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.

Towering Giants

rushbrooke cranes

Towering Giants.

The rusty frames have faded into the background,
beyond the comprehension of the busy lives bustling underneath,
the silent gaze of the towering giants,
steadfast vigil beside the dark river,
strangers eyes see the flaking struts,
derelict complaints can’t reach the pigeons nesting over Verolme,

These old familiar shapes once had motion,
the long lifeless chains once toiled,
hoisting plate steel upon the boom & jib,
dirt & sweat lowering bread upon the tables,
of those that climbed the ladders,
worn hands with black dirt engrained.

Tired forms slaked thirst inside the Smugglers,
read papers smudged by caulkers,
red eyed welders sat like monks,
in contemplation of the seam,
wreath in poison smoke,
attendant to the birthing bed,
of Irish Oak and Ash, of Aisling and of Emer.

Sickbed of a thousand weary hulls,
footings in the dock of industry,
outstretched arms into the air,
dismembered for the breakers yard,
to fade from memory of the passers-by,
rent asunder in the final days.

Lest the crumbling lattice remove a life,
crashing into the cool shadow below,
or casting a hoist or sheave into the channel,
hooking the weary rumbling merchants,
like the swift runs of summer mackerel,
frozen now in the rarest of snows,
as the towering giants get pulled down

By Ruairí de Barra.

The two historic cranes which loomed large over Cork Harbour for six decades were dismantled in early 2018.
The cranes were used for building ships at the Verolme Dockyard at Rushbrooke, which closed in 1984.
They have been central to the skyline of Rushbrooke, west of Cobh and across the harbour from Monkstown for over 60 years.
I passed them nearly every day and I feel the landscape will be a little less without the towering giants above us.

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.

 

Empty

Empty.

If only the innocent could be kept afloat by faith,
until the rescuers come walking on the waves,
to carry the children to the cradle of their mother,
not let them tumble in the surf,
greeting the morning with their backs,
silent and stiff, the red shirt on the tiny frame.

A plague on the most twisted ideologies,
that poverty is the wrath of God upon the unworthy,
destiny a blissful eternity for wanton slaughter,
that charity is still valid when you have to bow,
tithe this mansion prophet for your redemption,
change your name to accept a bowl of soup.

Washing the feet of a four year old,
with water warmed by the omnipotent sun overhead,
her flawless ebony skin burnt white,
stripped by the chemical burn from the bilge,
her mother thanking you relentlessly,
in three languages invoking empty prayers.

I have seen no God in the ocean,
no belief in a deity almighty,
which allows such cruelty to exist,
capricious torturer demanding worship,
while the poor try to live off dogma,
when bread or lifejackets would be better.

by Ruairí de Barra

Delighted to be able to say that this was published in the 1st edition of the Bangor Literary Journal, it is a privilege to be in the company of many wonderful writers and poets within its pages.

You can view their current issue here and you can download the issue feature this work here.

The image above is the work of Daniel Etter.
A noted photographer who secured the Pulitzer prize in 2016 for this image which he titled ‘Exodus’.

It shows Mr. Laith Majid Al Amirij, an Iraqi refugee from Baghdad, who breaks out in tears of joy, holding his son Taha and his daughter Nour, after they arrived safely on a beach of the Greek island of Kos, Greece, Aug. 15, 2015.
The group crossed over from the Turkish resort town of Bodrum and on the way their flimsy rubber boat, crammed with about 12 men, women and children, lost air.
Fearing that they get sent back to Turkey and upon being told so by their smuggler, Mr. Al Amirij’s wife initially identified them as Syrians from Deir Ezzor.
The family has since made it to Berlin, Germany.

‘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.”

Mothers of Many Nations

 

Mothers of  Many Nations.

Mothers are mothers, white, brown, yellow, black.
no divide amongst the races by colour, creed or social status,
each mother cradles two generations inside her during gestation,
endless cord to the dawn of time,
when your mother’s mother was also mine.

The abuse and danger a mother will endure,
as she sets out unsure – to flee
fetching up on a Libyan shore,
with the precious child, her world.

Dead heat, the hold is suffocating,
bravely trying not to show any fear,
as waves rock the barque setting out into the night.
the two penned within a wooden dungeon,
no porthole breeze or starlight pierces beneath the deck,
shelved top to tail, on slatted bars with walls that,
drip,
drip,
drip,
feet trailing in latrine bilge, where dignity is stripped,
modern holocaust inshipped.

Far off the coast, the jackals cut them loose,
three hundred and forty-five cattle,
would be more carefully protected,
but businessman will cash their cheques,
their loathsome profit has been extracted,
the flotsam can now be ejected.

In the early hour’s masked aliens arrive,
robed in white, barking orders in the night,
no understanding of their words,
her gut grips tight and stomach churns,
the terror of return to that wretched shore,
where hope no longer burns,
on scabies ridden warehouse floors.

Finally, from behind the locked door, release,
gulping deep salt-laden air,
looking now into the alien’s eyes,
they’re blue,
thrown two jackets, one red, one black,
the first is put on her daughters back,
there in the pitching, panicking melee.

The grey citadel looms large,
passed hand to hand, tagged and snapped,
not harshly treated, but swift and sure,
a hand invades where no hand should be,
but unlike before, this hand vanishes not wanting more,
as on cardboard mats she sees,
in neat lines of segregation an end to her degradation.

She hides the food behind her refuse sack,
fear in her eyes that I might retrieve it,
no need to horde for there was no lack,
when children are so mistreated,
their stunned faces, your heart cracks, you feel it,
internally you curse the greedy’
who inflict this terror upon the needy,
louder still you spit and roar at cowards who glibly say ‘No More!’

Come and see humanity with me, at sea,
see woman, child and man reduced,
with nothing left, entirely bereft,
sit in Sirte slum or cling to a rubber raft of unknown futures,
see boys stand armed vigil through the night,
silent sentinels, bearing witness to the plight,
of tinfoil blanket forms wrapped tight,
like golden caterpillars packed together on a quivering leaf.

Mothers are mothers, white, brown, yellow, black.
no divide amongst the races by colour, creed or social status
Remember, before you make proud proclamations,
those who never reached their destination,
who rest down deep beneath the waves,
in unmarked ocean graves.

Mothers of so many nations.

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.”

This is the very first poem which I read aloud one evening in the company of my friend, the writer and warrior poet Michael J Whelan, upstairs above the Long Valley Pub, Winthrop St in Cork City. Ó Bhéal is Cork’s weekly poetry event. You can read more about what they do here. I actually wrote this on Mothers Day in 2017, while pacing my kitchen one morning on a day when everyone stops to remember the person who gave them life and in particular is in one’s thoughts when they are no longer here with us.

Published in ‘Live Encounters’ March 2018. You can take read the three 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.