niall o’connor


The Walled Garden

Within these garden walls,
the god child works
scattering star seed
sowing ranks and files,
birthing lines of ideas.
They are like children,
and love to dance,
they laugh and compete,
every time he passes their way. 

Within these red brick walls,
a world  of peace,
where death and birth are often planned,
where seasons are challenged
by colour from exotic lands,
where birds and bees
and creepy-crawly things
work happily together.

Behind locked gates, and wall blocked view
he finds a universe waiting,
where a robin companion tidies,
and worms make the compost,
and bees share honey
earned from flowers that he grows,
and in the darkest night,
when everything is still,
as soft as a sigh,
he smiles at the scattered seed shining bright,
overhead, in his garden walled, starry night.


Touch screen world

Here I sit
iPod in hand
fluxed between erasure and immortality,
and I opt for nothingness
as the preferable outcome.

I want no part of this journey’s
its egocentric manipulation
its lack of consciousness
its untruth.

I have often rejected my own humanity
because of the inhumanity of others,
the miniscule purpose of my being
– if any –
being incomprehensible.

I watch others
as they touch screens
and through sleight of hand
manipulate their own reflection,
gain a small comfort
by touching,
and remaining



The narrow strip of grass
banding the silver rail
became my place to grow,
that summer.
Painting and cutting grass,
passing up and down
the avenue
by the monkey puzzle, ‑ we met
in height when I was twelve.

Since then it has climbed on,
its life is measured in rings, not years,
mine measured in laughter and tears.

I went hunting for the salmon of knowledge
a burnt finger
a bursting blister
oral self gratification / healing
leading to self knowledge
awareness that I too taste as meat.

I put my hand to my head
and feel flesh melting away,
thinning out with age and rage,
emptying a skull that was never
quiet full enough.
I return to the tree skeletal structure,
before re-assimilation.


The Illegal Immigrant

Twelve steam irons, and a thousand business cards
— if you ever felt the need to count them —
and we didn’t.
Free newspapers folded neatly, never bought, never read,
a bus stop complete with pole
and all manner of warning signs about
men at work, and naked flames, and live
electricity, and gaping holes.

Filed inside the folded mattress,
the identities of young girls and men,
eyes soulful, putting their hopes
in the hands of anyone who would hold this photograph,
take them to a new life in an unknown island,
that must be like Britain or America, only smaller.

Their lives arrived before them, and were
filed away in a damp and dark ground floor flat,
where the curtains never opened,
and where they still lie, 
musty and mouldy,
but still hopeful.

Thirty suits that have seen the glamour of NGO land,
and the embassies of the world, where
a fairy world exists above the harsh bureaucracy,
and needs acolytes of its own
to maintain the apparent gentility;
embassies that embrace with a Moi! Moi!
but no real affection.

Plastic, childless scrotum filled with coin,
hidden everywhere,
but never retrieved,
every letter, every mention of his name
piled and buried, folded
and pressed down by the weight of the years passing,
and superficial encounters,
love letters entombed in this flat
that has now become a crypt,
and where he still hopes for immortality
while breathing out his last gasps.

Thirty years of refusing to return home,
thirty year of refusing to make home,
thirty years, and a life held in such secrecy
that it was flittered away in its neglect,
— no respite in prayer.

Oh Holy Mary, Mother of God! 
The Bible, The Koran, the Tarot cards
and the psychic healing;
all refuges of a man who had no home,
not even within himself,
—  a shadowman.



The water of life is stilled
and I watch
as in slow motion
the falling eyelashes of snow
whisper me towards sleep

each and every fractal variation
yet unstained
by hormonal recreation

life is the messy one.

From orifices that weep, and secrete
and defecate,
weaved between soiled and tangled sheets,
in oyster stains drawn by semen filled sacks,
we find little deaths:
preambles in the dark.

all men, and beasts,
and sentient things
fear death’s embrace
whether it comes gently,
or without warning

because death reorganises, recycles
base elements once more
in concert.


Independence Square

In Tiananmen, in Cairo, in Kiev
the living are incited to cry:
You have gone too far!
Our bleeding bodies can bear no more,
the long buried are drawn from their graves.

The grand squares, the open spaces,
stamped by government decree,
overlooked by commerce, monument and media;
the last of the great imperial statements,
laid out on the powdered bones of the displaced,
buried, forgotten, but now risen once more.

Here we repossess our lives by dying if necessary.
Here we reinvigorate our unborn by blood let sacrifice.
Here we stand for freedom,
and offer you a stone for a stone,
a brick for a brick,
a bullet for a bullet.

Behind high piled barricades of detritus
we learn tactics by observation,
reluctantly surrendering humanity,
so you can rediscover yours.



A bell tolls this Friday morning
signals an empty space
to all those souls
who have not yet been hollowed out.

Bereaved and deserted
I wait,
knowing I will not witness
my own sounding.

Happy is Death, because it is absolute,
just as forgetful, as life is unforgiving.

I was born and learned to live this cycle,
learned to leave – always leaving –
the past regnant over present
and the yet to be revealed,
an unconscious and random beginning,
wheeling reluctantly
to an arbitrary end.



A beetle is a fearsome creature
scaled up,
scaled down he is a crunch
beneath my careless step
a crushed lie lightening
searing through foot and flesh
a guilted splinter
lodged forever near my heart.

A human being is a wonderous thing
scaled up it is a destroyer of worlds,
a creator of heavens,
scaled down it turns on itself
and destroys both self and friends.


After the Funeral

After the funeral we gathered
four full-bodied men;
once a clutch of speckled purpose,
now dulled and awkward with grief.

We toe the line that is the parents’ death,
and notice with embarrassment,
the scuffed toe cap,
side by side
with the brand new shoe.

This is a time for disentanglement,
and each drawer is trawled,
each picture scanned
for memories to be shared.

We look for clues as
to why an object was cherished
so long, — why an after image
can represent a life.

In the attic I find my treasure tin:
a horse made of clip-clops,
a ball of stringed ideas,
a soldier stiff backed, with no fear,
a car of squeals and vrooms,
the forgotten pet beetle now hollow,
the conker with a chestnut tree
still inside,
the butterfly painter of meadow’s flowers, pinned,
and the skipping stone, still waiting for the next attempt.

All these things that held my life suspended
since the lid was last pressed down
now have the strange familiarity,
and distance,
of an overheard conversation.



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