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Somewhat as it Should Be
Frozen fog has shut off any sights without the vale:
Only a few fields below the road and trees along:
Ash still green but paling, poplars rising glorious
In gold and rowan orange glowing. Goldfinches flee
But return easily to glean seeds to fuel against the cold
Ice clad grass banks and crown clods in shaded corners.
Chilled fingers fumble at the pen with these words, so I
Turn to the house, for use in clutching logs, and later,
Thawed to type by the fire, stopping by the spring
To fill the water bottle for a dram. The flow has not
Yet been helped by the recent rain and snow, I see,
But we’ve returned, somewhat, to winter as it should be.
I wrote this a few weeks back, when the weather was a little different. It’s clear that this Christmas is not white in much of Europe, but it’s whiteout in much of North America…. neither exactly what anyone wants…
Well, anyway, happy Christmas. Hope you’re warm wherever you are.
It’s been a while since I published a new novel.
I hope to have a YA set in Ireland out in the new year.
Meanwhile, some news: I’ll shortly be getting my copyright back on the five novels published with Tirgearr Publishing.
Once I do, I will do my best to get them back up for sale on Amazon, first as Ebooks. I am considering publishing them in print as well, and I have to admit I am in two minds – if you have an ebook, then it’s best to just download them. But if not… well, I hope there are folks out there who’d love to read them in print… I will get back to you on that. If anyone wants to comment either way, feel free.
As we see the fall of Twitter, and the fact of Meta failing and the Facebook basically falling also into disuse by at least a large proportion of folks in my friends lists, I am thinking of where to actually connect to readers and friends, apart from just here.
It’s true that the life of a writer is always hard, and getting readers to pick up our books never easy. The social media space has made it possible for some of us to sell some of our work.
And yet, at the same time, the whole selling scape is not often our favourite space. I personally rarely go on Facebook now – and I am one of the few people on the planet who legitimately need such a space to stay in touch with all the lovely people I’ve come to know over the years in my real life travels round the world. I feel the threads tying us together getting slacker, though, thinner. And in some respects this is inevitable, It would happen faster without the internet, but eventually it will happen anyway, as the years stretch on and we all get older.
In other respects, writing is something I will do regardless of who reads the work, and I will do it (am doing it because of constraints of real life) in my own time, despite the marketing mantra of getting new books out in front of folks’ eyes and having series to pull them in.
If anyone reads my poems you’ll see that it is out in the real world of Nature that I am happiest, and the writing comes when I am not there, from ideas I get while I am.
Those writings will come, as long as I live, and if the history of art has taught us anything, it’s that fame and life are not necessarily concurrent. We can only enjoy the work, and worry about everything else after. Nor is financial return any indication of merit.
I will continue to post my blogposts to Facebook, but you’ll not find me there much otherwise, so if you want to get in touch the best is to comment on these posts here on WordPress, and to write me at email@example.com
For when Twitter dies, I have joined Mastedon, and I here’s my page for anyone to follow: @David_J_OBrien@mastodon.ie
Meanwhile, here’s a poem I wrote a few years back. I think I might have posted it before, but it came to mind while writing this.
As we walk our world, we weave
A kind of tapestry about us:
Threads spread out, linking our lives
With those we meet.
Wonderful, a wheel of whirling strands
Swirling about us like glinting gossamer
Whipped on morning breeze across sunlit fields;
The thoughts and talks and memories
Shared and cared for across continents
But ultimately bitter-sweet,
For they inevitably wear thin over time,
We often fail to keep all attended to
To stop them breaking,
Trailing, frail, forgotten in the tangle,
And even the strongest spun silk can snap:
Stretched taut across landscapes,
When we walk too far.
Those we best attend to, too,
Weaken, and fade to invisibility
Eventually, severed, taken from us
When their own weaver leaves this ether.
How long will our own cloth survive,
When we’re not here to hold it?
As those that know us no longer
Hold memory of what we told them,
About our many connections, never
Mind our own names, and actions,
Faint after just a generation.
No wonder some strive to stencil
Their names in stone set into cathedrals,
Or indelibly upon a novel, poem or play
Which will carry on without us
When we’ve gone upon our way.
A few Seconds of Eternity
A hubbub surrounds several idling cars:
Kids running between house and driveway
As the gang gets ready to leave on Sunday,
Carrying bags and banging shutters closed.
Asking, “Have we left anything behind?”
“Well, here it stays till next weekend,” replied,
For we’ve baths and dinners to have this evening
If we ever get on the road home.
Eventually, the door locked and all packed in,
Bar me, standing in the garden as the cars
Reverse out, waiting to close the gate, taking in
The scene surrounding us as every evening:
Silence settling o’er the vale as the breeze
Slows to swing round from afternoon heat
On the southern plains beyond the hills,
Set in scarlet, under clouds tinged pink.
The sparrows have ceased squabbling
In the hedges for roosting spots, chirping
Softly as crickets; the sky turquoise east,
Glowing golden west; the oaks go on growing
Under Saturn and early stars starting to shine,
As they have for eons, breathing in, quietly,
As the gate squeaks shut; all is mine,
For a few seconds, immersed in an eternity.
Often ‘Tis the little moments that make this life wonderful.
The Dance of the Gnats
In slanting sunlight along hedges warmed
Hordes of gnats amass in glittering swarms
Like plumes of dust thrust up
From the ground burst open, abounding,
In an ultimate race to lay eggs ere autumn:
A bountiful sign summer rests on last legs,
Yet, at least, as the flourishing knots
Feed the gathering flocks of swallows
Ere their exodus, fill lizards left lying on
Stone even cooling, fatten bats come twilight,
An indication our Earth brims, still:
Life resides, ready to thrive when we let it.
While they fly I will delight
In the dance as long as lasts this light.
Autumn has finally arrived, with a storm, some rain and wind and now chilly foggy mornings. And very happy we are to see it, and the flies dying as they should to be born again next spring…
Marching bands and ballerinas
Parade the street, pulling public,
Producing impromptu dances
Around pushchairs and infants
Held aloft; cheering and chants
And stampings, stampeding
Children screaming gleefully
Gobbling up potato chips, fried
Calamari, scampi and such snacks
Washed with beer and wine,
Vermouth and gin and an ever-
Growing list of sin, resisted
Until the wee hours under stars,
Revelling unrelenting. Renewed
As sunlight reveals debris and
Blinkered vision revolves to
Another village, a different festival,
Of a reencountered countryside
Ready for recreation after a year
Of restraint and restriction. See
A need for sun burning, but
Another urge underneath fuels
This seeming endless summer:
A sense of a September looming
Despite peaceful scenes.
Heat will resist yet, bringing
Only waves of pain. Winter comes
Indeed, but carries no snow,
Nor silent ice-glazed stasis,
Only storms. The wars await,
Worse than after a former August
And this is our last cabaret,
Held under a hammer cocked,
A trigger primed, and all
Staggering at the tipping-point.
We were finishing up the festival of San Fermin Txikito, or little San Fermin, last weekend, which was kind of the last festival of the summer – one which had the youths going to as many festivals in as many villages round Pamplona as they could get to, after the two years they missed out on because of the Covid restrictions. And I just said to myself – good luck to them. They’ll have shit shovelled out in front of them soon enough. We have had a terrible summer in terms of exacerbated “natural” disasters, but as the weather gets cooler, we can only look forward to a winter, if not of discontent, then of a realisation of how bad things are going to get (in the privileged west where it hasn’t actually started yet unlike many other places) on our current global trajectory. We just have to turn down the thermostat here, and shorten the shower times, while in other places they’re kinda sorta fucked, as it were.
After I’d written this poem, someone on twitter, commenting on the current fiasco in the UK compared it to Weimar economics, and look how that ended up – suggesting we have a final cabaret.
So it’s not just me, of course…
I have few photos to illustrate this poem for obvious reasons…. who wants their photo on the internet with a pile of beer bottles etc. round them? I wouldn’t! But no judgement if you’re enjoying yourself – a drink before the war, as Sinéad sang…
We have finally got some decent days of rain – and who’d have thought we’d be saying such words even a couple of decades ago?
September has returned, and the swimming pools have closed – an important part of the end of summer even in this cooler part of Spain.
So here’s a short poem inspired by the last dip a couple of weeks ago…
Chill seeps through skin and up
Legs creating a repelling shiver
Shaken off at last, reluctant leap,
Sweeping sweat away in one
Stroking refreshing lengths of
The clear water, vibrant, energized,
Once out, heat resting upon
The village becomes welcome again.
Soaking afternoon sun
Seems summer holds yet
Tight to the terrain. Still
Leaves left lying upon pool tiles
Tell a different tale:
September has returned;
Trees not dry of drought turn,
Blackberries shrivelled on brambles
Sloes fallen from thorns, walnuts
Weakly cling to limp twigs;
Chestnut spikes lie scattered
On forest floor, surprisingly, as if
We’d somehow forgotten
Autumn would come, and
At first, as evening chill envelops –
Our inertia preferring to ignore it.
Yet, when jumpers dug out of drawers,
We’ll embrace the breeze:
As bracing as this latest bathe.
Drought Triggers Fall like Frost
The forest climbs either side of the valley
Up from the river gulley, glinting pools and
Protruding rocks, grey against green,
Except where steeply narrows, now
Auburn, gold and orange like autumn
Came in August as trees let their leaves
Fall on the shallow soil rather than farther
Toil for little gain under the strain
Of such a fiery glare all summer long.
Of Plastic and Plasticity
Peering out over open water: green wash,
No spot of black to mark a seal, nor sight
Of white to indicate ice upon which to strike,
The bear turns about, towards dry land,
And trundles away from the shore,
Following a novel scent, not so sure
To signify a meal, but more appealing
Than sterile saline. The stench of humans
Almost overpowers hunger, pull of putrefaction,
But cautiously the bear pads across scraped
Gravel and strands of soft stuff –not snow – and
Colourful lumps, shiny hard strips and bits.
A sharp set of claws upturns tins and other
Things the bear has never seen, and finds skin,
Bones and shreds of flesh of prey never tasted:
Not even raw; changed in a way it can’t fathom.
Other animals abound – gulls and foxes and
Neighbour bears. But she fights for her share
Of the spread-out spoils of some unknown
Carnage, scavenging scraps of flesh amid debris,
Some of which is stuck with string, some
Clinging to wrappers – has to be eaten also –
But are surely shed easily enough
As would be ingested seal skin and bone.
Some men with glasses from a far observe
The animal with consternation, as it with
Relish ingests the refuse: Earth’s greatest
Quadruped predator reduced to such. But
Others shrug at suggestions of contamination,
Considering the data and the sea state –
Since even artic snow and summer rain contain
The same chemicals as the landfill, and
The seals are a dish equally intoxicating
From fish swimming in poisoned brine.
What use, they wonder, a pristine scene
Without seals within reach of a beach,
Other than to produce a perfectly clean
Bear carcass: healthy except for hunger?
The bear, on the other hand, now on land,
Is pulled by the wind past the dump, to
More varied carrion. Carcasses lie in woods:
Caribou, moose, deer and musk oxen;
Moving, the quarry could become new prey
Replacing seals, if bears become plastic enough.
The pinipeds themselves, if they are to survive,
Shall someday have to haul up on a shore to pup;
Walrus, too, must beach for calves to breach.
Eventually, perhaps, an adaptation to such crap
From our waste, awash in any water, solid or not,
They encounter, can give a chance for all species
To scarcely subsist somehow in a new balance.
But such hopes fast melt in plasticity’s absence.
Not the most up-beat of poems, but in some way a tiny bit optimistic for the predator if not species of large mammal facing the most precarious future of us all….
Holding Gold Dust
The kids are in the river, scooping up fry in the shallows,
Squashing half as they let them go again as we leave.
We try to release them alive, all the time remembering
When once, we could, well, afford to kill them
In their hundreds: seeing thousands more teem between
The rocks of even city rivers and streams.
Like we did with insects: snatching ladybirds and bees,
Finding moths and crane flies in bathrooms, woodlice
By the dozen, catching starlings, titmice and sparrows,
In traps and jars and crabs in buckets on the beach.
Such abundance we scattered shells like sand;
But soon, when the water is sterile if not dry
We will shake our heads and cry, understand,
When we were young we held gold dust in our hands.
I have no photos at all to illustrate this – I could post a photo of the gravel beach where the kids were scooping the minnows, but the city council have cleared away that beach now, to free up the stepping stone bridge before the winter floods, which had deposited the huge load of stones. The fish seem happy in the shallows now.
Anyway, you’ll either be familiar with the former abundance, and thus perfectly able to picture what I’m talking about, or you won’t…. in which case, I’m really sorry, but no photo I can post would do justice to what’s gone. Well, at least at the beach, most of us are able to spot a few crabs, and perhaps catch one or two, for a while to show the kids before letting them go again…
The title comes from a song by Tori Amos, who I’ve listened to since I was of an age where there was yet abundance! I heard of her from a friend just after Little Earthquakes came out. This is one of my favourite songs of hers, and one I wish we could all be mindful of – the things we had, the things we yet have in our hands, and we should care for like fallen nestlings.
A Bird’s Eye View of Dearth
A kestrel watches from its perch aloft
Through the wheat stalks, sunset yellow,
A cat to the corner, treading soft,
Seeking game in shadowed hedgerow.
It’s fur gleams golden in the sun,
Sleek lines lie wide by several ounces:
Fast as the raptor flies, it couldn’t run,
But furred predator prefers pounces.
A lizard flickers in crinkling grass.
The hawk would swiftly clutch the prey
To feed last nestling, but alas:
The cat clenches its quarry today.
Blinking as the fed feline bites,
The bird scans the straw for insects
Sooner left for lesser hawks and shrikes;
Still, scant life of any size it detects.
Turning attention to the trees,
Tinged brown by fire fuelled by snow
Fall felling boughs, then heavy heat,
Finds as few pickings as down below.
Frogs diminished by the dryness
Since even before spring arrived:
Only two eggs laid, to cry less
As sibling ensures one survived.
Now, itself barely clinging to perch,
The raptor would wonder, as declines,
How only scorched earth left to search
Seems still to fill so litters of felines.
I write a lot of poems, and a lot of my poems are inspired from what I see outside in Nature.
However, I rarely take a photograph of what inspires me – if I am thinking of the poem, it usually never occurs to me to take a snap. I don’t think of posting the poem at that stage, and then I realise I’ve no photos to illustrate it. Of course, going back to get a photo of a kestrel along the wire where I saw it is next to impossible, though I do see them when I’m driving in and out of the village.
So the two photos in this post are clearly not of a kestrel. One is a bird of prey, yes, but the other is a bee-eater, a species which I’ve been trying to get a decent snap of for years, because they really don’t hang around when human’s are near, despite the fact that they are to be heard over head delighting with voices as colourful as their plumage, which is to me, the best in any bird in Europe.
Both were taken while cycling near the village, where there’s still a huge abundance of birds of prey, such as hen harriers, booted eagles, red kites and golden eagles, to name just the ones I can identify!!
And there is an overabundance of feral cats, too…