Stephen Byrne – Three Poems

Stephen Byrne is an Irish chef and writer currently living in Chicago. His first collection ‘Somewhere but not Here’ won the RL Poetry Award, 2016 International category. He has been published worldwide in places such as Warscapes, Indian Review, Tuck Magazine, Poetry Bus, Boyne Berries, RædLeafPoetry-India, The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology and many others. He is the food writer for ‘This is Galway’ website.

There Are Certain Things You Should Know

History laughs at both the victim and the aggressor
                                                           Mahmoud Darwish

Perhaps John’s message did
not penetrate as many brains as it should have.
What if you take the time to ponder,
to breathe & stop whatever it is you are doing

& imagine the loss of coffee or a warm bed?
Imagine no fields of corn or flowers, no fields.
Imagine no TV, the horror of no facebook,
no playgrounds for children to run wild,

no running water to wash for a feed, no food,
& the breath of coming winter
arriving in the back of an army truck.
Imagine the knocking on doors, the boots

of soldiers tromping through your house.
Imagine a fence full of teeth, trapping you
in like a group of farmed pigs, & a piece
of paper directing every step you take.

Imagine the reek of unwashed feet
no clothes nor shoes, no closets.
Imagine half buildings with holes,
or the orchestra of sirens, wailing like a newborn.

Imagine sewers stuffed with the unclaimed dead,
the lingering stench of burnt flesh & warm feces.
Imagine a toolbox of rape, blades & bullets
carried from town to village on the backs

of a rebel or soldier, father or brother.
Imagine broken doll houses & stained lily dresses,
busted footballs, electric wires squirming like snakes
& an emptiness dressed in a shroud of silence

standing over an infant unaware of its murdered mother.
Imagine hatred for breakfast & the contemplation
of revenge; the memories captured by the child’s eye.
Imagine, it’s easy if you try.

How Strange These Things

Street children will never disappear until
our villages have enough to sustain their families.”
                                                                      Zarine Gupta

You stare at the lights
draping the mango tree,
looking for meaning
on this warm evening.

You watch the fluttering flames
dance within clay lamps
like thousands of stars
dotted along the flat roofs.

You’ve heard stories of gifts
handed to good children, other
children, by the father you never had.

All these families, flocking
to a church, parade through you
as if you are a scrawny ghost
dumped on the footpath.

If only you could gather
all the poinsettia flowers
& create a safe bed to sleep in

so you can dream of feasting
beneath the lights
draping the mango tree,
but you prefer not to dream

dreams are full of drunk men
that prowl the night-streets
pursuing those who creep barefoot,
those tiny sleeping roses
torn & undressed .

You stare at the lights
& smell the poinsettia,
searching for meaning
amongst the evening
hymns & murmuring
of Śubh krisamas.

Dragons and Beasts

Be Still

is the name of a pretend game
mother wants you to play


Playing in the dark
through the shivering air
has lost all appetite for fun

Your mother’s breath
thumping in the darkness
reminds you
to hunch on the ground
like an angel amongst wings

You hear her whisper

& then they come again

The dragon with loose teeth
the beast with iron fists
punches the ground & buildings
& again
& again
you can’t hear your mother’s voice
or sense the cold stab of her breath
only sirens & gunfire
& a smell snaking around the room
unfamiliar to a child’s nose

You hold on to the earth
You notice your sock is soaked in urine
Still, my child your mother says
& she reaches for your hand
to pluck you from the refuge of your wings
& you leave your home
before the dragons & beasts
come again


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1 Response to Stephen Byrne – Three Poems

  1. Pingback: War, conflict and the casualties it creates. Brave poetry by Stephen Byrne. | POETRY AND ENVIRONMENT

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