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Poems From The Boreen




















A chapbook






Tom O’Brien





















© 2016 Tom O’Brien


The moral right of the author has been asserted. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed by a newspaper, journal or magazine.


First printing





































Published by tomtom-theatre









Those green forgotten valleys,
No longer can be seen
Lying hidden behind the tall fir and larch
That have made these brown hills green
Relentlessly marching down the hills
Burying everything in their wake
The dead are long gone from this place
The pike no longer in the lake
The houses just hollow shells now
Where the past ghosts eerily through
The vacant windows and doors
With rotted frames and jambs that once were new.
Back then there was no silence, only the sound
Of human laughter, and bird-calls to each other
The dogs growling at a wayward sheep.
And children’s scrapes kissed better by their mother
Nature is having the last laugh now
Soon there will be no trace of us at all
As the trees come marching down the hillside
No one hears the lonesome curlew’s call.




























**]September is the loveliest month.[
**]The sky is on permanent fire[
**]The trees painted many colours[
**]Burnished, it seems, with pure desire[
**]In the park, ducks glide silently by[
**]And the always busy seagulls[
**]Resemble sea-planes[
**]Coming in to land from on high[
**]Whilst near the dozing oak tree[
**]The squirrels nutmeg each other[
**]Each acorn hoarded[
**]For the soon-to-come cold weather.[
**]Your arm in mine[
**]We stroll down the park[
**]Heading towards the sunset[
**]Home before dark.





















Where I come from is who I am:[
**]Tangled blackberry bushes[
**]Smoke rising from a solitary chimney[
**]The pine grove in the distance[
**]And Father shouting[
**]“More water in that barrel”[
**]As we bucketed it from our well[
**]To our asses cart,[
**]Creel-less for once.[
**]Other days Neddy would be laden down[
**]With wood from the nearby thicket[
**]Ash trees, young Sally’s, stumps of furze bushes.[
**]Sometimes he hauled sand and gravel[
**]From the quarry at Carroll’s Cross,[
**]Part of Father’s master plan[
**]To build us an outside toilet.[
**]This would mean more water from the well[
**]To feed the tank on its roof,[
**]Unless it rained a lot[
**]Which of course it often did[
**]In our neck of the woods.

























Ah Lackendara[
**]You heard the voices too[
**]At Passchendaele where you[
**]Cowered as the big guns[
**]Bombarded your world to silence[
**]Blasted your thoughts to kingdom come[
**]And left you forlorn[
**]On that ragged outcrop[
**]In the foothills of the Comeraghs[
**]The fox and the curlew your only companions[
**]The gurgling Mahon Falls[
**]All there was to quench your thirst.[
**]For thirty years you trod those hills[
**]Taking little notice[
**]Of ordinary life around you going on[
**]Your presence on the mountain a constant reminder[
**]Of mans’ inhumanity to man.























Like oceans behind my eyes
The blue lagoons of Mayo glittered in the mist
‘Blue lagoons of Mayo? – Christ that’s rich’, remarked O’Hare
‘Unless the bogs have changed their colour since I resided there’
‘I remember ploughing through the Mayo wind and rain
And ne’er a pinch of blue did I ever snare
Do you remember The Playboy of the Western World?
Christy Mahon – now he could tell you a thing or three
About bogs, blue or otherwise
And windswept, storm-ridden, mackerel skies
He thought he killed his father
But no such luck
Like a faithful old dog
He followed Christy fretfully through mist and fog
Howlng into the wind
You never killed me with your loy[
__]That time back there in the bog, boy’ ‘.

























Every month a ritual enactment
For the rent man
Mother, floury nose and doughed-up hands,
Smiling practice-perfect
Us children banished to the scullery,
A whispered ‘don’t you laugh now’
A silent prayer
And the teapot ready
Beside the rent book.

Every month ‘good morning Mrs Moran’
Lovely day to be sure’ and
YesI will have a cup of tea, thank you’
And every month a glowing red nose,
Lit up like a hot coal.

Every month silence from the scullery
Until the day little Tommy fell off his perch
And tumbled through the scullery door
To land in a heap in front
Of that illuminated face.
And then mother turning,
The sugar bowl in her hand
Saying – much too casually -
‘How many sugars would you like on your nose?’




















I never thought I’d say

That Ireland is to me

Just another piece of ‘real-estate’ today;

The place where we murdered rabbits

On nights both windy and dark

Giving them that old one-two

With a rigid hand behind the neck;

The place where we captured hares

For coursing in the glen

The blood coursing wildly through our veins

As Morrisseys lurcher

Swept them up from behind – again

The place where Mass was said

And Politics pled

On Sunday mornings

Outside churches

While inside, the sermon was read;

The little man was important then

And favours done or causes won

Were little enough

To cause much concern to anyone

Not any more

Now that the greedy guts hold all the floor

And all you hear is rampant cheers

And raucous shouts for more

And more…

And more…

And more…
















It’s that time of year again

Blackberries everywhere;

Black fingers, black lips

And nobody seems to care.

We picked them as youngsters

Way back when;

My mother making some pin money

By collecting them for the Blackberry Man

Who called round once a week

In his big truck

And shovelled our offerings

Into his steel bin

As close-packed as they would go,

Dripping black water as he worked;

Mothers little trick of making them heavier

Than they should be

Was to add water to the barrel.

I see you were out picking them in the rain again, Mrs O’Brien

Was his only comment as he handed over her payment,

Here’s an extra half crown for your trouble.













The cows were in the fields again today,

Lowing softly

As they grazed their lives away.

What thoughts did they possess

As they chewed their grass so sweet;

Did they think about their comrades

That they did daily meet;

Or the colour of their skin

As they passed in the noonday sun;

With their patchwork blankets skin-tight

As they congo-ed past as one.

















Walking through an ancient woodland

Wildflower meadows glinting through the trees

Man and nature working together

The whistle of unseen songbirds drifting on the breeze.


Watery flatlands and Roman dykes

Juxtaposed with hydro-electric pumps

Stratiform precipitation falling from nimbostratus

Condensing into water droplets that look like rainy lumps.


Grey unchanging weather that doesn’t go anywhere fast

Two woodpeckers on a grass verge looking for ants

A kingfisher unzips the air

And a shrew lies dead by the river banks.


Worms brought to the surface by tapping rain

A sparrow hawk hunched in a leafless ash tree

While above a coven of goldfinches cause a riot – again.

An April walk through the sunshine and showers

Huge, creamy candles of horse chestnuts hang down

Still locked inside ripening green flowers


This is farmed arable land

But laymen have long lost interest

Where food come from anymore

Apart from what’s written on the packet inside the supermarket door

The rain falls on everything

Both the living and the dead

Walking has deepened my feeling for outside

This is my week of getting wet.


















God in his heaven never bettered this;

Never hit perfection more square-on.

Rugged cliffs lip the strand,

Opening to fields behind,

The Atlantic, white-layered,

Sweeping into the bay,

Its hurry washed-out

By the tug of sand, gently rising,

Before it.


A tangle of marram crowns the dunes,

Tousled, like windswept hair;

Whilst, on the slopes nearby,

A line of white cottages

Vie for prominence with the old church


Yet, it is the call of the waves

That steals most of the aces;

Those riderless white horses

Sweeping relentlessly in,

With their whispering lisps;

‘I love you, please don’t go,

I love you please don’t go’


And I, watching the ebb-tide dragging them back,

Silently mouthing in their wake;

‘She loves me, she loves me not,

She loves me, she loves me not…’














Nights when we were young

We raced the wind;

Banshees in our wake

Dracula lying in wait.


We had left him oozing blood

From the stake wedged in his chest

In the Rainbow Cinema.

But with vampires you could never tell


Hair slicked back, stiff with Brylcreem,

Newly perched on our Raleigh three-speeds

(with dynamo)

We explored the world,

Our winkle-pickers pointing the way.









I once knew a man

Who frightened crows for a living.

In between, he brewed cheap beer

And stole old books.

He cycled the universe

Looking for answers;

All he found was a cold grave

When he was thirty nine.










Who coaxed me screaming

Into the world in ‘46

When blizzards were raging.

(Or was it me?)

Who carried turkeys in her shopping bags

Suspended on the handlebars of her bicycle

(going to see the turkey cock)


Who picked blackberries with purple hands

And topped the full barrels with water

To increase her payment from the blackberry buyer

(her pocket money she called it)


Who ate dilisk on June Sundays in Bonmahon Strand

And washed her feet in the foamy salt water near at hand

Who grew fat when I was ten

And was bed-ridden till grandma came;

Then the doctor gave her something

That made her thin again







Footprints on sand are washed clean

Nature’s way.

Likewise those on grass

Never intend to stay.

The fox, the rabbit, all creatures of the wild

Over hill and dale can pass;

Only humans heed the warning signs












I was weaned on country music

Rock-n-roll and poverty

Irish style.

Son, the priest said,

Put that guitar away

And get that hair cut right

And don’t play

‘I Can Get No Satisfaction’


It’s a sin to call yourselves

The Red Devils, he said,

And in his shadows

I could see mother nodding her head.

So we became The Royal Dukes,

Zig-zagging across Munster

And played ‘Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown’


This will not do, he roared,

Rattling his pulpit,

The youth of my parish,

Harbingers of the Devil’s music,

What is wrong with Frank Ifield?

Dead music, Father, I told him

And offered to debate it

But he wouldn’t listen.

So I emigrated.


My mum says you’re my dad
The words ripped through me
Like a chainsaw through soft timber
Then scattered like spindrift
Along the sea wall

Lean young people glistened in the sun[
**]While my heart pounded[
**]And the young boy,[
**]With shoulders rounded,[
**]Hurried along to keep up with his mum

It was true; I was his father,
Of a sort.
Ten years ago I was for sure;
Ten lifetimes since I
Had slammed the goodbye door.




**]Maybe it was a dream I once had
This part of Ireland with no lights on
A place where strangers
Looked over the border
With razor-blade eyes
Where tall trees swayed South
From one vast plantation
And bowler hatted drum-bangers
Stomped the streets like toy soldiers.

A game – perhaps that was it;[
**]Where the lowest common denominator[
**]Was religion…or the lack of it.





The picture house is full of it tonight;


See that old woman?

She has three carrier bags of it

To comfort her in her doorway.

Belfast Johnny has two bottles

Of it in his greatcoat pocket

And eight shiny photos of it

Bridging the gaps in his shoes.

The preacher ladles out doses of it

With hot soup. Georgie Best,

Rock-n-Roll, wedding vows,

They are all part of it.

The past follows you around:

Like a faithful old dog

It never leaves your side.




Autumn mornings are best;

The sun smiling low over the gasworks

Flighty leaves browning the common

Kites lark-high over the tree-tops

Coffee and a roll in the old rectory

And you by my side





When I was knee-high to a man

And fields were free

We picked mushrooms

On mornings such as this

Barbed wire, where it existed,

Was negotiable.

Now the Stalag-masters have returned

And fenced us out


Or is it in?







Woke up this morning

Barbered the lawn

And bathed in the scent

Of new-mown grass


There, said the Sun

Smiling on my efforts

Isn’t that better

Than sitting on your arse.









Now there’s a pastime for you;

Young enough not to know better

We taught ourselves how to,

And sometimes paid the price


We carved figures of eight

Figures of three and five too

While Hopper McGrath kicked a hole in the shallow end

With thumps from the heel of his shoe


But nature had the last laugh

And slid him into a clump of nettles

And the breath laughed from the rest of us

Like steam from the spouts of kettles


Cracked ice, grass-crunching like apple-munching

Shiver-me-timber dancing

The old farmer prancing

And helter-skelter

For the school-yard shelter


Nowadays skating on thin ice comes easy








Father always hummed at the milking

Pausing only to say ‘easy girl, easy there’

When a troublesome horse-fly struck


Sitting on his three-legged stool

His pail clamped between his thighs,

He caressed old Daisy’s belly with his head

And sometimes sank his fist into the wrist

When she lashed out


The sound of milk hitting the pail

Was like rain dancing on corrugated steel

He could hit one of those flies

At three paces with one long squirt.


Sometimes he practiced on me.























































Tom O’Brien is a native of Kilmacthomas Co Waterford Ireland, and is a full time writer, playwright and poet.

Performed plays include Money from America, Cricklewood Cowboys, On Raglan Road. Johnjo, Gorgeous Gaels, Brendan Behan’s Women Down Bottle Alley, No Blacks, No Dogs, No Poles, etc

Books include Letters To Mother and Other Dead Relatives, Cricklewood Cowboys, The Shiny Red Honda, The Missing Postman and Other Stories, etc


His first 2 collections of poetry ‘67’ & ‘67+’ are available online


All his books are available on [+ http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tom-OBrien/e/B0034OIGOQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1388083522&sr=1-2-ent+]

Website: http://gorgeousgael.com/






Tom has lived in Hastings UK since 2000.






Poems From The Boreen

Home was at the end of a long, winding boreen in County Waterford in rural Ireland; The Comeragh mountains were a few miles in one direction, the roaring Atlantic ocean a similar distance in the other. Between the devil and the deep blue sea you might say.! The boreen was potholed in winter and overgrown in summer, but it was home - and it possessed my young soul and my growing body.. I grew up there - and bits of me stayed there. In the hedges and furze bushes, in the groves and ploughed fields, in the streams and ponds. This chapbook is a tribute to that happy place of my youth.

  • ISBN: 9781311807694
  • Author: Tom O'Brien
  • Published: 2016-06-30 11:07:17
  • Words: 2350
Poems From The Boreen Poems From The Boreen