Sunday, May 14, 2006

257. Terrorists on a Coffee Break

We were told
to stay off the booze
and to run five miles
across the feckin fields
when we had,
as it were, the time.
Everyone snorted
and fell over laughing,
and then Dinny ups and says,
Are we to wear
our Wellington boots, sorr?
to the snippy runt (it rhymes)
come down from Belfast.
He looked pinched and peeved,
having to deal with us rustics,
but he'd brought us guns.
Nice guns, too.
Armalites, greased-up, new.
We were better tooled-up
than the sad sallow boys
in the fearful British Army
(you can take that both ways).

They were just walking targets,
doing useless patrols.
We'd do a ping
most days, shoot one,
let them drag the body home
and think and brood about it.
They took it out on the locals
which was exactly
what we wanted them to do:
safe houses, money, food,
they all came pouring in.

That's when we thought
we were winning the war.
We were doing grand
in East Tyrone, but the cities
were a different story.

They started picking us off
one by one: dawn raids,
roadblocks, security checks;
all the technology
brought to bear.
We were driven into the hills and woods
like the clansmen
five hundred years before.

We lost the M-60 that way.
Some young lads, recent
recruits, seething with frustration,
raced through the town
with the gun set up on a flatbed truck
and shot the hell
out of the local police station.
The SAS were waiting
and shot the lot of them dead,
even shot them
after they were dead
(to make sure, like)
there in the parking lot
in front of the church.

Cartridges like peanut shells
everywhere you walked.

That's when I went
to America, after the cops
beat up my little brother,
hassled my mother in the street,
and swore I would never
be captured alive.
We had lost, as they say,
the initiative.

That's why the "Peace Process"
was grudgingly welcomed.
We were losing. It's that simple.
Nobody will admit it to this day:
"IRA - the Undefeated Army" ---
(that was supposed to be us)
was barely functional, nearly licked,
and mostly on the run.

I was scared of my life
in New York -- Jayzus,
you think Norn Iron is dangerous?
Try Brooklyn. I was
bartending, what else
do Irish illegals do (construction)?
when the word came through
it was safe to come home.
It is never safe to come home,
not if your home is my home:
it's been on the frontline
for about four hundred years,
and I don't want my own kids
(if and when I have them)
to go through the same thing.

Everyone does their little bit,
gallantly unmeasured, for Mother Ireland.
Do chum Gloire De
agus Onora na hEireann*

but the time slides around
when you have to think
about doing a little something
for the nerve-wracked jangling creature
that dear old Mother Ireland
has made of you.

* For the Glory of God and the honour of Ireland

NB - this poem is NOT autobiographical. I get into a lot of trouble for my weirdly accurate imagination. I would rather not be strip-searched (again) on any future visit to Fortress America. As if I even want to go there ....