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NEW STRAY BULLETS PODCAST EPISODE

In Part II of ‘In Bloody Protest For A Glorious Thing’ I continue my thoughts on militant Republicanism in the context of ‘Heroic-Sacrifice’ and a mythic past to which the Patriot Dead added their names for ‘Ireland’s freedom’.

Ultimately what I wanted to do was look at the literary and historical sources extant in Irish Republicanism which informed its evolving ideology as well as providing PIRA volunteers with the mental tools whereby they could quite happily someone like myself while feeling wholly justified and unconcerned. 

Maybe the oppressed learn from the brutal methodology of their oppressor? One thing I have come to understand – a long time ago – is that our conflict, the Troubles, is far from simply black and white. The interpretations of who is on the ‘Good side’ as opposed to who is on the ‘bad side’ is very subjective and depends on the narrator at the time.

This was an incredibly difficult episode for me to assemble, construct, and complete. My mental health took a bit of a bashing, but I think it remains therapeutic in some way?

Anyway, thank you again for your generosity of interest. In the next episode I would like to recount several occurrences which happened to me while in the RUC, but which may be a little more light-hearted than those proceeding.

Click here: Episode 11

Many thanks!

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Ghost Days

So, yesterday was a bit of a ‘ghost day’ for me. Haunted. A past incident I was involved in unfolded around me. Encircling. Containing. Actuality dissolving into the early 1990s. The battleship grey of a Tangi landrover dully defying the sharp blue of the morning sky. Dark blast marks radiating out like teeth from where the weapon tore through the armoured skin, and on through flesh and bone. The heat of its passing cauterising some of the ragged wounds of its wake. Blood drips still. Red rivers chase one another down over uniforms, over skin, over boots. Pooling among the shadows of footwells.

The silence is louder than the explosion. It’s louder than the cracks of the Heckler & Koch HK33, the piston-punches of its working parts. Chaos drowned in silence. Seconds of blood and flame. Aeons of silence. Of stillness. The mind scattered with a shock of steel. Synapses sluggish. If you move you might die. Better to take cover behind stillness. Let your mind empty itself onto the asphalt. Cordite perfuming the air with its decaying flowers.

Still, that shinning sky dazzles above. Only a thin comb of cloud drifts across it. In a garden your eye hooks itself upon an apple tree’s sway. The pressure in your chest slowly presses towards your spine. Lips tear their dryness open. Breath no longer a stranger. Voices float between a suddenness of electronic chatter in your ear and someone screaming. I’ve never seen pain crystalize like that before. Becoming something almost solid. An apparition?

It can be hard to escape the folds of this reality. Time is of no consequence. Never within the clasp of this past. The tightening grip of fear. The unstoppable scent of seared flesh. Charred cloth and the heat of blood seeping amidst the air.

Not until your mind ceases its writhing and the tremors stop convulsing through muscle and sinew. Not until then can you begin to see the threshold of the past. To force your whole body to step across it and out onto the gaping wound of the present. A thinness of steel flickers across the inside of your forearm leaving thin red furrows. Just enough pain to break the chain. Just enough pain.

Someday the past will claim me. For now, I must live amongst its ghosts.

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The Shrapnel Podcast

Gareth Mulvenna and Sam McIlwaine were recently kind enough to invite me as a guest onto their Shrapnel Podcast.

‘Shrapnel is the podcast that looks at pieces of the past in Northern Ireland. Hosted by Sam McIlwaine and Gareth Mulvenna, we aim to bring you the voices and conversations that aren’t given a platform by the mainstream media.’

For years I never spoke about my experiences as a RUC officer during the Northern Ireland Troubles, then following an awful lot of psychiatric intervention I was encouraged to write down my memories and flashbacks. These initially took the form of rather clunky attempts at poetry and prose before I tried to examine the roots of sectarianism and violent ideologies through fiction. I self-published a novel called ‘The Bitter End Of Dreams’ more as a continuance of my therapy than anything else. To facilitate the narrative within a Troubles’ concept I felt I had to create a minor deviation from history as well as changing some placenames. I’m now working on a new novel set some years in our future.

Well, as I’ve outlined above, I rarely talked about my experiences, but after feeling compelled to start my Stray Bullets Podcast I find that, when I am relaxed, I can talk quite a bit about such, and this was how I felt in the company of my hosts for the Shrapnel Podcast: Gareth and Sam. I am very grateful that they were kind enough to approach me about appearing on an episode (and hope to return in the future, if I haven’t blotted my copybook :)).

You can listen to the Shrapnel Podcast here: SHRAPNEL

Thank you!

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ALL LIFE IS NOISE

mind

going backwards

to the IED –

the one by the path

not the car

not the firing-point

not the one that took a soldier’s face

so many –

a mind made of sepia

voices

wrapped in newsprint

washed away yesterdays

red streams

through barren

field-dressings

drown

my

mind.

Politics is just noise in my head it threatens to knock the other noises dead a noise of Irish republicans on Cullaville Road a noise of Loyalists abiding in the Highfields a noise of show parades for Sinn Féin a noise of the present the past is pain noise noise noise noise no!

silver fingers

cup stone

wrists plunged

through skins

of knives

your father lingers

on the far bank

his mouth

a cave of bitter blood

god abides within

water rises

silver-faced

sinless

a mother’s grace

her hands

laced

in prayer

a river flows from sides

foresight pierced

to join other rivers

seaward

until each wave

unfolds

another’s dying sigh.

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STRAY BULLETS PODCAST

I’ve started recording a podcast about my experiences during the Northern Ireland Troubles. From all the positive feedback I hope to have ‘hit my stride’ with the third episode – The Dialogue of Shadows. As such, I’m already working on episode four which will follow the format set in three: using a narrative structure and multiple narrators (some who may be based on actual persons, some not) to convey a factual occurrence. Much of what I hope to relate rarely even made it onto the news at the time due to the frequency of attacks and incidents.

In Bloody Protest For A Glorious Thing Part II Stray Bullets

In Part II of 'In Bloody Protest For A Glorious Thing' I continue my thoughts on militant Republicanism in the context of 'Heroic-Sacrifice' and a mythic past to which the Patriot Dead added their names for 'Ireland's freedom'.Ultimately what I wanted to do was look at the literary and historical sources extant in Irish Republicanism which informed its evolving ideology as well as providing PIRA volunteers with the mental tools whereby they could quite happily someone like myself while feeling wholly justified and unconcerned. Maybe the oppressed learn from the brutal methodology of their oppressor? One thing I have come to understand – a long time ago – is that our conflict, the Troubles, is far from simply black and white. The interpretations of who is on the 'Good side' as opposed to who is on the 'bad side' is very subjective and depends on the narrator at the time.This was an incredibly difficult episode for me to assemble, construct, and complete. My mental health took a bit of a bashing, but I think it remains therapeutic in some way?Anyway, thank you again for your generosity of interest. In the next episode I would like to recount several occurrences which happened to me while in the RUC, but which may be a little more light-hearted than those proceeding.        
  1. In Bloody Protest For A Glorious Thing Part II
  2. In Bloody Protest For A Glorious Thing Part I
  3. Imagined Communities: The RUC and Loyalism
  4. A Rope of Smoke, A Noose of Fire
  5. The Gulf In The Eye Of The Other
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The Apotheosis of Assassins

There’s no greater act of liberation than dying a death so grand to free one’s native land. So the song lilts. Kind of. But once you grab your AK – or maybe a Mac-10, depending on the colours of your hatred – and headed out towards the ‘target’ (we’re too polite and well disciplined to call them prey, let alone human!), then, well then you transition from wee whatever to a nameless hero – faceless, apart when you can’t help yourself smirking or kicking the target’s wife when your blood becomes fire and you’re drunk from the rapid return of the bolt and rapid smash of the rounds into flesh and bone. Only gods stalk their prey the way you do. Only gods can grind their plots into fine arrays of wires, metal and an ambrosia of explosives. They command the air about their prey, they can make it ripple through flesh in a blast pressure wave, or cause it’s sudden expansion to rip and rend limbs and faces. These gods create a lake of blood in which to drown their enemy’s will. Only blood can set you free – the blood of those who do not support the struggle of the gods, for if they do not support them then the gods have judged them enemies complicit in their silence and deserving of death.

‘Freedom’ – or whatever unreachable utopia represents it – becomes an imagined Heaven in the minds of the gods and those who worship them. ‘Freedom’ cannot stand against the rewards of blood-letting: riches, power, and adoration.

Freedom becomes carnage. As much carnage as possible. Let the red wreckage society kneel before the gods in abject devotion and thankfulness.

The ‘armed struggle’, draped in whatever colours or name, is in itself a declaration. The gods are declaring that they exist; they have purpose, strength, vigour and, having set themselves forever as lowly prisoners of their prey. The gods create a sense of belonging for themselves and their worshippers. They nourish their ’cause’ with the blood of their prey. The ’cause’ is no more than a raison d’etre. They have ennobled murder by idealizing it in the context of ‘the cause’ – freedom becomes less important than killing. These ’causes’ eventually dissolve into some form of autonomy, but the ‘idealized cause’ can never be realised and so the call for blood-letting and carnage will continue.

And when we return to those gods mentioned at the beginning we find that they have died noble deaths with their AK or Mac-10 still in their hands (even those who die by their own devices may know godlikeness). Such martyrs will become supreme gods for ‘the cause’. They are forever beyond the judgement of their prey, those vermin whose blood serves to fatten ‘the cause’. Such martyrs have become greater than flesh, they have become immortal and their deeds turn to a sweet nectar upon the lips of their worshippers. The faces of the martyrs must be carried with honour and with pride about the land. Their blood-letting must be lifted in song as hymns heard in Heaven. Martyrs invigorate ‘the cause’ through noble self-sacrifice against an insurmountable foe. Martyrs flay their own skin and hang it upon ‘the cause’ to give it being.

And so there is a need for these martyrs, these blood-martyrs, to be ever paraded and adored. They shout a greater victimhood than their scurrying prey. They possess a greater righteousness than their prey. They have laid down their very lives for ‘the cause’ and by doing so have become divine, and shall ever know glory for they do not stand in the prisons of their prey. Blood-martyrs are forever beyond reproach for they stand in Heaven while their prey staggers from grave to grave knowing only its own sinfulness and ruin. Blood-martyrs cannot be forgotten because they justify ‘the cause’, they validate the murders of the past, those of the present, and those yet to come. Blood-martyrs offer total absolution for those who seek to follow them.

Raise their banners high. Raise your voices in adoration. Rejoice in the sounding of their names. Be proud of the blood spilled and destruction caused by them and in their name. They are deemed worthy and mighty. Their light shows the way to ‘freedom’. They turn blood to gold, to power, to adoration. For these things they are worshipped. For these things are ‘the cause’.

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The eBook version of my novel is free to download this weekend

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The Bitter End of Dreams Republished

After wrestling my novel back from a publisher who, strangely, did absolutely nothing with my novel for nearly a year, I’ve decided to self-publish. The publisher in question wasn’t of the Vanity or Hybrid variety, just inactive..?

Anyway, I’m back in control and have no interest in submitting to anymore agents / publishers. My second novel in underway, too. Six chapters in and I hope to publish those first six here once I tidy them up a bit – chapter one is already available.

All my experiences, thoughts, musings, knowledge, involvement, experiences of the Northern Ireland Troubles are captured in my writings. The only way I found I could do this was by tweaking history in the context of the primary, western, religion as well as adding an additional county to Ulster. Upon reflection, this changes very little. The point I was really making was: call God by a different name and ourselves by different terms, but we still find reasons to murder one another. This also provided me with the opportunity to explore the person behind the terrorist, their motivation, beliefs, weaknesses. I deliberately avoid the ‘grizzled police inspector battling his demons and the system’, and the ‘rogue’ or ‘redeemed’ terrorist / soldier / police officer.

My novel is unique, but immediately familiar to those aware of the Troubles, and not just to that of Northern Ireland, but throughout the world.

Thank you.

Ordering details are below.

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Violet Street

We strode together once

you and I

along this same street

aye

side by side

almost

as if keeping stride

yet in opposite directions 

even as we faced the same horizon  

separated by yards

that stretched to eternity.

free to wander

our prisons of freedom

free to wonder

our charge of treason

we try to bury in the other’s soils

and plough concrete into sky

to disconnect even that diameter of eye

from reflecting you within the I

on these walls you would paint my accusing stare

outwith

I drew in air your crosshair’s glare

is history – 

those cursèd hours

this hate of ours – 

incapable of defeat

even if our ghosts

still walked

long forgotten

upon the same street.

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Heart of the Sun

Have you seen light stolen from the day

veined by wire

and shaped into a heart of clay

by hands unhallowed

couched in prayer

to brutal gods

they bring their heart

into the mass

who by its flare

are broken into bread

and pour their wine

onto the street

yearning for an end of days

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Ro-Man’s Dissecting Table of Book Reviews

Book #1

Xstabeth

By David Keenan
Publisher: White Rabbit Books

A tale of two saints? No, the stigmata of sainthood do not stain these pages, but we do find ourselves voyaging from St Petersburg, Russia, to St Andrews in Scotland. 

Through an unsettling kaleidoscope which shifts over the reclining form of a Dostoevsky or a Gogol, as they’re served iced teas by Kafka, Keenan peppers the dank labyrinthine alleyways of the protagonists’ minds with narrative breadcrumbs. Here, violent memories mingle with those of the sublime. Or is the narrator unreliable in their recall of futures past swirled into the captivating drama of the tale’s present?

No matter. More to the question; can we believe angels? Keenan’s effervescent prose thrives in an economy of punctuation. He ably sketches his narrative over a series of disparate, hallucinogenic chapters and ‘commentaries’ gradually which join in subtle strikes until the overarching form comes into focus, drawing you into the heart of the book. An almost cyclical tale which rewards on every reading. 
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Another Exodus of Air

Fingers steeple

shape a cupful

of shadow

a crown for a hollow

lips press prayers

into palaces

of air

catching little gods

of liberty

unawares

maybe?

our palms

their altars

our aspirations whisper exhalations

in timeless temples

sound hymns of hope.

We may paint restless shores

behind covered eyes

set the wind to shiver

tall grasses

on smoldering days

into gleaming rivers

darting spines

silver-golds

wind-spun.

Our gaze

sails a current of air

cresting through trees

drowned in our dreams

of endless horizons

yet we?

we crowd apart

walled in ourselves

and jealously follow

another tremulous wave

another exodus of air.

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RISK: A MISTRESS OF DEATH

Ingenuous engineers, those bomb-makers. Many still are, I’d hazard. Skillful architects of death and destruction. Their damnable tenacity came with a worldview; one in which myself and my colleagues found ourselves in opposition to merely by the donning of a uniform and thereby being seen as servants of a shrinking empire. So far, so mundane. This was just another of humanity’s self-destructive conflicts; its star faintly glimmering in a universe of many.

Those times when you were told that you had been standing on a pressure-plate, or the car you were searching had been booby-trapped, or a command-wire had been broken – those times liked to snap a piece of your mind off, and hide themselves with severed foot, or the piece of a child’s hand you thought at first was a gutted fish. But those near-deaths, those times it was only the detonator exploding, they like to scrape their edges along your memory. They’re painless because they have no substance. You didn’t die, or be blown in half, because they didn’t function properly – yet neither will you. That’s one of their legacies: what they might have done to your life or limbs. The others? Well, there’s the standard replaying the incident over and over, usually with your mind telling you you died – that’s one they tuck away for empty days when you stare outside reality and stare for ages at a dead sky. One of the more interactive ‘legacies’ is the one were your mind stops telling you to flee from danger. No, it’ll happily nail you to an AK-47’s crosshairs. ‘Just stand up, let death get a good look at you,’ it’ll whisper, ‘you’ve dodged the bullet before, you can do it again.’ Just as you watched your friend(s) lying sprawled in their own blood, or questioned your mind as to how the woman with no face can make still make a screaming noise. These deaths are also promises to you of your own. Your bullet merely lies dreaming of they time of its flame-birth, of the time it will plunge into you, shattering bone into shrapnel, punching organs into pulp. Or maybe, it’s the bomb that waits to spray your blood to dust to be trodden underfoot.

So, you stop caring. You stop trying. You’re going to die – it’s inevitable, isn’t it? I mean there’s an ASU out there who’ll be bought rounds and cheered tonight as you’re being drained on a slab? So why care about living?

BECAUSE THOSE LEGACIES – THE ONES TELLING YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED LIKE YOUR FRIENDS – THEY WANT YOU TO GIVE UP. NO. WAIT. YOU WANT YOU TO GIVE UP.

All you’re doing is looking for excuses to give up. It’s easier to give up, walk away, than confront these fears. Strip away the blood-shock of their garb and that’s all that remains – FEAR. It’s a SELFISH FEAR, too. Easy for you to just stride over the edge. You don’t want to gaze back and see the damage YOU’RE DEATH will leave with YOUR loved ones and friends. Recognize these thoughts which you have brought from your past. Recognize that you are only seeing them as an EXCUSE for you behave in a COWARDLY and SELFISH WAY. One that will leave only more trauma and endless soul-searching in your wake.

DON’T YOU SEE? You DIDN’T DIE for a reason. You have become dismissive of a life that many have been brutally robbed of. Putting yourself in risk’s way was how you may have chosen to play the game when the conflict boiled around us. Death was daily then. But, YOU lived through that, many didn’t – and it is for them that we SHOULD LIVE NOW. It is for our loved ones and friends that we SHOULD LIVE NOW.

When I wrote the following poem I was very conflicted. I was at another threshold of existence; another crossroads of living or dying. But the words began to glow with a new light, one of hope, of recognizing MORE THAN JUST MYSELF. I found this key. This recognition. It was through constant writing: poetry, fiction, nonsense, anything. The words slowly started to make sense. A truth which PTSD tries to deny many began to shine onto the page, faintly at first – and it’s not a race, I’m not even halfway there, but at the same time I may be further away from suicide than ever before.

YOU MUST BEGIN TO TALK OF YOUR NEAR-DEATHS AS MUCH AS THE DEATHS OF OTHERS, OR THE HOT WIND OF THE BOMB OVER YOU. DEATH DOES NOT WANT YOU TO TALK, BUT YOU ARE STRONGER THAN DEATH – YOU READING THIS PROVES IT.

Untitled

Sometimes amongst the sepia

streets of flashback’s eternal night

simmering terror, the past fades

to ligature’s lament and blade’s

cruel intent

but, the sun rises still

in a family’s eyes

to pull me from the hell

that clings to me.

Helpful links to support organisations:

Mind.org.uk Supportline.org.uk Samaritans PTSDUK

Thank you for reading. I hope to have a new post soon.

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The Captain And The Tempest

“Either we live in peace, or we have no life worth living,”

said the Captain

as he returned, wearied by a tempest of stinging verse.

I remember the tattered sky that morning,

faces littered with snows of sepia frowns,

smiles trodden into ruin.

Sun-polished, the horizon quickened light

across the red blade of its rim,

while soles stamped on the parched

necks of grass below a tremble of flags.

Stalking closer, men flung their glares at the Captain;

and did he see in that moment the crystalline floor

that our world would become? There,

reflected in the glistening dialect

of his forehead, as red songs detonated

into ash.

Laying down his head, the Captain

bled dreams where silver orbs of dew

bowed the stems of meadows untrod,

closed his mind to the closed minds

who turned their backs

and shrugged along spiteful paths

dissolving into tempests.

Captain Terrence O’Neill: Wikipedia

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Renaming Old Wounds

Northern Ireland: contested name, contested soil, contested blood. The land Irish Republicanism sought to reduce to ash and bone. The land Unionism sought to stamp its dominance upon the throat of the Fenian and the usurper.

Arise, the infant dead, the garroted, the bomb-blasted, the cripple, the widow, the orphan. Arise, arise into the lights of glory, of the lark uncaged, of freedom’s surly grip around the noose we all wear. High Explosive mixes churned into High Finance. Blood begets money begets power – this is the true expression of freedom, not the weathered murals slanting flags and guns towards a dull sky. Money and power is the song of the lark.

And in naming a thing ye will, evermore, have power over such. Tear down the mundane and give breath to the proud children of Ireland:

In recognition of High Explosive:

Blast Lung Parade

Abdominal Haemorrhage Grove

Concussion Gardens

In recognition of flying debris and bomb fragments:

Blunt Injury Avenue

Penetrating Ballistic Park

Eye Penetration Close

In recognition of bodies being thrown by explosive force:

Traumatic Amputation Avenue

Closed Brain Injury Drive

Open Brain Injury Gardens

In recognition of explosion-related injuries, illnesses or diseases:

Flash Burn View

Crush Injury Heights

Hyperglycaemia Court

Sepsis Street

Mesenteric Ischaemia Mews

Air Embolism-Induced Injury Lane

How proud would we stand amidst our new signage, showing clearly the fruits of our freedom and our loyalty? Put aside the dullness of street names like James Connolly or James Craig. The terms used to define particular wounds caused by explosive and ballistic materials define us better. They are our gift to our children along with bitterness, hatred, intolerance and – most notably – greed.

Untitled

How quickly our walls are ground

down to mist

limestone, granite, brick

powdered cliffs ascend

dissolve

air folding into air

shudders to despair.

Nothing

nothing to do but wait

for shadow slipping

over garden gate

inking pavement

with darkness’ weight

like bold little marionettes

dropping from each gable-end

Semtex-eyed and heart

of Armalite

here

blood delights

each bullet’s flight

each one a sun

to take a son

lay him upon

this deadland won.

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A Song Of Broken Leaves

How can you carve a face from air

is it merely seeing something

which is not there –

just lines and curves falling

from despair –

but those eyes consider mine

with curiosity not blind

to this skin parched by time

how does air summon radiance

into rough dreams of shadow

tracing shades softly into lips

which cling to pallid skies

atop the horizon of a jaw

as light combs dust upon a brow

ivory notched by amber serenades

how does air give countenance

to where once emptiness

tarnished only silver silences

now a song of broken leaves

is wrung from this mouth

so near to me

as eyes shimmer with the quickness

of the candle’s flame

spilling twilight into mine

I watch unfettered suns

slowly climb

from cloud to flesh

while air wove a dim sound

around this figure unbound

seemingly

poured from fossil phantoms

lingering

under rhymes of blood

hues of bronze

from the mind’s shallow wells

is carved from air

this trembling mirror

into which I stare.

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Coping Mechanism

You can’t feel it anymore; that silver glide of steel. You should feel its sharp nip on your skin, but it’s numb – you’re numb. Oh, the psychologist told you to snap an elastic band around your wrist, pluck it when you feel yourself weaken, but that’s just it, isn’t it? You don’t feel anymore; you don’t feel anything. Even blood is silent.

No sense in trying to move, you’re fixed to this point. You can’t even lift your gaze away from those ragged red horizons. Your heart beats in time to the dull echos of your thoughts. The air molds itself into liquid glass, tightening around your chest. Crushing. Colours ghost into ash. Solid shapes become dust. Walls open into blackness. Light upon the floor stutters and fades beneath a void. This is your mind, emptying itself around you. This is your world, filling the stagnant nothing around you. The nothing you have become.

Isn’t that what you begin telling yourself, that you are nothing? You’re already standing outside of the world – their world: the real world. Yours is no longer real, but then neither are you. There is no more becoming. Nothing left to do; to achieve, to be. You tell yourself, amidst the black winds storming your mind, that the horizons lie behind you. In front there is nothing. And part of your mind falls to its knees, clawing the darkness beneath, trying to tear light out of shadow – to fill the hollow of its hands a brightness to wet your dry mouth. But your voice tells you to turn away – is it your voice: that hollow whisper in your head; telling you there’s no longer any place for you back in the world? This is not your voice: you’ve abdicated that, let this other voice sooth your mind, extinguished the fires which part of your mind had kindled with some, last, primal instinct to survive. Now there’s only you, the whisper, and … a sense of being at peace, a certainty of mind – of an ending.

Here, I lost myself. My Self.

So simple, yet each synaptic bridge seems to flare brightly before collapsing as the mind screams with electric intensity. There is no ending, no whisper, only what you tell yourself, what the scars on your brain project around you. No, it’s not that easy to quantify and rationalise such a ‘frame of mind’, such a living death of a soul – it never is, never can be. It’s that final threshold, that last horizon, once crossed any chance of return increasingly diminishes.

For this reason it’s important that you are forearmed for when the world falls away into nothing. To notice the sly coaxing voice, reassuring yet wholly alien. The slow creep of fog around you, masking the world. But, the most dangerous and compelling aspect is a sense of ending; a flame pluming into smoke which thins and fades to nothing. But the noticing is key to holding on to this world. And this noticing can be amplified through pain. Remember that elastic band? You snapping against flesh, over and over again? Becoming a survival mechanism. Preventing you crossing that final threshold to nothing? So simple, but effective. You need these mechanisms in place, be they the quick pain of an elastic band, a predetermined vista your mind can find solace in, or the rapid repeat of a mantra you have stored which will bring the light back.

We cannot predict when our feelings will suddenly dim and coil around us, but we can have set in place mechanisms which may free us from the seductive whispers and thoughts which seek to guide us forever beyond that final horizon.

Samaritans

Mind

Help for suicidal thoughts

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In Paradisum

Paramilitary funerals in Northern Ireland.

The paramilitary dead. Martyrs who forever lurk in the cold earth of their victims. They who have willingly suffered death (in contemporary ideology that includes by natural causes) before surrendering or renouncing their beliefs. In terms of the Troubles, belief is inextricably linked with the religious background of the martyr, whether they were devout in life, or not. I will use the noun martyr as it has been absorbed by terrorist ideologies as it has become akin to the saint in Christendom, or the Quranic Arabic, shahid.

In Northern Ireland those who are held to have suffered loss of life and have held onto their terrorist ideology are elevated to sainthood. Their gift is that of the blood-sacrifice. Spilt upon the pages of their laws; their credo. The position they held, in the context of their respective terrorist organisation, will command the level of pageantry and reverence they are to be afforded in death.

The death vigil is soaked in gun-oil gloom. A camouflage of acolytes stand guard in regimented rigor mortis. The house of the dead has become the holy of holies. Here the twin columns of sanctuary and defiance stand strong against usurper or invader. Here, ceremony is observed as keenly as the foresight.

Relics now take the form of images – the honour guard; a grin behind an AK-47; the trappings of terrorism: berry, gloves. A huddle of stoic mouths bent around the casket’s prize (the open casket often denied to others as, sometimes, the terrorist(s) would mutilate their victim’s face before fleeing). The quick-stepped bark of guns outside. All – and more – relics to be adored by zealots and the rabid.

The marbh fhaisc (death binding) is Meagher’s silk (the Irish Tricolour) or the Union Flag. Identity is important to terrorists as well as the establishment and careful cultivation of a continuum linking the present to an idealized, mythical, past.

The funeral procession is one of victory. Not only the victory of the martyr by remaining unbroken, despite any imagined oppression or torture visited upon them. The procession becomes a collective – a symbolic gesture of victory, of enduring hope despite enduring hardship. This is mythology in action, displayed for the world. People naturally associate any funeral with some degree of solemnity and sadness. When the funeral is that of a martyr then it must also be that of a religious assumption. The weapon-bedecked martyr victoriously entering their heaven – snatching the transient moment of their death from the hands of their enemy.

The procession is not so much one of the dead, but of their respective ideology. It is an inflation of ideals, crawling over the land towards its charnal home. Pageantry, spectacle – a grand guignol – which becomes theatre-in-action. Defiance and victory ground down to a fine powder to be poured into the mouths of the innocent dead.

The martyr’s greatest victory is not only the willing supplication of his fellow terrorists forming the death procession, but the fear and subservience it will to twist deep into the hearts of others who would dare stand in opposition to such a glorious ideology.

Another untitled poem I’d written several years ago and is here presented unedited:

Draw closed the curtains

turn your back to the street

let death’s stride

be unopposed

tramping peace

to ash

a future martyred

on gallows

raised by venom old

where violence

knots with scorn

high upon some

towering crag

of seven stars

while aside our dead

their killers brag.

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Succubus

This was all I had of her. Here where the broken stars are spilled. Dusk shudders slumber from the fields. A gentle path pours itself from my eye. It plunges into meadow, surging within the hollow tapestries of her glancing hand. The soft recline of her eyes breath frost upon my senses. A leap of limbs steeple ivory skies. Streams murmur hidden songs of murder under my flesh. This was all I felt of her. Her mouth. Oblivion waited upon her lips. Dimming light smoothed the horizon of my thigh. Blood decanted into runes. The universe became an incantation in the tightness of her throat. This was all I knew of her. Air hardened to a lullaby of snow. Notes of gentle pallor brought silent melodies between oak and ash. Shadows stretched into myth. Illusions to thrust apart the jeweled silk of white. Worlds rose from the supple vaults of her hips. This was all I took from her. Bereft I wander and sear the sinking earth with dry dusts of an iron sun. Each step a vagueness she perfumes. Another sacrifice to stain day’s milky lace. Shawls of granite mourn the barren hills. The taste of her is drawn down by ponds of mist dissolving into green. And as I move my arms through silent mirrors her ghost will carve her voice upon my mind. We ever move inside these memories of ourselves. This was all I loved of her.

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Hecatomb

How can the world suddenly burn?

fire

swarms like reflected gold

rising then descending

upon harvests of men

who blindly kneel

and press hands heavenwards

to bid the oceans in

their cries

heave broad shoulders

shoreward

to where soul

becomes sand

pouring through

the fingers

of God’s hand.

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Glossolalia

Glossolalia: the tongue of the shards – some shards? – incomprehensible speech or language. An episode of religious ecstasy or schizophrenia.

The chatter of the burdened mind. The fading rumble of home made explosive. The passing wave of smoke, pressing you to the ground. A crushing gravity of confusion, fear and panic. The shards cutting your mind to pieces with their tongues, vying to be the loudest, the one which will command your next movement. That’s if you can get up, of course. You have to get your mind up first, but your mentally grasping blindly on your hands and knees while shards are screaming their orders in your ears. Some words you can make out, others are completely alien or nonsensical. But they wont stop. They never stop. C’mon, you need to put through that contact report. The crushing wont stop. Your body lies prone. Eyes open but seeing only grey powder floating around you. You need to find the right shard. If you open your mouth now you will vomit garbled speech and it wont stop, it will never stop. Your mouth will chatter and chatter and chatter, but you will not understand what it is saying – or screaming, am I screaming? Struggle through your mind for the right shard – the one with your voice, not the others; they don’t know what has happened, they are only screaming a nonsense of languages.

So you’re left with these shards, and they can multiply. Just be careful of which one you cut with when you speak.

Air is fresh. At the head of the parade. Feeling awkward; out of place. Not my mind, my presence. I’m permitted to be here, but not to be. Again, just straw tightly bound within cloth. A movement within a uniform. A symbol in spite of itself. Something which becomes something else in the mind of others. Today it is at the head of the parade, leading but not leading, merely lead. It sees their mocking glances, or is that pity? Poor animal, stay in line, don’t speak unless you’re spoken to. If you misbehave we will bring down the very stars upon your temple. We will drown you in vitriol and graffiti your epitaph upon the gutters. The enemy of my enemy is mine to bend – a plaything to toy with. Something to try and assimilate. Yet, it is kin with us, in a manner, is it not? Its dead are our dead – they were slaughtered by our enemy, therefore they are our dead. Therefore it should show gratitude. It should rejoice in the knowledge that we permit it to walk with us – but never against us. That would be folly for it.

IT IS A SHAPE WITHIN A UNIFORM – NOTHING MORE

ITs KIND HAS FALLEN AT THE HAND OF OUR ENEMY, FOR THAT WE AFFORD IT CONDITIONAL RESPECT – NOTHING MORE

IT SHOULD SPEAK ONLY IN TRIBUTE TO US – NOTHING MORE

IT IS THE UNIFORM WE RESPECT – NOTHING MORE

IT SHOULD HOLD NO CONTRARY OPINIONS, ONLY FEEBLE GESTURES OF SUBMISSION – NOTHING MORE

No uniform? No, it’s still visible, visible in the minds of those who’ve summoned IT. This room offers IT air filtered through AK-47 glares, of course. IT needs to know IT is merely tolerated, here, too. This is the deadland. IT should not exist here. Here, amongst the claws and teeth of ITs foe. But IT does, only as a ghost, of sorts – an incorporeal beast, bidden only to nod in mute agreement with the for. IT should never question, that would be foolish. IT is told that ITs kind should be forever hidden from sight of the foe, IT should not offend by daring to soil the streets of ITs foe by ITs presence, let alone thought. IT should only be seen when summoned by ITs foe, and should never question such and do as it is bidden and NO MORE.

IT is nothing more than a dry husk, left to bake under a chemical sun. IT is a memory of nothing. Emptiness. IT has no past, only shame. IT has no present, only blame. IT has no future, only flame. Subjugation shall diminish ITs frame. Under ITs uniform will remain only dry bones, long scorned. IT shall be as if unborn. This is the way of all things to be erased and forgotten.

Untitled

Your hand

wavered from mine

as air distills time

staggered and were still

blood ringed golden bands

sky scatters a confetti of screams

descending through

a murderer’s dreams

life

so cheap it seems

can only buy another acre

of Ireland’s poisoned soil

where winds of misery

seek you

seek me.

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Rapture

Put in your diversions now. Which way is the light moving? Shadows, stuttering down from the roofs, lying broken on the road. The light is twisting itself in between the shadows. Coiling upwards like a funnel. One-zero-zero, stop any vehicles heading citywards. Heat. So hot. Heat is falling like rain. Hissing into shadow. The buildings quiver with their own tongues, trying to voice themselves beyond bricks. Head of the parade is now turning onto the main road. But this is not now. Now is within behind this blastwall. A floor of asphalt becomes a map of hell. But the light still moves. It grinds the sky to a dullness of grey. And then the light begins to shudder.

A serpent rises from the earth and disgorges an angel. This is the time of now. See, how the air has become a hollow before the angel. See, this angel wears a breastplate of iron. Its gaze stirs winds of talons.

A second angel is disgorged. It follows the first. Its gaze quickens the rot within the wound.

A third, and then a forth angel rises. More ascend on trees of bone. Light is bent and broken into their weapons. They become nine. They have become the nine bows. Their song is the rasping clamour of scorpions. Hymns of steel fall from their jagged teeth. One is the wormwood. Carrier of poison. Pouring the stars through the eternity of their fall. The heavens are no more than a grave for hope. This world is no longer a world to me for no angel can ever know ascent without fall.

Untitled

It’s a sobering sight

how blood

commands the sunlight

yet we orbit each night

with our guilt

stained and sullied

on altars of dust

below a crimson of rusts

beading each sniper’s

hammer thrust

through wrist prone

through ankle bone

this cross on which we lie

is no more than his eye

and this

no dream

but a life

another hostage

of yesterday.

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Blood Letter

Ladies and gentlemen. I give you the spectacle of a fragment of a morsel of a crumb of a hallucinatory experience, ably performed by WE.

It can take a moment or two before you realise the soldier should not be lying crumpled against the wall in the canteen. Should he..? No, wait. This is 2014. There’s no army in the station anymore – let alone in this corridor. Still, I can even smell the polish on his boots. No, sorry, there’s definitely a soldier lying in this corridor. NO ROOM FOR ANYMORE – WE’RE FULL. Wearing his camouflage uniform. Just as it was – time: the past? Present? Where am I? NO ROOM. Static throats in my head – shut up. WE’RE FULL. WHY DON’T YOU TALK TO HIM, LOOK HE’S GETTING UP.

I stagger forward. What the hell? Arms thrown out, palms trying to press against the wall, but its shifting away. Grey sludge begins pouring down each wall. The soldier is standing, but not fully upright. I think his back his broken? His head is lolling to one side, almost resting on his left shoulder. The corridor is sinking into nothing. Air is hot; getting hotter. Heart thumping. HE WANTS TO TALK. LOOK. Dissolving into bright shadows. The corridor. The world. Dissolving. Blackness burning into brightness into blackness into … TALK TO HIM.

I stand before the soldier and he stands before me. Less than arm’s length. Choirs are singing backwards in a burning church. TALK. TO. HIM. My mouth tastes of metals and the grit of bombs. Tiny bubbles of blood drift slowly between us. This is my body. Golgotha has the face of a scorpion. I cannot look at his face. TALK. TO. HIM. TALK. TALK. TALK. I close my eyes, but they are lidless. I turn away, but your DAMN HANDS TURN US BACK. TALK. TO. HIM. His face is a vortex, draining the light deep into its maelstrom. His cheeks, mouth, eyes, fall back into eternity. His lips are a great storm, billowing with demons. HE’S TALKING. WE SHOULD LISTEN. Shut up. Shut up.

Blood will extinguish these fires. Blood will dampen this storm. Blood will stop him. Blood will sever his rising mind in mine. His voice is not my voice. THERE IS NO US IN VOICE. THERE IS NO US IN VOICE. Blood. BLOOD.

I shook the eye of the sun

let my flesh become undone

shudder mirror’s scarlet plumes

a drum of heartbeat’s wound

and wound around some

temple swept by furrows

tracking solitude’s edges

each a hymn to sting

me from this devil’s ledge

below the world without

and into light

an eternal return

raising gods

amongst the minds

of the blind.

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The Final Annihilation

Here’s another one. Adidas Tee shirt this time. Approaching the cordon tape where I’m stood. ‘Right, he says, necks a look over my shoulder. Keeps the grin on his face. Somethin’ happin’? Nothing interesting, I tell him, but he’s still glancing past. Shifting on his feet. Thumbs hooked in his jeans. He’s about my age, maybe older? You not gonna tell me, he’s saying. No, nothing to tell. That was a bad job that peeler gettin’ shot last week, like. Is he gloating, or being genuine? It’s hard to tell these days – whatever side of the peaceline you find yourself on duty. Yeah, was. You know ‘im, eh? Nah, nightmare. Had a young family, too. Aye, it’s all a terrible business. His tone softened. Not right, like. You boyos’re only doin’ a job, know watta mean, like. Voices behind. CID’s bringing out an arrest. Escorting him down to the awaiting Land Rover. Hey, Adidas shouts, craning his neck. Seeing the arrest. Then into my face. Bastards, he’s dun nothin’. Saliva glistening on his bottom lip. Shuggie, Shuggie, mate, I’ll tell yer brief. Back in my face, ya showerra shite. Hope ye get shot like yer mate. Fuck you. Hope ye get shot, too … friggin’ bastard. I hope ye get …

Why are locker rooms always cold? Maybe it’s the dull grey of the metal, deadening the light? The block walls crushing heat deep within. Whatever it is, there’s always seems to be a chill. Even my revolver’s cold. Bluing like a forest stream cracking into ice. Its weight is familiar, tough – comfortable, too. As if it was moulded for this moment. Hope ye get shot, too. This world starves you. Drinks its light and leaves you crawling around in the thirst. What is there left but this last throw of the dice. Die? Sometimes. Sometimes it’s hard, you know – to try and live when every other breath tastes of death. It can’t be always on your mind without doing something to you. Changing you? It never leaves. Like bits of shrapnel working their way to your heart. One day they’ll find it. One day all this nothingness will end.

And so, here we are. The final annihilation. The final throw of the dice. One chance out of six. One copper-jacketed dice. Slunk within its chamber. The muzzle’s cold mouth brushes just below the flesh. Here the whole universe stretches out to eternity. A dark wind clawing past a stillness of galaxies, moving between annihilation and the trembling hand. The time between the act and the annihilation, falls the shadow. The time between the fuck and the you, falls the shadow. It’s as if the universe is listening. Every particle is focused on the hammer and the fall. In that space your soul expands. Your body can no longer contain it. It becomes something beyond time and space. The revolver’s barrel turns like the outer fabric of a black hole, waiting to consume light, matter and energy. Somewhere in that moment suns shed their vital heat. World’s begin to cool. The universe cracks into ice. You stare from the beneath to the beyond. The snap of molecules colliding becomes the memory of the hammer’s strike.

The barrel is its own tomb. It has completed another revolution of its self. Stars rumble in their cradles. The spaces narrow to nothingness. The muzzle is voiceless; still as cold. Still. Infinity has moved on. Passed by. Annihilated by chance. It is no affirmation, though. In this cold room. This cold world. Is it? Only if we wish it to be. If we choose the easy grip of annihilation. The catastrophe of the soul. This is the will of the weak: the abolition of struggle. Existence is struggle. The universe is a constant of struggle and collision. Nature is struggle. Yet, out of those struggles arises beauty and life – even love. Life is the reward of struggle, not its punishment. LIVE. LIVE WELL. This world is more than worth that struggle.

SAMARITANS

SUICIDE PREVENTION

SUICIDE SUPPORT

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Blood Rose

Twitter is a mindfield. You can be as careful as you want; stepping through images and videos of sunrises poured from vessels of gold and smokey greens, and then you go and stumble onto a naked man being stoned and beaten to death on the edge of the world. Bit like memories..? Those which salve, and those which sting.

Scrolling up and down our mindlines. Finding something which agrees with our temperament. Finding something which stokes our anger – or fans the sparks of a new fury. They’re all there, electronic and chemical. The Dragon Dance of our brains. Fetching pleasurable images and voices from magical times. We hit our mental likes, maybe even retweet by telling someone close. But what about that flash of image – the one with the fallen wall? Rubble lying across the road, a concrete-pale shatter of bricks. Makes you hesitate. Draws you in. You pretend to resist, but you want to see what that is in the rubble: the thing that looks like an evil flower. Your mind recognises your interest. Slowly going to a close up. There it is. You see it now. Not a flower, someone’s arm upright. Naked. Slightly bent at the elbow. Streaked red. How does it stand? That stalk of arm. Finger-petaled. Splayed, as if trying to snatch a final fistful of air.

No woven ocean of green canopies here. Well, maybe? There’s an elm tree in the background. Stretching above a hedge. Trying to climb above this wasteland, throw its branches above the reek and ruin. Your eye might try to climb there, too, but the flower beckons. Fingers glistening with nectar. A sanguine of sugars perfuming the air. Coaxing your eye. Coating your mind with its image. Periphery vision narrows through a vase’s neck. Just the flower in view. To hell with the white-marbled blue above. The breeze’s soft murmur against your skin. The flower obscures all, now.

Here, your mindline stills. Maximising. Careful to make sure the image is captured in its lens. Your moving towards it, and the rest of the world collapses into darkness. What’s the flower growing out of? Not tarmac, surely? You’re closer now. Silver briefly catches the light. Silver dulls around one of the petals. Light entwined with metal. A life orbited by metal?

Something shifts under your sole. Just a piece of concrete. Pieces scattered around the base of the flower. Quilted by cloth. Ragged cloth. Blackened and frayed. The flower reaches up from a soil of mottled flesh. An eye regards you from the soil. Unmoving. Mirroring your eye: mirrors within mirrors. Floating in time. Total screen time approaches precariousness. The fatal gaze. Internal. This flower will grow in you. Grow into you. Change you.

If you let it.

If you keep scrolling. Allowing more images to blossom within the bruises of your mind. Up and down that mindline of yours. Minimize. Let the surroundings unfold around the image. See, the flower will begin to shrink. To accelerate away from you. Redshift. Bury the flower amongst the widening lens of light, forms and colour. Only when the flower is given the sustenance of your closeness do you give it power. Oh, those flowers will still lurk in your mindlines, and you will sometimes find yourself hesitate when you see them emerge from the breath of bombs, or bullet-songs. But, you must try and climb like that elm tree; rise above the reek and ruin. Ascend above the decay – the rot of trauma. There is more to savour in the sky than among the thorns that seek only to tighten around your neck, or drive their barbs through your body. You must try. Try to widen your gaze. Smother the flower with its surroundings. Only when you let yourself stand close to the flower will its thorns cut you.

“I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.”
Omar Khayyám, Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

Blood Rose

Dust –

or something akin?

gives the air skin

rising in coils

a stem upthrust

shaping light tight

-ly clenched flower

watch its petals open

one two three

four knife

eyes slit open wider

staring stumbling

on rubble-red souls

who raise their flowers

from roots of gore

you swore

you choked back acid sour

and now these flowers

have thorned their scars

within your mind

bouquets of bright brilliance

some other’s life

faces caressed by hands

of a chemical sun.

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The Brittle Bones Of Men

I wrote the following many years ago following the murder of two police officers along a quiet country road in south Armagh. I’ve re-edited it.

The Brittle Bones Of Men

This land sees not

my stagnant gaze

over river’s scimitar

green plunder. Nor

hears thunder of men

trouble drumlin and

burst tree into wings

but when

this land is rid of them

I will go down

and seed dreams of wildwoods

into their brittle bones.

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РПГ-7

Under the lithium gloom

slump-eyed petals of flesh

we sit with dreaming mouths

tightly clutched closed

arms coiled. Sluggish.

Light is no more than history

torn from my lips

unburned water beckons

-this is the sound of symbols-

the false mind unburdened

is rolled away. Truths unbidden

walk unshod through blood

-their’s is the sound of chemicals-

said unsaid said listen

listen

here is my song of drums

-hear my truth of wrongs-

done undone done listen

metal flowers amongst the weeds

sharp fingers snap

until they bleed unburned

waters beneath webs

of lithium gloom.

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Antichrist

Did they bring us to our knees

-our whispered testimonies-

or did they

stay within the armour of our eye

mist menaced lakes

our minds ploughed

clutched the drowning scowls

light stretching shadow

-empty cries-

in darkness

weighting

Longinus’ mercy

-antichrist-

rots in the wound

a burden of wormwood

will bend our necks

unbend our knees.

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Souvenir

I sharpened my morning

on the surface of your souvenir

swirling

your reflection

till the water was clear

water …

in the hollow of the leaf

diamond-lidded

mercury stares

tilting God’s mouth

open. I watched

time pour

into silver wells

above

horizons of blunted night

my dimming sight –

your souvenir.

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Every Sorrow Seeks Its Source

These days unfold

skins of steel

silks of flame

another struggle

another name

to serve

the granite gallows.

Breath

that weary crown

risen from sloped

brows

whose eyes graffiti

corrugated waters

an autumn

of gold

clinging to its dead.

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Like The Moon On Water

It’s always a revelation to me when I discover a poem one of my other personalities has penned and I’ve been unaware of (if that makes any sense?!). A part of my condition was / is – I’m never quite sure – self-harming. I know part of why I do it, though (aside from the multiple personality thing). It’s to free the chemicals bubbling off my memory-shrapnel. Buried deep, and occasionally on the move. The pieces of shrapnel shift through the years. Now and then they collide with other pieces and this creates a chemical reaction. It’s not a pleasant experience. Whatever reality I’m experiencing at the time collapses, folds in on itself. Colours dissipate into a chiaroscuro of narrow corridors. At the end of these corridors light and colour shimmer like a heat haze. These are my trauma landscapes. The corridors lead to them. This is also where two bomb-scorched figures taunt me. They move. They whisper. They grip me and drag me to traumas I’m unable to escape because of their hold. Pain breaks their hold. Blood blinds them. The gleam of the blade frees me of them. That was all before my medicines were altered and varied. Now I’m seldom troubled by my two charred strangers.

And so I was reminded of them, and the vortex of dark despair I found myself in, when I read the poem below. I must have noted sickle-sharp moon at some stage and likened it to the knife’s edge reflected in blood (moon on water?). And it was my silvered saviour at the time – my deliverer, light-bringer – its blade slid open my flesh to close those vistas of the suffering and death of others. Those vistas where I felt myself gripped by darkness taking form, having substance. Again, I left those traumas at the door of Irish Republican terrorists. I knew them much too well, along with their carnage. It’s not a good place to be. Still isn’t.

Self-harming was a failsafe device for me. An escape to reality (at least a reality without the past ever present). But, all I was doing was writing my trauma all over my flesh. Carving vowels of violence with sweeps of blood. There is a danger, though, that self-harm may lead to the page being discarded. Permanently. Self-harming is the silent conversations we have with ourselves. The muted screams of the blade, or implement, by which we open up. But we open only to pain, which is indifferent to our agonies – to our pleas. The pressure within remains, it only seems to lessen while those silks of blood trace across our skin. The act my bring a time of relief, but it is fleeting. There is no healing – the scars remain inflamed as signatures of trauma – always there, reminding us, like red chains – until the pressure builds again.

There is a better pressure-valve: talking (I know it may sound cliched, but it works – it REALLY DOES!). The knife is a one-way conversation. YOU need to SPEAK OUT your trauma. Let it form in the cool air between you and a family member, or friend, professional. Anyone whom you feel you can confide in. Trust me the words will soon come spilling out. It’s the same as writing them out. Feelings and emotions becomes words. They obtain a degree of substance. Dragged out of your trauma and held down so you can see them for just what they are – hooks and thorns caught in the flesh of your memory. Talking unhooks them, one at a time. It is a slow and painful process, but gradually those corridors to trauma begin to narrow even further – some may even close.

It’s by no means an easy solution – far from it – but it provides you with steps across the waters of self-destruction. Those traumas feed off you until you are no more than an empty husk, your mind residing somewhere between life and death. No will of your own. Denied of experiences and a life many take for granted. But YOU MUST SET DOWN THE FIRST STEP across those waters, and that is by SPEAKING OUT. TALKING.

THERE IS NO SHAME IN WANTING TO LIVE.

TALK.

YOUR FAMILY. YOUR FRIENDS.

YOU DON’T WANT TO LEAVE THEM WITH THE TRAUMA OF YOUR DEATH.

YOU CAN RID YOURSELF OF YOUR TRAUMA BY TALKING.

LIFE IS A STRUGGLE. IT CAN EVEN SEEM CRUEL. BUT WE CANNOT KNOW THE REAL WARMTH OF ITS LIGHT UNLESS WE HAVE STOOD AWHILE IN THE COLD OF ITS DARK.

I have included links to services which can provide help on the matter raised following my poem.

Like The Moon On Water

There rises a fiery edge

gleaming like the moon on water

yet, this silvered saviour begs

me glide its silver

tongue along flesh and open a past

that has never moved on

from endless dying gasps

of fathers, of sons,

daughters, mothers. too

all slaughtered

for your Ireland new.

Support Line

Young Minds

Give Us A Shout Suicide and Self Harm Support 24/7

Thank you. I will continue with more poems and thoughts in my next post.

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Shouting After Shadows

When I started to post poems on Twitter I was, of course at that time, restricted to one hundred and forty characters. As such, the poems were extremely brief and I had to get to the anger, by which they were driven, quickly. Anger was certainly their fuel. When you respond to an incident – or are the incident! – the terrorists have long prepared their killing grounds, as well as their escapes. You can’t stand in the middle of the road and shout after shadows when colleagues or civilians are lying in pools of blood. Likewise, when there is an exchange of rounds you cannot stand up and loudly declare your contentions with their ideologies. Understandably, the bulk of such poems were directed against Irish Republican terrorists and, that being the case, I feel I began to be seen as some cheerleader for Loyalism. For me, Terrorism in Ireland – of whatever ilk or creed – are merely branches extending from the same criminal tree. Making no mistake, terrorism in Ireland is little more than profit-driven organised crime wearing the fundraising badge of the assault rifle and hoods of the eternal victim.

I pay a lot of attention to reaction to my poems. The ones which directly attack Republican terrorism (especially where I accompany the poem with a photo of Republican terrorists, or the carnage they have left) receive the majority of likes and retweets. Sometimes I would post a non-related poem at the same time (usually nature related, but sometimes about suicide or self-harm) – these receive little or no response.

Recently I posted one which showed a RUC officer. I wrote ‘I am not your stereotype’ to accompany it. This is an aspect I feel incredible strong about. Because I served in the RUC there is an of unspoken assumption that I am card-carrying Unionist. That I loved the Christian god and Paisley with equal measure. For the majority of those who served in the RUC these were never the case. We were our own community, devoid of ideologies and their attendant pageantry. I have no interest in Loyalist or Republican parades, propaganda exercises, or verses of victimhood. Indeed, myself and my colleagues have long been lashed by tongues of hatred – be they Republican or Loyalist. With the latter; they were your supporters if the felt they were getting their way, once that perception changed they quickly resorted to violence and vitriol. Indeed I recall one Unionist (now an MP) telling me that I should burn my uniform (which reminded me of the mid-1980s when RUC officers and their families were threatened with being burnt out of their homes because we were enforcing a lawful (British!) order against Loyalist parades going through Nationalist areas). Nor do I have any interest in Christianity, beyond its archaeology. I am a libertarian. As for the British government? Well, the less said the better.

However, history being what it is, myself and my colleagues more often found ourselves bearing the brunt of Republican terrorist acts. As I said above, the terrorists were usually long gone by the time we arrived, or soon fled if they were engaged. So my early poems reflected my fury. I hold terrorists in utter contempt. Many just enjoyed the opportunity to murder someone – anyone. Their is most definitely a bloodlust present. For others, terrorist acts masked their other crimes: extortion, fraud, robberies, etc. Murderers decked in finery and riches (especially from Irish America who remain enthrall of Irish Republican terrorism).

The following three poems are good examples of my anger against Republican terrorists. I think it is also fueled by how terrorists are now racing to rewrite contemporary history in their favour. You see, despite arguments to the contrary, an outright victor never emerged from the Troubles. And wasn’t it Göring who said at Nuremburg, “Der Sieger wird immer der Richter und der Besiegte stets der Angeklagte sein” (The victor will always be the judge, and the vanquished the accused). So now there is a race on between the two rival ideologies to rewrite history as its judge.

Untitled I

It’s a sobering sight

how blood

captures the light

after Ireland’s sick brood

slip death’s cowardly bite

under a father’s feet

scattering metal teeth

into screaming innocents

just to blood

a plough and its stars

the Irish Republican

slaughters

then dresses as victim again.

Untitled II

I have colluded with truth

just leave me to grieve;

the gun was yours

not mine

the death of those youths

was by your bomb

not mine

the families who grieve

are victims of your cause

not mine

your smile mocks the dead

not mine

yet you claim truth resides on your lips

not mine.

Untitled III

There’s only a thump in my ears

and that little girl over there

alone with her tears

dust spins slowly, without a care

no noise, just the loudness of air

and the slowness of death

pressing my face to earth

suffocated under a rubble of bombs

laid by cowards

heroes only in song.

Thank you. In my next post I will look more at the unburdening of trauma through the unwrapping of verse.

Featured

This Is The End Of Everything

Years of conflict. People – mothers, fathers, sons, daughters – ever moving, struggling, under acrid mists. The air clammy with suspicion and fear. A society flowing upon waters of constant apprehension. Terror seemed to tremble from every lip. A minority raised their voice against the terror. Others, cheered its race to ruin. Many more remained silent. The latter felt, maybe more acutely, the black wind against their faces. A wind perfumed by the blood of the dead, and the forever lingering shiver of dread. This dread, in turn, seeped into families. Soaking some in the dreary, grey rains of the Troubles which curtained over our bomb-hollowed streets.

It still resides within many, that feeling of hopelessness. A sense of no function, no future. Its easy to envisage our family, our friends – the world in general, to take it to its extreme – without you in it. People move on. They move on quickly. The ‘many’ that is, not the ‘few’ (to paraphrase a political slogan). Those few who have suffered bereavement and / or violence in the name of some warped ideology cannot simply move on. Some will forever live in that trauma, in that time of loss. The future cannot reconcile the void they carry. A loss of a loved one might become a loss of self. A loss of a limb might become a loss of purpose (the witnessing of such losses is, often, no less traumatic). In some cases a survivor is left with a sense of guilt – they may torture themselves with thoughts of ‘it should have been me’. You will also relive the moment(s) over and over again – through the waking day, and in your hells of sleep. The symptoms of PTSD are many and unpleasant. But in the context of the supposed ‘post-conflict’ of our society – of Northern Ireland – symptoms such as depression, a future already lost, as well as the struggle for identity, seem endemic to society, especially amongst our children. A slow, unconscious, dripping poison has flowed down through grandparents and parents into our children. Those from working-class backgrounds seem most affected? Of course, those estates and communities bore the brunt of the Troubles, coupled with poverty and the continuing grip of organised crime gangs who garb themselves in uniforms of thuggery and brutal histories.

How do you cope with that loss of identity – that loss of purpose? For the young they have to forge an individual identity while already being branded at birth as ‘Taig’ or ‘Prod’. Doesn’t matter if you don’t want to let these terms define you. People want to know what school you went to, where you were christened. How do you stand back from something when your friends, your peers, may easily isolate and turn on you for not joining the herd? How do you reconcile watching your friend die in your arms while onlookers jeer? How do you live in peace when everyday that bomb explodes, or that bullet tears through time – the one that took your loved one, your friend, your limbs, your wholeness? How do you try and hold on to some semblance of control while the world pulls away from you?

Pain matters

Pain? I posted the poem below some time ago on Twitter. I think it was more to myself? Again, that urge to write out the scars, the need to hurt, to wound. To self-harm. I think I was quite angry when I wrote it? Another overdose was around the corner, now I had no firearm to fumble with. Still, there was the blade – that hard, shining mirror which reflected the ‘unreality’ that around me. Only my blood, and its attendant pain, could draw me back into this world. A world I saw in every, bright, crimson line. A world which had detached itself from me until I cut an opening for it to flood around me again. Of course, I was seeking a more permanent ‘escape’. Working in a constant environment of threat and death had stripped me of any identity. When I retired I went into a gradual free-fall. I grasped those spinning blades of despair and darkness. I was the outsider; a stranger amongst strangers, and I had no place amongst them. Their world, and their time, was not mine. It could never be, I believed. My world was a maelstrom of steel. A brutality of bombs and the crippled sneers of killers. I simply wished to rid this world of my shambling flesh. I had no place in it any longer, and it had no interest – or need – of me remaining. All light was leaving me.

Thankfully, as I’ve already written, my family began to observe my behaviour; my withdrawal into myself, and the mental isolation I had begun to forge around myself. Ultimately their love saved me from myself, and continues to do so. But there are many who do not have that support, or are better at hiding their methodical transformation to a place apart from others, and means of leaving this life.

I still had to write, even as I struggled with the words. I still had to give written form to that dark wind in which I was caught. I think I was almost searching for a justification to wound and kill myself. I had to convince myself that I was not needed any longer and a burden on my family. I nearly succeeded a number of times. Yet, when you write you create. Words are, in a sense, the material offspring of your trauma, but – and it’s important – the more you transfer your mind to the page, the more you take these thoughts – these images – of self-destruction and YOU CREATE. YOU GIVE LIFE TO SOMETHING GOOD. Poems or a story. They don’t hurt anyone. They let other see how you feel without you having to speak. You have already articulated your feeling OUT of you and CONTROLLED them. YOU CONTROLLED their assembly and formation onto a page. YOU are not some redundant husk drifting through a world were you are not welcome. YOU have taken your trauma and YOU have turned it into a gift. Many poems are melancholy – don’t worry about the theme of your poems. They will still rise from the page with a beating heart. An affirmation, of sorts, because YOU have made your trauma a part of THIS world – by doing so you have used them to step BACK INTO THIS WORLD – YOUR WORLD, as much as anybody else’s. Such writing also provides a view of the stages of your past. As I reiterated, I was angry and in a self-destructive place when I wrote the following. But, I wrote a part of that destruction out of me and I regained an element of control over it and diminished it.

We all have the capability within us to control the demands of our trauma. With mine I poured it out as words. You can do, too: words, pictures, whatever. I am now able to recognise that the hate I speak about below was self-hatred, self-loathing. By seeing that for what it was I was able to HEAL, in part.

And the web of wounds, wound,

where in this burning world

is there room

for the mutilated, the drowned

who cut and slice

at stubborn flesh

to gain ground

on sight of bullet’s butchery

or bomb’s cruelty?

I strike with blade,

tighten knot,

I hate this world;

Happy to bury me.

Thank you for reading. I hope to continue with another poem and more thoughts in my next post.

Below are agencies which can help with how you may be feeling.

https://www.samaritans.org/

https://www.rethink.org/

https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/suicidal-feelings/

Featured

The Shankill Road Bomb

So now that the pen is starting to sharpen itself on the edges of your mind, what is that blade revealing? What images are being scored into words? Thoughts tumbling into a permanency of shapes. The night terrors, open mouthed with silent screams. You know, when your legs are are on fire and forever trapped in that burning vehicle? Or, when you can find the lower part of your arm and feel the white heat of a round rapid road through your shoulder? Even the one were the child’s face that was blown into the wall wont stop screaming?

Ultimately, the longer you keep these horrors to yourself the more damage they will inflict. And they will destroy you in parts. Gradually. Both physically and mentally.

In externalising of your trauma(s), whether to a friend, a professional, family, in any format or setting which you find most comfortable – and with someone you feel engaged with – you will begin to feel a shedding of tension, of anxiety and stress. But, this comes at a price; emotions can pour from the wounds, too, but this is natural and, while overwhelming, can contribute towards coping with your injury. For that is what PTSD is: it is an injury of the mind – a quite deadly one.

I chose a combination of on-going professional help, prescription medicines and writing. Writing was the continuum, the thread which ran through the processes. Writing was – is – my safety net, if you like. But even that was a very gradual learning process.

As a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary from the mid-1980s and beyond I encountered a great degree of terrorist violence directed at myself and my colleagues. Mainly that of the Provisional Irish Republican Order (PIRA), but also, to a lesser degree, from Loyalist terrorists. That being said I found myself writing, primarily, about the carnage I had witnessed. Carnage caused by Republican terrorists. One of these was the bomb murderously detonated in Frizzell’s Fish Shop on the Shankill Road, Belfast, on 23rd October 1993. Nine innocent people were brutally slaughtered that date, including two children. Of the two terrorists who carried out the bombing, one died, one survived. I was on duty that day on the Springfield Road. The bomb’s shockwave traveled through me. The destruction that day affected me as it did a great many others – ordinary folk going about their business who ran to do what they could to help – as well as the emergency services.

So, naturally, it seemed inevitable that my early poems would wrestle, to a certain extent, with the rationale and justification behind the Republican movement and its ideology.

Again, the following is untitled, but its theme is more explicit this time.

Cars grumbled up the restless road

drowsy with the hum of chatter

young skipped behind old

the door opened with a clatter

a sharp nose of vinegar

brought a smile to their lips

as hate burst the air

flung their youth among bricks

murders designed

by an ideology

wild-eyed and blind.

It’s definitely very clunky in style and tone. Again, Twitter’s character restriction caused several revisions and edits to shorten lines. However, what I wanted to get across was the annihilation of innocence in such an callous and reckless way. Obviously the setting is the busy Saturday bustle of the Shankill Road. Cars and crowds flowing by one another. The clatter of the Fish Shop’s door, etc. But it was the closing lines where I thought about how we destroyed children for the sake of ideologies – wild-eyed and blind. I do recall speaking with terrorists and while some would engage to a degree, others were only capable in communicating through dogma, propaganda and veiled threats. These latter seemed no more than the sum of those parts. Some employed a sort of wild-eyed, or wide-eyed, demeanor when talking. Like a persona, or how they believed they should behave? I also felt many were … maybe not so much blind in respect of why they chose to engage in terrorist activity, but maybe it was more a case of disinterest in any attendant ideology or pseudo-history. No, it seemed more that belonging to a terrorist organisation afforded those members a degree of power and privilege about that of their peers who were not members. Killing provided, not only, a furthering of political goals but also personal ascension through the respective organisation’s hierarchy and, in some instances, society itself? Maybe it wasn’t so much the murder of nine innocent people, but the show of power through the construction, priming and placing of such devices. A freedom to do so, almost? I don’t know. It’s the very thing myself and my colleagues tried to prevent day after day. Yet, terrorism seemed to flourish into a ‘business’ here? It’s product was murder, but it was still able to gain vast profits through donations, extortion, crime etc., as long as the terrorist maintained the propaganda of suffering at the hands at a much greater enemy. Nine lives cast to the wind for the sake of power, privilege and profit…

Thank you. I hope to continue with similar thoughts surrounding some of my poems and PTSD in my next post.

Featured

The Long and Wounding Road

Here, folded over the steering wheel

warm tides wash down my face

I see the foam-crowded furrows peel

over silver-sharp shores, tracing

life’s gift further from me

listening to time

slow in my broken chest

for you my shadow fell between

criminal and crime

for you I gave my best.

You’re one of the first officers responding to a terrorist attack on your colleagues. Your heart is racing. Eyes sting with apprehension. You feel a part of you moving away. There’s a momentary emptiness, which is soon filled by the presence of another self. A more sure-footed self clambers from the land rover. Running now. Steady. You are approaching the driver’s door of your colleagues’ vehicle. It lies open, wide, like a broken wing. The chain is broken. The inside of the door is bruised black. There’s a chemical smell in the air. It has the perfume of open ranges. Your approach is slow. The mind in your head is already at the door. Seeing what it sees. Telling you with flickering pages of pain, of red-raw mouths with teeth of bone. Your heart is a maelstrom of fists within your chest. Breaths become daggers. Agony. You stand at the open door. Agony. This is my body, which is broken for you. Blood steals from shadow. Sodium light gilds your colleague’s face. Slumped. Your body spasms into granite. Eyes race over a shock of wounds. An erupted shoulder hangs. His jaw has been flayed to a white brilliance. Bright and carved like a summer sun.

Here, folded over the steering wheel. That’s the wounds tracing themselves into words. Images folding down into verbs and adjectives. You have to describe what you see on those pages torn from your mind. And now you drop those bloody stains upon the virgin-white page. Wounds become words. Wounds become words. Falling from your mind in an anguish of ink. Let the images blur upon the page. They need no direction. They need no fetters. Choke the page with sentence after sentence. Chains of words. Spilling. Venting. The mists of images and memories are slowly being caged beneath you. They will always strive to claw at your thoughts and dreams and build with them a charnel house of bone-white memories. But, here is an image stolen from your mind and flung down upon the page.

Warm tides wash down my face. Slumped. You can’t stop your thoughts becoming his. His wounds becoming yours. Glimpsing his dead future. His dissolving past. Is it your mind searching for some far idyll, or is it his? A dying visage forever imprinted in time? The tide is raw-red. A sea of blood. Its spray clings to your face, congealing into a dark mask. Your eyes are open. Your eyes are dead. Your eyes watch the waves breaking upon your shore. Foam-crowned furrows peel / over silver-sharp shores. Each a sinuous second moving within the tranquility of a slowing heart. A measure of life leaving: tracing life’s gift further from [you] / listening to time / slow in my broken chest.

You are within the shell of your colleague. His husk. Penetrated by metal. Ripped open by a chemical reaction. The brightest light he would ever see. Like the ethereal blaze thrown out by a dying angel. Pain. Fleeting. And you motion his body free of its indifferent steel. And you mind struggles to find reason. And your heart breaks under the strain of hate. A hate which smothers all light. Webs of hate radiating from open mouthed onlookers. Everyday. In this world you are an outsider. In your arms your colleague weighs. The Royal Ulster Constabulary; faceless blood bags ripe for the slaughter. No more than that? But you want to find meaning. The indifference just twists the blade within your wounds. You were the shadow [which] fell between crime and criminal? You remember ..? All those times your presence and intervention prevented harm? That time you arrived at a house to find a woman beaten and bruised by her husband? You arrested him and got her to hospital. No? But it happened. It just melted into the cracks trod on by society. You gave [your] best? That sounds twee, now. A cliche with a pathetic mewling voice. But you did. You gave all you had. And time will not let you go? There’s little point drowning in woe. You need to give these images – these blood-blackened statues of a dead past – a voice, mewling or not. Only by drawing their poisons slowly out into the physical world can you start to control their death wish.

Try now. Just a few words. Let them scar the paper, or the air, in whatever form they take. Let yourself see the bastard-brutal wounds – write them out. The dry-throated screams – write them out. The silent flow of blood – write it out. Let others see those images. Wrap them in rhyme, or just cast them out in any fashion. Once they are out you will begin to know them better. To sense their presence at the edges of vision, the lengthening crawl of sleep.

Thank you for reading.

I will tackle another poem in my next post.

FREE EBOOK DOWNLOAD

From 7th July (PST) to midnight on 8th July (PST) my novel in eBook form is free to download. Please consider giving feedback if you do read it, I’d be really grateful to know readers’ thoughts, especially on the aspect of Mithranism as the main religion of the novel. Access below:



STRAY BULLETS EPISODE SEVEN

The Gulf In The Eye Of The Other

In this episode I recount a sniper attack upon a joint army / RUC foot patrol in West Belfast. To better relate the incident I have characterised both state and non-state actors. I have also used a narrative framework to provide a clearer image of those involved. This account is lifted from personal involvement as well as information available to me at the time, and later. As ever, names and some details have been omitted or altered.

The primary characters in this episode are:

Dee – a member of a PIRA Belfast Active Service Unit

Samuel – a British Army a PFC based in Springfield Road RUC Station, Belfast

Sandy – a RUC neighbourhood officer stationed in Springfield Road RUC

————————————————————————————————————

Law in the Country of Cats 

When two men meet for the first time in all
Eternity and outright hate each other,
Not as a beggar-man and a rich man,
Not as cuckold-maker and cuckold,
Not as bully and delicate boy, but
As dog and wolf because their blood before
They are aware has bristled into their hackles,
Because one has clubbed the other to death
[…]
When two men at first meeting hate each other
Even in passing, without words, in the street,
[…]
There will be that moment’s horrible pause
As each looks into the gulf in the eye of the other,
Then a flash of violent incredible action,
Then one man letting his brains gently to the gutter
[…]

Ted Hughes

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1881893/10772709-the-gulf-in-the-eye-of-the-other.mp3?download=true

STRAY BULLETS PODCAST

EPISODE SIX: THE MURDER CORRIDOR

West Belfast. Early 1990s. Royal Ulster Constabulary officers are lured to address. Waiting for them is an Improvised Explosive Device and a ‘murder corridor’ engineered and  primed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

Presented in a narrative framework this episode explores the impact on ordinary members of the public who find themselves caught up in a plot to murder police and / or soldiers. As with previous episodes the incident is one I recall. I have embellished the characterisations from memory and recorded statements, however as with the location and time the actual incident took place I have changed or altered names and locations as well as the identity of anyone involved, including police.

Thank you  for your continued support and interest. This podcast also helps me deal with my Complex PTSD as well as to try and understand my past in such a way that I may imform my present.

Coming soon: Episode Seven – an account of a sniper attack on police.   

All episodes below:

https://straybullets.buzzsprout.com/      

BOOK REVIEW

The Sun is Open

By Gail McConnell

Published by Penned in the Margins

In 1984 the author’s father was murdered by the Provisional Irish Republican Army outside his home. The author, who was three years old at the time, was witness to her father’s brutal slaying.

The author kept a ‘Dad Box’: cuttings and fragments which she spills out onto the floor and reforms into a collage, or series of cut-ups, saturating the pages with flowing patterns of text disturbed by a dialogue of erasures. Extracts from her father’s diary are interlaced with the author’s thoughts, as if to resuscitate and sketch a semblance of her father from his notes. Throughout the book there is a sense of cyclicity; of ‘soft returns’, the revolution of sunlight into nightmares, recoiling into day.

Through her words a greater knowing of her father is slowly pieced together, and not in sequence, but intermittently, like patches of light gradually knitting together as the sun strengthens. However, at the core remains a murder, quietly rippling through each page and ringed by forensic exactitude.

In part the author does not shy away from a collision of perceptions: that of the author juxtaposed with that of those sympathetic to the killers. Semantics flower and wilt throughout as imagery can form into bullets, or wounded crowns, even the striking of hammers on a piano’s key could easily flow into that of a hammer striking a round.

The Sun is Open is a stunning petition for understanding; of a child, witness to her father’s violent death and her search some ‘sense’ of explanation and, maybe, a cessation of grief, and of guilt, through pathways of religion and the absences that fall between the shifting shapes of sunlight and the shade of memory and loss which lie just beyond the reach of the sun.

Available here

http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/index.php/2021/08/the-sun-is-open/

STRAY BULLETS PODCAST

NEW EPISODE

This episode details a gun attack on members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary at Grosvenor Road RUC station, Belfast in 1992. One officer received a gunshot wound as a result of the attack.

The incident also involves a Special Branch asset (tout / agent)  and his handler.

To better relate the incident I have created three narrators:

Jude – a member of the Provisional IRA

Mark – a Special Branch officer

Richard – a member of the RUC Full-Time Reserve

The above are based on real people involved in the incident. I have also taken the opportunity to expand upon their personalities given information known to me and on speaking to a number of parties involved – directly and indirectly. Obviously, names and specifics of the incident have been altered or changed.

Thank you for listening.

Here’s the link:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1881893/10319268-no-small-mercy.mp3?download=true

STRAY BULLETS PODCAST

EPISODE FOUR: NOTHING PERSONAL

A narrative account of the attempted murder of a RUC officer during August 1987. This incident occurred in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Like so many other incidents at the time it went unreported by local news outlets (during the 1980s and early 1990s the frequency of terrorist attacks usually meant only those causing death, serious injury or extensive damage to property were reported).

Again, I have used ‘narrators’ in order to enhance the listening experience. Naturally, the names used are not those of the actual persons involved. The sequence of events and location remains unchanged.     

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1881893/10130703-nothing-personal.mp3?download=true