Orla O’ Brien – Three Poems

Orla O’ Brien is an avid reader and she enjoys reading all types of genres. Her passion for reading blossomed when she was working in Chapters bookshop in Dublin many moons ago.

She is a member of Naas Creative Writers’ group. Their first anthology Cuisle Chill Dara: The Heartbeat of Kildare was published November 2019. She has been shortlisted for June Fest 2020 and longlisted for the Michael Mullan Writing competition 2021.

Lost for Words

Every step to my destination seems forever,
My heart is palpitating,
And I’m sweating profusely,
My nerves can’t be squashed or smoothed over,
Anxiety pricks at my confidence,
Like thorns on a wild rose,
Dread develops into doubt,
Like a creepy stalker,
That hovers over my nervous system.
Eking out every shred of doubt,
Catastrophising over everything,
That could go wrong.
Words choking in my throat,
Exiting me stuttering and mumbling,
Perhaps there will be an onslaught of Tourette’s,
Spewing and spilling words,
that not have been processed,
Before they leave my mouth,

What will happen if no words come out at all?
Like a race horse that’s being trained for months,
Many pinning their hopes on him winning,
A shiny cup that comes with platitudes,
But fails to jump at the first fence,
Invested hopes that see my potential,
That I lack to see in myself.
I could practice a hundred times,
But the jitters still dance in my cells.
Why did I agree to do this?
Is it worth the strife?
Personal development they said,
More like a visit to a torture chamber,
I sit rigid as I wait for my name to be called out,
The others before me give a flawless performance,
When the time of doom is reached,
I sheepishly leave my chair,
Clearing my throat,
Striding forward I try to walk nonchalantly,
But I can sense all the eyes in the room on me,
I clutch the podium,
And face my ultimate fear, public speaking.


Refugee status,
Limbo land.
Caught between purgatory and hell,
Purgatory being taking a risk running away and seeking asylum,
Hell being stuck in this contaminated camp,
for God knows how long,
Tormented with thoughts should I stay or go?
It addles my head.
I can’t think clearly when two toddlers wail,
And are close to malnutrition,
It’s not just me,
I have to think of them.

I must stay in the moment
And try not to worry about all my dear ones,
who were separated when we all ran for our lives,
as our village burned to dust.
My wife, my young son and devoting mother,
are distant memories now,
I must stay strong.
But for how long?
A man caged up in a dirty compound,
does a lot to his dignity and state of mind,
Living like pigs and treated like dogs.
Barbed wire surrounds us,
they herd us like beasts,
We are stifling close to being on top of each other,
Xenophobia vibes seep in from the fringes of the camp,
Confirmed and controlled by yobs with rifles.

With no proper sanitation,
There is a smell so foul even the vultures stay clear,
The tent flaps at night,
Swirling dust settles,
And despite the cool breeze,
I get no respite.
I can’t surrender to sleep,
What will tomorrow bring?
Perhaps another way of cooking rice to make it a bit more edible?
Another hot sticky day baking in the sun?

It doesn’t matter I have qualifications,
We have all been stripped of humanity,
Anyone boisterous gets beaten by a stick,
And marked rebellious.
We are not all criminals,
But World leaders are afraid some will filter through,
The message is clear nobody wants us on their doorstep,
Which is ironic as far as I can recall,
The Bible or Quran didn’t leave the earth in the hands of just a few.


I stand by the window and wonder,
Have we entered the age of the dreaded apocalypse?
Once feared it would happen when the sun burned out,
Human survival has begun to lapse,
This global pandemic has thwarted us all by fear,
When did the panic start?
We are not clear.
But now, in this moment,
Behind the net curtains,
It looks calm out there.

Hardly a speck of human activity,
The walked streets don’t look so worn,
Most are locked in their cages,
Trapped by mental anguish,
Phobias are beginning to surface.
It’s an ordeal for some,
To go beyond the front door.
I never thought this would happen to me,
Once fiercely independent and adventurous,
I hate to admit it,
Agoraphobia is suffocating my soul.

If I don’t leave the house today,
I’m not sure I ever will,
But food supplies are running low,
I need to weigh up my options,
But how can I trust others?
On past experiences when I did venture out,
Scavenging for morsels of food,
I’ve been pushed and shoved in supermarkets,
Dare I stop to look at best before labels,
Arms like an octopus come into my personal space,
To meander and snatch an item, that lies near.

Have these imbeciles not heard the news?
Don’t they know a two-metre distance is vital?
Am I in the minority of those following the rules?
I jump out of my skin when I hear a cough or a sneeze,
An eerie presence looms.
I’m not sure how we will get out of this quagmire,
And break free from the chains and phobias,
We impose on ourselves.

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