Sunday, 12 June 2016

Both Sides of the Divide: Poem

By Martha Ashwell

A great deal is written about the qualities and virtues of brave men and women who fight in wars but one side does not have a monopoly on such qualities. Both sides share the same talents and weaknesses. Both sides contain good and bad people. One individual is aimless, another finds purpose – winners and losers on both sides.

One person’s power means another person’s weakness or submission – in the end gain cannot be measured. Death and loss affects everyone. We all share the same human emotions, no matter what our cause. We can all understand our own point of view but what about the opposite point of view? We keep telling the stories but there comes a time when we need to consign history to the past and move forward.

I wrote this poem for us all to remember. To be proud. To give and accept forgiveness and be reconciled. 


Poets and musicians,
Traitors and dreamers,
Saints and sinners,
All existed
On both sides of the divide.

Brave men and cowards,
Heroes and heroines,
Scoundrels and lords,
All were fighting
On both sides of the divide.

Aimlessness and purpose,
Glory and honour,
Victory and defeat,
All were present
On both sides of the divide.

Pride and shame,
Guilt and regret,
Love and hatred,
All were felt
On both sides of the divide.

Power and weakness,
Gain and loss,
Man and boy
Fought side by side
On both sides of the divide.

Widows and widowers,
Parents and children,
Sadness and tears
Flowed so bitterly
On both sides of the divide.

Now I see clearly, so clearly.
For healing time has intervened.
Our cause was noble, even divine
Everyone said so!
On our side of the divide.

Tell your children,
Speak of valour.
Hide the blood soaked bodies
Deep in the earth you love
On our side of the divide.

Honour your dead.
Uphold their memory.
Let freedom endure.
Gun shots reverberate
On our side of the divide.

Change the text of Revolution
To a softer sound.
Hearts and minds seek resolution
Hands at last unbound
On our side of the divide.

Put grief in a box and
Place it gently in the grave.
Accept what has passed.
Seek reconciliation
On our side of the divide

Forgive your enemies.
Forgive your brothers.
Move forward in accord.
Embrace true peace and gain true freedom
On ALL sides of the divide.

Martha Ashwell lives in Stockport and is a member of Manchester Irish Writers.  She loved writing as a child but only started writing seriously about four years ago.  She has written poetry and prose which has been performed at The Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester.

Her main achievement to date is the publication of her personal memoir ‘Celia’s Secret: A Journey towards Reconciliation’.

Find out more by visiting her website at

The text used in this post is © Martha Ashwell and the images are © E.M. Powell.

Martha wrote 'Both Sides of the Divide' for MIW's commemorative event, '1916 - The Risen Word', which was performed at the Irish World Heritage Centre, Manchester on March 10 2016. MIW received the generous support of the Embassy of Ireland for this event.

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