Soldiers’ Song

Author: Kieran Furey

This poem looks at how a whole people can find itself on the wrong side of history. Concretely, it looks at how the Irish have come full circle from being among the colonially oppressed to being among the oppressors. It was published twice in 2006: first in 'ROSCOMMON LIFE' (the 2006/2007 Yearbook of the Roscommon Association, Dublin), and more recently in the 'Longford Leader'.

Under an Irish, American blood-red moon
An old man sits in his back garden.
Exactly where doesn’t matter here:
We’re in New York, Chicago, Boston.

His father fought the Black and Tans.
Exactly where doesn’t matter here:
It could be Roscommon, Limerick, Leitrim.
He talked of their atrocities.

They won that one but he fought on
Until the Civil War was lost.
He sailed. From where, it doesn’t matter here:
Cobh, or Liverpool, or Southampton.

He married an Irish-American woman.
Where she came from doesn’t matter here:
Galway, Clare, Idaho, Wisconsin.
They had a daughter and a son.

The son inherited his father’s name
And made his own name in Korea.
The daughter’s name was Shannon.
She marched against the war in Vietnam.

And now our old man has a son
Who bears his father’s and grandfather’s name
And is an officer in the Marines
Who often breaks his flights at Shannon.

Before night ops in dark Iraq
He blackens his tanned face,
Rides his humvee, acts unseen,
Soils his uniform of tan and green.

The old man sits in his back garden
As the American day saddens into night.
What has history made of us,
That it and we have come to this?