Poems by Gerard Smyth
O Teddy Boys Of Yesteryear
Each nicotine breath was a shock
and so were the swear words they tossed
to each other when they walked
from corner to corner swaggering their hips
in time to some inwardly-heard rhythms of jive.
After Friday night dinner soaked in vinegar
they licked their fingers,
zipped their leathers and combed their quiffs
in a style they saw at the matinee.
Elvis was their god
and so was James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause –
our neighbourhood misfits, our black sheep
with their velvet collars, frowns and smirks
and that sullen look that was a badge of honour.
Their belt buckles glittered,
in secret pockets they hid
switch-blades that left a nick
and when they raised their clenched fists
it meant trouble on the street.
The scars they were proud of they carried through life.
The Day Jim Reeves Died
The day Jim Reeves died
I was haymaking in a long meadow in Meath.
Jim Reeves was never my kind of idol:
a voice too soft at the edges,
but I knew his death left a hole in country music,
a sorrow on the prairie.
There were tears in Texas, the rodeo was cancelled.
Strong men cried in Nashville and Kells,
west of the Shannon and on the banks of the Ganges.
Road-menders stopped filling the holes in the roads
and tea water turned into vapour
in kettles left unattended.
At the end of the day radio DJs abandoned
their playlists. That night we forgot
to close the gates, lock the henhouse.
Cattle strayed. The fox came.
Gerard Smyth is a poet, critic and journalist. He was born in Dublin where he still lives. His poetry has appeared widely in publications in Ireland, Britain and the United States, since the late 1960s, as well as in translation. His eighth collection, A Song of Elsewhere ( Dedalus Press ) was published in 2015. Previous collections include The Fullness of Time: New and Selected Poems ( Dedalus Press, 2010 ). He was the 2012 recipient of the O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award from the University of St Thomas in St Paul, Minnesota. He is co-editor, with Pat Boran, of If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song which was Dublin’s One City One Book in 2014. He is a member of Aosdana.