301Neil Slevin is a 26 year-old writer from Co. Leitrim, Ireland. A former English teacher in the U.K., having graduated with a B.Sc. in Physical Education with English from the University of Limerick in 2011, he has returned to university to complete an M.A. in Writing at N.U.I. Galway and to pursue a writing-based career. Neil writes for The Sin (N.U.I. Galway’s student newspaper), editing its entertainment section and culture column, Resonate, and is events reporter for the I.L.A.S. (an N.U.I. Galway campus centre providing community-based initiatives for the local area). Neil was SMITH Magazine’s Memoirist of the Month for October 2015 –
http://sixwordmemoirs.com/about/memoirist-of-the-month-october-2015-neil-slevin/, was shortlisted for Creative Writing Ink Journal’s monthly writing competition for October 2015 –http://creativewriting.ie/creative-writing-ink-journal-2, and is a winner of culturedvultures.com’s Poem of the Week competition –

A Mermaid’s Song

One day I went home searching
for waters deep enough
to drown my problems,
but then I thought of you.

As a child, in passing,
I learned about you,
heard your story spoken of
but never told:
how you grew unhappy in yourself,
feared you’d be taken away;
how you couldn’t bear the shame,
you refused to.

Now, I imagine you slip out
and edge your way
along shadows of fading light
through the estate,
hoping no hand will block your path,
no mouth will draw you back.
I follow you,
sense your relief
mottled by despair,
then advance
into the darkness you now own.
I prowl behind you at a distance
safe enough to know
you won’t hear my footsteps
over your own heartbeat
and the voices in your head
that pound against their prison walls,
shrieking for release.

You tramp for miles,
yet finish in full view
of a home you’ve now forgotten:
you stop to turn your back
on invisible, unwanted hands,
unheard of, drowned-out voices
and shatter the water’s veil.

The sea accepts you
the way your life never will,
wrapping you with open arms;
you go down gracefully,
and for a moment
you sing like a mermaid
at home in her ocean,
your handful of notes bubbling,
bursting as they brace the air.
Then your song ends.

I listen to the silence,
until strange men arrive
to fish the deep waters,
as if they’d always known
it was here they’d find you.

But I don’t wait for the boy
who thinks you’re still at home
hiding somewhere from him.
The one who’ll always love
that woman who wanders
up and down the hallway,
from room to room,
as if the house conceals
all of her life’s answers,
and they are just sitting there
at the back of a press,
waiting to be found.

The son who will always remember
the last words you spoke to him,
and know they were ‘Goodbye’.

Walking On Your Memory

There exists a gap you cannot fill;
the hole in your heart betrays her missing shape.
Her light creeps through still,
into the dark, uncertain shade she left behind.

She is gone but the space remembers,
and even in those waking moments, ones when you forget,
the ghost of her memory dances on the walls,
her hair still blowing in the wind of dying storm.

That breeze will always blow, however softly.
No matter how you shelter from it, it will find you
and gently claw its way back
to penetrate the cracks of your long-broken heart.

Hand-in-hand, her light and shadow will follow you
like an echo of former existence,
foreshadowing the life you will try to lead
but always a few steps behind, walking on your memory.

Sewing the Sea

Fishing for water,
sewing the sea,
you sit on your wood
by water swept and beaten quay,
passing no heed
to ticking time nor tide,
nor in the distance, me.

And shimmering
on the water
is your joy;
the sunlight’s speckle
bobbing your face,
settling like stardust
in your golden hair’s embrace.

All happening
in this moment –
not that you seem to notice,
and not that you seem to care;
for you are at labour,
lost within your working world,
just another day’s laissez-faire:

your legs swaying
to the freedom
of the water’s flow and flair,
its splashes freckling
the day’s outlook,
your life (at least right now)
all moderate to fair.

Because for now
you are free to stitch
your own ties,
ones that will exert
their own force,
but – not now –
later, in due course.

And so,
not having moved,
you return to your post,
sewing the sea,
fishing for water almost.