Michael J. Whelan: Five poems

Biographical note                                                           Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Days of Peace
Children of the War
Nectar of War
Old Man’s Tears
Deranged

P .

Days of Peace

There weren’t many birds
in the hills of South Lebanon
when I was a peacekeeper,
they were never a feature
of the historic landscape
that I can remember

except for the vultures
circling up high on summer thermals,
the smaller creatures had all been killed
by the time the spring had ended,
nothing to stir poetics in a future poet.
But there were times during days of peace
when villages came to life
with the call to prayers from ancient minarets
when the local people spoke
of a recent Barhah – a gift from God,

the moment when they personally encountered
a new born child and the Adhan was recited –
the first words a baby hears
(a call to prayers whispered into the left ear),
and I think now how abundant the skies must have been
before the crusades

and how many times since
a new born child
has encountered that same call to prayers.

Back to Contents

P .

Children of the War

Peacekeeping in Kosovo

Once, on the outskirts of a future memory,
we stopped our convoy
on a narrow road
near a fallen tree.
I was in the lead vehicle
bringing supplies to a forgotten village
the war had touched,
our first time on that ground.
The tree blocked the route
as if booby-trapped.

There was movement in the woods
as we pushed through,
we didn’t shoot.
It was good to see them,
we drove by and they came in to view
hands raised high- begging.
The ambush turned out
to be scared children
weary of uniforms,
we gave them chocolate
for their little victory.
There was nothing to fear
though they didn’t know it
when they saw us coming
and in the long run of things
their tactics worked –
their smiles keep me awake sometimes.

Back to Contents

P .

Nectar of War

The ground could feel them,
returning to nests with the arsenals
of their colonies,
rotors vibrating the air
on convoys of black silhouettes
zipping by,
dozens of helicopters
swarming overhead
like eager wasps,
tail-booms jutting out
like giant stings
with artillery pieces,
heavy mortars and vehicles
slung beneath their painted bodies
like sacs full of the nectar of war.

Back to Contents

P .

Old Man’s Tears

Kosovo

Wandering through ashes and misery
of memories daily desired,
landscapes of loving existence entwined
to a day of infamy fired.
Why graves in back garden we enquired
through interpreter we witnessed tragedy,
for old man’s tears trapped on beard
told a story of brutal savagery.
Burnt shell of home – on hurting ground,
daughters and wives ravaged within sight of sons.
All put to death by order of state
in front of old eyes,
no more to sire ungrateful children.

Back to Contents

P .

Deranged

Kosovo, Winter 2001

Cold day
Rain
Old woman
Damaged
Smelled
Ancient urine
Matted hair
Dirty clothes
Filthy skin
Living
In ruin
Burnt out shell
Hungry
Dying
Weeping
Gone mad
Charred remains
Her family
Inside home
Inside her
Murdered
Fearful
Of strangers
Would not be helped
Could not
Deranged

 

photo MW

Michael J. Whelan. photograph by Emily Whelan.

This entry was posted in Contemporary Irish Poetry, Issue 22, Michael J. Whelan and tagged , , , , by Zalehah Turner. Bookmark the permalink.

About Zalehah Turner

Zalehah Turner is an Associate Editor at Rochford Street Review and regularly contributes articles on poetry, art, film and new media. She also reviews for the Culture section of UTS magazine, Vertigo. She is a Sydney based poet, writer and critic currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her poems have appeared on the ticker wall in Federation Square, Melbourne as part of the Overload Poetry Festivals 2008 and 2009, exhibited at Mark and Remark at 107 Projects in May 2013, displayed in Adelaide and Canberra through the Australian Poetry Café Poets’ program and electronically published in conjunction with Writing Laboratory and Sotto.