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.

by Ruairí de Barra

Published in ‘Live Encounters’ December 2018. You can read the four poems in this special volume 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 again in the same pages of some truly talented people.

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 Island

The Island.

Angels voices soaring to roll off the ceilings curves,
numb hands pressed against grieving ones,
roaring winds pulling at the aged stones,
no threat to peace or pain inside the vault,
sharing the seeping warmth of love departed.

The lintels still carry chisel strikes,
left by rough hands that toiled,
a hundred years of rain have yet,
to find their way inside,
each stone as tight together as the families,
who sit in hushed mourning rows beneath,

Their tears may smooth the ambered stone,
before the harbour weather ever breaches,
the final equalising place of rest,
where the trappings of religions,
are swapped according to the guest.

The doors accept the faithful and the poor,
the faithless and the wealthy with all the rest,
there in the still respectful silence,
muttering prayers half-remembered if at all,
offering the strength of common presence.

In the back row of the assembled,
far from the neat chairs beside the younger feet,
as the time draws closer to say goodbye,
know that you are always with us,
beneath this unifying storm cloud sky.

by Ruairí de Barra

In respectful remembrance of the many people who have passed through the Island Crematorium situated on Rocky Island in Cork Harbour.

Since it has opened I have paid my final respects there to a far too many people; to a dear friend, the parents and siblings of other friends as well as to the parents and family members of many of my Irish Naval service colleagues both serving and retired.

We have a tradition in the Naval Service that we will attend such funeral services in uniform, regardless of the length of time since last you served or the length of time the deceased or the grieving person themselves served for.

We do because you are always our comrade, you supported us and in this hour of your need or in the hour of your remembrance we will support you and your family.
‘Blood is thicker than water’ is an oft-repeated phrase, meaning ‘family is always closest or most important’.

I chose to accept the other interpretation of that phrase, that of the blood covenant.

That the ties formed by military training and service transcend the ties of kinship, that it means that ‘those you have shed your blood with, are more close to you than anyone’.

‘…From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me,
Shall be my brother…’

Henry V, in Act IV Scene iii 18–67, William Shakespeare.

Published in ‘Live Encounters’ December 2018. You can read the four poems in this special volume 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 again in the same pages of some truly talented people.

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.

by Ruairí de Barra

Perhaps one of the most shocking events to ever happen to the Irish Defence Forces overseas, took place at around 8pm on the night of 27th October in 1982.

Corporal Gary Morrow and Privates Peter Burke and Thomas Murphy were manning a UN observation post at Tibnin Bridge in South Lebanon.

Private Michael McAleavey was with them and minutes later three of the four were dead.

In the days that followed, little was known, other than the fact that McAleavey was still alive and the others were dead.

Having initially said that pro-Israeli militia had been responsible for the deaths of his three colleagues, McAleavey was later found to have killed the three of them in cold blood.

Having served 27 years of a life sentence for the killings, this murderer was released from prison in 2010.

In 1999, I was part of the crew of LÉ Aisling as she undertook one of the regular re-supply missions to the Irish Defence Forces personnel serving with the United Nations in Lebanon.

Three of the five brothers in my house are decorated with the United Nations Peacekeepers medal for service with UNIFIL and EUNAVFOR.

Published in ‘Live Encounters’ December 2018. You can read the four poems in this special volume 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 again in the same pages of some truly talented people.

Seen It

Seen It

I have seen the love,
when Father makes himself into a bed,
to raise the weary child from off the deck,
cradling all the treasure of the world,
within his arms, underneath thin blankets.

I have seen the love,
of brother held fast to brother,
sleeping, no support but each other,
I had not the words to ask,
did they even share a Mother?

I have seen the love,
of Grandfather who didn’t put that baby down,
while his daughter slept exhausted for half a day,
beneath the watchful gaze,
of his protection.

I have seen the love,
where the plight of desperate children,
has caused the toughest to quiver,
then to shudder,
when the sodden layers are stripped away.

I have seen the love,
when all the dreamless sleepers,
are gathered at my feet,
in the quiet rolling hours,
as we sail towards relief.

by Ruairí de Barra

This poem was shortlisted for the 6th Bangor Poetry Competition 2018 as part of the Aspects Festival.

There is a single hand written copy that exists for sale in ‘The BlackBerry Path Art Studio’ in Bangor.

I would like to thank Amy Raftery and Daniel Raftery for displaying it and for taking such care and time to help out when the original entry got lost, smashed and took a unexpected tour of the country.

Published in ‘Live Encounters’ December 2018. You can read the four poems in this special volume 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 again in the same pages of some truly talented people.

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.