Fiona Smith has had poetry published in Southword, Crannog, Hennessy New Irish Writing and the Templar Poetry anthology, Skein. She won the poetry section of the 2012 Over the Edge New Writer of the Year competition and was shortlisted for the Cork Literary Review Manuscript competition in 2013. She lives in County Cork
Different from home
It was different from home.
There was an atmosphere
Of light, warmth, iced buns, 7 Up.
The way the light fell on the carpet
In the backroom. A kindly voice
Coming from a radio left on.
There was a tea brack in the oven,
A piano that was kept in tune.
The plum tree along the high wall
In the garden always bore fruit.
From the back bedroom window
You could see the deaf boys’ school.
It was so different from home.
The flump of the dogs’ tails
Against the scratched door
that led into the breakfast room.
The books that I found
In the glass-fronted bookcase
In the hall were the books
I had always wanted to read.
At night, we raced each other
Up the stairs to open the curtains,
To look out at the double-deckers,
See the taxis stop at traffic lights.
There was a sweet shop on the road,
Swings and slides in the park,
You could see into the neighbour’s
Garden when you were out the back
All of these things we liked
because it was different from home.
They had dogs, a breakfast room.
A plum tree out the back.
And in all the time I spent there
In all those visits, I never paid
the school for deaf boys
the blindest bit of notice.
To haunt you
If I do come back to haunt you
it will be in winter in your darkest time
I will lead you along the frozen pathways
make a trail of silver so you know
to follow me down to a patched field
by a shallow river, half-frozen
we will lie there beneath the surface
to warm the stones
petrified until the thaw when I will lead
you through the scree, up a cinder path
to a small house by the side of a fjord
with a log pile outside, waiting
for you to follow me through a forest
of pine to a summerhouse shuttered
against the heat, where I will close a door
behind us, a heavy, wooden door.
My father’s hat
My father’s hat took off
Out of the cathedral.
From the side transept,
Down the aisle and out the front door.
Everyone halted to gawp – mid-prayer.
Off it flew with my father after it.
Up over the spire of the Protestant church,
Down Farnham Street, past the bus office
Then it hung a left and went off out
the Dublin Road and made for Lavey,
Heading straight for the old stone house
where he hadn’t lived for sixty years.
Night after night he had asked to go home.
And night after night,
“You are at home, Daddy,”
We had refused him.
Finally, his hat – sweating his sweat –
Brought him where he wanted to go.
It was the least it could do after years
Of devoted service from his head.
Arles day out
I went to Arles to see the Yellow House
Where Van Gogh painted The Sunflowers
He should have been out painting portraits.
Bad weather – le mistral – drove him indoors.
The Yellow House was bombed in the war.
The man in the tourist office had not said.
He talked about it as if you could sense
The painter there, smell his turps smell.
I went to see the Van Gogh ear instead
At least the hotel/mental hospital
where he recuperated after cutting it off.
On to the amphitheatre – more body parts.
In the evening, I visited the yellow café
In the place de forum where the tortured
painter used to drink, on starry nights
You can see right across the Rhone.