Jean O’Brien – Words Speak Us

Jean O Brien LE P&W February 2019

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Words Speak Us, poems by Jean O’Brien

Jean O’Brien’s fifth collection her New & Selected was reprinted by Salmon Publishing in 2018.  She was awarded the Patrick & Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in 2017/18. An award winning poet she won the Arvon International Poetry Prize and the Fish International prize and was recently shortlisted for the Voices of War competition run by UCD Historical Dept. She worked as writer in residence in Co. Laoise. She holds an M.Phil in creative writing from Trinity College, Dublin and tutors in poetry/creative writing, in places as diverse as Prisons, schools, Community Groups and the Irish Writer Centre. Her work is widely anthologised most recently in: Eavan Boland:Inside History (Eds. S. Campbell & N. O’Mahony), Reading the Future (Ed. Alan Hayes), The Lea-Green Down (Ed. Eileen Casey), Metamorphic:21 century poets respond to Ovid (eds. N. O’Mahony & P. Munden) Her work is broadcast regularly on Sunday Miscellany and she has work accepted for the forthcoming Poetry Ireland Review.     UCD Poetry Archives Youtube

Words Speak Us

Like scapula or oracles’ bones,
they tell of ourselves, we are proper
nouns, with our stitched tongues we break words
against our teeth, lips sealed. All talk, all palaver
articulated in the vernacular
following tangled lines like mind nets.
Brave speech we are all stall and stutter.
We watch words, hedge bets, parse language,
don’t voice the silent L.O.N.D.O.N
in Derry.
Whatever we say, say nothing.
Least said, soonest mended.
STOP. STOP. BACK.              STOP!
That bloody border.
Broken syntax casting a glamour.
The euphemisms: the Troubles,
the Emergency, passed.
Eat your words or they’ll eat you.

I’m Sorry, so sorry. #MeToo #MeToo.

She is drawing and redrawing herself, her skin
sore from erasure. Esther Morgan (Self-Portrait).

I’m sorry I brushed into you, that I may have blocked
the way. I’m so sorry too that you pushed me.
I’m sorry, #MeToo, #MeToo,
I’m sorry your hand slipped onto my breast,
that I walked out in front,
didn’t smile, smile, smile,
when you pencilled me in lead
and not colour trying to write me off.
Too much smiling erases me as does your gaze.
I’m sorry, #MeToo, #MeToo.
So, so sorry that our crying child is disturbing you,
your day, your life. You want it to run smooth,
I understand, #MeToo, #MeToo.
I’m sorry you feel you need to belittle me.
Very, very sorry. #Metoo. #Metoo.
I’m sorry I took the available
parking space,
last seat,
pay rise,
and went through the half open door,
the glass ceiling.
I’m so sorry that I work and am not always home
when you are in a hurry or have had a hard day.
#MeToo, #MeToo. I’m sorry. So so sorry.

©Jean O’Brien