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Poems from the boreen, p.1
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       Poems From The Boreen, p.1

           Tom O'Brien
Poems From The Boreen


  A chapbook


  Tom O’Brien


  (c) 2016 Tom O’Brien

  The moral right of the author has been asserted. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed by a newspaper, journal or magazine.




  Those green forgotten valleys,

  No longer can be seen

  Lying hidden behind the tall fir and larch

  That have made these brown hills green

  Relentlessly marching down the hills

  Burying everything in their wake

  The dead are long gone from this place

  The pike no longer in the lake

  The houses just hollow shells now

  Where the past ghosts eerily through

  The vacant windows and doors

  With rotted frames and jambs that once were new.

  Back then there was no silence, only the sound

  Of human laughter, and bird-calls to each other

  The dogs growling at a wayward sheep.

  And children’s scrapes kissed better by their mother

  Nature is having the last laugh now

  Soon there will be no trace of us at all

  As the trees come marching down the hillside

  No one hears the lonesome curlew’s call.



  September is the loveliest month.

  The sky is on permanent fire

  The trees painted many colours

  Burnished, it seems, with pure desire

  In the park, ducks glide silently by

  And the always busy seagulls

  Resemble sea-planes

  Coming in to land from on high

  Whilst near the dozing oak tree

  The squirrels nutmeg each other

  Each acorn hoarded

  For the soon-to-come cold weather.

  Your arm in mine

  We stroll down the park

  Heading towards the sunset

  Home before dark.



  Where I come from is who I am:

  Tangled blackberry bushes

  Smoke rising from a solitary chimney

  The pine grove in the distance

  And Father shouting

  “More water in that barrel”

  As we bucketed it from our well

  To our asses cart,

  Creel-less for once.

  Other days Neddy would be laden down

  With wood from the nearby thicket

  Ash trees, young Sally’s, stumps of furze bushes.

  Sometimes he hauled sand and gravel

  From the quarry at Carroll’s Cross,

  Part of Father’s master plan

  To build us an outside toilet.

  This would mean more water from the well

  To feed the tank on its roof,

  Unless it rained a lot

  Which of course it often did

  In our neck of the woods.



  Ah Lackendara

  You heard the voices too

  At Passchendaele where you

  Cowered as the big guns

  Bombarded your world to silence

  Blasted your thoughts to kingdom come

  And left you forlorn

  On that ragged outcrop

  In the foothills of the Comeraghs

  The fox and the curlew your only companions

  The gurgling Mahon Falls

  All there was to quench your thirst.

  For thirty years you trod those hills

  Taking little notice

  Of ordinary life around you going on

  Your presence on the mountain a constant reminder

  Of mans’ inhumanity to man.



  Like oceans behind my eyes

  The blue lagoons of Mayo glittered in the mist

  ‘Blue lagoons of Mayo? – Christ that’s rich’, remarked O’Hare

  ‘Unless the bogs have changed their colour since I resided there’

  ‘I remember ploughing through the Mayo wind and rain


  And ne’er a pinch of blue did I ever snare

  Do you remember The Playboy of the Western World?

  Christy Mahon – now he could tell you a thing or three

  About bogs, blue or otherwise

  And windswept, storm-ridden, mackerel skies

  He thought he killed his father

  But no such luck

  Like a faithful old dog

  He followed Christy fretfully through mist and fog

  Howlng into the wind

  You never killed me with your loy

  That time back there in the bog, boy’ ‘.



  Every month a ritual enactment

  For the rent man

  Mother, floury nose and doughed-up hands,

  Smiling practice-perfect

  Us children banished to the scullery,

  A whispered ‘don’t you laugh now’

  A silent prayer

  And the teapot ready

  Beside the rent book.

  Every month ‘good morning Mrs Moran’

  Lovely day to be sure’ and

  YesI will have a cup of tea, thank you’

  And every month a glowing red nose,

  Lit up like a hot coal.

  Every month silence from the scullery

  Until the day little Tommy fell off his perch

  And tumbled through the scullery door

  To land in a heap in front

  Of that illuminated face.

  And then mother turning,

  The sugar bowl in her hand

  Saying – much too casually -

  ‘How many sugars would you like on your nose?’


  I never thought I’d say

  That Ireland is to me

  Just another piece of ‘real-estate’ today;

  The place where we murdered rabbits

  On nights both windy and dark

  Giving them that old one-two

  With a rigid hand behind the neck;

  The place where we captured hares

  For coursing in the glen

  The blood coursing wildly through our veins

  As Morrisseys lurcher

  Swept them up from behind – again

  The place where Mass was said

  And Politics pled

  On Sunday mornings

  Outside churches

  While inside, the sermon was read;

  The little man was important then

  And favours done or causes won

  Were little enough

  To cause much concern to anyone

  Not any more

  Now that the greedy guts hold all the floor

  And all you hear is rampant cheers

  And raucous shouts for more

  And more…

  And more…

  And more…


  It’s that time of year again

  Blackberries everywhere;

  Black fingers, black lips

  And nobody seems to care.

  We picked them as youngsters

  Way back when;

  My mother making some pin money
r />   By collecting them for the Blackberry Man

  Who called round once a week

  In his big truck

  And shovelled our offerings

  Into his steel bin

  As close-packed as they would go,

  Dripping black water as he worked;

  Mothers little trick of making them heavier

  Than they should be

  Was to add water to the barrel.

  I see you were out picking them in the rain again, Mrs O’Brien

  Was his only comment as he handed over her payment,

  Here’s an extra half crown for your trouble.


  The cows were in the fields again today,

  Lowing softly

  As they grazed their lives away.

  What thoughts did they possess

  As they chewed their grass so sweet;

  Did they think about their comrades

  That they did daily meet;

  Or the colour of their skin

  As they passed in the noonday sun;

  With their patchwork blankets skin-tight

  As they congo-ed past as one.


  Walking through an ancient woodland

  Wildflower meadows glinting through the trees

  Man and nature working together

  The whistle of unseen songbirds drifting on the breeze.

  Watery flatlands and Roman dykes

  Juxtaposed with hydro-electric pumps

  Stratiform precipitation falling from nimbostratus

  Condensing into water droplets that look like rainy lumps.

  Grey unchanging weather that doesn’t go anywhere fast

  Two woodpeckers on a grass verge looking for ants

  A kingfisher unzips the air

  And a shrew lies dead by the river banks.

  Worms brought to the surface by tapping rain

  A sparrow hawk hunched in a leafless ash tree

  While above a coven of goldfinches cause a riot – again.

  An April walk through the sunshine and showers

  Huge, creamy candles of horse chestnuts hang down

  Still locked inside ripening green flowers

  This is farmed arable land

  But laymen have long lost interest

  Where food come from anymore

  Apart from what’s written on the packet inside the supermarket door

  The rain falls on everything

  Both the living and the dead

  Walking has deepened my feeling for outside

  This is my week of getting wet.


  God in his heaven never bettered this;

  Never hit perfection more square-on.

  Rugged cliffs lip the strand,

  Opening to fields behind,

  The Atlantic, white-layered,

  Sweeping into the bay,

  Its hurry washed-out

  By the tug of sand, gently rising,

  Before it.

  A tangle of marram crowns the dunes,

  Tousled, like windswept hair;

  Whilst, on the slopes nearby,

  A line of white cottages

  Vie for prominence with the old church

  Yet, it is the call of the waves

  That steals most of the aces;

  Those riderless white horses

  Sweeping relentlessly in,

  With their whispering lisps;

  ‘I love you, please don’t go,

  I love you please don’t go’

  And I, watching the ebb-tide dragging them back,

  Silently mouthing in their wake;

  ‘She loves me, she loves me not,

  She loves me, she loves me not...’

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