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 15,000 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

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 15,000 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

 

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 15, 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,
more like tourists than the sailors we were dressed to be,
meandering along the roads,
catching glimpses of life in the olive groves and rocky yellowed fields,
lives who’s roots you came to help protect,
while you were only 19 years old same as me,
burning under the same sun,
I remembered you as the bus raced over the bridge,
on the pilgrimage to Camp Shamrock with a cargo of ammunition,
and crumpled US dollars to see the mingy men.

Mother Jones

Mother Jones

She was 93 years old,
grandmother of all agitators,
immigrant teacher’s words stirred men to action,
she wrote her story down,
passing labours flame from Pennsylvania,
from coal mining heartlands built on the bones of union,
tales of the silk children’s knight crusader,
charging the power of the mill.

The call of the woman of the north side,
fell into the ear of the ragged trousered wretch,
growing straight in the regimented pines,
arrayed through the ruins of famine homesteads,
hemmed in by the meandering dry stone walls,
built from their shells,
pray for the dead,
fight like hell for the living,
in mines and bogs or dockyard slips,
the boot seeks a neck,
the company scales the pocket picked,
join a union.

Gael of social justice,
blowing across the stamped out fires,
rising from the body blow of lost yellow fever family,
none came to her in the nights of grief,
she went out instead to others,
rebuilding after tragedy,
entirely reduced in the remains of the dressmakers,
black ashen ruins of Chicago,
were sky pilots pray for reward in the next life,
reached by suffering in this one,
Mary calling for a bit of heaven to come to earth,
claiming her home wherever the fight may be.

She lies at peace in Illinois,
surrounded by her battling boys,
the fallen of Virden,
where white and black truthfully stood to face detectives rifles,
the union maid remembered each 11th of October,
when the strong men and toil torn women gather to kneel on Mount Olive,
laying black flowers on the pink granite,
heads uncovered to remember the miners angel mother.

Note:
Please find the owner of the Mother Jones image above here at:

You can also follow them for some more brilliant art work.

You can also read Mothers Jones Autobiography here:

http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/jones/autobiography/autobiography.html

The County of Exiles

The County of Exiles.

The county of exiles and beauty,
of ocean, mountain and bog,
where the magic has seeped into the people,
who are as wild and as tough as the land,
the West restful and sleeping,
dreaming of days once so grand.

Home to heroes like Davitt, Gráinne Mhaol and dear John MacBride,
drapped in the green of the hillsides,
with the red of their passion and pride,
carried all over the world as they travel,
borne away on the currents and tides.

We are bound to the townland and parish,
to the farms, sean-teachs and boreens,
to the homes of our childhood long gone,
we carry them now in our memories forever golden and bright,
with our families, old friends and old lives.

For we walk no more on the slopes of bold Nephin,
never again to climb up the steep sides of the Reek,
or pause at the mass rock by Lough Aifreann,
where the old faith the hounded people did keep,
we have adventured the last time across Derryhick.

The arms of the West always welcomes,
the traveller needing shelter or rest,
she knows the pain of the emigrant heartbroken for the land of their birth,
we have sent our children out by the thousands,
we will gather yours in just the same.

When the scourge said to hell or to Connaught,
did he ever know how wrong he had been,
there’s freedom in the plain of the yew trees,
where our roots are sunk into the sea,
in the county of exiles and beauty forever held in my dreams.

Note:

The above image is the work of the talented Aisling Jennings from Co.Mayo, Ireland.

You may find her work here https://aislingjenningsphotography.wordpress.com/

or visit https://www.facebook.com/aislingjenningsphotography

Coaxing the Fire

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Coaxing the Fire.

The poker methodically at its task,
guided by the sure and steady hand,
rosy glow of the embers coaxed back to flame,
nursed from deathbed to resurrection,
throwing warmth out over worn tiles and a grey mottled cat.

The door of the stove is open,
maw glaring molten and red,
cheap bread transfixed on the long fork,
Lyons tea keeping warm on the top,
don’t get that black soot on the edges,
be careful the toast not to drop.

Connaught Gold Creamery butter,
spread thickly with the green handled knife,
scrape off burnt bits into the coal scuttle,
cradled on the chipped porcelain plate,
quickly eat up your supper,
’tis bedtime at quarter past eight.

Smoke curling up from the Caroll,
baggy cardigan drawn over her shape,
that silhouette seen in the window,
the warmth of the welcome within,
half the day coaxing the fire,
missed for the rest of our life.