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

Screenshot_20170815-103102

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.

Words

Words.

The words were sent out of the window and into the world,
Spiralling nouns danced on the breeze and prose rose on light airs,
Gusting gales could not the verbs shake loose from bonds of rhyme,
The poets thoughts set loose upon the wind and free.

Far away they flew, soaring through the sky despite their worthy weight,
Poems full of time telling of many stories and of many lives.
Of days stood in sand with rifle in hand,
Of life observed through younger eyes in days gone by.

That window through which the words rushed was lit bright,
A beacon as the gathering dark draws in and the winds rise,
That window and those wonderful words will be a light driving back the dark,
Words tell their stories arc, from cradle to grave, the writers epitaph they mark.

The words travel swift and fast through glass fibre electronic blast,
But they often slow and sink, hold fast, on paper smooth and minds rough,
To hold against the buffeting these words must be tough,
The words have finally come to rest, in this here book upon my resting chest.

 

Note:
I am delighted to say that it was also one of the first poems which was kindly selected for publication by Elizabeth McKenzie, Editor of Tintéan.
Tintéan is the online magazine of the Australian Irish Heritage Network based in Melbourne, Victoria.
You may find them here to read at:  https://tintean.org.au/2017/06/06/poetry-14/

This poem was written with two of the authors friends in mind.
The poet Stan Notte from Cork who has a superhero alter ego Leyton Attens and the powerful Michael J Whelan from Dublin a historian, writer and poet.

Both these men have served their country in the Defence Forces. One is now retired and one continues to do so. Both have been inspirational to the author; their creative talents will hopefully bring them every success and happiness in life

You can read Michael’s fantastic work here:
https://michaeljwhelan.wordpress.com

You can find Stan Notte here:
https://www.google.ie/amp/s/thegalwayreview.com/2015/01/30/stanley-notte-three-poems/amp/
http://oneshortstorytobetold.com

You can find Leyton Attens here:
http://www.leytonattenssuperheroacademy.com

Wind

Wind.

Seek the high and lonely places,
let the roar of wind push electronic chatter from your ears,
and drag a tear from an eye that was dry too long.

Breathe deep.

Feel the bite and sting of cold wind rush into the forgotten basements of your lung,
and revel in it.
anywhere flushed skin is exposed,
the wind will lick and nip.

Seek the high and lonely places,
let the wind push and buffet you and feel small,
look out, across and down,
and feel small.

Breathe deep.

Feel the bite and sting of cold wind rush into the forgotten basements of your mind,
and revel in it,
the wind will rise and bare aloft memories that have been lost.

Note:
I am delighted to say that it was also one of the first poems which was kindly selected for publication by Elizabeth McKenzie, Editor of Tintéan.
Tintéan is the online magazine of the Australian Irish Heritage Network based in Melbourne, Victoria.
You may find them here to read at:  https://tintean.org.au/2017/06/06/poetry-14/

Skellig

Skellig.

You say I never write for you,
you say it with sad eyes.
so I have tried to write for you,
to help you stop awhile and smile.

I have sat about the rocky ledge and marveled at the sight,
of winged lovers far below, journeying,
o’re ocean roar and rocky might.
I reached the top and summited,
and my first thought was this.

That just like the Puffins far below,
you might find this bliss,
nestled in rare sheltered spot,
I saw a bright brave bloom,
and felt I should help it home,
to help you ease your gloom.

You are my heart,
my thoughts,
my love,
and I will not leave you behind.

Note:
This is one of my oldest poems which I have remaining in my possession.
I am delighted to say that it was also one of the first poems which was kindly selected for publication by Elizabeth McKenzie, Editor of Tintéan.
Tintéan is the online magazine of the Australian Irish Heritage Network based in Melbourne, Victoria.
You may find them here to read at:  https://tintean.org.au/2017/06/06/poetry-14/