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Tout


dedalus

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Sinn Féin, IRA, happened,

pissed my trousers

two or three times, shameful,

 

and the Brits offering blocks of money,

wads of tens and twenties

tied up neatly in rubber bands,

 

for you to betray your people.

Meet you in an unmarked car

down by the Europa Hotel.

 

You need to collect the names

and connections, but the IRA security,

the Mickey Finns, were ten times better

 

than the British MI 5 or 6:

they wanted to feed misinformation

through me. Time to depart.

 

At the end of the day

you need to collect the fuckin money

and get out. Dip in, dip out.

 

Columbia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia,

vague thoughts about working again;

a hunt for a local girlfriend.

 

Life is sweet, you swim in the lukewarm sea,

enjoy the ladies, spend enormous

amounts of money in beach-side restaurants

 

and then get a telephone message

that brings you back, in a moment

to the hard cold streets of Belfast,

 

to the conniving little shit you are.

Edited by dedalus

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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I love the unraveling of the character and plot, dedalus. Like a suspense-thriller story.

"Words are not things, and yet they are not non-things either." - Ann Lauterbach

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This is NOT autobiographical, although sure as sugar some nut job will come up with that notion: they always seem to do that when you use the first person. That doesn't mean the story isn't true, though. I've talked to one or two of these guys, the survivors, literally one or two out of I don't know how many hundreds. The hardcore IRA came from the ghetto areas of the cities in Norn Iron -- mainly Belfast and Derry, but also Newry and Dungannon and Armagh and they knew EXACTLY what was going on, which is why the Brits couldn't infiltrate the areas, all of them rock-bottom poor, and started waving around bundles of banknotes to entice informers from within the community. That's what the poem is about.

 

Informers were discovered (inevitably) and came to sudden unhappy ends. It was called a "nut job", one bullet in the brain, and British banknotes stuffed in their mouths. One day people will refer to these times as "the good old days". Jesus can weep but memories tend to tidy up the past, sweep the bad bits under the rug. Americans have done that with Vietnam already and will probably do the same thing with Iraq and Afghanistan in the next ten or fifteen years.

 

No, I'm not cynical, not especially. Been there, seen it: just sending back reports.

 

Happy New Year, or, as we say (in the ghettoes, and outside them ... in Unoccupied Ireland)

Athbhliann Nua faoi mhaise dhuit!

 

Bren/ dedalus

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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This is NOT autobiographical, although sure as sugar some nut job will come up with that notion: they always seem to do that when you use the first person.

Ah, comeon Bren! A Dubliner in Japan??? :rolleyes: And we're supposed to believe that! :wacko: Nah, there's a bit more to this oddity than a tourist who merely happened to overstay his visa for a period of years. :icon_razz:

 

Really, I loved the poem. The intrigue coupled with the James Bond-like images of globetrotting excited me and kept my attention. I almost envied the protagonist. Well, until the phone call part. :blush:

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Ah, Tony, you're half right but mostly wrong (Irish math) ... I was actually living in Japan during the last part of the Troubles (late 80s, early 90s) but I'd spent more time in Norn Iron than any of my friends and cousins down in Dublin. I'd go up there on my visits home. It might as well have been Cuba, as far as the cousins were concerned. And it was pretty bloody awful at the time with armoured cars, roadblocks, and Army (British) patrols all over the shop. You could feel really uneasy in Protestant areas (King Billy murals, red-white-and-blue kerbstones, Union Jacks hanging from every window) and with good reason, too. There was the "H" test: apparently Taigs (Catholics: non-religious people like me, basically) pronounced the letter differently from the Jaffas (Orange Order, William of ... circa 1690) and you could get beaten up or killed for a little thing like that. I learned to pronounce it both ways: "aitch", Prod; "haitch",Taig. You could get "lifted" and disappear in the blink of an eye simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was bloody scary. I wasn't around long enough to join the IRA, mind, but I knew a lot of local guys who had ... and I could understand why.

 

It requires a certain amount of social oppression, not to say near civil war, for that sort of mindset to form. Most people simply want to get on with their lives -- job, friends, pubs, music, sports, girlfriends -- and tend to steer clear of political activism until politics can't be ignored any more. I wouldn't wish it on anyone but that's the way it was over there. Still is, to a certain extent, but the violence has petered out (exhaustion on all sides, not wanting your kids to go through the same stuff) and population shifts more than anything else have helped keep the fragile peace. The working class -- the non-working class, I should say -- have mostly moved into totally Catholic or totally Protestant communities; the only "mixed" communities being the economically middle-class and up. It's weird and has little to do with religion. It's political: cowboys and Indians, descendants of the land-grabbing settlers and their hangers-on (this was the 17th century, mind you, BEFORE the Pilgrims sailed off to America) on one side and on the other the resentful dispossessed locals, bearing clan names and associations with the land that go back to antiquity. If you're Catholic you're probably native Irish; if you're a Proddy your family came in from the outside at some stage. What if you're a Jew? "C'mere to me, you ... are you a Catlick Jew or a Protestant Jew?": not funny, happened more than once. The implied question is which side are you on? Even the ubiquitous Chinese and their restaurants had to cater to one side or the other. Hell on earth? No, just Northern Ireland -- a ravishingly beautiful place which catches the hearts of all who live there, but who can't seem to live together. Think of an eternal Bosnia before Bosnia became news.

 

I wasn't around long enough to become a tout, either ... perish the thought! It's a local quarrel, confusing to outsiders, but that's part of the island I come from: maybe I should have taken the hint from my Dublin cousins.

 

Cheers,

Bren

Edited by dedalus

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Hi Brennan, Love the poem. I always come away from one of your poems with new found knowledge and maybe even a little better understanding.

 

You are right about the presumed autobiography observation. It is an easy trap to fall into, especially for the casual reader and you write so convincingly. Clearly you are close enough to the subject to make it sound up close and personal. I appreciate the insight you provide. You add a little grundge to the romance of the IRA.

 

~~Tink

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Thanks, Brendan, for the background info. I found these parts particularly amusing:

 

It requires a certain amount of social oppression, not to say near civil war, for that sort of mindset to form. Most people simply want to get on with their lives -- job, friends, pubs, music, sports, girlfriends -- and tend to steer clear of political activism until politics can't be ignored any more ....

 

The working class -- the non-working class, I should say -- have mostly moved into totally Catholic or totally Protestant communities; the only "mixed" communities being the economically middle-class and up ....

I would say that the first part is very much the case in America, too, perhaps even in most places. Instances of the second part abound also, though not only when it comes to religion; there are other variables like ethnic groups. And this part is a riot:

 

What if you're a Jew? "C'mere to me, you ... are you a Catlick Jew or a Protestant Jew?": not funny, happened more than once. The implied question is which side are you on? Even the ubiquitous Chinese and their restaurants had to cater to one side or the other.

By the way, I think your prose is fantastic.

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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