Trevor Conway, from Sligo, writes mainly poetry, fiction and songs. An album of his songs was released in July 2013, titled Morning Zoo. He has an MA in Writing from NUI Galway, and was a featured reader at events such as Galway’s ‘Over the Edge’ series, the Tuam Arts Festival and Cork’s ‘O Bhéal’ series, reading poetry and fiction. His work has appeared in magazines and anthologies across Ireland, Austria, the UK, the US and Mexico, where his poems have been translated into Spanish. These publications include ROPES, Decanto, Read This, Fusion, Cuadrivio, Periodico de Poesia, Poetic Expressionsand Poetry Salzburg Review. Subjects he’s drawn to include nature, creativity, football and people/society, especially how we look at the world. His first collection of poems is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry.
Five poems by Trevor Conway
Today, I touched America,
Felt its sweat wash over me.
I became metallic blue,
Slipped into the cool chill
With the smooth, neoprene skin of a seal:
The world was a thing behind me.
Under water, you’re inside a bottle
Quilted with the jostling clink of waves.
We are pre-born fish,
But I, too, hang like the seagull,
Held at the hips as though
Lit into the air.
Taste with your skin.
I was ragged, flat and limp,
Philosophical or dead.
All the birds must’ve thought me strange.
Commerce, culture, communication –
All were skeletal things,
Faces coated in metal and glass.
I saw shadowy figures on the sand,
And was part of history, unrecorded.
Continents came and spoke to me.
Breathing daily through my window,
I hear it, a heaving animal.
I touched it yesterday, too.
The foam, engorged brown and red,
Dripped like silk from my limbs.
I had been beaten,
The salt on my lips made me long
For something I’d tasted before.
I think it was – in fact, I’m sure –
Black and White
I stared at the screen:
It was “black and white”,
Or, as I called it,
(I was a pedantic child.)
My parents said they were old films,
Images from long ago,
So, naturally, I assumed everything
Was black and white:
What an amazing world.
When did it change? I wondered.
Did everyone just wake up
And find themselves in colour?
Nothing is black and white now.
But I want to believe again.
I want to see the world in these two shades.
The orange street lamp glows
As evening ripens blue.
Words fall to the page:
Black and white.
It’s strange to like a face,
To appreciate its curves and lines,
Humps and hollows,
The twisted arch of the jaw.
Our words and deeds
But we value the frame
By its condition.
Why pay so much for skin
Which will crack and smudge?
Fertile hair is coiled
With the vigour of the young.
Does it spring, too,
From the shape of the face?
Silver might be richer
From one town to another,
Slung around the necks of tribal women.
What hangs will sway.
What’s dabbed will change our eyes
As much as the light.
If you are a woman,
I will judge your beauty
Before your words.
Will you afford me the same?
I have wanted a different face,
But how would my thinking change?
I have pitied others
I shouldn’t have.
Social value is a surface measure,
Every layer of fat a Jewish star.
“Shoot me if I ever let myself go that far.”
The unfit are prey,
Attracting the predator,
So stay away!
Beauty, a kind of gravity
Drawing us closer.
I strive to make attractive things –
Things to attract who?
From the ground,
On the juices of roots.
Seventeen years’ gestation –
A prime number
To which no predator
Into the spring evening
Millions of wings beat
Their final party.
Welcome to life,
Where you will taste no fear
Till taught, unfed or left alone.
Sleep in reason,
Absorbent as a page in red light.
(Fade into colour.)
Finally, you’ll walk,
Having learned to fall,
Ground the greatest height you’ll achieve.
But turn away
And moving cars.
Soon, you’ll tackle daily giants
(We are Napoleons of private lands),
Your only fears
Flimsy as a fist of beans:
And a closed laptop.
True fears return
When smooth skin grows choppy.
New faces silhouetted at the edge of your field.
From the future,
Its hand will strike sharply,
Raised to a rattle in suit-speckled rooms:
Loss gathers crowds quicker than a prophet.
You will need protection,
And you will know it.
I can’t tell
How it may turn your mind,
Only its bleaching of your hair,
Its twisting of your arteries,
Its poisoning of your cells.
Try not to heed it:
It has sent men to war, or from it.
(Tell this to widows and weeping children.)
You will frown at fear (we all do),
But ask yourself why,
Whether it’s a lesson or intuition.
Dodos haven’t been to school;
They never will.
Threatened mothers, they can’t hear their homework.
And martyrs burn cold, you know –
See not even an eyelid flicker.
You may call this “madness”, “ignorance” or “naivety”.
You’ll hear of Goya,
Might even see his pain as a holiday aside,
Hanging black on bright walls.
Your fingers will obscure dark moving images of fiction,
Following the supernatural,
But the real fright jumps out from leaves,
And salivating jaws.
How odd it is, you’ll observe,
That some fear words,
Chins, paper, poetry,
Bald men and, even,
Objects to the left.
Disabled, you’ll learn motivation,
And might even taste my blood
(But men are not for being afraid):
The nemesis within
Might beat or multiply,
But let’s not think of it.
Let’s think of a wonderful land
Where anxious thoughts have no volume:
I’d walk through that door,
But then, maybe, I’d realise
That lack of fear is the end of life.
And you must know a poem could be
A shriek in the dark.