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Jean O’Brien – Against The Grain

O Brien profile LEP&W July2021

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing August 2021

Jean O’Brien’s 6th collection Stars Burn Regardless is due from Salmon Poetry this winter. She has won/ been placed in many competitions and is regularly published both on-line and in print. Most recently she was involved in the past UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s project Write Where We Are Now. She holds an M.Phil from Trinity College and tutors in poetry/creative writing at University level.


Against The Grain

We are lightly tethered here
by gravity and the soles of our two feet,
shod or not, it is they that connect us
to the earth, make space, bear our weight.

We could fly off at any moment
and join the crowded galaxy, millions
of pinprick of light that fade at dawn,
we have to imagine them in their absence,
small chinks that chime with time passing.

Remove your shoes at the edge where earth
and sea and sky meet, feel the chimera
of sand, made up of millenia of shells,
fieldspar, quarts and rock fragments
under your soles. Grip it with your toes
make two indents that fade even as
they form, this is all you will ever own.


Leave Taking

(for O.H. and all who fight for the right to die with dignity.)

My cousin and I talk of poetry and death.
She is younger than me, could almost be
my daughter. She lies long-tethered to a bed,
cannulas and drips like threads keeping
a trace, binding her here.

Her pale hands free to use the internet,
to welcome the world past these restraining
walls, where she has lost the only thing
we nearly all possess, the will to live.

She wants to retrace the steps that have landed
her here in such a helpless mess, back to before
the winnowing wind stripped her to a husk;
wants to step through the deep dark to a place

where poetry still reigns, and to set
her unfettered self adrift upon the endless river
and finish the struggle (who are we to keep her here?),
her lyric tongue already weighted with Charon’s obol.


Dawn Light

The light is up early
these summer dawns
oblivious to any quarrel
with the world.

We linger in bed
with the blind half drawn
creating a clean break
in morning’s message,

the blind’s furled fabric
stiff and gray shadows our skin.
Daylight streams bright
beneath the gap

a lesson learned daily.
The radio chorus begins
to call the hour, let it be enough
as day turns over.

© Jean O’Brien