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Martha O'Brien Nov 2017
The water in the paddling pool turns cold.
Mugs of coca-cola on the grass,
a skipping rope and cards.
Mum grabs a jacket, Dad has a blanket around his
knees and says, get your own, then laughs,
hugs you close. The edge of a chill rears its head
while cold lemonade slides smoothly down,
slow, between waves of laughter.
Calls for more crisps, ice for the cider.
You lean back in your seat, sleepy from
the sweetest evening, a book rested in your lap.

The evening will end. You know that.
You know it, but don’t feel it at all.
Martha O'Brien May 2017
At seventeen I swore I’d never change,
this promise broken time and again-
the longer my hair falls out of my head
and the more I move and grow and
ebb and flow, can’t I be something a little more
Snap me back like a piece of elastic.
Pierced ears are something more than
a framed photo of defiance because
I won’t let these holes close up but
sometimes I wonder
if you’ve just moved to another part of the country.
Would you recognise me, if you saw me?
Martha O'Brien May 2017
The next book is opened and the dots joined
and meanwhile I sip my tea.
Fingers trace patterns in a fogged window;
teeth marks in chocolate that tastes like yesterday.
Meanwhile a fire crackles
and a jumper warms and a light shines
while rain soaks and ice freezes
and meanwhile,
someone else is little.
Someone else is breaking open at the edges
I stand on the edge of everything in my head
and at the same time I’m wrapped up tight,
meanwhile your favourite song plays
just as you pull up into the drive.

Stay a little. Let the battery die.
Martha O'Brien Dec 2016
The sounds that circle my head are cluttered.
Somehow still always frightening, the way
they flash and scream like thunder,
storm like winter, surge like warfare fighting
to be heard above each other, the voices
that circle relentlessly, cold and lingering.
Trumpet full-blast, bassline
vibrating, floorboards shaking, ears
popping amongst this scream of fears,
engines whirring, earthquakes and
volcanoes and eruptions ever-deafening-
except here.
Except now.
With you, the volume’s turned down.
Martha O'Brien Dec 2016
Softer than cotton, standing on the toilet seat
laughing as I touch your bald head.
Hot, prickled by the razor’s touch, you rub
your stubbled cheek on my tiny face,
I squeal - missing baby teeth on show.
Lifted down and warmed up, pyjamas on and teeth brushed,
a bedtime story and guesses at what will happen next.
Tucked in and lights off, I am blind to your eyes, their tiredness,
the nights after you’ve worked through the day,
ready to come home and drink lemonade
or hot chocolate, made in the pan,
sipping sweetness and sleeping without worry.
The night shift is always on, between fixing machines
and bedtime prayers at little feet.
Warmer than summer. Smooth as velvet.
Softer than cotton.
Martha O'Brien Dec 2016
Last Winter.
Coldest when its bitter letters
stuttered on the lips of the sender.
Someone told us that love
was the only thing that’d ever be enough.
The first and the last thing to feel.
I remember it’s moans that never came from wind
the snow that never arrived
the frost that hurt my fingertips, resting feet in someone else’s shoes.
The winter that we only just made it through
by the skin of our teeth, slid in through the doors-
I’m recalling this all wrong.
Last winter was a storm that didn’t end
and unravelled around us, a perverse blanket
that was never asked for.
We never asked last winter to come.
Martha O'Brien Nov 2016
I’ll sleep tomorrow, or the next day, maybe.
Give me a call when the time’s done ticking-
ring me up when our food is done.
I’m clawing away at whatever’s left,
the edges of the wallpaper stay stuck
to the paste I dared stick my hand in-
I’m stuck here too.
Somewhere in between the foundation and the decoration
is me, somewhere else,
glued, layers weighing me down.
I’m lying awake,
with a headache, laughing,
because there’s nothing else to do.
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