Gerard Smyth

Wasps, Picnic in the Pines & The War Films

Gerard Smyth

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They were homeward bound but fell on the way,

the summer wasps that are dying or dead

on the grass, the path, the window ledge.

They quickened their wayward dance

and their hunt for summer’s

last taste of sweetness.

Unperturbed by the sway of the branches

they have eaten the fruit of the tree in the yard,

gorged on the juice of the bad apple

that is like a withering heart.

Picnic in the Pines

In memory of Peter Keating

A summer Sunday and the mercury rises.

You, the carefree Dubliner

get behind the wheel and drive –

to take us to our picnic in the Pines.

But you take us further with your tales

of a seaman’s journey,

mentioning every port-of-call,

every ocean you crossed.

And after those voyages to see the world,

just as the space age was about to change

the tempo of our lives, you returned,

set up your stall, put on the grocer’s smile

and the grave expression

that customers wanted

along with their bags of sugar,

their tea and butter, and morning scone.

You the carefree Dubliner, 

standing tall – at ease with pauper and politician

with whom you talked about the time

when streets were safe and the mountainside 

provided fuel for the fires of Francis Street –

your own El Paso

where you took me to my first shoot-out,

a cowboy flick in the red  house.

The War Films

Watching the war films I learned the names

of the boroughs of London.

Then coming out of the darkness

of the afternoon cinema I was light-headed

after scenes from the Blitz:

the mid-century apocalypse that was going on

while they danced at the Ritz,

strolled in Hyde Park,

lay asleep in the breezes

of the underground shelters.

To a bellowing soundtrack

blond pilots in their Leviathans gatecrashed 

the skies, passing through the forest

of searchlights that lit up the blackout

as if it was carnival time.

While leaden wings haunted the wartime nights,

down in the tunnels Londoners

tightened their coats and joined in the chorus

of songs to keep their spirits up,

until skies cleared, lights came on again.

Gerard Smyth

Gerard Smyth is a poet, critic and journalist whose poetry has appeared widely in journals in Ireland, Britain and the United States as well as in translation in several languages including Italian, Romanian, French, German, Ukrainian, Spanish and Hungarian.  He has published eight collections of poetry, including, A Song of Elsewhere ( Dedalus Press 2015), and The Fullness of Time: New and Selected Poems ( Dedalus Press, 2010 ). He was the 2012 recipient of the O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award presented by the University of St Thomas in Minnesota and is co-editor, with Pat Boran, of If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song ( Dedalus Press ) which was Dublin’s One City One Book in 2013. He is a member of Aosdána.