Jean O’Brien – Crete

JOB LE P&W Feb 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing February 2023

Crete, poems by Jean O’Brien.


Everyone says the light is different here
and yet, as everywhere, the moon still rises,
the sun still sets and clamorous clouds
scud across the sky.

We lie in bed long past decency, listening
to local life below. We have the questionable
luxury of a two-windowed room, both facing
a yellow-brick ruin.

No sign here of sunlight flecked on sea,
no swell of cumulus clouds, nor sight
of the cicada or cricket racketing the trees,
but even with the blinds

at half mast and the shutters almost
closed along with the rise and fall
of fast Greek speech, the luminous
light somehow seeps in.


(Welsh for a longing for a place long gone or even
a place you have never been).

The air around her quivers full of ghosts and noises
shadows and slanted fingers of sunlight.

Her hands reach towards invisible things,
She wants to go back to her empty centre,

fill it with her heart-home of childhood,
where love was the mother-tongue.

She believes Hybrasil was her
home. Now another seven years is up,

the mist clears and we shed our old skins,
lose our flesh in the mess and dreck of what is lost.

The longed for island is still unreachable.
Her adult children gentle her back to the ward

with soothing murmurs, sweet treats, little lies.
They brush the silver hair clouding mist like about her head.

Still she cries, the absence a fist in her heart,
knotted with a restless need.

Water Always Dreams of a River

And a river dreams of the sea.
When the cast-iron gutter finally broke
a weight of water cascaded down
on the front step. We called a man
who reassured us he would fix it,
patch a join with plastic that
from the ground would look the same.
He attached the lightweight plastic
to its more solid cast-iron sisters, but
something had disturbed the flow,
interrupted the equilibrium.
Did he not know that water always
strives to find its own level,
to dissolve itself in itself.
The transition from the weighty
iron to the lighter material
caused a hump when the rain came,
the created eddies then found
an outlet that built itself up
to a noisy stream as it bounced off
the white gas box fixed to the wall.
Some things just look for trouble
and not every cloud has a silver
lining, we are all seaward dreamers.

© Jean O’Brien

Jean O’Brien’s latest collection (her sixth), Stars Burn Regardless, came out last spring from Salmon Poetry. She was the 2021 Poetry in Residence in the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris and the 2017/18 Kavanagh Fellow. Her work appears regularly in journals and magazine both on and off line. She holds an M.Phil in creative writing/poetry from Trinity College, Dublin (Ireland) and tutors in same.

One Reply to “Jean O’Brien – Crete”

  1. Always a joy to read your poems, Jean. Always getting to the heart of things with wonderful words and a depth of meaning almost hidden in the lines. TQ for your poems. ❤️

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