THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS

THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS by Sara Teasdale

(War Time)

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Sara Teasdale

LOS ANGELES & RAINY NIGHTS IN SOHO

LOS ANGELES

From dream factory

To nightmare landscape

Eternally self-renewing

And all but used up,

The hot LA nights

Spiked with a Santa Ana wind,

Capote, Faulkner, Mailer, Fitzgerald, et al

Haunting the many-faceted gin-mills,

Looking for characters

For the books they were soon to write,

Hockney hobbling to

The marijuana  store

To smoke away his many ailments,

Drinking Chai tea with the other lunatics,

Down Venice way

The ancient muscle men on Muscle Beach

Doing press-ups

And pull-ups that demean them,

Hollywood writ large on the hills

And a jaded sign on Santa Monica pier

Saying ‘Route 66 ends here’.

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.

LETTERS TO MOTHER AND OTHER DEAD RELATIVES

extract

Dear Mother,

We never had much to say to each other when you were alive. I suppose that had a lot to do with you being grounded in the tranquility of rural County Waterford, while I misspent my youth on the mean streets of that area often referred to as County Kilburn. Even when we did speak it was only in platitudes; nothing of importance was ever touched upon. Mainly, I assumed, because nothing of importance had ever happened in our family’s history. So the chances of you surprising me from beyond the grave were very remote indeed.

It began with enquiries about your favourite son, John. Telephone calls to friends and neighbours, even to the Parish Priest. Nosing around, you would call it. Eventually the caller phoned John himself, which is how I became involved.

Apparently we were the beneficiaries of a legacy. A substantial sum of money was laying in British Government coffers, the trail of which led back to our paternal grandfather, Tom, and we were the next in line. Nobody ever spoke about grandpa Tom; Why was that?  And now that I think of it, why is grandpa buried in one parish and grandma in another? And why did father scrupulously care for grandma’s grave, and not grandpa’s? 

But back to the legacy. There was a catch – there always is – the caller required us to sign a contract giving him 33% of the estate before revealing details to us. As I happened to consider that excessive for a ‘finders fee’ I began my own investigations on the internet.

As far as I could see, the only family member who it could possibly be was Aunt Margaret. When I had last seen her ten years ago, she was already an old woman, living in poverty in Lewisham. (I know you always said she had loads of money, but if you had seen how she lived then you would have changed your mind)

Anyway, after several hours of queries to Ask Jeeves and co, I came across a British government website called www.bonavacantia.co.uk  I typed in a name and there it was in black and white!  Margaret O’B…. Lewisham, died intestate 2005.  Estate £XX,000  How well you knew her!

But of course you didn’t really. Nobody did. Not even my father – her own brother. He never spoke about her.  Why was that? She left Waterford in 1947 and was never seen by any member of the family again, apart from myself. Oh, I know you wrote her the occasional letter and she sent parcels of used clothes to you. ‘Her cast-offs’, you called them, before burning the lot. What was it that caused her to go away and never come back?

She came to visit me in Kilburn shortly after Karen was born – was that your doing, giving her my address? – And we kept in contact until I moved away from the area. She liked the idea of having a niece, but I found her a strange, secretive woman.

When I last saw her she was housebound, living in a dingy council estate in Deptford. And given to calling me ‘Captain’ – because I don’t think she remembered who I was any more. After that I forgot about her.

To establish claim to the estate I have had to furnish various documents; birth, marriage, death etc. Which is how I learned that my father and Aunt Margaret weren’t the only children born to my paternal grandparents. There were three other children, John, James and Catherine. What happened to those uncles and aunt? Father never spoke of them. They are not still alive as far as I can establish, but neither have I yet ascertained where and how they died and where they are buried.

But you, mother dear, served up the biggest surprise of all. On your marriage certificate, it says FATHER UNKNOWN.  Why, in my childhood, did I never realize that your mother was unmarried? Or query the fact that your father had never been around. Oh, there was a man about the house – your mother’s brother Mikey – and maybe I subconsciously associated him with being your father. Mikey, with his wooden leg -he had lost the real one fighting with the British Army in Flanders – lives on in my memory, and I can still recall trying to remove my leg as he did his, and wondering why I couldn’t. I almost wish now that he had been your father.

I have since learned that you did know your father. He was a friend of Mikey’s who had also joined the British Army, but had been killed in the same battle that had seen my granduncle lose his leg. Killed before he could make an honest woman of your mother.

Killed before he could respectably be put down on your wedding certificate as your father.

You never spoke about any of this. Not to me, anyhow. Was this what made you melancholy in your later years? The thought of your mother living all her life in her little thatched cottage in Grenan, the man she loved lying in an unmarked grave, lost forever in those green fields of France?

I think it’s sad that I find you more interesting dead than I ever did when you were alive.

Your loving son,

Tom

The book is available on Amazon.co.uk as an ebook or paperback

GILMARTIN – a play about the greed and corruption at the heart of Irish politics.

THE FULL SCRIPT OF GILMARTIN can be downloaded below. Also available as a p/back on Amazon.

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Gilmartin_Cover_for_Kindle

BERTIE AHERN’S ‘DIG-OUT’…and more

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extract from my play GILMARTIN, which is available to buy on Amazon

GILMARTIN:
The Greed and Corruption at the Heart of Irish Politics
A play in two acts
Preamble
When Bertie Ahern resigned on May 6th 2008 after 11 years as Irish Taoiseach and
more than thirty years all told in the corridors of power, it was as a direct result of the
fall-out that occurred from the treatment meted out to Irish businessman, Tom
Gilmartin, which only emerged in its entirety at the conclusion of the Mahon Tribunal,
which had sat for almost 15 years before reaching its conclusions in 2012.
Tom Gilmartin had emigrated to Luton in the 1950’s from Sligo, and over the years had
built up a successful business in construction and engineering, in Luton and South East
England. Now a multi millionaire he decided in the late 1980’s to invest his experience –
and money – in some projects in Dublin, where unemployment was high, and where
poverty had once again seen many young Irish people cross the water in the hope of a
better life.
Tom had ambitious plans for several major retail developments in the city, which he
hoped would provide work for hundreds, if not thousands, in the city, but little did he
know that in order to do business in Dublin, senior politicians and public officials would
want a slice of the action – in large amounts of cash.
Embittered and impoverished by his experiences, Tom finally blew the whistle on the
corruption at the heart of government and the city’s planning system. His complaints
resulted in the setting up in 1997, by order of the Oireachtas, of the Mahon Tribunal to
look into ‘certain planning matters and payments’. Ironically, it was championed by
none other than one Bertie Ahern.
Length…100 mins approx
Setting…Dublin 1990’s – 2000’s
5
PROLOGUE
Lights come up slowly to reveal Tom Gilmartin pacing slowly the room. The backdrop
shows larger than life images of Paul Robeson – b/w film? – Some should be silent, some
of Paul singing. Paul sings OLE MAN RIVER and Tom sings along with him in a deep
voice.
There’s an ol’ man called de Mississippi;
That’s the ol’ man I don’t like to be!
What does he care if the world’s got troubles?
What does he care if the land ain’t free..
Ol’ Man River,
That Ol’ Man River
He mus’ know sumpin’ But don’t say nuthin’,
He jes’ keeps rollin’,
He keeps on rollin’ along.
He don’t plant taters,
He don’t plant cotton,
An’ dem dat plants ’em
Is soon forgotten,
But Ol’ Man River,
He jes’ keeps rollin’ along
TOM: I love that song. I love Paul Robeson. I just love that man. He had more
trouble in his life than any man deserved. He was a genius, no doubt about it.
But he was black. A black genius. He was a brilliant footballer; a brilliant
lawyer – until the day a secretary said to him, ‘ I don’t take dictation from a
nigger’. That finished him and the law. Still, it didn’t stop him from becoming
a top class entertainer, acting and singing all over the world – until that too was
taken from him by the scourge of America of the 1950’s – Mcarthyism.
If he was white he could have been president of the USA. But he wasn’t. And
because he was black he suffered greatly. (pause)
We Irish are often referred to as the blacks of Europe. And maybe we are. We,
too, have suffered. Famine and persecution; our rights, our freedoms, taken
away. No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish, we all remember that, don’t we.
But what about our own people? Those at the top I mean – politicians and the
like. When they behave worse than the Mafia, or the Klu Klux Klan, how do
we deal with that?
He sings a few more bars of the song before the lights gradually fade to black.
6
Act 1
Scene 1
Tom Gilmartin, a man in his late fifties, emerges from a meeting with Charles Haughey
and a number of his government ministers. Tom, well dressed – suit, etc – looks a bit
bemused. He sits in a chair for a moment, thinking. After a while a woman enters.
WOMAN: I think the Boss was impressed.
TOM: The boss?
WOMAN: Charlie. Shure that’s what we all call him.
TOM: We? (he looks at him) Excuse me, have we met? Do I know you?
WOMAN: Wasn’t I at the meeting?
TOM: Were you? Where were you – in a cupboard?
WOMAN: Ha, Ha. Them is the country’s most powerful men. They’ll get you what you
want. No question about that.
TOM: And what do I want?
WOMAN: Money. Isn’t that what we all want?
TOM: I thought all I wanted was to get this bloody development at Quarryvale off the
ground.
WOMAN: We’re all behind you on that. It’s the money that’s the problem.
TOM: No, the money’s not a problem. When I get the go-ahead I’ll get the money. In fact
it’s already there. Just waiting for the okay.
WOMAN: Ah now, I think there a little misunderstanding here. I was thinking more
about…you know… the expenses.
Silence for a moment
TOM: Ah! You mean fucking bribes. Is this another shake-down?
WOMAN: Don’t you realise you are going to get every assistance to get your two projects
off the ground? We don’t do this sort of thing for every Tom, Dick and Harry
TOM: This sort of thing?
7
She waves towards the closed offices.
WOMAN: What do you think was going on in there? A bloody garden party? That was a
show of unity. To show we are all behind you. The Boss doesn’t do appearances like this
every day of the week’.
TOM: Well, it is a major investment that I’m bringing to the country, so I would think they
would be happy to see it under the current economy
WOMAN: You’re also – we’re all aware that you are going to make hundreds of millions out
of these projects.
TOM: Not me. Whoever invests in it might. But it won’t be me that makes hundreds of
millions
WOMAN: Well, we think that you should give us some of the money upfront.
TOM: We?
WOMAN: Everybody is agreed. And we would like you to deposit five millions – pounds
that is – before you start.
TOM: Can you say that again? I think I’m hearing things.
WOMAN: Well, we want you to deposit five million pounds, and we want it deposited in an
Isle of Man account.
TOM: That’s not much. Does…’The Boss’ know about this?
The woman takes a strip of paper and hands it to Tom. Tom looks at it.
TOM: What’s this?
WOMAN: It’s the account details
TOM: You seriously want me to put five million in there?
WOMAN: Yes.
TOM: You make the bloody Mafia look like monks. What do you think I am? Do I look like
I came up the Liffey on a banana boat or something?
The woman tries to grab the paper from Tom’s hand but he fends her off and sticks it
in his pocket
WOMAN: You could wind up in the Liffey for saying things like that.
TOM: Do you know what you can do? You can eff off – whoever you are!
Tom walks to one side.
8
WOMAN: (after him) You won’t get very far with an attitude like that. Remember, we’ll be
in touch
SCENE 2
Tom speaks to audience. He is calling out amounts and handing out fat brown
envelopes. Each envelope is collected by a hand reaching out from behind a curtain
TOM: Padraig Flynn fifty thousand… Ray Burke forty thousand… Liam Lawlor, eighty one
thousand, Bertie Ahern fifty thousand…George Redmond a hundred thousand…Liam Lawlor
a hundred thousand…
He chucks the rest of the envelopes on the ground
Ah Christ, the list is endless…(pause)
LIAM LAWLOR appears. He wears glasses, is smartly dressed, wearing a suit and tie.
Has a Dublin accent. He doesn’t speak for a while
TOM: The first time I met Liam Lawlor was in the Dead Man’s Inn, a pub in Palmerstown. I
was interested in finding out the ownership of land at Quarryvale, which I believed would
suit my requirements down to the ground for my development scheme, and I had been told
Lawlor was my man. He knew ‘where every blade of grass was growing in Dublin’ I was
assured.
He came tearing in the door, all ‘hail fellow and well met’ and wasn’t the slightest bit
interested in what I wanted to know. He only wanted to talk about the Bachelors Walk
development, which he said was on his patch, and told me the Government had allocated him
to take care of me and get the deal into Dublin. He said he wanted to meet the people behind
the proposed development, so I said I was meeting them in London the following Thursday
and would ask them if they wanted to meet him
Take care of me! He did that all right.
The next thing I know is he turns up at the meeting in London as brazen as brass, saying he
had been appointed by the Government to look after Bachelor’s Walk, and that they would
have to have him on board if the scheme was to get off the ground. He went on to say that he
could knock two years, at least, off the time to develop the scheme if he was on board.
The fucker had some neck. (Lawlor smiles at this) I said I hadn’t invited him – which I
hadn’t –that I didn’t even know him and had only met him on one occasion. He contradicted
me and said I had invited him. That’s the sort of bastard he was, twisting peoples’ words to
suit his lies. He was a hustler, no doubt about it. Years later, when the details of his dodgy
9
dealing finally came out at the Mahon Tribunal, he was prepared to go to prison rather than
reveal any of his financial shenanigans.
LAWLOR MOVES FORWARD
TOM. Anyway, I left him talking with my backers and went off for a cup of tea. About an
hour later he turned up, a big grin on his face.
LAWLOR: Well, They’ve appointed me.
TOM: What do you mean?
LAWLOR: Your backers. I’m on board. In the mix. I told them I wanted a twenty percent
stake…
TOM: Jesus, you’ve some neck, I’ll say that for you.
LAWLOR: …and a hundred thousand up front. But they turned it down.
TOM: They have some bit of sense anyway.
LAWLOR: But they agreed that you would give me half your stake and the hundred grand
up front.
TOM: Did they? Well, go back and tell them you’ll get nothing of my stake and no hundred
thousand.
LAWLOR: Well, we won’t fall out over the matter – yet. They have agreed to pay me a
consultancy fee of three thousand five hundred month.
TOM: Consultancy…for what?
LAWLOR: You need somebody to help you traverse the difficult political landscape in
Dublin.
TOM: Do I? And you’re that man, I suppose.
LAWLOR: Someone to ease you through the corridors of power. Sure I know every…
TOM: I know. Every blade of grass. I don’t need you. Or anybody. I think I can still
recognise grass.
LAWLOR: You have to work with me or you are going nowhere.

AUTOMATON

395

AUTOMATON
There is the window now, where literature should fly
Like cream from the golden cow.
Alas, it dribbles like my cock,
Nothing inspirational from either spout.
Oh fount of wisdom where art thou lurking
No turkey-in-the-straw shenanigans now, please
Spew forth some of that didactic waffle
The separates the waits from the greats
Why can’t I be like Scott Fitzgerald
Painting the pages with wit
Or like Graham Greene, or Hemingway
Instead of some limp-wristed scribbler of drivel?
What magazines say to me
Hey boy, we need you…God, we need you
Write us a story…any old story,
Dammit, why can’t they see me for what I am?
Undiscovered genius, even by myself.
There is a thin line between success and failure
And I am that thin line.
Invisible maybe, but there nevertheless.
Had I begun forty years ago I guess I might have made it by now;
I realise that this automatic waffling is neither coherent or pleasing,
But is coherency necessarily successful?
Why not write complete drivel instead and see who falls for it?
You see, there are many tricks but no trick-cyclists.
Oh yes, some will tell you ‘This is brilliant…this is it’
But what fields have they greened?
What mountains have they looked at and said ‘fuck this for a game,
I’ll try again tomorrow’
Tomorrow…now that’s a very useful day…especially for a writer.
There’s always tomorrow, isn’t there?
When your brain writes quicker than your fingertips,
When your arse itches and your cock twitches
There are fires to be stoked and holes to be poked
Wicks to be dipped and tits to be tipped.
So what if love makes the world go round,
Lust makes it go faster.

POEMS FROM THE BOREEN

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POEMS FROM THE BOREEN is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook form.

POEMS FROM THE BOREEN

A chapbook

By

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.

First printing

Published by tomtom-theatre

THE GREEN FORGOTTEN VALLEYS

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

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.

FETCHING THE WATER WITH NEDDY

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.

LACKENDARA

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.

THE BLUE LAGOONS OF MAYO

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
Endlessly
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’ ‘.

SWEET TEA

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?’

THE CROWD SHOUT OUT FOR MORE

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…

BLACKBERRIES

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
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.

DOING THE CONGA

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.

HOW TO MEASURE RAIN

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.

LOVE POEM FROM BONMAHON

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…’

UNTITLED

Nights when we were young
We raced the wind;
Banshees in our wake
Dracula lying in wait.

We had left him oozing blood
From the stake wedged in his chest
In the Rainbow Cinema.
But with vampires you could never tell

Hair slicked back, stiff with Brylcreem,
Newly perched on our Raleigh three-speeds
(with dynamo)
We explored the world,
Our winkle-pickers pointing the way.

FRIGHTENING THE CROWS

I once knew a man
Who frightened crows for a living.
In between, he brewed cheap beer
And stole old books.
He cycled the universe
Looking for answers;
All he found was a cold grave
When he was thirty nine.

SHE…

Who coaxed me screaming
Into the world in ‘46
When blizzards were raging.
(Or was it me?)
Who carried turkeys in her shopping bags
Suspended on the handlebars of her bicycle
(going to see the turkey cock)

Who picked blackberries with purple hands
And topped the full barrels with water
To increase her payment from the blackberry buyer
(her pocket money she called it)

Who ate dilisk on June Sundays in Bonmahon Strand
And washed her feet in the foamy salt water near at hand
Who grew fat when I was ten
And was bed-ridden till grandma came;
Then the doctor gave her something
That made her thin again

KEEP OFF THE GRASS

Footprints on sand are washed clean
Nature’s way.
Likewise those on grass
Never intend to stay.
The fox, the rabbit, all creatures of the wild
Over hill and dale can pass;
Only humans heed the warning signs
KEEP OFF THE GRASS

EVOLUTION
I was weaned on country music
Rock-n-roll and poverty
Irish style.
Son, the priest said,
Put that guitar away
And get that hair cut right
And don’t play
‘I Can Get No Satisfaction’
Tonight.
It’s a sin to call yourselves
The Red Devils, he said,
And in his shadows
I could see mother nodding her head.
So we became The Royal Dukes,
Zig-zagging across Munster
And played ‘Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown’
Instead.
This will not do, he roared,
Rattling his pulpit,
The youth of my parish,
Harbingers of the Devil’s music,
What is wrong with Frank Ifield?
Dead music, Father, I told him
And offered to debate it
But he wouldn’t listen.
So I emigrated.

FATHER AND SON
My mum says you’re my dad
The words ripped through me
Like a chainsaw through soft timber
Then scattered like spindrift
Along the sea wall
Lean young people glistened in the sun
While my heart pounded
And the young boy,
With shoulders rounded,
Hurried along to keep up with his mum
It was true; I was his father,
Of a sort.
Ten years ago I was for sure;
Ten lifetimes since I
Had slammed the goodbye door.

BAD DREAM

Maybe it was a dream I once had
This part of Ireland with no lights on
A place where strangers
Looked over the border
With razor-blade eyes
Where tall trees swayed South
From one vast plantation
And bowler hatted drum-bangers
Stomped the streets like toy soldiers.
A game – perhaps that was it;
Where the lowest common denominator
Was religion…or the lack of it.

THE WAY WE WERE

The picture house is full of it tonight;
‘A TEAR JERKER…THE WAY WE WERE.
See that old woman?
She has three carrier bags of it
To comfort her in her doorway.
Belfast Johnny has two bottles
Of it in his greatcoat pocket
And eight shiny photos of it
Bridging the gaps in his shoes.
The preacher ladles out doses of it
With hot soup. Georgie Best,
Rock-n-Roll, wedding vows,
They are all part of it.
The past follows you around:
Like a faithful old dog
It never leaves your side.

FALL
Autumn mornings are best;
The sun smiling low over the gasworks
Flighty leaves browning the common
Kites lark-high over the tree-tops
Coffee and a roll in the old rectory
And you by my side

MUSHROOMS
When I was knee-high to a man
And fields were free
We picked mushrooms
On mornings such as this
Barbed wire, where it existed,
Was negotiable.
Now the Stalag-masters have returned
And fenced us out

Or is it in?

GRASS

Woke up this morning
Barbered the lawn
And bathed in the scent
Of new-mown grass

There, said the Sun
Smiling on my efforts
Isn’t that better
Than sitting on your arse.

SKATING ON THIN ICE

Now there’s a pastime for you;
Young enough not to know better
We taught ourselves how to,
And sometimes paid the price

We carved figures of eight
Figures of three and five too
While Hopper McGrath kicked a hole in the shallow end
With thumps from the heel of his shoe

But nature had the last laugh
And slid him into a clump of nettles
And the breath laughed from the rest of us
Like steam from the spouts of kettles

Cracked ice, grass-crunching like apple-munching
Shiver-me-timber dancing
The old farmer prancing
And helter-skelter
For the school-yard shelter

Nowadays skating on thin ice comes easy

MILKING TIME

Father always hummed at the milking
Pausing only to say ‘easy girl, easy there’
When a troublesome horse-fly struck

Sitting on his three-legged stool
His pail clamped between his thighs,
He caressed old Daisy’s belly with his head
And sometimes sank his fist into the wrist
When she lashed out

The sound of milk hitting the pail
Was like rain dancing on corrugated steel
He could hit one of those flies
At three paces with one long squirt.

Sometimes he practiced on me.

SOLDIERS

BLOODY JOB
BLOODY SWINE
BLOODY HARD WORK
BLOODY COUNTRY
BLOODY IRISH BASTARDS
BLOODY SUNDAY
BLOODY MONDAY AGAIN

AUTHOR’S BIOGRAPHY
Tom O’Brien is a native of Kilmacthomas Co Waterford Ireland, and is a full time writer, playwright and poet.
Performed plays include Money from America, Cricklewood Cowboys, On Raglan Road. Johnjo, Gorgeous Gaels, Brendan Behan’s Women Down Bottle Alley, No Blacks, No Dogs, No Poles, etc
Books include Letters To Mother and Other Dead Relatives, Cricklewood Cowboys, The Shiny Red Honda, The Missing Postman and Other Stories, etc

His first 2 collections of poetry ‘67’ & ‘67+’ are available online

All his books are available on http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tom-OBrien/e/B0034OIGOQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1388083522&sr=1-2-ent

Website: https://gorgeousgael.com/

https://www.facebook.com/#!/tom.obrien.5851

Tom has lived in Hastings UK since 2000.

HAROLD PINTER WAS AT THE ROYAL COURT TODAY

I wrote this piece of doggerel about Harold Pinter some time ago. Not sure how or why it came about. I always liked Pinter’s work; I saw him as the Ernest Hemingway of playwriting – never write 20 words when a pause will do. The Caretaker I particularly liked, along with No Man’s Land.

Harold-Pinter-001

HAROLD PINTER WAS AT THE ROYAL COURT TODAY

I was at the Royal Court today and saw Harold Pinter

Oh yeah?

He spoke to me.

What did he say?

Asked me where the loo was.

No, he fucking didn’t.

You’re right, he didn’t.

He asked that American shitbag Le Butt…Le Bute…Labute

How do you know?

He told me.
Who…Labute?
Yeah.
No, he didn’t.

You’re right, he didn’t. He wasn’t even there. Fuck, I wasn’t even there.

I CARRY YOUR HEART WITH ME…

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[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]
BY E. E. CUMMINGS
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

e e wrote approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays, and several essays. He is often regarded as one of the most important American poets of the 20th century. Cummings is associated with modernist free-form poetry. Much of his work has idiosyncratic syntax and uses lower case spellings for poetic expression.

STOLEN WORDS (extract)

033

extracts from my collection STOLEN WORDS

THE GREEN FORGOTTEN VALLEYS

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.

LOS ANGELES

From dream factory
To nightmare landscape
Eternally self-renewing
And all but used up,
The hot LA nights
Spiked with a Santa Ana wind,
Capote, Faulkner, Mailer, Fitzgerald, et al
Haunting the many-faceted gin-mills,
Looking for characters
For the books they were soon to write,
Hockney hobbling to
The marijuana store
To smoke away his many ailments,
Drinking Chai tea with the other lunatics,
Down Venice way
The ancient muscle men on Muscle Beach
Doing press-ups
And pull-ups that demean them,
Hollywood writ large on the hills
And a jaded sign on Santa Monica pier
Saying ‘Route 66 ends here’.

MY CAR NOW TALKS TO ME
Hello
Goodbye
Raising the lights like a stage curtain
Playing little movies
Serenading me with melodies
The welcome – farewell experience
They call it
“An emotionally resonant experience”
And that digital note of appreciation
“Thank you for driving a hybrid”
As if it was something…well
Unconnected with this thing on four wheels.
And those door handles
Illuminating when they sense my presence
The needles on the instruments
Snapping to attention as I open the door
There’s a welcoming theme
Part Hollywood soundtrack
Part plane swoosh
And that puddle lamp!
A welcome mat of light.
My car is a robot I think
With a personality not just in its body
But also in its behaviour.
“How can I help you?”
It asks now
As I prepare for take-off.
I really feel like telling it
To shut the fuck up
But I don’t want to hurt its feelings.

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.

THE EMUS

Fuck you
Said the Emu
Though of course
I couldn’t be sure
It was an Emu at all,
Never having seen a live one before;
Well, not crossing the road
Ahead of me anyway;
Part of a group
That resembled a hen party;
(or should that be Emu party?)
A troop of tarty Emus with cropped hair,
Johnny Rotten aficionados’, perhaps?
Teetering across the never-ending road
In the Australian outback;
Chaperoned by a wedge-tailed eagle…
Chaperoned?
Who looked just as likely
To sink its teeth
Into their browning flesh
As guide them safely to the other side.
Perhaps it was the eagle
Who said ‘fuck you’?
In the fading light
I couldn’t be certain
Of anything.

KILLER

The cigarette smoke hangs like tear gas
In the mean little honky-tonk
But nobody really gives a shit because Jerry is in town.
He arrives without fanfare and seats himself down
Gimme my money and show me the piano
And don’t try and act the hound,
Tthis is rockabilly, baby
Forget about Elvis and Johnny
Jerry has just kicked the door down.
Jerry can conjure a thousand songs
And play each one seven different ways
He can make your high heel sneakers
Dance the legs off every other cat in the place
I ain’t no phoney, I ain’t no teddy bear
And I don’t talk baloney ,as I say to my bass player
I ain’t no goody-goody, but I was born to be on the stage
It was all I ever dreamed of, from the very earliest age.
Jerry plays it slow and mournful or hard and fast
He once told Chuck Berry he could kiss his ass
And across the arc of bad-boy rockers
Who have come and gone
Jerry is the only one still rocking on
Sure, there were some bad times that caused his
Rocket ship to sputter
Like the year he crashed a dozen Cadillac’s
And was heard to utter
You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain
Too much love drives a man insane
You broke my will, oh what a thrill
Goodness gracious great balls of fire