Shards in Desperance

By Ken Bruen

                      Jan 29th is PATRY FRANCIS DAY

Here be … grace under fire.

Battling with a serious health problem, she stands as a shining example of:
“She may have the illness but goddammit, the illness will never have her.”

Her debut novel, THE LIARS DIARY was and remains one of the highlights of the year.

She has true grit and heroism doesn’t always have to be writ in neon, sometimes it shines brightest from the most unassuming of people.

Her novel sits on my desk and her sheer spirit rests in my heart.

I’m not often associated with gratitude but today, I give thanks for a world that has such wondrous people as Patry in it.

For today, I hope she will know that she is deep and deepest cherished.


February is looming, dark and rapid. Here, that means the Feast of St Brigid, and I know, we have a Saint for most everything but St Brigid has her own cross.  You’re thinking

“Don’t we all.”

Like the drunk staring up the crucified Christ and muttering

“Any chance of me getting a turn up there?’

St Brigid’s cross is made of reeds, and beautifully interwoven and naturally, if you hang her cross in your home, the house will be blessed.

A close friend of mine from the UK moved here recently and rented a house near the ocean.

So, to keep things green if not downright Irish, I got hold of one of the very old St Brigid’s Crosses and gave it to her.

I ran into her a few weeks later and she glared at me. I went


She said her house had been broken into, all her valuable stuff taken. I felt it was more St Brigid’s fault than mine but am I going to lay it off on a Saint?

Me life has enough dark shadows without having a Saint pissed at me. I muttered some half-arsed apologies and commiserations. She let me run me course and then delivered her blow, hissed

“They took everything except that bloody cross!"

Had I an answer?


I could have told her the burglars must have been Irish as they’d never steal St Brigid.

That would be like … mi-adh … which is Irish for serious bad karma.

You can take it as gospel , to coin a phrase, that I won’t be sending any crosses to you guys in the near future.

My doctor friend was round yesterday and is one of the few remaining Irish people to still drink tea. Now that we’re prosperous, we’re into designer coffee and tea is rare and rarer.

You can’t fob him off with a tea bag, he wants the whole nine yards, the leaves and the tea pot heated, plus the cups, left warming on the stove.

He also likes scones with lashings of butter. He’s a doctor so am I going to mention cholesterol etc.

He wouldn’t listen

He’s the one who gives the advice and when I finally get the tea gig arranged, he sits back, asks

“So, what changes have you made for the new year?"

Apart from not handing out any more St Brigid crosses, there isn’t a whole lot of resolutions I’ve made. Before I can answer, he says

“Course in your case, change is not to be confused with improvement.”

He can bring his own damn scones next time.

Here are some lines I recently came across

The bluebird of happiness

Sits upon your shoulder

It used to be afraid of you

But now

The bird

Is getting bolder.

For some bizarre reason, I read these lines aloud to the Doc and he goes

“What do they mean?"

I think they’re self evident and say so.

He sighs and among my least favorite sounds is the sigh, especially when it’s directed at me, he rolls his eyes and I had thought that rolling your eyes was something they did in sitcoms.

I ask him

“You don’t like it?”

He gives me his medical look, the one they instill in training, it’s a blend of pity and artificial sympathy with just a tiny hint of impatience and he asks

“Can we expect that you’re now going to be happy?"

God forbid

True to my heritage, I answer a question with a question, go

“Would that be so startling?"

His mobile shrills and he answers then turns to me and says he has to go.

At the door, he leaves me with

“I think those scones were a tiny bit stale.”

I had a scathing reply to this but alas it didn’t occur to me till an hour after he left.

It’s that time of year I give my lecture in the college, twice a year I get to do this and it’s on my doctoral subject.

I get a real buzz from those occasions as it keeps me in touch with my teaching days and I get to stalk the podium, if not exactly like Rilke’s Panther, then at least with a certain amount of glee. The Head of The Department was going to cancel this year as the last time I gave the talk, it was mystery fans who turned up.

I’d been reading David Wolpe’s wondrous book, Floating takes Faith and trying to get my tongue around beautiful words like



Hayatzer hara

And a line that sings to me

“God” says the Kotzker, “Has plenty of angels. What God needs is some holy human beings.”

My priest friend is beguiled at my friendship with a Rabbi and my fascination with the Torah and tells me

“Every time I think I have you nailed down, you go off in a new direction.”

As a recovering catholic, I tell him

“The more I learn, the less I know.”

I am aware that will piss him off.

It does

He mutters

“No wonder you write such dark books.”

He’s a priest so I let him have the last word, call it my good deed for the day.

The ferocious winds continue to batter the city and when I wake this morning, no kidding, my gates have been blown clean off, I find part of one a few hundred yards down the road and the rest, is, if not … gone with the proverbial wind, then certainly headed towards America.

In truth, I’m not even thinking about gates or replacing them, my mind is focused on

Patry Francis.

My hand rests lightly on her novel, my heart sends out its warmest wish.


7 thoughts on “Shards in Desperance

  1. D.A. Davenport

    Though I have never met Patry I feel as if I know her now. I am sending my strongest and most healing thoughts to her and hope for a healthy and complete recovery.

    Thank you Ken, for this lovely portrait of a strong and brave woman. I hope to meet her in person one day.

  2. pari noskin taichert

    Bless Patry. Bring her health and strength.

    May her book become a quiet blockbuster.

    And, Ken,The wind blew here last night too. It rained and the drops froze on the sidewalks and streets. Snow covered it all, deceptively beautiful.

    I’m glad that bluebird is getting bolder in your life.

  3. JT Ellison

    And bless you, Ken. You and Patry remind me of each other — the quiet strength, the grace you give us, and the words… oh, the words. True poets, both of you.xo

  4. Catherine

    I’ve grown up listening to my parents telling each other, ‘you’re not just loved your cherished’.

    As a consequence I’ve sort of always thought that to be cherished was pretty high level.So to inspire,’For today, I hope she will know that she is deep and deepest cherished,’is more than enough to seek out,’The Liars Diary’ and add a strangers hopes of healing.

  5. Fran

    Bright blessings to Patry. When she came to the shop last March, it’s her smile I most remember, and it would be good to see that smile again.

    I’d take a St. Brigid cross from you any day, Ken. But maybe I get one, every time you write something. So thank you!


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