4 poems by Tom O’Brien
Memories come on wings of light
A shining bird, high pines in the sun
The fire in a floating leaf
The autumn heat in weathered wood
Soft lichen on a stone.
A light-filled imminence simmering and breaking,
Leaving me breathless and in pain.
This sickness of infinitude that leads to the madhouse,
This ‘self remembering’ of the present
Instead of wandering the ephemeral worlds
Of past and future.
I was a true believer in my magic carpet;
Ready to fly as far as it would take me.
The search begins with a restless feeling,
As if one is being watched.
One turns in all directions but sees nothing.
The path that leads here is not a path to a strange place,
But the path home.
But you are home
Cries the Witch of the North
All you have to do is wake up.
Noah knew a thing or three about Arks
Though he never had to deal with dry snakes in the parks
(as far as I know)
Or alligators eating raw taters
In the fields where potatoes used to grow
Or see the hedgerows decompose
‘Cos underwater rots your toes
And lettuces float lonely in orderly rows.
There is ice in the neighbourhood
But it’s not in the fridge
It’s log-jamming tightly
Against the almost submerged bridge
While uptown bright red stilettos
Are swimming downstream
Towards the emptied-out ghettos.
The people are gone
But the water hurries on
Self-raising evermore as it swamps the seashore
And heads for the hills and the high-rise domains
Where soon this new-spawned Atlantis
Will be all that remains.
RAINY NIGHTS IN SOHO
See all the down-and-out lickers and fuckers
Down the Embankment they tumble
Unable any longer to bear much reality
Too much self-knowledge and time spent trotting
Between the Tate and the National
Or one of their endless reading groups
Believing they had a story to tell
If only things had worked out,
If only the monkey had hit the right keys.
Hush! if you listen carefully
You can hear the dead click of their keyboards
In the raucousness of the Soho night;
The minicabs, the limos, the rickshaws all screaming
Take me…take me…I’m free
And the hen nighters, the stag nighters,
The whatever-the-fuck nighters,
Lingering in pools of their own vomit, waiting for the paramedics to call;
Shirts open to the navel, skirts slit from here to eternity.
Late summer, later winter, who gives a shit?
The restaurants are all full though nobody is really eating.
Just being there is what matters.
Smokers stop the traffic inspecting their mobiles
What would a Martian make of that?
No one sees anything anymore
Except the lampposts they walk into;
There are no witnesses to crime;
How anybody falls in love anymore is a puzzle
Eyes no longer meet in lingering amazement
Unless they are reflected
In all those infernal hand-held screens.
WHO IS THAT MAN?
I feel like screaming
I feel like kicking something
I feel like my head is…exploding.
You are…your name is…
Buried in that sea of viscosity
That I am scrabbling about in
I can see it
It’s almost on the surface now…
On the tip of my tongue…
No…it’s gone again.
And I am in this room…
What am I looking for?
It all reminds me of my grandfather
Who, In his last tortured months,
Was convinced that somebody was forever following him about.
Then one day he spotted his own reflection in a plate glass shop window
There!, he shouted,
There he is!
Who is that man?