POEMS BY JAMES SIMMONS

Time period: 1963-1966

Poet: James Simmons

Permanent URL: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/17md1

Source: Belfast Creative Writing Group 1963-6


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DRINKER'S BLUES

I drank all night and I didn't get up till nine.

How could I get into work on time?

I put on my clothes and left the house about ten.

I cashed a cheque and went into a bar again.

The barman said, "I envy youse boys on sprees."

"Look, this isn't fun," I told him. "It's a disease."

He laughed and he laughed every time he rang the till.

"Jesus, I wish I had your money - wouldn't I be ill."

I ordered a sandwich of good fresh bread and ham.

How did I ever get into the state that I am.

I looked out the window and the big, broad sky was blue.

What a wonderful day, if I only had something to do.

About six o'clock in the evening it began to rain.

By eight I was singing, and by ten I felt no pain.

I got up next morning and at work they took my excuse,

So I'm laying by money for the next time I have the blues.


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FAHAN STRAND

On a sunny day in June or May

When we had time in hand,

We'ld take our bykes or hitch-hike

For a bathe along Fahan strand.

The sand is smooth, the water shallow,

Tepid to your hand,

And sparkles in the sun like stars

All along Fahan Strand.

In the war we'ld descend to buy at Bridge End

Boiled sweets in paper bags,

And the tougher the guys got in supplies

Of the cheaper Free State fags;

But before I bought cigarettes or thought

Of holding girls by the hand,

I knew the route out past Burnfoot

That leads to sweet Fahan Strand.

To my distress the Lough Swilly express

Is running there no more.

Past Elagh Hall it took us all

Along that lovely shore.

It went so slow that girls I know

Stept off to gather posies,

And climbed again on board the train

With armfulls of wild roses.

It's a trip I like, by train or byke;

It's not too near or far;

And last July my wife and I

Went down there in the car.

I thought of friends I used to know

And a boy who used to stand,

A bit like me, but young and free,

And gaze across Fahan Strand.


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OLD LADY'S SONG

I'm glad to be old and tied to my chair.

I sing to myself; they think I'm not all there;

But all that they do and they think (this is the truth)

I've done or I've thought in the days of my youth.

I smile and I knit, they feel tender derision,

But it's them that I watch though they've bought me television.

Their loves and their hates and their joy and their woe

Are child's play to my life, a long time ago.

Their flights and their troubles, delights and dispair,

They think would be too much for my old heart to bear:

I pretend I don't hear them, for young folk can't see

Whatever they do they will end up like me.

To heaven or Hell I will soon get my call;

Though I think more and more I'm going nowhere at all.

Goodbye to my knitting, to warmth and to cold,

To the air, to the sun, and to feeling too old.


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RAMBLE AWAY

I like to go walking down Bachelor's Walk,

To see the young women and hold them in talk,

Well aware that my manner will lead them astray,

For I am the young man they call Ramble Away.

Chorus:

Ramble away, ramble away.

Yes, I'm the young man they call Ramble Away.

I went to a cafe and sat smoking there

And talked to a waitress with dark auburn hair.

With my purple stripe shirt and my suit of dark grey

There's few are indifferent to Ramble Away.

Chorus:

When darkness had fallen I climbed in her yard,

But the door of the kitchen was bolted and barred.

I called up her name and I heard a voice say,

"Are you the young man they call Ramble Away?"

Chorus.

When a number of months had slipped into the past

And she found that the clips of her skirt wouldn't fasten,

I knew that I'd come to the end of my stay.

When the kissing is over I ramble away.

Chorus.

I can't abide crying or nagging at all,

So I left her a note on the stand in the hall,

"You can tell your old mother she was right yesterday

When she warned you to steer clear of Ramble Away."

Chorus.

There's endless diversion in my kind of life,

But, before I am played out, I'll find a good wife,

And plough my own furrow and ream my own hay

And let them call someone else Ramble Away.

Chorus:

Ramble away, ramble away,

Remember the sweet touch of Ramble Away.

So all you young women who make yourselves free

With wanton young rambling fellows like me;

You're laying up treasure to count on the day

Your breath starts to leave you like Ramble Away.

Chorus:

Ramble away, ramble away,

Sweet life will desert you like Ramble Away.


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THE YOUNG AIRFORCE MEN

To a bar where I drink comes a middle-aged woman

Its marvelous the memories a few gins can summon,

The stories she tells and the tunes she is hummin'

Are all of her days with the young airforce men.

"It's twenty long years wince I first saw them flying,

Young lads out of school who would shortly be dying.

I wonder, at times, are their mothers still crying

Like I do when I think of the airforce men.

I served them their drinks, some were sad, some were grinning,

It's hard to believe those young fellas were sinning -

Its a sin to kill men even when they are winning.

Oh, Glorio to the young airforce men.

They laughed at the grand things that Churchill was saying

And their faces looked bored when the padre was praying:

At times you'ld have thought it was games they were playing.

Oh, glorio to the young airforce men.

Like a silly young girl I'd wake up at night screaming

To think of eyes glazed that I'd often watched gleaming:

I only see eyes that bright now when I'm dreaming.

Oh, glorio etc.

An engine would stop and we'd shut up to listen

For nearly each morning some young face was missing

And missing his fair share of loving and kissing.

Oh, glorio etc.

I give them the glory that memory can lend them,

But most men who praise them would only offend them:

You don't have to swallow half truths to defend them.

Oh, glorio etc.

Come here you young fella, your schooldays are over,

Your dancing and drinking with your arms round your lover.

The boy that I loved was washed in down near Dover.

Oh, glorio to the young airforce men.


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THE ULSTER SOLDIER BOY

Oh have you heard the speeches, Mary? War has just begun.

The posters say that duty calls, have you seem the tanks and guns?

I'm going to join the army for there's no work here for me,

And the government will pay your ront when I'm in Germany.

Oh Billy, close your ears to what the cultured voices say;

Don't let no lying tales of glory steal my love away.

I feel the bullets strike as sure as I feel your child in me;

You're better hungry here at home than dead in Germany.

I wish that you could come along in a lorry in the rear

To cheer me up, and join us when we're stopping off for beer.

You'ld make a tent a grand hotel, and think of all you'ld see;

The soldiers throwing their lives away on the road to Germany.

From every town and village here have gone the finest lads

To fight the cruel wars abroad, and all the news is bad.

The winter was the coldest one that I will ever see.

It's cold at home and in the fields on the road to Germany.

The corn our old men planted in the earth has risen high,

The fruit weighs down the branches and the larks sing in the sky.

The son I bore my husband sits here smiling on my knee.

I curse the hunger drove his father on to Germany.

I got a letter from the King to say that Billy died

A hero's death for England, but I feel no surge of pride.

It's easy with the pension now, but I hate security

That Billy bought me with his life on the road to Germany.

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