This is a personal tribute to a kindred spirit, writer, poet, musician, soldier and far, far braver man than I could ever hope to be. While adhering to the ancient Irish ‘Brehon Law of Fasting,’ Bobby Sands took no food or water for sixty-six days in pursuit of his quest for freedom, equality, honor and justice for all. In the final analysis, when this period in Irish history is recounted, I believe that most will agree that despite Bobby's political convictions and the fact that many may have disagreed with them, they must admire the mans' bravery, self-sacrifice and willingness to die for a cause. Bobby Sands took his last breath on May 5th 1981, he was just 27 years old.
The 1981 Irish hunger strike started with Bobby refusing food on March 1st. 1981. Other prisoners would join the strike at staggered intervals to maximize publicity, with prisoners steadily deteriorating successively over several months. The hunger strike centered on five demands:
1. The right to not wear a prison uniform.
2. The right to not do prison work.
3. The right of free association with other prisoners.
4. The right to one visit, one letter, and one parcel per week.
5. Full restoration of remission lost through the protest.
What is Hunger?
Hunger is the physical sensation of desire.
A desire for sustenance to nourish the body.
If this desire is not fulfilled the body will die.
It will die a slow, agonizing death.
The body will become a cannibal.
It will consume itself from within.
Then it will die.
Sands the Writer
The writer, when the compulsion to write gnaws at his very marrow, and invades his senses with that unforgiving, ruthless relentlessness, will write. Nothing or no-one will deter him. He will retreat and seek solitude in the forest shadows or he will climb the summit of the nearest crag or he will huddle, cold and wet, in a stone hut on the bleak moor. No matter what his immediate surroundings be, he will write. He must write. He can’t not write. Even confinement in a prison cell, wrapped in nothing but a blanket, will not stop him. He will write on anything available to him; walls, slate, clay tablets, animal skin, tree bark and the palm of his own hand. Bobby Sands sometimes used cigarette papers as his parchment, then smuggled them out of prison for the world to read.
A cold stone slab bruised hungry bones
as he lay on the floor all alone.
His life ebbed nigh, but his spirit held high
for soon he would feast with his own.
The visions he saw, the hope that he felt
would never be taken by force.
His will was complete, his heart one last beat
now the way He would lead to the source.
Asked, “Why, Oh Why did you have to die
on this accursed foreigner’s floor?”
Said, “It has to be Me, so it will not be you,
now I’ll go and throw open the door.”
A piper’s lament was heard in wide space
as the warrior was laid in his grave.
The lark soared high in a sorrowful sky
when Bobby left us and joined with the brave.
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© John A. Brennan 2015. All Rights Reserved.