Saturday, 19 July 2014

My heart cries with Gaza

I went to Israel in 1982,
with high hopes
and (vaguely) communist ideals,
and a sense of comradeship
with a jewish people
who suffered in the war
as my own polish parents had.

I met a boy in Jerusalem,
a palestinian, he
asked me if he could
talk to me
to practice his English;
could he meet me the next day
and he'd show me around.

I met him at 5pm
at the old city gate,
and he walked me up
the mount of olives,
and took me to
an arab cafe
for sweet tea and cake.

He told me he
wanted to learn,
but as a palestinian
living in Israel
he could not go
to university
to better himself.

And later, I wondered
about the arabs
living in shacks
around the perimeter
of the high fences
enclosing the rich lands
of the kibbutz.

Years later, I heard echoes
of the disparaging tones
in which the kibbutzniks
spoke of the palestinians
when the Sisters of Mercy
spoke of the "women"
who had worked in the laundries.

The same polite words
and barely contained sneers.
My father was stationed
in Rehovot during the war,
and I was excited to be there,
to connect lines in history, -
but the kibbutzniks weren't.

Their treatment of the volunteers
was arrogant. We weren't
good enough to mix with
the young people of
the kibbutz. Only to
pick their oranges, and
mind their old and very young.

I don't know all the history,
but I know an unequal battle,
and a story twisted
for economic imperative
and political gain.
I know a suffering people.
I know a concentration camp.

I know these futile words
will change nothing,
and I write them all the same,
and hold out my hands
to the mothers of Gaza
fiercely doing their best
to keep their children alive.

I've seen the Berlin wall fall,
and apartheid end,
and peace arrive in the North,
and I know justice can be found
and the bombing of hospitals stop
and the killing of children, playing
on a beach, be brought to an end.

Gaza is more than a place ,
it's the suffering of a people,
it's injustice and fear
and somewhere in there, hope.
A line of hope stretching
round the world as people
pressure their governments to act.

Tonight in Ireland,
my heart cries with Gaza,
as I lie in my peaceful bed,
listening to my son's breathing,
and knowing no bombs will fall
on this house tonight.
Thin threads of hope.

Thursday, 17 July 2014


A low hum of bees and
birds chirping in the trees,
everything perfectly still,
for a moment,
then a breeze arrives,
and the trees murmer a greeting.
The world sings its
summer song,
and I listen.

Friday, 13 June 2014


In Dharamsala, I stayed at the
Rising Horizon guest house,
where I met a girl from Belfast,
a boy from Dublin, and shared a room
with an Irish guy from New Zealand.
Every evening, we sat on the balcony,
watched eagles soar over the valley,
then when it was dark, drank Indian beer, or rum,
and smoked cheap cigarettes out of squashed packages.
Dervla took me to the Tibetan
Children's Village, where we spent a day,
surrounded by smiling, happy children,
who piled onto our laps as soon as we sat down.
Mike spent long days in the
library at the Dalai Lama's palace,
and Barry trecked about, and walked me up
to the Hindu temple by the waterfall.
I set out alone one day, against local advice,
and walked high up into the foothills,
braving bandits and tigers,
but nothing befell me. At midday,
I sat on a rock, staring out over the plains,
with the vast mountains towering behind me.
"I can see clearly now" I thought, and,
just as the song says, the pain was gone.