Jean O’Brien – Things in the Rear View Mirror

O Brien LE P&W September 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing September 2023

Things in the Rear View Mirror, poems by Jean O’Brien.

Things in the Rear View Mirror

Are closer than they appear as if
the past is trying to overtake
the present. It looms long behind us
a dark ribbon road unfurling as
we go blithly on, thinking we see
the dot in the distance like a small
bullseye and see the horizon fading.
The tall evergreen trees appearing
smaller and smaller until they are
saplings again as we travel ever
forward. What else can we do? The past,
even if closer than we perceive,
is still behind us. Hopefully the
future is unfolding in front, so
the present, the precious present is
pinched like the waist of an
the yellow sands flowing through,
a river in spate and we swept
along helpless.

Lake Encounter with a Pine Marten

A Pine Marten is swimming towards me,
I sit on a concrete-grey outcrop jutting
from the now disused wooden boathouse
beside the lake, a miniature gravel beach
under my feet. I stay still. He appears not

to see me, his dark fur water-sleeked,
he could be a baby otter. I watch as he swims
forward with intent, know that his sweet, heart-
shaped face belies the sharpness of his teeth.
We are almost on a collision course.

He hasn’t seen me. I move a hand,
we lock eyes reflecting one another.
He startles and changes course, a last
minute sinuous swerve as he dives into
green arm-length rushes. The water settles.


I shutter the lake
As the half moon
Carves a watery
Pathway towards
The woods, making
Familiar my home
From home;
A desk,
A lamp,
A laptop,
A notebook
The tools I use
To mine words,
To sully white pages
With marks from
Bejewelled hands
Hoping the marks
Will shine and perform
An alchemy
Just like the moon
So casually contours
A silver path.
I want to walk on water.

© 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 offline. She holds an M.Phil in creative writing/poetry from Trinity College, Dublin (Ireland) and tutors in same.

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