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