“Islander” – poem by Paul O’Mahony 

Chapter 1

He could have been on Sherkin, Inishbofin, Skelligs or even Rathlin…

He was an outlaw, cast away from the land,

away from his people.

His face didn’t fit,

his family were not from the right side of town.

There was no time for him, he could rot there.

Eventually his spirit would break,

he would comply, he would conform,

he would be broken

– or so they thought…

________________

It would teach them,

it would show them not to meddle with our family,

not to get above themselves.

Yea, 27 winters on Sherkin

27 springs on the Skelligs

27 summers on Rathlin

27 years of nightmares on any island you fancy.

It was good to keep him there, disappeared.

Our family had need of safety,

his family were dangerous,

thugs, revolutionaries, communists, rapists.

oh yea, uncouth, uncivilised, Untermenschen.

______________

Chapter 2

Our family is special,

we have survived our own wars.
We’re used to feeling superior

our family before all families

our tribe before all tribes
our village –  the white man’s burden
Everyman is an island
We have not balked at blood sacrifice
We have buried our enemies in unmarked graves
– even displayed corpses to teach families how to behave themselves

We survived war against an Empire of superior force – that gave us backbone.
That gave us good enough reason to turn the tables on families of inferior beings.
Oh yes, our family is special – forever.

______________

Chapter 3

You will not leave that island

You will languish in your dreams

You will scratch your balls

You will scrape the fleas in your hair

You will freeze your bollocks off.

We will control you.

When we let you out – it will be to die.

Our family is ordained to carry the burden of ruling this land.

Yes, your family is bigger than our family

Your family’s so big it’s disgusting.

Your people are everywhere – but your people are worthless

– we’ve made sure of that.

________________

The sea the sea the sea

the waves the wind, the ocean, the cold

the fish the seaweed the waves the wind the cold the ocean

the seaweed the waves the wind the cold the ocean the seaweed
____________________

Eat your heart out Islandman – we have you.

Oh yes, we’ve had you now for 27 years.

How did you pull through?

_____________

Chapter 4

Are you coming off that island?

Are you coming to take our land from us?

Are coming to obliterate us, are you coming to wipe us out?

are you coming to leave a bloodbath?

are you going to come off the island

like an avenging angel – the Assyrian descending on the fold?

are you going to be the Inquisition?

are you going to be ethnically cleansing us?

are you going to force our children to leave?

are you gonna split up all that we’ve created among so many people and leave everybody with hardly anything?

Who are you?

who are you after?

who are you after festering anger resentment?

you must be a walking bomb

you must be a walking terrorist

you must be a killer of all of our dreams.

I see you now, we see you now, step ashore

______________

Chapter 5

I must say you look rather good after 27 years.

If I’d been there for 27 years I probably wouldn’t have stood up as well as you look

maybe your family has got some kind of metal in your DNA?

maybe you’re just bloody tough?

who are you Islander?

who are you warrior?

what’s in your mind?

what’s in that heart?

Why should we trust you?

the only thing we can trust is our own fear.

yes, we’re outnumbered

yes, your family is bitter.

What are those words forming in your mouth?

what’s that look in your eye?

what’s that breath from your nostril?

You’re walking towards us,

are you coming to wipe us out?

now your time has come

now every other bastard has abandoned our family

left us alone

left us isolated

left us rejected

Yea, we were at the forefront of fighting for what we believed in,

for what we thought others believed in.

yes we were the top dogs once,

Now,

yea we’re lepers

my family is spat on

my family is rejected

no one from my family can get married into any other family.

And you will inherit the earth.

I expect you’ll get revenge now

you’re coming

you’re coming across

you’re coming ashore, you’re coming inland.

What’s that you hold in your hand?

what are you doing with your hands?

towards whom are you

outstretching?

You don’t mean to offer me a hand

you cannot mean to stretch out a hand.

It’s a trick.

You want to persuade me you are a friend

come from 27 years of incarceration

on that …

on Sherkin, on Boffin, on Skelligs

You want me to believe that that’s a genuine hand?

as soon as you grip my hand you’ll pull me under

you’ll squash me to death.

I know,

that’s what I’d do if I was in your position.

You want my hand.

your hand is warm

your eye is warm

you are forming words

you are looking over my shoulder

beyond where I stand

you are looking beyond my family

You have brought a flag with you

a towel, a canopy, a rug,

something that will go over everybody.

You expect me to join you

you expect me to work with you

you expect me not to run and hide

you expect me to accept you

you expect me to be your partner

And you will not take everything from me?

you will leave me with my money intact?

you will leave me with my capital acquired?

you will leave me with some shred of self-respect?

God it feels like you’re offering me a route to Salvation
Where the hell have you come from?
where the hell did you become like this?

You stretch out a hand of friendship

a hand of warmth, a hand of the future

to my family.

You restrain your family from eating me alive

you restrain others from decimation

you prefer us to be together than all go down.

You are serious?

Islandman,

what kind of a resurrection is this?

what stones have you rolled back?

what cave have you come from?

what sort of Heaven on earth are you trying to create?

When you were on that island, and I was on the mainland,

you were a small guy.

you were locked up in a place where I didn’t have to see your eyes

where I didn’t have to feel your hand.

but now I cannot avoid you

I cannot ignore you

I cannot step away from you.

That island: Sherkin, Inishbofin, the Skelligs, Aran Islands, the Saltees, Lambay, Rathlin…

– they’re all our islands.

we’ve always used islands to lock inferior beings away out of sight.

now those islands have turned everything inside out,

have turned everything on its head.

I don’t know what to say

I don’t know where to look

I’ve embarrassed by your strength, by your courage

by your power

and you know what the worst thing is?

you’re so bloody humble

you are so bloody humble

you offer warmth, friendship

you offer togetherness

you offer hope

you offer a future

My children – they don’t have to die

my children – they don’t have to run

our children can play together.

Where have you come from?

What happened to you
on that island?

Is there any chance I can do 27 years on that same island?

_________________________

Chapter 6

The Unknown Unknown…

We are all the creators

all families creators

all individuals creators

Any chance we can all do 27 years on the island?

The end of the beginning.

_______________________

Note:
Written in honour of my hero Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013)

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