Nick Burbridge

The Whistleblower’s Waltz
(Miami Showband Massacre – Reprise)

South Down. Dark road on a bleak night.
You return now, as an old man, to check
this ambush through the mists again:
Captain, what do you expect?

Your mind's eye hones in
on the Regiment’s iconic son;
not with peaked cap pressed
against his white brow, thrusting his chin,

but leaning on the cluttered desk
where you sift profile and report,
like a school prefect
boasting of a trip to Monaghan

to kill a gunman:
the hushed journey past the border,
the farmhouse sealed by Gardai,
at the window a sharp silhouette,

rounds emptied into it;
he passes you a photo
of the dead man
in his blood;

you handle his Star pistol,
you remember now what
you could not admit,
you envied him such acts.

So why now don’t you pilgrim
to his last stand at Crossmaglen?
You turn your head to watch
a van appear over the brow

carrying a showband home.
This is where the roadblock stands:
loyalists disguised as soldiers,
armed with high explosive

your own cohorts cleared.
They climb in to rig their bomb
but it explodes among them;
others at the roadside open fire.

This is why you come: you’ve scoured
the scene before, and you found cartridges
from the same gun, left like a signature;
your friend armed them or played executioner.

Captain, what do you expect?
If you are here to expiate
for, like others,
you leaked secrets

of a dirty war only when it threatened
your own mind, how can you explain
you travelled on this road so far
before you split?

Your hands are stained. No tears shed
or truths told wash them clean.
Listen to the wind – where shadows
of the undead hover, echoes

of their sorrow fill the air –
and you will understand.
To the innocently fallen the dark vision
that destroyed them has no end.

There is no day of armistice.
No roll of honour marks their loss.
They will call you so you know no peace,
interrogate you till you break.

Nick Burbridge © 2016

Dirty War

As he was warned, the earth under the ash tree
was disturbed; he called the ordnance team
and a platoon to cover them, round the milk-churn
poking through a bed of leaves.

Now swart chains slipped and strained
as the digger he had commandeered hoisted it
into the air; the undercover man inwardly embraced
his source: lives were saved through finds like this.

He snatched breath as it turned,
hung like a snared animal;
the lid dislodged and fell;
it vomited, not packs of high explosive,

but sealed sacks of printed magazines,
strung together, as if slung out for a news-van.
At his side, the ordnance captain
shook his head, soldiers grinned.

An expert in protective suit and boots
moved in and tore one stack apart;
piles of child pornography spilled out,
cached for some care-home or safe-house.

The fraud in rough clothes cursed,
as he called in, not result, but farce:
Fuck this Godforsaken country.
They laughed at his lost face.

There would be no laughter
when material they failed to find here
turned up in another churn, and took out
four men at Forkhill.

Nick Burbridge © 2016