A Tour From The Seventies
Rob Saunders, RM 1973-1976
in January 2001)
The memories flood me back now haunting and keen
An innocence spent 'mid the blue and the green.
Ireland! Fair maiden jewel, touched warm by Gulf Stream
And Londonderry, our Derry, there stand mist'd as in dream.
Awake and I ache to wander back and to long
I strain to deign echoes of my twenties snatched gone
To steal back some moments of Gael's time touched with mine
Relish heart, now soul, in memory's arms I'd entwine.
I recall we were told this stoic and true:
'These times have brought troubles, don't dare misconstrue.
Don't discuss events and religion with neighbor or crew.
Don't wear out you welcome, attend to our red, white, and blue.'
The sentiment not spoken, but certainly there
As there as the coal-smokey fog o'er ever-drizzling air
Succumb not to passions, don't get involved with aplomb.
Young words might confound us, pray we'll not get bombed.
I retreated to barrack, tomb dark cinder of gloom
To Steinbeck novels, inspections, haircuts, dungaree uniforms, thoughts floating home
Three squares, doublebacks, quarter beer machines, smokes, and rock tunes
Cadence of mission, rites and traditions. Soon, time closed me in alone.
Three years stood the watch, morse code radioman, section two
Took messages from brave men living at cold briney blue.
We tuned in the freqs, read the traffic, cut tapes, and I know
We well understood details of world events 'round the globe.
When finally off base, a Saturday liberty ensued
A stretch for adventure and freedom pursued.
Down Limavady Road, snow-capped mountains oft aways viewed
Brit choppers ever chumped provocative stealth attitudes.
Every few hundred yards cars hiccupped o'er security speed bumps.
Every major corner all stopped checked at riflepoint mounts.
Every directional glance saw auld coveted Sod fought o'er and bled.
Still, most men passed with twinkling greets or nods of the head.
Discovered Cassonni's, newspaper stands and Cadbury chocolate, fish 'n chip shops
Cross'd sad Foyle, church spires, Bog, Quay, and Rosemont, political graffiti backdrops
Found proud, hopeful, intense people pressed 'round town in a rush
Who would shop, drink, love, live, and work here, yet destroy here, with a touch.
Derry, as lain open, happily devoured me, and I it.
Walked and I sang, breathed, and laughed practicing stiff upper lip
Suffered false indignity and embarrassment for the frisked and the friskers.
Ended up at a pub drinking Guinness and shots with two dark-eyed sisters.
At closing time I started back, but forgot how far 'twas to go
Held long 'fore a thorn bush found a full steaming blow.
But just before home a man stumbled to me, with teary-mad eyes
Swirled in fog, said he: 'Birmingham. England. Tomorrow. Hundreds will die.'
I was confused by this sleeve-grabbing specter, this secret admission
I dispassionately thought it speculative, an old, be-sotten confession.
I but in dismay and sorrow learned the next day
Maimed and slain Brits on their sidewalks did lay.
Time of desperation. Land of ancient beauty, mystery, joy and hate.
All drowned feelings in abuses sought to both heighten and abate.
Eddied time given, then taken, in each our own light sought to stand
Ireland, saw me a boy, but changed. I left a man.
Eventually took home a young bride, a lively blue-eyed lass.
She gave me good kids, but marriage died early, a score and three didn't it last.
Never a day passes by now, memory of this island doesn't affix me some fashion.
Never will I not feel Gael's heart beating, nor know the drive of her passions.