The Tricolour Poem by Barney Rooney

The Tricolour

cutting across through strange streets
you'd assess the chance
with an upward glance
take some comfort when the front wall lacked
the tell tale metal bracket
raked so the flag could show in its drape
there were better places for a wandering pape
than a twelfth's corridor of fluttering colour
when loyal houses across a loyal street
waved cheerfully to each other

we had our own flag, not as in owned
but of our country
barred from being seen
with its awkward stripe of green
the emblem of a nation
or, as the pastor might have called it,
an antichrist abomination
the tricolour was bright and clean
and clear enough in its meaning
keep your play with red and blue
we placed our own symbolic hues
green for us orange for you
peace between
a simple design
but the handshake was spurned
and formally declined

there were few public places it could fly
in Casement Park we stood proud
an unlawful assembly in our own place
too many for any to make the case
for intervention
though no doubt it was thought about
and there, while the Soldiers Song played,
Irish people would swallow breath deep
to hold back the sense of loss, longing
some anger and the tear
at this essence of their very being
distilled to spirit by its banning here
in Ireland

when now they try to grace a case with reason
make a right of the rut and strut in season
remember the way they ran things
when they had the fill of power
the solid hearts of Ulster
the nicest hardest working people
you'd ever chance to meet
til you'd catch the fleeting flicker
worked out how you favour your feet
when digging with your left
into the darker deep
where bitter fear could deem
other lives another nation
the flying of this other flag
as dangerous as treason

Banned, its true, by scoundrels
licensed by good people stricken beyond cure
who'd duly make a decent fist
of adjusting the housing waiting list
or raise the Union Flag each day
above the schoolyard where children play
teaching infants in their care
A B and seed their head
British all the way to Z
ordinary decent folk versed in charity, love, pride
carefully put the texts aside
god's word needing qualified
by the wee politico pastors
calling for a sign,
wheist wheist I'm on the line
to Jesus

that was

well, the flag's pristine image
conjured by a peoples' yearning
has been jarred back to the reality
of the throes of a nation's birth
flags are for people and places that have found peace
for the troubled mind they fail to tell enough
about the broken lives and the weakening thump
as the last of life is pumped
onto cold wet pavements
the cloth ceremonially unfolded
to serve as a martyr's shroud
and the same cloth, the very same
turns its hand to serve again
in a raucous football crowd
Ireland Ireland Ireland
be it goal or try
to plough the past deep
into the fields of athenry
where the heroes and the villains
who gave hope or took the blame
mouthed the words swayed in song
turned out to be the one and same
where ghosts repeat in whisper
the vicious warning in the pastors rant
that priests were lurking in its folds
took some time for the tales to leak
when their closed ranks could no longer hold
‘Testimonium Perhibere Veritati'
as Archbishop McQuaid used to say
‘Bear witness to the truth'
but not today

So my loyal compatriots
if its flags you want take this
for the half of it was meant for you
offered more in hope than expectation
that these 100 years would lead to common cause
wash away the marks of paws
that clawed at and stalked the land and labours
of the people
but there is always hope if some are so inclined
to refuse to fall in line
though maybe seeing in flags too much
of who they think they are
too certain of who they do not want to be
but faulted flags may still say more
about the being of a nation
than the bland branding of Ireland's soul
the failte roimh and diddely craic
toothless tigers and mind your back
misty mounts and the breeze in your hair
horse meat and ryanair

Sally Plumb Plumb 06 November 2015

A lengthy piece about the troubles in Ulster filled with tension. Good piece.

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V P Mahur 26 February 2014

a Great poem of yours. Thanks for this nice poetic gift I invite you to read my poems and post some comments

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