Though religious conflict was always a part of my childhood in Northern Ireland, it did not erupt into violence and death until after we had emigrated to Canada. From across the sea, I watched in horror as the Troubles escalated and families lost their children, their security and their way of life. I have always been grateful that I did not have to raise my sons in that state of oppression. My heart still breaks for the mothers who did, and who suffered horrendous loss because of it.
I am not a poet, but was moved to write this piece in 1985 after watching yet another mother grieve for her son, his life now reduced to a headline on the evening news...
The Young of Belfast
Suckled on mistrust, the young of Belfast
learn early to hate.
They know fear from the first nervous clutch
of a mother's arms,
And anger from the stiff, defensive line
of a father's back.
Rage is their heritage; a birthright passed
on from generations
long nurtured on the feast of prejudice.
Through streets divided,
memory dogs their steps with practiced zeal.
Young mouths taunt...
Young hands hurl rocks in a battle that was
promised to them
long before they were born to wage it.
Children fight children
in imitation of hurts both real and unreal,
and childhood games
meld into the adult world of reality.
More than bodies lie wasted in the struggle.
Dreams fall to ruin
beside innocence early vanquished;
and victory gained
only serves to lock the narrow cells of embittered minds
that shroud themselves in righteousness.
Good soldiers all,
the young of Belfast obey rules they
were not free to choose.
In this war of liberation, they have become
the true wounded...
The photo above is one I took of the many murals still seen on walls throughout Belfast..grim reminders of a time when violence so easily conquered reason.