Jean O’Brien – Vicissitudes

Jean O'Brien LEP&W V2 Dec 2022

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Two December 2022.

Vicissitudes, poems by Jean O’Brien.


My ‘not so old’ older brother
caught the virus
of old age,
decrepitude seemed to take
hold, full possession if you will,
as if his inner compass
wavered and could not
correct his bearing
and memory lapses.
Instead he walked about
in circles,
true north forever lost
and out of reach.
About him the air
seemed to compress
and then collapse.
We liken him to
an ancient tree,
exposed and weighed down
by leaf and branch,
its secret concentric circles
telling the weather
of years.


The year has turned yet again
the sun and moon duet, day and night
again we have travelled beyond our atmosphere,
gone to Mars, the inhospitable planet,
all red and runnels that Lowell speculated
were Martian canals. Some say they were no more
than an observation of his own eye blood vessels
magnified. Mote and beam come to mind.

We have places we have wrecked here
on our blue planet, although Pripet
denuded of humans seems to florish,
burning the Amazon forest
is wiping out our fragile habitat,
our seas are awash with plastic and dead bodies.
We are living in our own dreck and squabbling
amongst ourselves. In my small patch of city garden
near the Grand Canal in Dublin heavy rain is making
a confetti storm of the cherry blossom’s brief blooms,
I hone my focus. blink my eyes. It is enough.

Finding Her Feet

For Annie

Fanfair – life’s soundtrack, like her mother’s heartbeat,
she knows so intimately. Now she is pulling herself up,
resting her weight on her own two feet, planting herself
deep, claiming her place on this earth. She is shaky,
unsure, wobbling a little, but W A L K I N G.
Annie is walking alone
then abruptly her balance goes and she plonks down
on her well padded bottom, as her proud parents’
cheer and congratulate and she takes matters
into her own hands and gives herself a round
of applause. Three hundred and eighty eight days
after she dived head first into this world
she has finally found her feet.

© Jean O’Brien

Jean O’Brien’s sixth collection Stars Burn Regardless was published this Spring by Salmon Poetry. An award-winning poet, her work is published widely in magazines and anthologies. She holds an M. Phil. in creative writing/poetry from Trinity College Dublin, and tutors in creative writing from beginners to post graduate level.

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