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Poetry Magnum Opus

Troubles, 1919-21


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The girls come out in the morning

and wave their hands, they wave

to their brothers and uncles and fathers

marching bravely away to the war, their

green banners unfurling in the breeze,

the band centred on a great bass drum.


Now the war is over. Nobody knows

what to think. Have we really won?

And what is this winning about, then,

when there is no more brother George or Jim,

nor Uncles Tommy, Francis (Frank) or Joe?

Nor Jimmy or Pat from down the road.


This Great Victory takes some thinking

when barbed wire crosses your heart

and you’re no longer living with mud and shit

and oily rats, who run over you, the cheeky fff…

Well, we no longer use those Army words.

We return in a way to the world we came from.


They thought, I think, we could slip back in

as though we’d been away on holiday in France

and tripping the light fantastic, never mind

the poison gas, the machine guns and the shells,

and I was told, sharply, to call a fat man “Sir!”

if I had a thought to keep my shaky job.


With the money I lifted, I went back to Ireland

and contacted the IRB. I’d been a regular sergeant

so I put them through their training, British-style,

but we had no flow of guns. What we need, now,

is to steal the fuckin guns from the Po-liss,

from the RIC, the Royal Irish Constabulary.


This was neatly done. It was so simple.

In fact, they almost handed them over

as they were country lads, same as ourselves,

and thinking of their salaries and pensions

and a cosy seat beside the fire. In addition,

they had this strong aversion to getting shot.


I remember Jimmy, ex-corporal in the Dubs,

waving about his enormous German pistol

and they’d jump like fuckin rabbits, God Bless ‘em,

reconsidering in a flash all previous reluctance

to provide some useful information. In this way

we didn’t lose the war. But we didn’t win it either.

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

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I always find WW1 related poems emotional in a GOOD way; I don't mind maudlin or sentimental. I know this poem is deeper than those two emotions. I sense purposefulness


With the money I lifted, I went back to Ireland

and contacted the IRB.


as well as futility:


In this way

we didn’t lose the war. But we didn’t win it either.


I like it, but I wonder if it was difficult to WRITE, dedalus?

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Everything, dear boy, is difficult to write. Sometimes the images come quickly but you can't get the right words; at other times the connections come down as slow as molasses in winter. It's a constant struggle to get the disappearing mind-pictures down on paper, or as it happens, a computer screen. Then you have to make some sort of sense and structure. Honest to God, I'd be happier making furniture, sturdy chairs that wouldn't collapse under horribly fat ladies, that sort of thing, but my carpenter soul has edged into poetry instead. A compulsion, if you like. I'm considering heroin as an alternative but I need to drive to get to work ...

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

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A real sense of culture and events, the core of history rarely reported. Even the Irish did not agree on their support of a "foreign" war. In these few words are the guts of the people and the time. History, as presented here, is not just a recording of dates and events, but the cultures and attitudes. As a twist, all wars are local. After helping kill Germans, the Irish used their training to kill each other. On the ease or difficulty of poetry--or any form of art--a lot depends on knowledge and desire, plus, the mind can work for hours or even years to form just couplets. I keep wishing for a mind. :blink:

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Nice Brendan, I almost felt I was reading a Wilfred Owens poem. (My favorite WWI poet who was killed in the trenches days before the end of the war.) I think Marti touched on something, I have read a lot of WWI poets work and it has a different sound and feel than poems by WWII poets and especially different from Viet Nam Vets poems. You seem to capture that WWI feel and sound. You are a master story teller and have been blessed with a natural rhythm to your writing. You have a gift for putting yourself into the moment of time and place of which you are writing. It may seem difficult to you but to your reader it seems effortless.



~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

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

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"The war to end all wars.” (But not while human nature prevails! ) You bring the post world war one theme to a human level which made me recall the racking cough of my grandfather's brother who survived until 1961. He was gassed in the trenches and subsequently never worked or was able to marry. Fortunately the archaic ways of massed frontal war are perhaps behind us, for killing is now so pinpoint efficient and hi-tec. Enemies are more insidious..yet just as real. Thousands of ordinary people still “disappear” all over the world in different lands that are controlled by ruthless people who care only about feeding their fat faces on human misery.

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  • 1 month later...
David W. Parsley

Brendan, this is very very well done, as always. I am fascinated with your immersion experiences with the Great War and its devastations, physical, political, and spiritual. I definitely felt this one!


Thanks (I think),

- Dave

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