A Tour of the Troubles

In 2016, a life-long dream came true when I visited Northern Ireland.  I had always wanted to see the sprawling green countryside, the charming cities, and the beautiful ocean views.  I was also excited to soak up the history and culture of Belfast.  My travel buddy booked us a cab tour so we could learn it all in the comfort of a nice car.  The next morning, we were picked up by Patrick – our friendly Belfast Tours guide.  As the tour began, I quickly realized this wasn’t a typical tour of historic buildings and local hot spots.  Patrick instead steered us through a series of violent events in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles.”  The Troubles?  Just when I think I can call myself a history buff, there’s this whole other battle going on.  And believe me, it was a battle.  Since that tour of Belfast, I have struggled to get a grip on the Troubles.  I think anyone who knows about them can agree it’s a complicated subject.  But here are the basics, or at least the basics that I can wrap my head around.

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As promised, here is another portion of the 21-segment poem epic I wrote recently.   The segments are divided into three parts, and this is the second segment of Part I.  Part I covers many different angles and viewpoints of World War II.

I hope you enjoy -and stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

 

LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DIED

PART I – SEGMENT 2

Stalingrad

It was a daring move, a stroke so bold

We thought the victory would be pure as gold

But it was just one of Hitler’s many lies

When we went into Russia, we got a surprise

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In the year 1861, a man named Wilmer McLean owned a farm in the beautiful countryside of Virginia. It was a charming home that he shared with his family, and the grounds were situated along a bubbling creek called Bull Run. All was well… until the bloodiest war in American history opened right in his front yard. As the first shots opened at Manassas, the armies poured in and McLean’s tranquil home fast descended into chaos. It was taken over as Confederate Headquarters by General P.G.T. Beauregard. Masses of uniformed men hurried about, barked orders, and trampled his parlor apart. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he was also in close range of the Union guns. A shell crashed through one of his windows and thudded into the dining room. Luckily, no one was hurt. Still, the whole experience left McLean shaken to the core. Terrified for his family’s safety, he vacated the Bull Run farm. He would take his loved ones into the country– “where the sound of battle would never reach them.” He found what he wanted in the sleepy town of Appomattox. It was two miles from the nearest railroad, had no supplies or armaments factories, and had nothing else to give it any military value. Surely, on the tranquil hillsides there, he had found the perfect safe haven. He moved his family into a lovely manor in the middle of town and started a life free from the guns of war.

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An Intro

When I was in high school, my brain was a fountain of poetry.  I wrote poems about everything.  Things that bothered me, events in the news, things that made me angry, or things that gave me joy.  I had files and files of poems, limericks, haikus… you name it, I probably wrote it.  Then, that well seemed to dry up.  Especially after I graduated college.  I got caught up in the many struggles of a young adult trying to establish herself, and as the years went by, I stopped trying.

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Alright, I’m going to be honest.  I’ve never been the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day.  First of all, it’s just way too close to my birthday.  It also doesn’t help that for many Valentine days, I was single.  I’m sure we can agree there’s few things more annoying than watching everyone celebrate a day for lovers when you don’t have one yourself.  I managed the pain by going to the store the next day, and enjoying the chocolates in the half-off bin that, like myself, were left behind on February 14.  Once I found myself a nice fellow and got married, I still didn’t warm up to Valentine’s Day.  Something about the whole thing just felt off to me.  The over priced flowers, the boxes of chocolate bigger than my head, the aisles and aisles of pink and red cards… I just couldn’t get into it.

Perhaps it was my inner senses tingling that, like most things in history, Valentines Day has a darker history than flowers and cards.  So, recently, I finally dug into it.  As it turns out, I’m not the only one that’s had some bad luck on Valentine’s Day.

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The Seattle Underground

“Well, you have to visit the Underground,” a friend told me over dinner last fall.  It was just before I was due to take off for my first trip to Seattle.  My head raced with questions.  Was there some sort of impressive underground rail system in Seattle?  Was “the Underground” a little-known community within the town?  Some sort of artistic district that I just had to see?

Well, as it turns out, there is an actual underground Seattle.  An entire historic city, located beneath the modern-day one.  As soon as I figured that out, I immediately booked a ticket to tour the caves, tunnels, and corridors of the historic Seattle Underground.

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In the summer of 2016, I drove down an isolated road in Southern Georgia.  There wasn’t much around.  There were just a few run-down houses here and there.  Cotton fields stretched on to the horizon.  Silence hung heavy along with the heat.

There were only a few signs with arrows to point me to my destination.  I followed them to a small parking lot that was practically empty of cars.  A quiet visitor center beckoned.  Behind it was a sprawling field, fully exposed to the hot, Georgia sun.  A few concrete monuments were scattered across the horizon.  There was also a row of gnarled shanties, and a section of a stockyard wall.  Other than that, there was nothing.  Nothing… as far as the eye could see.  It was all that was left of one of the most notorious Civil War prisons – Andersonville.

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The Brass Hands

As winter sets in, here is some poetic musing on the force of time and how fast it moves.  Enjoy!

Tick, tock, tick, tock
That’s the sound of the old brass clock
I breathe deeper, it chimes the hour
It has no feelings, it does not cower
I sit and grip the arm of my chair
It sits across from me with a blank stare
It has no eyes, yet I feel them there
Boring into the mask that I wear Read More

Once upon a time, deep in the mountains of Germany, there was a charming little village named Lauscha. It was surrounded by snowy slopes and magnificent pine trees, and was home to generations of glassblowers. It was a special town indeed, because since the mid-1800s, their primary trade was Christmas. The traditional German Tannenbaum or Kristbaum had caught the attention of the rest of the world. Seeing an opportunity, Lauscha turned their glass blowers to making ornaments. The result was a thriving business that swept up every glassblower in town. They even became the inventor of one of the most famous ornaments of all – the glass ball. Lauscha glassblowers would often amuse themselves by seeing how big a glass bubble they could blow in their shop. Known as “kugels,” they were silvered with shiny solutions like lead or zinc to give them a dazzling reflective look. Sometime in the 1840s, someone got the idea to use the kugels as a tree ornament. Read More

Battle at Alcatraz Prison

IMG_4282May 2, 1946 started as a normal day on the job for William Miller. Or at least, as normal as any day could be on “the Rock” – what most people called Alcatraz Prison. Situated on a tiny island just off the coast of San Francisco, it was the most infamous prison for federal criminals. It boasted zero successful escapes, although many inmates had tried. Most were stopped by the guards before even making it off the island. Some tried to make a swim for it but were shot. Some disappeared into the icy waters of San Francisco Bay, and were never seen or heard from again. Read More