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About Albert by Terry McDonagh, Irish Poet, Playwright and Writer
About Albert is an excerpt taken from quite a long poem based on post-war conversations I’ve had in Germany with people who’d had first-hand experience of World War Two, as well as with some people born after 1945. War is always a terrible tragedy. There are winners and losers – sadly, winners are often losers as well: feelings of hate, regret, pain and loss remain. In the end, the economist/ the traders in arms will win out. The sad thing is that it is almost always ‘ordinary’ people who really suffer; who are led to believe in some cause/belief or another. I know there are times when defence is called for but, in the main, war leads to alienation from self and from other decent people who could have been friends and not enemies. The leaders are the problem.
In this poem, we see Albert, a man who has lost his parents; who grows up in an orphanage and who never really comes to terms with his life in post-war Germany. Albert is an outsider who, as a result of war, has become alienated from himself and his society. In this final section of the poem, he writes to his deceased mother:
Dear Mother, why did you leave me all those years ago|?
My wings were too young to keep hanging in the sky, but
I know it was in spring they placed you pale and firm in the clean earth.
You used to bring red to weaving flowers and unwrap layers
of heat and rain on thick grass. I was orphaned in garlands
seeing the sky slowly turn its back on me.
Now you are at one with persistent darkness, but when I see
us crossing fields of barley, I curtsy to your humming
of Mozart’s Zauberfloete from a suspended rock on the headland.
There never was time to stare at shop windows.
War and your sickness left me ragged loss
and a photo of an older woman in a distant country.
I have sifted through women on corners, opened my heart
behind hedgerows, sprang helplessly at the messenger’s throat
with nothing but a fingerprint attached to the surface of my universe.
I change my tune to meet the needs of every wretch in suburbia.
I don’t want to be alone in Paradise.
I remain your son, Albert.