Grief does not take sides

There are two poems on this post, stories of grief from deaths in Northern Ireland. Grief does not take sides. I heard story and some of the feelings from each person, but the poems arrived as if I was the person, as if I could speak in their voice. I am certain I was not in their shoes, what I have written may well not be true to the feelings of people and their families, who are closer to these deaths, the fault is mine for writing as if I knew, when I do know that I do not. All of my poems are even untrue to facts, they just start off from somewhere which is/was a fact. The blog lets anyone write and tell me what is thought of this and of the poems. I hope I do not add to grief.

Take these poems as meant for all in troubled places in this stupid stupid world, where there are always some who think a sensible answer is make more guns, sell more guns, shoot more guns. For ‘guns’ read what you like, cluster bombs, shock and awe, water cannon, swords and fists. There is wrongdoing, we do have to fight it, but could we not choose a way like listen, look, speak, be strong, however despairing the dialogue seems. Could talking and changing minds hold more despair than I tried to write about below?

A Mother’s Photograph Album

This is when I first saw him
He’s three
Look at those eyes
My heart just went round him into him out for him
Peter, the youngest one
His father and me put our families together
And my heart went round him.
Greedily I said, Mine,
Mine, did she hear me,
his dead mother? Did she curse?

Did he hear her? He did not speak.
not then,
This is when he went to school
He spoke, he could speak
but no, he didn’t talk
he didn’t read or write
though we all thought he was smart enough

Oh look this is my favourite.
He’s nine, my sister’s youngest on his shoulders
A strong lad
laughing, always with the young ones.
He talked to them a lot
Not much to us.
Learning difficulty.

That’s him again
In the youth club
He was full of life
Changed, joy, alive
and talking. Non-stop.
Hurray for teenage times. God we were happy then.
And then we heard.
No, no club, the IRA

He was fifteen, we sent him away.
No voices spoke when he came back
Nineteen the last day
when my heart went way.
His armalite hit the concrete
Soldiers got him
balaclava burst, bullets.
Spray on the runway past Ardtrea

Guilt, grief, blank, past
without a name.
You don’t know
how long it lasts
The world turns
and turns
and still it lasts.
I am glad he died then.
His soul still had my heart.


Walk into that point of pain
Not to suffer the pain again,
though you will.
But to show yourself which way
you might feel like taking today.

A point is infinite
And definite.
Until you are there
you cannot see the shards of light
diffract. Hold all just a little while
before you act.

Not so long ago
She told me: My brother is dead.
I have another and a sister too
And many friends, including you.
But how can I speak to you, another
for he is gone.
Not now my brother.

In our house he lived and grew
grew up, and married too
became a baker, lived his trade
day by day he smelt of bread.
Early rise and in to bake
Oven offers up the bread.
Take out the van. Go round the round
the business bit. Enjoying every bit of it.
Up the hill and down the brae
Like Pat the Postman, who could say

Except, they shot him dead one day.
Breadmen deliver where we say
No bread to the constabulary

And every time I smell the bread
I smell his blood and I’m afraid
I smell the bullets in my sleep
I feel their triumph as I weep.
I’ll take the van. I don’t bake bread.
I’ll shoot them all
Let them be dead.

I weep, I sleep I will keep
faith by your side
Should vengeance come
they will not hide.
By then I will be far away
from that point, that pain, that day.

I will find a private grave
For me and you my only brother
There we’ll live and love together
In my heart I’ll hold to you
And I can shoot them.
That I’ll do.

Except except
The still small voice
The point of pain, I don’t want choice.
All the real roads lead away
from you. I cannot stay.
I don’t want life which holds this grief.
I am alive. I cannot sleep.

What promise do I keep
for you my brother?
For I know you were not only
There is another,
I’m still a sister and a mother
these others call
Live, We’re alive,
We all have promises

Come to us and we will weep.
We are weeping, We’re here too.
Leave him. Leave him.
He will do
There he lies. He had his life.
Now every time we smell the bread
We will hold that point of pain.
He never comes with us again.

Love breaks faith with the dead
Now, that is grief.

from three poems from Northern Ireland written at Block Island 2008, the third is To the Peacekeepers


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