The Smile by Oisin Donnellan


My grandfather wore a navy suit

two piece,

to mass,

and each Sunday the grey would sit with stone hues

and make no noise as God almighty walked

slow steps,

slow lessons,

and the wordless moths quieted as the young grew grey

and our mothers and fathers grew stiff.



Our parish priest declared clerical with the seasons

green ordinary,

red passion,

and each season the colour would alight with bright doves

and announce all the Lord had done

water wine,

wine chalice,

and wasps lived by the holy hundreds as the daughter lost her young

and our mothers and fathers stood stung.





God’s devoted women played out their colours

white habits,

wooden beads,

salvaging their white with forgiving knees

before carving an unripe apple, the sugary sap staining coven

and white withered to black

holy Sundays

holy rest

none for the chapel’s ripened, no rest for ladies turned women

and our mothers and fathers stared stray.


Solemn steps met the alter foot

miraculous host

miraculous belief

and lips stayed closed as the hearts opened

their life stroked with three bodily touches

as solemn faces met neighbouring fulfilment

fulfilled taste

unfulfilled sound

and their voices came as whispers, for devotion stared open

and our mothers and fathers stared closed.



My grandfather wore a navy suit

two piece,

to mass

and the departing youths, like dead without sin, knelt on cream

and knees stabbed deep,

 withered to black,

given hands,

and taken smiles to keep.