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Small world: Haiku on the way

30 November, 1999

Dermot O’Brien wrote this book of haikus while staying in a monastery in Wexford. The haikus capture ‘moments of awareness’ — moments of grace which act as a pointer to God. Below is a selection of the haikus taken from various chapters of the book.

 178 pp, Veritas, 2004. To purchase this book online, go to http://www.veritas.ie/.


1. The sun in the west
2. Hung with raindrops
3. An ember of truth
4. Against a blue sky
5. To the graveyard
6. Beyond all measure 


In an imperfect world, our consciousness of creation is not always as clear as it might be. One of the purposes of prayer is to enable us to become more aware of God, ourselves and our world. In a state of perfect awareness everything would be understood. Small World by Dermot O’Brien, a collection of short poems in haiku form, contains moments of this awareness.

Written by the author while residing at St Aidan’s Monastery in Ferns, Co. Wexford, the inspiration for the poems comes from the life of prayer in the monastery and the everyday life in the countryside surrounding the town of Ferns.

Small World will appeal to anyone who has ever had reason to struggle with their faith. Like stepping stones across a stream, the haiku offer a foot-hold in the flux of time, and a pointer to God, the ultimate reality.

The geese in the yard
suddenly alarmed somewhere
behind the clutter

The end of the year
a country boy made of straw
proclaims Hallow’een

Beyond a hedge row
beet tumbling into a truck
ready to move out

The rain on the roof
a welcome patter when all
within weatherproof

A basket of fruit
pumpkins, apples and nuts
placed among straw bales

For those out of doors
and without a home a prayer
to God to shield them

Of similar hue
the moon and cloud across the sky
towards November’s end

Equal before God
every human being all by
divine grace redeemed

Still to be cycling
when all the world goes by car
resurrects the past

To see the cup raised
for the fifteenth time in little
over a century

Fast down a steep hill
an old man finds again
the laughter of his youth

Those championship days
with all to play for the county
alive with colour

Sprinting onto a field
in the best of form ready
to take on the world

The balance deciding
over the times of grief joy
wins out in the end

Late in his career
he rises high to catch a ball
and put it over the bar

Gathering the fans
on All-Ireland day the stations
with train after train

The moon over Saul
on a clear night St Patrick
at home in heaven

The pearl among stars
his new found knowledge of God
on a cold hill-top

Beneath the bright stars
a boy on a hill sensing
the nearness of God

The prayer he had learnt
as a child at home exiled
now brings him to God

Growing so quickly
on a foreign hill Patrick
in the love of God

Rescued from the mud
to be placed high on a wall
he sees the whole world

Above the street-lights
of a small town the stars
shining in silence

After his escape
grown to maturity he hears
the call to return

The hills over hills
and then the distant mountains
vague in a spring haze

The undisturbed bank
of a country by-road bright
with yellow primroses

An abandoned house
the strawberry shrubs in April
continue to flower

Lying on its side
a pony in a spring field
enjoys the sun’s warmth

The trickle of streams
in the dips among the hills
all without a name

The flick of a tail
otherwise motionless horses
in a sun-lit field

Cut from the bank-side
the furze bushes in the stream
beginning to fade

The breeze in its mane
a pony lying on the grass
unwilling to stir

The swathe after swathe
until nothing stands save the
foxgloves by the ditch

The sound of a train
in late afternoon its time
to gather in the cows

A row of poplars
between meadows by the river
leaves singing in June

Milk in a bucket
the cream rising to the top
in the cool of the kitchen

One by one the cocks rise
the count of ten, twenty twenty-five
shaped against the rain

The dew on the fields
of early morning the tracks
the cows make to the shed

Walking between swathes
laid down in the sun the stems
of grass and wild flowers

Around the meadow
the horse-drawn wheel-rake sweeps
as if in a dream

As a fledgling bird
will cry from the same place
waiting on its mother

Swirling in the light
of a foggy evening smoke
from an unseen chimney

Trusting in providence
eternity over time life
in the care of God

In his name our names
becoming divine adopted
through love of a lamb

The still point of all
around which everything moves
is the love of God

The full gift of Christ
a place in heaven his life
the price that was paid

Name above all names
the Lord of all the person
of Christ born on earth

A night without stars
the country shrouded in fog
lights disembodied

The sleeves of yellow
the gorse among the saplings
of evergreen firs

The tips of fir-trees
aspiring to the heights lonely
under the passing clouds

The moss on a log
still damp after recent rain
sun and wind will dry

Gorse between the fields
on the uplands of Slieve Buí
rain clouds passing by

A mass on a rock
the mountains all around
the clouds overhead

A small meadow-brown
its wings outstretched on a leaf
painted cream markings

The narrowing track
leading out of the wood-land
grass along its centre

As yellow as gorse
the empty fertilizer bags
left in a wheat-field

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