Poetry Originals #14: David Smylie

In: Showcase

Belfast poet David Smylie gives us two new poems that speak of intimidation and tragedy in the latest of our Poetry Originals series. With a hate crime being reported roughly every three hours in a typical day in Northern Ireland, Smylie's first poem is a sadly too familiar story that tells of the lingering effects of abuse.

The after letters

The first letter arrived a week
after a brick had been lobbed
through the window late one night.
Another arrived a week after
the gang had come calling.
Their malevolent invective cutting into the night.

They threw opened cans
through the window of our front door.
These exploded in the porch,
spewing out beer and shards of glass.

Six months earlier, a letter. 
That was after the front window
had been smashed in the small hours
and the car rear tyre slashed.

Four months before that, a letter
after my son had been beaten up on his way home.

The last letter arrived
almost two years after the first.
Our car had been painted in the darkness.
Their hate words in black
took a long time to erase

The letters from the PSNI
informed me that they were treating
the incidents as hate crimes.
The last attack was ten years ago.

But the feeling of fear, the memories
of going to bed fully dressed,
lying awake, waiting,
listening for voices,

of rushing to...

peer through the curtains
at the slightest noise 
linger, still,
while the postman delivers. 


Nestled in white satin.

Grey first communion suit.

Shirt and red tie.

Perched crookedly astride his nose.

Brown wire rimmed National Health glasses.

Small hands, crossed.

Fingers intertwined.

We had all hitched rides on the back of the crimson liveried lorries from the bakery to the main road. 

You just grabbed the bumper and lifted your legs.  

Alex’s feet had landed on the mudguard.

Then the tyre.

Always to be known as “Wee Alex”.

His coffin had been closed.

Picture for blog story Poetry Originals #14: David Smylie

Belfast born and bred David Smylie, a graduate from QUB, has been reading his poetry at various venues around Ireland for longer than he cares to remember. His poetry has been published in numerous anthologies and publications. After retiring from teaching, he worked for the New Belfast Community Arts Initiative as a poetry facilitator in schools and also as a community poet in residence for South Belfast. A father to three grown up (well sort of!) children and now a grandfather, David lives in South Belfast where he minds other people’s dogs, tends his garden, listens to Tom Waits and pens the “odd” poem.

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