Ruairí de Barra – Tibnin Bridge

Profile Ruairi de Barra LE P&W Dec V Two 2018

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Tibnin Bridge, 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 dedicated sailor with over two decades of service with an tSeirbhís Chabhlaigh & Óglaigh na hÉireann including service overseas on Defence Forces international humanitarian operations and European Naval Force operations in the southern 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 work has also been published in other Defence and Emergency Services publications. He is the inaugural recipient of the An Cosantóir ‘Gen. MJ Costello’ Award 2018 and a nominee for European Military Press Association awards for 2017 & 2018. His creative work has featured with ‘Tinteán’, ‘A New Ulster’, ‘Live Encounters’ and ‘The Bangor Literary Journal’. He was shortlisted for the Sixth Bangor Literary Poetry Competition 2018. He writes creatively on his WordPress

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,
more like tourists than the sailors we were dressed to be,
meandering along the roads,
catching glimpses of life in the olive groves and rocky yellowed fields,
lives who’s roots you came to help protect,
while you were only 19 years old same as me,
burning under the same sun,
I remembered you as the bus raced over the bridge,
on the pilgrimage to Camp Shamrock with a cargo of ammunition,
and crumpled US dollars to see the mingy men.

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.

The Island

Angels voices soar 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.

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

© Ruairí de Barra