Forlorn Angels

By Ken Bruen

It’s lashing down with rain, sleet, wanna be-snow, and I’ve just left my daughter to school. She was laughing as I left her.

No better sound in the whole world.

I get home and the builders are here, knocking a wall that the local authorities have informed me has to go.

I make them coffee and Fintan, the leader of the crew, both hands wrapped around the steaming mug, wanders in to my study and goes

“Jesus wept, how many fookin books have you?’

A lot.

He asks

“Have you read them all?”

Jig time.

I want to tell the truth

“Some of them twice.”

But I go with

“Naw, they’re for show.”

He looks at the open laptop and is fascinated, says

“Is that the new book?"

I nod and he drains the coffee, comments

“You seem too ordinary to be a writer!”

I take this as the height of praise.

Fintan got me the very first dog I had in the new house, a collie, named Houston. And no, Charlie, this is not a shot at you, it’s in fact, admiration.

William James wrote that if you want to see spirituality, look into the eyes of a dog.

Houston was a pure bundle of affection.

I loved him to bits.

He caught that virus we had last year and it killed him.

Broke me heart in smithereens.

Even now, I put me key in the door, I expect to hear him come bounding to meet me.

I’ll never get another.

Their loss is too hard.

I’m listening to The Cowboy Junkies, the track, Misguided Angel, now there is a song to make you yearn, but for what?

It’s that time of year for Tax Returns, artists don’t pay tax in Ireland, and like an Irish joke, Def Leppard have lived here for 20 years purely because of that. I was granted the exemption after submitting my first novel, titled Funeral. But you still have to fill out the forms, see if you are liable for PRSI.

This goes towards your eventual pension.

I’m going through the various papers, singing along to The Junkies and out falls an old poem, the writing is barely legible.

I can hear the builder in the kitchen, making more coffee and he has expressed amazement that one cup is my limit. I’d easily drink a pot but my heart rebels.

The last few lines of this old poem go

… You breathe

The very content here

Towards where

Each future lilt

Will move me

Most of all

Will see you


… as yet

And then I remember vividly when I wrote it, I was living in Japan, smitten with a Japanese girl and dreaming impossible shite. I was top of my game with the teaching gig and truly enjoying it and of course, TEFL, depends completely on results and at that time, by all that’s Holy, I was on a streak, batting them out of the ballpark.

Time too when I believed that the world was not as it was, but as I saw it.

Mika, the Japanese girl was always giving me presents, it’s what they do and I had given her a Celtic Cross to wear around her neck. I was already preparing to leave, Saudi Arabia was paying top dollar for teachers and I had the years of experience they wanted.

Mika know I was catholic and was trying to understand the intricacies of it, I had told her, it’s simple

Shitload of guilt


Anything that is fun … is a sin

The night before I left, we were drinking hot Sake, and those babes go down smoother than a priest’s promise.

She gave me my going away present, beautifully wrapped.

I’d a nice buzz building and opened the package, an exquisite carved Dark Angel.

And she said

“Dark like you.”

She knew me better than I’d figured.

Later, in some rough times, I was standing on a bridge, and the dark angel held tight in my hands, I unclasped my fingers and the angel slowly fell into the torrent below, bubbled on the surface for a moment and then was swept away.

Rilke wrote

                   Each angel is terrible

I forgot about angels and yeah, alas, Mika too, and was packing me battered bag to move yet again, from India at that stage, and my mind was, if not cluttered, at least full of schemes. The bus to the airport was jammed and I was squeezed beside a very robust woman.

She got off first at the terminal and I saw on her seat, a black angel. I called after her, said

“You left this behind.”

She looked at it, shook her head.

I’m not saying the angel was returned to me …

Two years ago, I placed the black angel on the grave of my beloved Aine and a woman kneeling at the next grave, looked at it, said

“What a forlorn angel.”

I said nothing.

Back to now and the builder messing round in my kitchen, turned on the radio, it was an Abba tribute show and yup, here they came with

“I believe in angels.”

I went out to hear the words more clearly and asked the builder,

“You believe in angels?’

He gave me the look, scoffed

“Are you fookin codding me?’

A priest once told me, that angels walk among us.

I thought he was full of it.

Now, I see ordinary decent people with the most horrendous lives and yes, they are the one’s who walk among us.

Burdened, hurting, and in every kind of bad situation, the one thing you could never say is

“They are forlorn.”

I won’t be listening to the Junkies for a while again.

Fintan is preparing to leave and I’m reading the lines of Eramus

“It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is.”

Fintan’s picked up a book on my desk, The Devil’s Right Hand by our own Dusty Rhoades

and he asks

“Any good?’

I say it’s just mighty and he goes

“I don’t read fiction.”

I dunno about Dusty but I feel that is a crying shame.


8 thoughts on “Forlorn Angels

  1. Patrick Shawn Bagley


    Every time I read one of your posts, I think of a thousand things I want to say in response. None of it ever comes out right, so I’ve all but given up on commenting. I’ll just sit here in awe.

  2. pari

    I’ll focus on the angels, Ken. They are among us. Perhaps their magic isn’t supernatural, but truly the most ordinary and simple of all.

    Look to yourself.

  3. billie

    Love the reminder of the Cowboy Junkies and the Trinity Sessions. Misguided Angel is a favorite.

    And Rilke’s “ange noir.”

    Such a great post for a stark winter day.

  4. Michael Haskins

    Ken, angels play an inportant part in my novel, as does Padre Thomas, an Irish-born, Boston raised Jesuit. Dec Burke has a copy, maybe he’ll lone it to you. But yeah, I believe because a wanker like me doesn’t have the kind of luck I’ve had, it should’ve run out years ago, so angels have taken care of me.


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