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.

Soldier Still

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Soldier Still

I saw the reverent hands unfold the cloth,
the 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 head,
burrowing into the mind with patriotic dreams.

Those gentle hands that hold a son, fighter like his father,
the mounted crests on arms that shield a family,
and a voice that roared no more,
spat upon with infamy,
as cowards strike with calumny.

Soldier still, with hands that have both shook & struck,
fighting for all sisters & brothers of sacred oath,
plastic keys replacing plastic rifle,
barbed comment replacing barbed wire,
from Bekaa to Finglas the defiance is simmering,
like a bayonet,
shining.

Those honest hands that put words upon the page,
have erred yet have not lied,
nor have they shyed away,
steadfast day after day,
urging all to engage, no wasted energy on rage,
the naked truth cannot hide,

Bare,

Alone,

Centre stage,

a volunteer remains bent unto their duty,
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