By Ken Bruen

One of my favourite photos …….. a long shot.

The tide is out on Grattan beach, a long way out.  The sun is bouncing off the barely visible sea. You can see two stick figures, clearly dancing

Like Zorba

The figures appear equidistant from the water and the photographer. My wife took that snap

We were happy then

Grace and I danced on the beach like seals. My daughter was six then and I can hear her laughter still

One of my perennial books is Hemingway’s, A Movable Feast

The Paris days

He writes how happy he and Mary were and he wrote, there was wood all around them and he never knocked on it, for luck

I’m sure there was lots of driftwood on the beach that day but it never occurred to me to touch it, my other daughter, gone 2 years now, and she wasn’t in the photo, she is always in me heart

I have a magnificent shot of my close friend, a poet, perched on a Harley Davidson in The Grand Canyon. He looks free, as if the good times were hovering all around him

Before the poems darkened and  before the funerals.

Before he took his life and it took me so long to forgive him, god forgive me for being angry so long

Another photo of Grace and I, looks like we’re wearing identical sweatshirts and it seems almost sepia in tone, we’re staring off to the right, in wonderment, as if something magical was at hand

Most of my friends remark on the spirituality of the picture and ask what on earth we were watching

Sesame Street

I have a photo of my Dad when he was in his thirties, it hangs above my desk, he looks nothing like me and I don’t know now how I feel about that.  His suit is circa George Raft and he had the mandatory cigarette of the times, his hair is black and shiny and what I love most is the expression in his eyes, reads
                            “Take your best shot.

When I visit his grave, and realize yet again that he is truly gone, I whisper

“You were able for the best."

He was

That Noel, my beloved brother, and my mother lie each side of him is mixed comfort.

And 2 months ago, I added me only gorgeous beloved sister to the plot, fookit, I could weep but us Irish guys, shite, we don’t weep, we talk about hurling and women we had………..

Jesus wept

Photos, all I know of heaven and hell

Somedays, I derive scant comfort therein and others, I can’t look at them at all

I carry a photo in my wallet that I never…………….ever look at, it’s there, I know but I’m adept at using my wallet frequently without ever seeing it. She is smiling in the picture and I must have been too though I forget now but I know she has an expression of such longing, such………..yearning in her eyes and I still wonder for what?

Now of course, I’ll never know

I should have asked

You think?

In my files the other day, a snap fell out of an old notebook, in the days when I thought I might be a poet, god bless my ignorance, and it shows me on top of the Twin Towers, dressed in my security uniform. I had a job minding the North tower, I was Nineteen and could barely mind myself and they thought I could mind The Towers. I don’t recognize that person, I know it’s me but it’s not anyone I know, not any more. That person has a face full of such hope and anticipation, and almost, happiness.

God in heaven, if only that poor soul had any notion  what was coming down the pike, he might

Well………… have jumped……………….. sometimes I wish he did……………..

jump that is

When my beloved brother Noel died, a vagrant alcoholic in The Australian Outback, we received his body home in a sealed casket

The night before the funeral mass, as the coffin lay in the church, I placed a large framed photo of Noel on the coffin, when he was in his prime, his smiling face fills the whole space

A week after the funeral, I ran into a friend of mine who asked

“Why did you use two photos of Noel?"


“On the Sunday, we thought it was great that your dad was standing behind Noel in the photo and then on Monday, at the mass, it was just Noel alone.”

I swore it was the one picture, I hadn’t touched it or used any other. He gave me an odd look and moved on

My Dad, in one of those awful ironies, had died a little over four weeks before Noel

Photos never lie

Do they?

The photo of my late sister, shows me giving her her first  puppy ………… Jaysus, I’m sounding like freaking Bobby Goldsboro and how the feck old am I if I remember


She has the most radiant smile you ever saw………………..

Her name was Jess and she was truly, one of the sweetest girls but life, life was too much for her

By an odd twist of  fate, I Heard Janis Ian recently………..singing, Jesse, come home……….maybe she’s home now

I had pledged to write a happy post this time and trust me, soon as I get it, happy, you’ll get the post

Only a few days ago, my late daughter’s husband sent me a photo of Aine on her wedding day

Am I going to look at that

Am I fook


16 thoughts on “Photos

  1. J.D. Rhoades

    You’ve had a rough time of it, my friend. It seems even more so the past couple of years. I hope things start getting easier soon. You’re in my thoughts. Best wishes.

  2. pari

    Too many we love, leave us. The finality of their deaths a constant ache only mitigated by flashes of joy remembered and lived in the present.

    My heart is with you, Ken.

    No need to write “happy.” Others in Murderati can take care of that.

    But, please, let yourself feel hope again . . . let it in.

  3. Alex Sokoloff

    I hate being photographed, and all photos make me uneasy.

    You’re not helping.

    Tasha is right – see above.

    We all need a VERY LARGE drink at Thrillerfest.

  4. Mike MacLean

    Again, you’ve put yourself out there, sprawled right on the page for everyone to see. Thanks for doing so. You’re a braver man than I am.

    I wish you some peace in the years ahead.

  5. toni mcgee causey

    Beyond the sadness and the tears, what struck me clear was how loved these people were by you–such a great love, with depth and ache and wrenching reality. There is a gift in that, that you have. It is never an easy one to live with, but it is a true gift and we–and they–are richer for it.


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