Category Archives: Writing

Winter, as it Should Be

A view of the distant pyrenees, with a little snow, and a forest still sporting spots of orange, in mid December.

            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.

Some News on Novels

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 davidjmobrienauthor@gmail.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.

Enjoy

            Threads

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 

Over centuries.

.

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.

Glorious

This is a shot I took in a different place than I had the inspiration, when I had the time to stop and shoot it. It’s not quite as glorious, but it’s damn lovely all the same. Autumn took a while to arrive, but it’s great to see it.

            And It’s Glorious

The storm has eased, eventually.

Though cold, trees still, dripping yet,

Leaves left, strewn upon the street:

Sheets of gold and ochre. Streams of

Sticks and twigs clog the gutters,

Grown to spreading pools, reflecting 

Gorgeous tempest survivors overhead.

.

And it’s glorious: a rare, raw, glimpse 

Of our world without the concrete.

At least until the sweepers resume,

Scouring nature with their plastic brooms.

A Few Seconds of Eternity

            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.

Last Dance

            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…

The Last Cabaret

            Final Fiesta

.

Dancing giants and their marching musicians, with the public in train, a caravan of prams…

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.

This guy is having a beer, using his other, smaller mouth in the throat, taking a break from bonking children on the head with that sponge.

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…

September Still acts like Autumn after all

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…

These clouds didn’t produce any wanted rain, but a few days later we got some good wet days to soak the soil, and the heat has gone from afternoon.

            September Again

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

.

Somewhat disconcerting,

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.

Here the trees yet green, flowers yet in bloom, though bracken has been harvested in some of those fields for winter and chestnuts (small this year) are on the forest floor.

  Drought Triggers Fall like Frost

            Drought Triggers Fall like Frost

This river valley is not so dry, but up above the shallower scree slopes are dropping those leaves down.

.

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

         

   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….

Gold Dust.

            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.