Michael J. Whelan is a historian and poet living in South Dublin. He deployed as a United Nations Peacekeeper with the Irish Defence Forces to the conflicts in Lebanon and Kosovo in the 1990s. He holds a Masters Degree in Modern History from NUI Maynooth and is keeper of the Air Corps Military Museum. His poems are widely published and included in ‘And Agamemnon Dead: An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry, (Paris 2015) & ‘The Hundred Years War: Modern War Poems’ (Bloodaxe UK) 2014. He was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions series and was 2nd Place Winner of the Patrick Kavanagh & 3rd in the Jonathan Swift Awards. His poems are published in Australia, Paris, Mexico, USA, UK, South Africa and Ireland, his debut collection ‘Peacekeeper’ was published in 2016 by Doire Press. For more information visit http://www.doirepress.com/writers/m_z/michael_whelan/ and http://www.michaeljwhelan.wordpress.com
NOW AND THEN
(Baldonnel – home of Irish aviation)
Every year in the museum where I work,
the place where old aeroplanes long to fly,
blackbirds build nests
in the wheel wells of a Vampire Jet,
the engines of an Avro Anson.
It’s very difficult to prevent
but once they get in
my mission is to protect the chicks.
Sometimes we photograph them
from a safe distance – zoom lenses.
Sometimes they sing outside my office door,
their yellow bills and fine dark plumage gliding down
to perch upon the framed pictures of vintage aircraft
standing on top of tall display cases
full of plastic models.
Now and then I’m allowed to get close,
as if they appreciate my words of gratitude.
One morning a fledgling collided with my window,
got my heart racing, a tragedy for the parents,
new feathers blowing everywhere.
Now and then a sparrow hawk
flies into the hangar to prey
and I watch it in the rafters
where it has the best views of a historic collection
alive in my imagination,
no flesh, no blood, no vibration in their wings
but once they roamed the skies majestic.