Memories of a Military Man

Locked in a ring of rock
the Silent Valley, dead
in the dead of night.
A duck squawks off the lake,
beats up the hill unseen.
The camouflage scarf
is wet around my throat,
the army-issue sauna suit
keeps out the rain.
This, and the steel and wood
of the semi-automatic at my side
is my life-support system
in the vacuum of political confusion.

Slieve Binnian, Co. Down 2
We all got a fright.
Suddenly the mutterings came
out of the darkness and the wet
where Dundrum Castle hunched
like a black wart on the hill.
Soiled yellow cards
folded in buttoned pockets
were ignored - we all shuffled
bullets up the spout.
The menace in the shed
was a sleeping donkey,
wheezing in his warm, dry hay,
doubtless dreaming of a safe retirement.
That's what horse-sense is all about.

Orange sun drops
on bracken hills,
gold mist hangs.
Squat roadblock humps
olive green jackets black
rifle springs eased.
Headlamps, grinding hill.
Blackened faces under berets
Flagstaff View, Co. Down peer from ditches,
fingers flick safety catches,
a wary farmer.
Bardics lance crannies,
a hand sweeps rust,
door slams. The engine roars,
trailing red lights
crawl on along the hill.
A peewit shrills;
we wait.

When the stars were cold
over Greencastle Harbour,
its slapping waters
and one smelly boat,
I lay with the smooth wood
of an SLR against my cheek.
I wondered what I was doing there;
and couldn't quite think what.


Click on a picture above to go to an associated poem