Stephen Glennon is a journalist with the Connacht & City Tribunes. With 25 years’ experience, he has also contributed items to other provincial and national newspapers, numerous radio stations and to RTE. His first book, ‘To Win Just Once’, charting the success story of Galway senior ladies footballers’ one and only All-Ireland triumph, was published in 2004. He is currently a student on the MA in Writing programme at NUIG.

A Thorny Briar’s Lament       

By Stephen Glennon

Sometimes, more often than not, I feel a million miles from home. Those are the days when I grieve for the loss of my youth, that time of childhood gaiety, a life without anxieties or worry. A life without the tyrant’s spell imprisoning me in this dark place.

That, sadly, was a lifetime ago, and in another life, one before my consciousness was transported out of mind and outline. For today, these days, in my reincarnated self, I am a wild garden briar. Yes, a briar I am; a briar I have become.

And in my reincarnated self, I lie strewn across a flower bed the width of an average two-storey country dwelling; the rockery a colourful landscape of flowers and shrubs, mulch and stone, a Utopia of sorts, touching lips with vast neatly trimmed lawn.

My place though is to be the unwanted, the character villain who threatens to choke the allure and charm out of this habitat. To form alliances with the insects and the rodents and to serve as a long, fanged, snake-like wraith in the undergrowth. There are times, I would rather not.

Of late, I have been thinking of this, that now, I, the briar, being a fully conscious being, miraculously endowed with the consciousness of my former self, can articulate these contemplations regarding my position in this world.

Yes, it is uncomfortable, being a briar. As a sentient life, I feel claustrophobic in this vessel; as if I am the active mind in the frame of a coma patient, except, I am cognisant. I am animated . . . albeit, ever so slightly . . . and I can move . . . admittedly, ever so slowly . . . but deliberately.

So, along with the worms, I stretch, and wriggle, and nudge my way up through the soil and over the soil – spearing the layer of compost and the dawn dew. My thorns break the surface like a great white’s fin slitting the horizon of an ocean, carrying all the menace of destruction to anyone or anything that should cross this path.

I don’t mean to stifle life but I am a briar, an elongated, thorny fellow, and this is in my nature and so I must, and so I do.

I don’t mean to snare them unawares, these magnificent, glorious flowers – these baby blue Star of Bethlehems and these scented royal carpet sweet alyssums – but so, I do.

I don’t mean to evoke and invite the frustrated anger of the gardener, who, granted, only sporadically tends to this plot, but so, I do.

He comes, he vents, he cuts, I cut, but he never gets to the root of me. So, he leaves me to grOW, time after time, after time. Growth. Growth implies something positive. Of life being generated and cultivated. Of development and renewal. Of something beautiful.

Yet, I am not beautiful. I am prickly and problematic. So, instead of the word grOW, let’s just say I e x p a n d and scar and devour the beauty of this terrain and this cycle continues over, and over, and over. Again, and again, and again. Year, after year, after year.

For this is the uncouth dance of my reincarnated life among the flowers and scrubs, a function I may be destined to fulfil forever, albeit I know nothing lasts forever.

It is my distinctive role to be the tormentor of beauty. To suffocate the splendour, glory and harmony out of this little corner of the world. There is no providence at work here. Just instinct. I am a being possessed, not by evil but by an inherent illness that may have been handed down from briar to briar, all of which reside in thicket yonder, not far from where this germinated seed fell and impregnated this unsuspecting loam.

Yet, there is compassion in me – I feel it – but it is, I fear, a struggle against nature. My struggle against my nature. Not all briars endure such inner turmoil, I would imagine. It would seem, though, I am a briar with a conscience. A briar who only feels guilt, shame and an innate disgust of my inglorious and grotesque self.

Kill the root, I say. And do not mourn me. Rip out the very heart of me; take me from the soil I share with these more resplendent things and consign me to dust. I am not worthy of this place. I pollute this environment. Kill me. Kill me now.

And, if so inclined, allow me to return – if I am to return – as something content and beautiful. Maybe not an exquisite flower or regal scrub left at the mercy of an old briar like me but, perhaps, one of those horse chestnut trees my conscious self had the joy of playing with in those childhood days in my former life. Tall, majestic and serene, more importantly, this grand tree, as I recall, was unashamedly proud of its true nature to be stunning and to dominate the striking country landscape. Alive with the wonders of this earth, it teemed with life – of the bud, of the rooks, of the squirrels and of children, climbing, swinging, jumping, playing and laughing.

Young hearts forever carefree, at peace and at home.

For The Galway Review 7, (Printed Edition)