laith Majid Al Amirij, an Iraqi refugee from Baghdad, who breaks out in tears of joy, holding his son Taha and his daughter Nour, after they arrived safely on a beach of the Greek island of Kos, Greece, Aug. 15, 2015.
The group crossed over from the Turkish resort town of Bodrum and on the way their flimsy rubber boat, crammed with about 12 men, women and children, lost air.
Fearing that they get sent back to Turkey and upon being told so by their smuggler, Mr. Al Amirij’s wife initially identified them as Syrians from Deir Ezzor.
The family has since made it to Berlin, Germany.

‘These words are not just my own experiences, they are also the stories & memories of my friends and colleagues.  The crew of LÉ Eithne whom I was privileged to be part of rescued nearly 3,600 people in 64 days in 2015. The Irish Naval Service since that first mission has rescued over 18,000 people. These poems are also the stories of the migrants and refugees, in particular, these are written in memory of those poor people who never made it. They lie along the trail of bones in the desert or were lost at sea. I write these words to say that I saw you and that none of us will forget you.”

Mothers of Many Nations

 

Mothers of  Many Nations.

Mothers are mothers, white, brown, yellow, black.
no divide amongst the races by colour, creed or social status,
each mother cradles two generations inside her during gestation,
endless cord to the dawn of time,
when your mother’s mother was also mine.

The abuse and danger a mother will endure,
as she sets out unsure – to flee
fetching up on a Libyan shore,
with the precious child, her world.

Dead heat, the hold is suffocating,
bravely trying not to show any fear,
as waves rock the barque setting out into the night.
the two penned within a wooden dungeon,
no porthole breeze or starlight pierces beneath the deck,
shelved top to tail, on slatted bars with walls that,
drip,
drip,
drip,
feet trailing in latrine bilge, where dignity is stripped,
modern holocaust inshipped.

Far off the coast, the jackals cut them loose,
three hundred and forty-five cattle,
would be more carefully protected,
but businessman will cash their cheques,
their loathsome profit has been extracted,
the flotsam can now be ejected.

In the early hour’s masked aliens arrive,
robed in white, barking orders in the night,
no understanding of their words,
her gut grips tight and stomach churns,
the terror of return to that wretched shore,
where hope no longer burns,
on scabies ridden warehouse floors.

Finally, from behind the locked door, release,
gulping deep salt-laden air,
looking now into the alien’s eyes,
they’re blue,
thrown two jackets, one red, one black,
the first is put on her daughters back,
there in the pitching, panicking melee.

The grey citadel looms large,
passed hand to hand, tagged and snapped,
not harshly treated, but swift and sure,
a hand invades where no hand should be,
but unlike before, this hand vanishes not wanting more,
as on cardboard mats she sees,
in neat lines of segregation an end to her degradation.

She hides the food behind her refuse sack,
fear in her eyes that I might retrieve it,
no need to horde for there was no lack,
when children are so mistreated,
their stunned faces, your heart cracks, you feel it,
internally you curse the greedy’
who inflict this terror upon the needy,
louder still you spit and roar at cowards who glibly say ‘No More!’

Come and see humanity with me, at sea,
see woman, child and man reduced,
with nothing left, entirely bereft,
sit in Sirte slum or cling to a rubber raft of unknown futures,
see boys stand armed vigil through the night,
silent sentinels, bearing witness to the plight,
of tinfoil blanket forms wrapped tight,
like golden caterpillars packed together on a quivering leaf.

Mothers are mothers, white, brown, yellow, black.
no divide amongst the races by colour, creed or social status
Remember, before you make proud proclamations,
those who never reached their destination,
who rest down deep beneath the waves,
in unmarked ocean graves.

Mothers of so many nations.

By Ruairí de Barra.

‘These words are not just my own experiences, they are also the stories & memories of my friends and colleagues.  The crew of LÉ Eithne whom I was privileged to be part of, rescued nearly 3,600 people in 64 days in 2015. The Irish Naval Service since that first mission has rescued over 18,000 people. These poems are also the stories of the migrants and refugees, in particular, these are written in memory of those poor people who never made it. They lie along the trail of bones in the desert or were lost at sea. I write these words to say that I saw you and that none of us will forget you.”

This is the very first poem which I read aloud one evening in the company of my friend, the writer and warrior poet Michael J Whelan, upstairs above the Long Valley Pub, Winthrop St in Cork City. Ó Bhéal is Cork’s weekly poetry event. You can read more about what they do here. I actually wrote this on Mothers Day in 2017, while pacing my kitchen one morning on a day when everyone stops to remember the person who gave them life and in particular is in one’s thoughts when they are no longer here with us.

Published in ‘Live Encounters’ March 2018. You can take read the three poems on the Live Encounters website or download a free .pdf copy just by clicking here.

Live Encounters is a wonderful publication and all of its issues, as well as special editions, may be found on its website at https://liveencounters.net/

I would like to thank Mark Ulyseas for seeing fit to include my work in the company of some incredibly talented people.

 

Shelter

Shelter.

There’s a sheltered spot on the Starboard quarter,
where I stand with no other,
gazing out across the sea,
I watch the melting colours of the sky,
like a fire burning away the barrier,
between this world and the next,
I can’t often be still of late,
lingering in such beauty undeservedly,
which stirred youth before life gave way to adult pursuits.

Colours run into each other and the light falls fast,
shadows race in,
chasing the horizon,
fencing with the slowest rays to close the day.

Standing transfixed as the horizon blazes,
golden liquid pouring from the heavens,
utterly lost before the chill runs through me,
cocooned by the exhaust roar at my back,
the darkness wrapping her blanket around me,
intrusive pipes sound out,
proclaiming the passing of the world beneath my feet,
segmented, regimented, ordered day held at bay,
by deafening noise and the sunset.

Night, smothered now in the black,
the chill sinking deep to bring the shiver,
and as soon as I do,
that first shake,
starts to stir me, forced to come awake,
tearing me from standing isolation’s dream,
pushing me back beneath,
time to shower and to sleep,

Momentary relief fleeting away,
fallen night no longer to caress and hold me,
reality comes to swagger o’er me,
all comes flooding back,
when the night’s alarm will to all hands call.

SCRAMBLE,
SCRAMBLE,
SCRAMBLE.

The adrenaline shot direct into my heart,
sitting bolt upright in the red light,
feeling such guilt at the excitement,
knowing that out there in that black horizon,
where hours ago I was lost in rainbow colours,
there are drifting hulks with holds packed tight,
seeking shelter.

By Ruairí de Barra.

‘These words are not just my own experiences, they are also the stories & memories of my friends and colleagues.  The crew of LÉ Eithne whom I was privileged to be part of, rescued nearly 3,600 people in 64 days in 2015. The Irish Naval Service since that first mission has rescued over 18,000 people. These poems are also the stories of the migrants and refugees, in particular, these are written in memory of those poor people who never made it. They lie along the trail of bones in the desert or were lost at sea. I write these words to say that I saw you and that none of us will forget you.”

Published in ‘Live Encounters’ March 2018. You can take read the three poems on the Live Encounters website or download a free .pdf copy just by clicking here.

Live Encounters is a wonderful publication and all of its issues, as well as special editions, may be found on its website at https://liveencounters.net/

I would like to thank Mark Ulyseas for seeing fit to include my work in the company of some incredibly talented people.

Stripped

STRIPPED.

What if all you had was gone?

What if all you had was a black bag and the clothes on your back?

What if all you loved went limp and slipped from your fingers into the deep blue?

What if all you could ever do is dream and dream of tomorrows that never became today?

What if all at the last was the brine that forced its way into your mouth?

What if that last sounds to reach your ear were screams and useless prayers?

What if as the last light blinked out and the darkness rushed in, a hand grasped you?

What if you felt your ribs break and your throat tear as the brine pours out?

What if you looked up and see brown eyes under a green helmet?

 

by Ruairí de Barra.

‘These words are not just my own experiences, they are also the stories & memories of my friends and colleagues.  The crew of LÉ Eithne whom I was privileged to be part of, rescued nearly 3,600 people in 64 days in 2015. The Irish Naval Service since that first mission has rescued over 18,000 people. These poems are also the stories of the migrants and refugees, in particular, these are written in memory of those poor people who never made it. They lie along the trail of bones in the desert or were lost at sea. I write these words to say that I saw you and that none of us will forget you.”

Published in ‘Live Encounters’ March 2018. You can take read the three poems on the Live Encounters website or download a free .pdf copy just by clicking here.

Live Encounters is a wonderful publication and all of its issues, as well as special editions, may be found on its website at https://liveencounters.net/

I would like to thank Mark Ulyseas for seeing fit to include my work in the company of some incredibly talented people.

any of some incredibly talented people.

 

Nuestra Senora de Gardtoza, January 30th 1990.

The Aer Corps have a motto ‘Go Mairidis Beo’ its accepted translation is ‘So others may live’ which echos the US Air Force Pararescue motto. It stands as a statement of commitment from the people who will place the lives of others above their own.

It also is very apt to apply it to Irish sailors, who in all weathers will put to sea in small RHIBs, against the fury of the ocean and into the face of the storm to save their fellow mariners who are in peril on the sea.

On the night of the 30th of January 1990 the LÉ DEIRDRE was at anchor in Lawrence’s Cove in the shelter of Bere Island from severe gale force winds. A terrible drama was unfolding close by, the Spanish fishing vessel, Nuestra Senora de Gardtoza, (Our Lady of Gardtoza) had run aground on rocks near Roancarrigmore Light, North East of Bere Island in Bantry Bay. She was taking water and she had 16 souls onboard.

LÉ DEIRDRE recieved the ‘MAYDAY’ at 2100hrs and as quickly as she could, the crew weighed anchor and headed out of shelter into the severe gale towards the distressed vessel.

The decison was taken to launch the ships Gemini to attempt a rescue, this was due to no helicopter support being available and there was no way to maneuver LÉ DEIRDRE in close to the vessel due to the weather.

Leading Seaman Michael Quinn, a native of Drogheda along with Able Seaman Paul Kellett from Dublin volunteered to crew the Gemini as boat Coxswain & Bowman respectively. The highly experienced seamen committed to their perilous task, while knowing the risks, in the face of the horrendous conditions.

L/Sea Micheal Quinn DSM

Once the Gemini manoeuvred close enough to the ‘Gardtoza’ it quickly became apparent that boarding the stricken vessel or a rescue would not be possible. Unable to board L/Sea Quinn took the decision to attempt to return to his vessel, then disaster struck. The wind & waves capsized the small boat and cast both sailors into the churning waters.

The brave comrades were separated in the darkness and an exhausted A/Sea Kellett was washed ashore on rocks near Dereen cove. Only concerned with raising the alarm and finding his crew-mate, he pushed himself through the barrier of utter exhaustion; he clambered up over the jagged rocks, as they tore flesh from his naked feet until he managed to reach a main road. A passing Garda patrol picked him up and he passed the message that L/Sea Quinn was lost out there in the blackness.

There were soon two operations underway, an RAF Sea King Helicopter arrived to successfully rescue the crew of the Gardtoza and a number of merchant vessels joined LÉ DEIRDRE in searching for L/Sea Quinn.

Sadly the next morning an Air Corps Dauphin helicopter, at 0800hrs on the 31st sighted and recovered the body of Leading Seaman Quinn, 3 miles east of the tragic scene.

Borne by comrades, L/Sea Quinn DSM is laid to rest with full military honours.

L/Sea Quinn was only 27 at the time of his death and the survivor A/Sea Kellet was only 21. Their courage and their commitment to the each other, the Naval Service and the nation is an example of the spirit of Óglaigh na hÉireann, which shone as brightly in these two young men as it has ever shone in any patriot.

In recognition of his unselfish bravery and devotion to duty the Distinguished Service Medal was posthumously awarded to L/Sea Quinn. The King of Spain also made a posthumous award of the Spanish Cross of Naval Merit in recognition of his brave attempts to rescue the Spanish crew. A/Sea Kellett was also awarded both medals in equal recognition of his bravery and dedication to duty.

The Middle Sea

The Middle Sea.

If you drew back the ocean waves,
the graveyard of the middle sea would be seen,
strewn with the bodies of the poor,
from a hundred nations, they lie scattered by the thousands,
on the seabed, blanketed in the forever dark.

The ocean has no memory or mercy,
the sand will not a headstone make,
there will be no names carved in Tripoli or Valetta for these nameless bones,
locked or trapped inside decrepit hulks,
they tried to cross the waters with pitiless men.

The force that drives the third world out onto the waves,
must be stronger than the sickening worry in the pit of the mothers’ stomach,
as she places a toddler between her knees in the bilge,
the golden glow of Europe delivered via satellite,
must cloud again the eyes when the door of the hold is snapped shut.

When the jackals have stripped each and every dollar,
they’ll extract what they desire from your flesh,
hanging on the hook your family defenceless,
when you open your mouth they’ll break your teeth,
or execute you on the beach if your panic starts to unsettle all the rest.

The hands of Moses will not part this sea as they plummet,
there is no saviour here in the depth of night,
the deflating chambers on the collapsing raft,
ditching the screaming into the swell,
lungs inundated as salt water rushes in,
they’ll be dead before they rest on the ribs of the fallen below.

by Ruairí de Barra

‘These words are not just my own experiences, they are also the stories & memories of my friends and colleagues. The crew of LÉ Eithne whom I was privileged to be part of, rescued nearly 3,600 people in 64 days in 2015. The Irish Naval Service since that first mission has rescued over 18,000 people. These poems are also the stories of the migrants and refugees, in particular, these are written in memory of those poor people who never made it. They lie along the trail of bones in the desert or were lost at sea. I write these words to say that I saw you and that none of us will forget you.”

Published in ‘A New Ulster’ Issue No. 62, December 1st 2017.
I would like to thank Amos Greg for seeing fit to include my work in the company of some incredibly talented people.
So pleased that this is my first published poetry in print in Ireland.

You can visit ‘A New Ulster@ website here:

https://anuanewulster.wixsite.com/anewulster/recently-in-anu

or read it online for free here at ISSUU:

Or if you are that way inclined to purchase a print copy and help support ‘A New Ulster’ who provide such wonderful publications each month you can do so at by visiting the address below.
The poets and writers in its pages receive no gratuity for their work and I am sure it isn’t easy for Amos to produce this monthly magazine, the hours of reading submissions alone must be incredible.

https://www.peecho.com/print/en/321929

Merciful Sleep

Picture12

Merciful Sleep.

Nameless and blameless,
drownings not painless,
Saint, sinner, soldier and thief,
weeping child for their mother,
father lost brother,
Muslim, Christian and Sikh.

Stuck to the cardboard with third-degree burns,
for hours without any relief,
please get him to stop crying,
tell him his sister’s just sleeping,
gently drifting,
as the others are still dying,
in the water just beyond my hands reach.

The sounds of the ribs cracking under my hands,
are better than the screams in the dark,
we can’t save them all, despite piles of money,
lie to yourself and say ‘more could have died’,
go to your cabin,
curl up in a ball,
and pray that exhaustion brings relief.

Twins reunited with the grieving father who falls to his knees,
a rare ray of hope in a boat overflowing with dread,
a young pregnant lady with a six-month round belly,
who was drowned when we pulled her in over the side,
the shame and the anguish knowing there’s people,
who would prefer if she had just died.

There was mass on the flight deck with the singing of Coptics,
shattered people proclaiming their beliefs,
the chorus of women swaying in union,
while the men spoke the words of the book,
when the darkness it came, it all when so quiet,
silence unbroken by the chosen in merciful sleep.

When the boat rolls over faster than you can imagine,
disappearing in the blink of your eye,
ditching all into the sea,
decision time now, which one to save first,
knowing full well you might never be right,
living with that isn’t easy,
when it plays in your head every night.

The cause of this mass migration is desperation,
crippling poverty and war without end,
if you choose to flee please don’t go by the sea,
don’t waste your life onboard one of these rafts,
you’ll die in the ocean forgotten and lonely,
with so many others washed up on a beach.

by Ruairí de Barra

‘These words are not just my own experiences, they are also the stories & memories of my friends and colleagues. The crew of LÉ Eithne whom I was privileged to be part of, rescued nearly 3,600 people in 64 days in 2015. The Irish Naval Service since that first mission has rescued over 18,000 people. These poems are also the stories of the migrants and refugees, in particular, these are written in memory of those poor people who never made it. They lie along the trail of bones in the desert or were lost at sea. I write these words to say that I saw you and that none of us will forget you.”

Published in ‘A New Ulster’ Issue No. 62, December 1st 2017.
I would like to thank Amos Greg for seeing fit to include my work in the company of some incredibly talented people.
So pleased that this is my first published poetry in print in Ireland.

You can visit ‘A New Ulster@ website here:

https://anuanewulster.wixsite.com/anewulster/recently-in-anu

or read it online for free here at ISSUU:

Or if you are that way inclined to purchase a print copy and help support ‘A New Ulster’ who provide such wonderful publications each month you can do so at by visiting the address below.
The poets and writers in its pages receive no gratuity for their work and I am sure it isn’t easy for Amos to produce this monthly magazine, the hours of reading submissions alone must be incredible.

https://www.peecho.com/print/en/321929

Faces

 

Ballons

Faces.

I draw faces on the nitrile* gloves with care,
never more struck by my privilege,
until I meet those without a home,
a child alone,
the laughter and delight at a simple toy,
a joy,
they are gathered at my feet,
their little bundles stand out in stark relief,
drawing in the bright sun,
on expensive paper with cheap crayons.

Children from the opposite sides of a continent,
separated by a vast expanse yet inseparable now,
sons of Ishmael and Isaac,
divided by words in a book,
one blue, the other amber through my sunglasses,
sharing a cardboard mat as worn out parents lay against the hanger door,
stress etched on their faces yet absent now in these little artists.

Their drawings made tears fall later as I sat and stared at the pages,
a little token offered up in friendship,
from tiny hands without shoes,
a village where a family lived and granny sat outside,
a car of an uncle that used to go so fast,
the battle in the streets,
where Technicals* blaze bright tracer fire,
and the roaring jets drop bombs.

One home has lurid yellow thatch,
while the other is a burnt-out shell,
smoke curls out of shattered windows,
in the other, a pet dog abandoned wags its tail,
one child escaping poverty,
the other hell,
the stick figures have names and stories,
except those who are lying still,
floating on red tides,
as the sun beats down on my neck,
blowing glove balloons.

by Ruairí de Barra

 

‘These words are not just my own experiences, they are also the stories & memories of my friends and colleagues.  The crew of LÉ Eithne whom I was privileged to be part of rescued nearly 3,600 people in 64 days in 2015. The Irish Naval Service since that first mission has rescued over 18,000 people. These poems are also the stories of the migrants and refugees, in particular, these are written in memory of those poor people who never made it. They lie along the trail of bones in the desert or were lost at sea. I write these words to say that I saw you and that none of us will forget you.”

Published in ‘A New Ulster’ Issue No. 62, December 1st 2017.
I would like to thank Amos Greg for seeing fit to include my work in the company of some incredibly talented people.
So pleased that this is my first published poetry in print in Ireland.

You can visit ‘A New Ulster@ website here:

https://anuanewulster.wixsite.com/anewulster/recently-in-anu

or read it online for free here at ISSUU:

 

Or if you are that way inclined to purchase a print copy and help support ‘A New Ulster’ who provide such wonderful publications each month you can do so at by visiting the address below.
The poets and writers in its pages receive no gratuity for their work and I am sure it isn’t easy for Amos to produce this monthly magazine, the hours of reading submissions alone must be incredible.

https://www.peecho.com/print/en/321929

Notes:
(*Nitrile Gloves are non-latex sterile rubber gloves which have superior puncture resistance, the NS crew wear two gloves to prevent infection. White as the inner glove and Blue as the outer, so that a puncture on the outer glove will stand out and can be quickly replaced.)

(*Technical is the term for light improved fighting vehicles which are ubiquitous across Middle Eastern and African conflicts. Often an open backed four-wheel drive pickup truck  which has a heavy machine gun, anti-aircraft gun, recoilless rifle, or rocket launcher mounted on the back.)

Tibnin Bridge

Tibnin Bridge.

In 1999 I drove over Tibnin Bridge in the sweltering heat,
as the UN bus rose a trail of dust,
billowing up behind us,
the laughter onboard almost distracted me from my task,
the careful watch of the road signs,
my finger following the road snaking through South Lebanon,
on a trip from Tyre up into the hills.

I was only a baby when you died here,
but not much later my older brothers went to serve in that land,
which was soaked with your blood,
I heard your story while I was still so very young,
in the weeks before the first of them left for the Lebanon,
they spoke in hushed tones in the kitchen,
but I heard from my games in the hall outside.

The worry cries of my mother and the bravado of my siblings,
could not be drowned out by the clattering of dinky cars,
Morrow, Murphy and Burke should have come home again,
they should have worn that blue beret down the steps at Shannon,
they should have made it back,
but betrayed, they lay still in the baking heat,
as denial and cordite swirled about them in their final silence.

I paused for a moment in that laughing bus,
meandering along the roads,
more like tourists than the sailors we were dressed to be,
catching glimpses of life in the olive groves and rocky yellowed fields,
lives who’s roots you came to help protect,
burning under the unforgiving sun,
while you were only 19 years old, same as me.


I remembered you as we raced over the bridge,
pausing in reflection during our annual odyssey,
as the bus speed through the checkpoint,
on the summer pilgrimage to Camp Shamrock,
with a cargo of ammunition,
and crumpled US dollars to see the mingy men.

Soldier Still

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Soldier Still

See the reverent hands unfold the cloth,

medals laid with old memories to rest,

blanketed in a white shroud,

serving to muffle the scraping sounds,

like April’s soil absorbed the impact of screeching mortars.

 

The pride in the aged serge cloth,

snug fitted belonging to a younger man,

witness to the pain at Qana,

where Jesus turned water to wine,

and artillery turned all to death & dust,

 

The familiar hug of peaker cap about the brow,

historical brass centred on the forehead,

burrowing into the mind with patriotic dreams,

which always run before the youth,

before smoke and blood fill the future.

 

Those gentle hands that hold a son, fighter like his father,

mounted crests on arms that shield a family,

spat upon with infamy,

a voice that roared no more,

as cowards struck with calumny.

 

Soldier still, with hands that have both shook and struck,

plastic keys replacing plastic rifle,

barbed comment replacing barbed wire,

from Bekaa to Finglas the defiance is simmering,

like a bayonet, shining.

 

Honest hands put words upon the page,

a volunteer remains bent unto their duty,

the naked truth cannot hide,

standing bare, alone on centre stage,

a Soldier still fights for right, for life.

Note:

The soldier featured in the video below and in the work above is Dr Tom Clonan a retired army officer, author and security expert.

Soldier Still is about violence. A new dance theatre work that blends movement, text, music, real stories and real people, creating a harrowing tale of beauty and brutality. A cast of Irish and international dancers and former soldiers collaborate with an exceptional creative team to explore the viciousness, the vulnerability and the trauma of violence. Previous Artists-in-Residence at Tate Britain, award-winning Junk Ensemble have built a reputation in Ireland as dance innovators. 

“Junk Ensemble has created some of the most impressive contemporary dance in Ireland … Enthralling and exact.” The Sunday Times

Guard

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Guard.

As the rain it fell,
they stood in silent sentinel,
youth whose life barely fills a page,
for those, alas, who will never age,
most gave their life on foreign soil,
where the cedar bleeds or in Katangian dust.

The eternal flame dancing in its cage,
brings light to unknown dreams,
sympathetic sighs from those who linger,
visiting the grieving garden,
of bronze busts and limp half-mast flags,
all keep a fleeting vigil as heroes’ sleep.

One fell at Derrada Wood, so earned his star,
one borne away on Scuabtuinne,
lost far out on the unforgiving sea,
more lost in flight on that darkest night,
another in distant hills of Fataurlo,
one more rolled in Bantry waves.

Kindly pause as you pass by,
bare and bow your head,
no need for praise or for applause,
please sit or kneel or wet your eye,
just remember those departed,
from whom forever pain has fled.

Families aching hearts,
as gun carriage rattles past,
rifles bark the final retort,
to click of leather heel and clink of brass,
mournful last post bugle call,
shock and quiver as teardrops fall,
to rest on arms reversed.