JEAN O’BRIEN Reads a New Poem, “Rupture,” Along With Two Others

This week Trasna is pleased to feature a new poem by Jean O’Brien, “Rupture,” and present two other readings. Jean is an award-winning poet residing in Dublin. She was a founding member of the celebrated Dublin Writers’ Workshop, and has taught in numerous other creative writing programs.

She is the author of five books of poetry: The Shadow Keeper (1997); Dangerous Dresser (2005); Lovely Legs (2009); Merman (2012), and her most recent collection, Fish On A Bicycle, New & Selected Poems.

Her work explores the personal, historical, and contemporary. Collectively, these poems are a reminder that objects can speak to us in ways deeper than language; that history, no matter how ancient, lives with us still; and that poetry, that most beautiful language, can reveal our greatest sins, our foulest deeds: “I am here amongst/ the sticks and stones, swaddled in dirty words.”



Blue Bobbin


Its dull case an ornament

in the corner, its use almost

forgotten. someone has taken

the table of the Singer Sewing

machine, once everyone had one.

If you lifted it out you could turn

the handle instead of footing

the treadle. Gone, along

with the table is the drawer

that held bobbins, my delight,

as a child sifting the

spools of rainbow thread.


When my mother sewed

she favoured the blue bobbin.

All our curtains, whatever the colour,

were backed with blue stitches.

I helped her thread the needle

through a maze of eyes and hooks

down to where the thread vanished

into a small silver box.

Like a magician pulling an endless

stream of hankies from his sleeve;

it conjured another thread

and together, they and we,

formed the stitch.


At night when mother was busy

I used to slide the lid on the silver

chamber to see if I could figure out its trick.

I only saw the small half-moon lever

moving back and over

and like a hidden slice of sky,

the edge of a blue bobbin peeping out.


Jean O’Brien, Merman, Salmon Publishing



Broken Syntax

(Jospephine Staunton died in 1952 at 2 days old in the Tuam Mother & Baby Home)


I knew breath and air and for a brief spell

the smell of sunshine on my mother’s hair,

knew her lips when she kissed my fontanelle,

my bone diamond.


When the syntax broke, the language of me

fractured, I was wordless, airless, buried

with hundreds of others, small broken birds,

little Bastards.


Blue of sky fixed in my eyes when my moon

and sun went from me. I am here amongst

the sticks and stones, swaddled in dirty words

that did hurt me.


Jean O’Brien  (RTÉ Sunday Miscellany & Merman, Salmon Publishing)





At first we shy away from the fallen tree

its huge span of root mass exposed,

then gather courage and move closer,

drawn as if by a magnetic field

despite ourselves curious to view

its inner workings, its maze of connections.

Usually we only see trees rise skywards from

the earth, growing always towards sunlight

and forget how, at the same time

they throw out searching roots,

that burrow deep and deeper still.

Some say the *Thuata Dé Dannan

use these erupted places, these pockets

of splintered shadows as portals

from the underworld.

We learn now in these strange days

that anything is possible. The tribe

of the godess and gods seem to rise

like plasma from the ruptured earth.

Their other worldly voices sound like

the soughing of branches, or rustle

of leaves. We cannot see them though

they cloak the very air about us

offering a sheltering place,

a crucible where we can catch

our collective ragged breath.


* It is said that the Thuata Dé Danna promised to return from

the underworld to help Ireland in a time of great need.

Some say that they represent an empowering aspect or our psyche.


Jean O’Brien Unpublished (2020)


Jean O’Brien has five collections of poetry, her latest being her New & Selected, Fish on a Bicycle (Salmon Poetry 2016 reprint 2018) and is working on her next one. She is a prize winning poet having won, amongst others, The Arvon International and the Fish International and has been HC in the Forward Prize and RU in Voices of War (UCD). Her work appears regularly in magazines, journals and anthologies. She is currently taking part in the former UK Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy’s on-line Covid Diary in conjunction with Manchester University (UK) called Write Where We Are Now. She took part in Epic Museum’s Poetry Juke Box Series and World Food Day, (2019). Her poem Child, about the scandal of the Irish Mother and Baby homes, was chosen by Poetry Ireland as one of their Poems on the Dart (Rail Transport) (2019). She holds an M.Phil. in creative writing/poetry from Trinity College Dublin and tutors in same. For more about Jean and her work, please visit her web page at:

2 Responses to JEAN O’BRIEN Reads a New Poem, “Rupture,” Along With Two Others

  1. Jeannie Judge says:

    How insightful of Jean O’Brien to embrace three aspects of memory in her selections for Trasna this morning! “Blue Bobbin” offers the child’s connection of the treasured bobbin to the magic of the sewing machine. “Broken Syntax” gives voice to baby Josephine and her tragically brief sense of life. It is the sad thread of Ireland’s past when “broken birds” were labeled “little Bastards” and consigned in death to a heap of sticks and stones. Painful and sad!
    On the other hand, “Rupture” looks to ancient memory for hope in this broken time when our very roots are overturned. We summon the spirits of the underworld, the Tuatha De Dannon, to “restore our ragged breath.”
    I love these concepts–of memory–that please, chide, and sustain human life.
    Thank you, Jean.

  2. Eileen Acheson says:

    Jean I love the way Rapture reaches to ancient wisdom to come to our aid in current crisis and I will reach to your poem often in the times ahead.🙏

    Broken Syntax created ‘ a brief spell ‘
    ‘the smell of sunshine ‘ soothing and then the line of truth


    I endeavoured to purchase a Singer Sewing Machine recently but they were all sold out.I will prevail and when I find one perhaps I too will back my cushions, whatever the colour, in blue.
    Beautiful selection of your poems.