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.

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.

 

Shelter

Shelter.

There’s a sheltered spot on the Starboard quarter,
where I stand with no other,
gazing out across the sea,
I watch the melting colours of the sky,
like a fire burning away the barrier,
between this world and the next,
I can’t often be still of late,
lingering in such beauty undeservedly,
which stirred youth before life gave way to adult pursuits.

Colours run into each other and the light falls fast,
shadows race in,
chasing the horizon,
fencing with the slowest rays to close the day.

Standing transfixed as the horizon blazes,
golden liquid pouring from the heavens,
utterly lost before the chill runs through me,
cocooned by the exhaust roar at my back,
the darkness wrapping her blanket around me,
intrusive pipes sound out,
proclaiming the passing of the world beneath my feet,
segmented, regimented, ordered day held at bay,
by deafening noise and the sunset.

Night, smothered now in the black,
the chill sinking deep to bring the shiver,
and as soon as I do,
that first shake,
starts to stir me, forced to come awake,
tearing me from standing isolation’s dream,
pushing me back beneath,
time to shower and to sleep,

Momentary relief fleeting away,
fallen night no longer to caress and hold me,
reality comes to swagger o’er me,
all comes flooding back,
when the night’s alarm will to all hands call.

SCRAMBLE,
SCRAMBLE,
SCRAMBLE.

The adrenaline shot direct into my heart,
sitting bolt upright in the red light,
feeling such guilt at the excitement,
knowing that out there in that black horizon,
where hours ago I was lost in rainbow colours,
there are drifting hulks with holds packed tight,
seeking shelter.

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 ‘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.

Stripped

STRIPPED.

What if all you had was gone?

What if all you had was a black bag and the clothes on your back?

What if all you loved went limp and slipped from your fingers into the deep blue?

What if all you could ever do is dream and dream of tomorrows that never became today?

What if all at the last was the brine that forced its way into your mouth?

What if that last sounds to reach your ear were screams and useless prayers?

What if as the last light blinked out and the darkness rushed in, a hand grasped you?

What if you felt your ribs break and your throat tear as the brine pours out?

What if you looked up and see brown eyes under a green helmet?

 

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 ‘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.

any of some incredibly talented people.

 

Nuestra Senora de Gardtoza, January 30th 1990.

The Aer Corps have a motto ‘Go Mairidis Beo’ its accepted translation is ‘So others may live’ which echos the US Air Force Pararescue motto. It stands as a statement of commitment from the people who will place the lives of others above their own.

It also is very apt to apply it to Irish sailors, who in all weathers will put to sea in small RHIBs, against the fury of the ocean and into the face of the storm to save their fellow mariners who are in peril on the sea.

On the night of the 30th of January 1990 the LÉ DEIRDRE was at anchor in Lawrence’s Cove in the shelter of Bere Island from severe gale force winds. A terrible drama was unfolding close by, the Spanish fishing vessel, Nuestra Senora de Gardtoza, (Our Lady of Gardtoza) had run aground on rocks near Roancarrigmore Light, North East of Bere Island in Bantry Bay. She was taking water and she had 16 souls onboard.

LÉ DEIRDRE recieved the ‘MAYDAY’ at 2100hrs and as quickly as she could, the crew weighed anchor and headed out of shelter into the severe gale towards the distressed vessel.

The decison was taken to launch the ships Gemini to attempt a rescue, this was due to no helicopter support being available and there was no way to maneuver LÉ DEIRDRE in close to the vessel due to the weather.

Leading Seaman Michael Quinn, a native of Drogheda along with Able Seaman Paul Kellett from Dublin volunteered to crew the Gemini as boat Coxswain & Bowman respectively. The highly experienced seamen committed to their perilous task, while knowing the risks, in the face of the horrendous conditions.

L/Sea Micheal Quinn DSM

Once the Gemini manoeuvred close enough to the ‘Gardtoza’ it quickly became apparent that boarding the stricken vessel or a rescue would not be possible. Unable to board L/Sea Quinn took the decision to attempt to return to his vessel, then disaster struck. The wind & waves capsized the small boat and cast both sailors into the churning waters.

The brave comrades were separated in the darkness and an exhausted A/Sea Kellett was washed ashore on rocks near Dereen cove. Only concerned with raising the alarm and finding his crew-mate, he pushed himself through the barrier of utter exhaustion; he clambered up over the jagged rocks, as they tore flesh from his naked feet until he managed to reach a main road. A passing Garda patrol picked him up and he passed the message that L/Sea Quinn was lost out there in the blackness.

There were soon two operations underway, an RAF Sea King Helicopter arrived to successfully rescue the crew of the Gardtoza and a number of merchant vessels joined LÉ DEIRDRE in searching for L/Sea Quinn.

Sadly the next morning an Air Corps Dauphin helicopter, at 0800hrs on the 31st sighted and recovered the body of Leading Seaman Quinn, 3 miles east of the tragic scene.

Borne by comrades, L/Sea Quinn DSM is laid to rest with full military honours.

L/Sea Quinn was only 27 at the time of his death and the survivor A/Sea Kellet was only 21. Their courage and their commitment to the each other, the Naval Service and the nation is an example of the spirit of Óglaigh na hÉireann, which shone as brightly in these two young men as it has ever shone in any patriot.

In recognition of his unselfish bravery and devotion to duty the Distinguished Service Medal was posthumously awarded to L/Sea Quinn. The King of Spain also made a posthumous award of the Spanish Cross of Naval Merit in recognition of his brave attempts to rescue the Spanish crew. A/Sea Kellett was also awarded both medals in equal recognition of his bravery and dedication to duty.

The Middle Sea

The Middle Sea.

If you drew back the ocean waves,
the graveyard of the middle sea would be seen,
strewn with the bodies of the poor,
from a hundred nations, they lie scattered by the thousands,
on the seabed, blanketed in the forever dark.

The ocean has no memory or mercy,
the sand will not a headstone make,
there will be no names carved in Tripoli or Valetta for these nameless bones,
locked or trapped inside decrepit hulks,
they tried to cross the waters with pitiless men.

The force that drives the third world out onto the waves,
must be stronger than the sickening worry in the pit of the mothers’ stomach,
as she places a toddler between her knees in the bilge,
the golden glow of Europe delivered via satellite,
must cloud again the eyes when the door of the hold is snapped shut.

When the jackals have stripped each and every dollar,
they’ll extract what they desire from your flesh,
hanging on the hook your family defenceless,
when you open your mouth they’ll break your teeth,
or execute you on the beach if your panic starts to unsettle all the rest.

The hands of Moses will not part this sea as they plummet,
there is no saviour here in the depth of night,
the deflating chambers on the collapsing raft,
ditching the screaming into the swell,
lungs inundated as salt water rushes in,
they’ll be dead before they rest on the ribs of the fallen below.

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