Gerard Smyth is a poet, critic and journalist born in Dublin, Ireland. His poetry has appeared widely in journals in Ireland, Britain and the United States since the late 1960s as well as in translation in several languages, including Italian, Romanian, Hungarian, French, Ukrainian, Polish, German and Spanish. He has given readings throughout Ireland as well as in the United States, Russia, Romania, England and Germany. He has published ten collections, including The Sundays of Eternity (Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2020), A Song of Elsewhere (Dedalus Press 2015), The Fullness of Time: New and Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2010) and The Yellow River (a collaboration with the renowned Irish artist Seán McSweeney and published by Solstice Arts Centre, 2017). He was the 2012 recipient of the O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award from 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. In 2010 he was elected to Aosdána (an affiliation of Ireland’s writers, artists and composers). He retired from his role as managing editor of The Irish Times newspaper in 2011. See www.gerardsmyth.com.
TRANSLATING THE MYSTICS
"Spanish is the loving tongue."
—Charles Badger Clarke, cowboy poet
He un-riddled their riddles,
their ballads of love-sickness.
The Spanish Mystics
were his travelling companions,
his bread of life, his intoxicants:
John of the Cross, God’s poet
whose union with the Muse
was like getting to heaven before he died.
His mornings went straight to dark night.
And Teresa of Avila whose little jokes
made Juan laugh,
whose candour was a blow to his heart
but like the blow of a velvety hand.
He listened to their canticles,
a kind of jazz that put him a trance
in which he imagined the Spanish Mystics
when fevers of romance
flowed through them.
LOVESONG TO CREATION
Once, out in a country field at night,
I saw stars in numbers I could not count,
constellations held in balance:
some only birthing, some close to extinction.
There was moonshine on the billowing grass
and on stubble that remained after the harvest.
Was it all by chance, a cosmic accident?
That summer night I was too young to ask
a question so profound
but looking at the firmament, standing in clover
I sensed that it was still the sixth day of creation,
the gardener still cultivating
root and branch of the Tree of Knowledge;
his fingerprints on every fossil,
his radiance renewing itself with every supernova.
JESUS AND THE BLUES
In scenes by Caravaggio,
The Calling of Saint Matthew,
The Taking of Christ,
Jesus looks like a rebel Jesus, an agitator
who in another time,
in the haze of cigarette smoke
might stand on the corner with the corner boys
of Jerusalem and Jericho.
Or might join the gang for happy hour,
play soul music on the jukebox,
be the vocalist in a band,
shaking his head to the bass line and drumbeat.
Or listen to the blues that he understands
more deeply than any Bluesman can.
(In the Church of St Nicholas of Myra, Dublin)
It’s a mute scene on an imagined stage:
the seated Madonna, the Son
like a dead weight weighing her down.
She is not weeping because her weeping is done.
Her expression is one of mother-love
over limbs that are broken, flesh that seems wasted.
Perhaps she’s remembering Nazareth,
the babe in her arms, the boy child whose hair
she washed at the pool, whose hand she held
in the time before He began to write riddles
in sand, leave her questions unanswered
or give answers that were unfathomable.
MARY AND MARTHA
One loved opera, that was her pleasure.
The other was happy to hum
The Yellow Rose of Texas
when she came out to polish the brass.
One was easily embarrassed,
it didn’t take much to make her blush;
the other put on rouge, red lipstick
and then was ready to face the world.
One wanted noise and laughter
and summer picnics; one was tranquil
and believed in miracles,
could only dwell in her book of wisdom.
Two sisters, each so different—
the Mary and Martha of Arbour Hill.
One living in the moment with no regrets,
the other speaking only in the past tense.
Noelle Q. de Jesus
Noelle Q. de Jesus writes fiction and is the author of two short story collections, Blood Collected Stories (Ethos Books Singapore, 2015), for which a French translation by Patricia Houefa Grange was published by Editions Do, and Cursed and Other Stories (Penguin Random House SEA, 2019). The year of the pandemic brought work on her first novel to a halt, but it appears, she has written some poetry. Noelle was born in New Haven Connecticut, was raised in Manila in the Philippines, but has lived in Singapore for the last two decades and considers it home. She and her husband, who also writes, have raised a daughter and a son. Noelle works as freelance editor and copywriter, and she has an MFA in Fiction from Bowling Green State University.
In the Dark
I open my eyes in the dark
Yearn to stop seeing
All that I fear, resist, doubt
You take me in the dark
Away from my dread
All the fearsome in my head
You ease me in the dark
Change my sadness
Illuminate the path to Your will
I make You in the dark
With every word and breath
Conjure Your comfort
You teach me in the dark
To see Your light
Its breadth, serenity and might
Close my eyes in the dark
Bring me Your rest
And create me, please, anew.
The struggle of wanting reciprocity
is it makes the one who wants, small
and sad, somehow, seeking
first you then me
If she will then I will
If he does then I do
It is life with conditions
terms and limits, expectations
But something is greater
and more richly rewarding
bigger and more beautiful, to do
for the good that dwells in the doing
Reciprocity is a small human need
one the mind is primed to find
but the heart is also divine
the soul aspires beyond, to His
And can act and do and be
as He acts and does and is
out of goodness and grace
that amazes and endures always