Poems by Jean O'Brien
I look back at captured images
of black and white days,
before Polaroid and Kodak colour,
before camera phones and Selfie Sticks.
Back to when you had to stand quiet and still
until the shutter clicked and then wait impatiently
for the pill-bottle sized orange roll
to be returned from the Chemist's darkroom.
There they preformed an alchemy of transmuting
the cipher cylinder into the silver of picture prints
on glossy paper sealing the special moments.
No retakes, no pressing discard -
take what you are given.
Years later I forget who stood behind
the lens, who zeroed in on my young self,
standing shoulders squared on a boulder
while two friends lolled, indolent in the sun,
blue sea stretching out behind us.
Nothing now to hint at what was developing
beyond the horizon that divided my life into before
No portal through to see what the shutter
was closing on just out of frame.
No way past that adamantine rock we stood on
the fine June day that Mother died.
Girl On Fire
I turned to warm my back against our old
New World Gas Cooker unaware of a jet
lit low. Didn't see the slow blue flame
catch my cardigan and quietly ignite,
singe-snaking glissando up the wool 'til it caught
my long hair and started to frizz and fizzle.
I heard its hungry crackle and cried,
I'm on fire.
Now I could see violet light flaring,
a bright ball of St. Elmo's glow,
reflected in the window a misplaced plasma halo,
I stilled my rising panic; sought to regain my bearing
while my doughty father beat the flames
bare handed. His scorched fingers drawing fire.
Jean O'Brien's fifth collection her New & Selected Fish on a Bicycle was published in Autumn 2016.
She is a prize winning poet and holds an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland where she tutors in creative writing.