Wednesday, 24 April 2019

After Lyra

I haven't been keeping up with my blog for some time but I felt I must do this post today after watching the funeral of journalist Lyra McKee in St. Anne's Cathedral, Belfast.

What I am going to put in is a poem I actually wrote a couple of years ago that puts forward fears I had concerning what might happen to and within Northern Ireland in relation to Brexit. I was born and grew up in Co. Down and, after studying in Aberystwyth for my initial degree, returned to Ireland to work in Belfast at the height of the Troubles.

This was a very difficult time and, on one occasion, I was caught up in a bombing incident that led me to believe myself to be dead. At this time, I was a couple of years younger than Lyra and, not to tell the whole story just now, I felt thrown into a white light by the blast; formless and bodiless, I waited to find out just what form my spiritual being might now take and, after some time had passed, came to realise with great astonishment that the golden sparkles drifting and twinking before and around me heralded my continuing being in this mortal existence!

The experience had given me the overwhelming feeling that life and death were two sides of the same coin and, somehow, I was still on this mortal side and I have been for several decades since.

I have tried not to waste my time but have tried to live, in love, as best I can and use what I've been given. Sometimes, the onslaughts of my illness make me feel not up to the struggle to continue but I know how precious life is and I take measures to help, physical and spiritual, aided not least with Arthur's continuing love and support and the love and support of family and friends. One day, I won't be able to continue and the only things I fear about this are perhaps not being able to finish things started here or that are in my head still to do and the other, of course, the wrench of parting from loved ones. But this parting will not be forever, it is the love that is eternal and everything done in and for love will not end in pain but in a depth of love so warm and so joyful, it cannot be expressed in words or contained within this mortal frame.

At this time, as well as the shooting that killed Lyra McKee, we have too, the dreadful sense of futlity and pain following the appalling violence and loss of life in New Zealand and Sri Lanka; but the cruelty and blind ideologies that led to this taking of life pale before the strength of compassion and love that reach out after such atrocities; they will not have the last word.

This poem then, is, with the greatest of sadness but in the hope and unity of love, for Lyra.


I draw words down with
every thread, like birdsong
punched out of the dark.

Light plays on silk and
cotton fibres piercing
through the virgin linen  -

sparks candle-flame and
burning heat, not velvet
consolation of petals
smoothed between
fingers but spatter of air-

cracked moment, history's
strangle-hold in the now-but-
then thinking;    diffusing and

diffusing and diffusing,
walk back further and
further, petrol-tanker
holds its load of fickle
fuel, city's centre retains
                    stone on stone  -
racing blood
           beats a normal rhythm.

Surely not again mangled flesh
sorrowed on news headlines,
torn apart to sate what God-
forsaken desire, knock on the
door and a nation's grieving
              and for what,
                                          for what?       

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