Ray Givans

The Smiling Man

Ray Givans

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He’s in a bear suit, below a yellow ochre sky,

inured to the winds’ crossfire.

He’s up and running. (4.3 miles, on average, match nights.)


He takes lolloping strides, waves his paws back and forth,

mirroring the supporters in the stands,

listens to both friendly banter and swearing. 


He’ll pose for photographs with fans,

but refuses to be taken with the bear head removed.

Outside the suit he is another man.

Weekdays, he’s behind the counter

of his hardware store. His exertions in the workshop 

have left his fingers like clawhammers. 


He’s happiest alone, swishing leaves

in the grounds of Stormont, or at home

playing on his PC, Football Manager 2014.


And when his lung collapsed - it was touch and go - 

not many from the club brought him grapes. 

Another bear-suited man took over, but

few noticed that signature moves were missing.

Even so, the retiree’s lips are dry on Saturday afternoons,

as he anticipates the blow of the whistle, the roar.

Ray Givans

Ray Givans has been published in five poetry pamphlets. His first full poetry collection, Tolstoy in Love, was published in 2009 by Dedalus Press, and was shortlisted for the Strong award for best first collection by an Irish poet for that year. His most recent collection, The Innermost Room was published by Salzburg Poetry Press, at the University of Salzburg.