Poems by Cherry Smyth

  Off Sailor's Path
  Learning Water
  These Parts
  Now You're a Woman
  The Slip Road
  The Future of Something Delicate

  Audio poems
  Performed by Cherry Smyth

  Test, Orange
  The Slip Road
  Shine on Sarah Lucas
  The Roadside


Off Sailor's Path

Try the impossible: write what sex ghosts us with:
the manned pleasure of my limbs on hers;
her hips a bridge that I cross to need her.

Start with landscape: walking the Long Reach.
Silver estuary sand like a river that has set.
The dog and I wanted to cross it. She called us
back. A lesson in adventure here: when enclosing
becomes closure, ebb does not return, slip-slide back
along the jetty, hands finding a free way to hold on.

Can we stay strange enough to praise this privileging
rush that allows such pleasure? At times we can’t be
fully alone together, as if we must ride someone else’s
route, follow a poem that is not ours to like.

Sometimes an answer arrives through the body
like the first exhalation to stretch a balloon
and my hands make her with a larger breath,
reckless and happy as a bright emergency;
that tender surplus we shape as I hear her rough
whisper, feel her swell and steepen; her face
astounded, rising to the ceiling.

How she lets you child her, makes herself smaller
so you can drive, is easily the hardest thing that
eases in – cannot be planned, rehearsed. Notice
why surrender and submission are so wrong.
It’s a catching – the way one log shares its flame
with another. A taking hold, so both can burn.

Previously published in the Molly Bloom Poetry Journal, 2014

Learning Water

Eyes leap in the reach of his whole body
for the flow from the tap. That thing! What
is it? Rushing stick licks his fingers. On his hands
like skin and not. He pats the silver pressure,
soft-soft animal, hard-hard drum and it clings
to his palm and then not – gone.

He star-splashes till it shoots to his T-shirt
and is not. Searches the shape of the stain
for the life of drops. Gone.

Then he squeezes his thumb to the mouth
of the tap, loving the tight buzz of spray –
whoa – on the T-shirt, on Cherry’s skirt, out onto
the floor. Oh! He laughs. Gone. This running glass,
thinned to a noise and spreading and gone.

Tap off. Wet, I say. No concept of wet. He pulls
the plug. All that was there is not there. The light,
slippery thing that held its own skylight and disk
of sky – gone. And he did gone. How, he’s not sure.

He bends to study the pipes. Down to a hole
in the street, I say. He Peter Pointers down.
He tries to open the tap, gurns a little.
He’s aiming the plug straight in, dangling the
chain at the same time. He’ll explore this
hovering balance for several weeks.

I nudge the tap. He opens it, squeals at the tap’s
gift. Cups and claps the rope of flash, then pulls
the plug and gapes at the vanishing. Gone.

But more where that came from.
Always more. Such wasteful abundance.
We measure love’s time in water at the sink.

Then I will pluck him up. Dry his hands. Distract
him with a passing miracle: Look! A plane!
Change the T-shirt. We’ll head to the park where
ducks live on water but we do not touch or
play there. Deep. Deep. No concept of no.
Or shallow. Good water or bad water. Uli’s
water and the waters of the world, where
he’ll taste, dive in, swim, fly over, sail
and call his home.

Previously published in the Molly Bloom Poetry Journal, 2014

These Parts

It was a howl to start myth, like Demeter without her

daughter, up along the track lined with orange groves.

To walk into it was to walk into the way life is,

the two girls, fists in their mouths, shoulders peaked,

eyes unlearning a secret. It was a fattened, hairy sow

held across a wooden table by seven men. It was hard

to see what they were doing - bleeding or skinning it alive -

some surgery the mountains had a taste for, hands busy

with it, stroking, touching - their words a quiet, loving hymn.

The thyme and the rosemary grew on. To step in

would have been to convulse scenery, speak in gravel.

The track rose into the hills. The woman I was walked on it.

Her throat was closed, her ears seared with death's bellow,

the men's patter. Only then did she reach up to a tree,

                               steal her first orange.

Awarded Third Prize in London Writer's Competition, 2006

Now You're a Woman

She knows what she is doing.

     The guardsmen are soft with solstice,

           careless with so much darkness.

She bathes in goat's milk to be kid-tender,

     asks her lady-hand to comb her hair,

           as if it matters.

She's told she's beautiful, some kind of princess

     and tonight she believes it.

            Her eyes glint scimitars.

She listens for the owl call,

     the pop of carp breaking the surface.

           Her bed is made ready.

She drifts into its down, quiet as a snow hearse,

     flattens her palms on the linen, as she should,

           enjoys its handiwork for the first time.

She has four seconds while the lady-hand

     turns, four seconds for one hundred years,

           if it's true.

She glides the hidden needle

     from her laced cuff, pierces her finger hard,

           sees the red pool spread

a map of deepest sleep

     over which she flies

           and watches herself flying, futuristic,

                 untouchable as an entire world,

                       dancing on the head of a pin.

Published in The Stony Thursday Book, Issue 5, 2006

The Slip Road  

When my parents pulled out of the slip road

onto the bypass, it was lashing it down

in dark morning curtains. I heard my mother's

'OK left', or 'Right, all clear', or some

direction she's given for over forty years.

Then the gentlest disbelieving wail

and the phone went dead.

I left my body, flew up the length of England

over the Irish Sea to follow all roads

into Belfast, till I was led to them,

their car hit side-on at sixty. Chest

and brain are different injuries, separate

hospitals, no voice or sight of each other

for eleven nights, their longest parting.

My mother hated bothering the staff.

My father asked the Filipino nurse to bring

the nurse. Slowly they came home, drank smoothies

and slept a decade back, each so tender

to the other that we knew they had said

goodbye, then found it wasn't time to leave.

And I, in that dreadful fusing across space,

felt the sharp tug of my beginning, their lives

accidentally pierced and filled with love.

Published in 'One Wanted Thing', Lagan Press, 2006

The Future of Something Delicate

All winter I watched your single cyclamen

unbend its crook

to upflutter in the only light,

letting the light come in

where it could not go itself

to make such pink,

a butterfly asana.

Only now can I begin to feel

how slow your seasons are,

how long buds shepherded

in that crinkled shade,

how much it took to float

your field of veined paths,

to trust some earth.

Published in 'One Wanted Thing', Lagan Press, 2006

Test, Orange

Performed by Cherry Smyth

The Slip Road

Performed by Cherry Smyth


Performed by Cherry Smyth

Shine on Sarah Lucas

Performed by Cherry Smyth

The Roadside

Performed by Cherry Smyth


'Almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious.... Nobody can help you, nobody. There is only one single means. Go inside yourself....'

Rilke, 'Letters to a Young Poet'