Ruairí de Barra – Mothers of many nations

Profile Ruairí de Barra Live Encounters Poetry & Writing March 2018

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Mothers of many nations, poems by Ruairí de Barra

The author Ruairí de Barra hails from the wilds of Tawneyshane, Co. Mayo and now resides in Cobh, Co. Cork. A sailor with over two decades of service with an tSeirbhís Chabhlaigh & Óglaigh na hÉireann including service on international humanitarian operations in the Mediterranean. He writes professionally as an accredited Irish Defence Forces military journalist and is a regular contributor to ‘An Cosantóir’, the Irish Defence Forces magazine. His May 2017 article “Rebuilding Somalia’ was nominated for the European Military Press Association ‘Best Article Awards 2017’. His work has also been published in ‘Emergency Services Ireland’ and ‘Contact’ the Australian Defence Forces magazine. He writes creatively under the nom de plume Karol Barry on his WordPress ( His creative work has featured with ‘Tinteán’ and in ‘A New Ulster’.

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, 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,
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 hours 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.


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.


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.


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?

© Ruairí de Barra