Two poems by Richard O’Brien

National Moth Night

The story goes: I’m six or so and stamping
on endangered moths, to your embarrassment
and the shock of members of the Wildlife Watch.
Before or afterwards we stayed up late for badgers,
and you picked me up from parties where I drank
too much and kept you up past twelve, with work at nine.
It’s different now – the dogs forget my name,
and sheets are changed, and furniture gets rearranged
without my knowledge. Now I wake up late,
skip breakfast, never call, and when you visit
all the mugs are stained and you swear you can see my bones.
And I am still a passenger, hungover, overdrawn,
winding the window down and talking in abbreviations.
Only sometimes do I know how much you carry me.
You steer, and let me talk at last about the six months
sieved through a butterfly net, and the engine chokes
at a roundabout; the seatbelt presses down my chest
like a walking boot on a white gauze sheet.
We’re changing gear. I always did forget.
…and other games of physical skill

Two years and nearly seven months
is long enough to play Kerplunk

and after all the switching seats,

the breaks we took to sleep and eat

and make-believe
our hearts were in Monopoly,

I wasn’t even there to see

the marbles fall.
And after all

there is an after all. These straws

are not my business, not any more,

and if they were I’d only pay
in paper money anyway.

It’s not a game designed for three –

you worked it out and so did he
and now it’s clicking into place for me.

I always thought I’d hear the sound

of thirty months all tumbling down

at once – but silently, by nods and taps
is how you made the earth collapse.

And what surprises me the most

is that I hardly felt the coastline

crumble under me. I lose. He wins.
We’re adults now. It’s no big thing.

Two years and nearly seven months

is long enough to play Kerplunk,

and when the second round begins
I won’t pick up what’s left of him.
(both poems from your own devices)
Richard O’Brien was a Foyle Young Poet of the Year. His work has since featured in The Salt Anthology of Younger Poets, Poetry London, and is forthcoming in Best British Poetry 2013. His debut pamphlet, your own devices, appeared in 2009 from tall-lighthouse , and he runs the scallop shell, a blog close-reading contemporary poetry. His second pamphlet is forthcoming this autumn from Dead Ink/Valley Press.