Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Conyer Clayton : Three poems


The things I don't know how to say are among my favourite things.
The things I am unsure of are among my favourite things.

What is beyond necessary.

What has been picked over
a hundred times by squirrels
and pigeons and crows and rats

                               edging dryness

of our neglect

I hated my 2020 tarot reading because it was correct

That card just fell out!
It's just a streetlight mistaken for the moon!

This truth about myself
that I am telling myself
after specifically asking for it
is not the truth I wanted.

I didn't expect swords stabbing
my body          /             broken
cups strewn in front of another
        mountainous form.

I only slap myself in the shower sometimes.
You could mistake the sound for water on tile.

I only scratch next to scars          /          I only
make them bigger                        /          I only
                                expand the wound.

Maybe it's enough to be a streetlamp, or
a picture of the moon taken with an iphone.

Is the moon cutting herself
with her nails
                             in the bathroom again?

Is that why she shows up fuzzy?

You can't keep denying
your relation to the sun.
You can't keep

pointing back at it. The earth

is closer, further, closer again.
Sure, certain times of year flare,
loom, deepen craters dug out, sand-blown.
But you've been safe for ages.


We all think gravity is a physical certitude,
accept life in a battered pattern,
long, long, constant circle.

But like all moons,
like all lamps, light travels from one
station to another —

truth disrupts
law disrupts
signal creates
static to rearrange
your life within.

So just admit you hate baths, moon.
Stop focusing on the water, on its absence, instead —

at dusk, when you rise, go for a walk.

Take a selfie with a snowman
someone else built.

They chose to build it.
They put seeds as eyes.

I won't bother trying to take a picture of you.
I'll be disappointed.

Is this progress?
Slipping into
something more comfortable?

        /         slipping

into something?

Small ships

                  She couldn't relax
they'll say.
                  It was easier than she made it out to be
they'll say.


I often forget my life is mine.
I forget about choice, and

that thing about small ships
in wide oceans —
how small degrees
can shift a course,

but no one talks about
how they're still
on the same ocean,

how all oceans are really the same ocean —
         wind is wind,
              coral's still dying,
and even if you adjust your path
                and end up elsewhere,
creatures migrate too — maybe

that's the same shark as before,
          maybe it's just
a cloud of anchovies
picked off one by one in a frenzy.


I never went whale-watching when I lived on the coast where you were born. I only saw a breach by accident, years ago, on a horrible vacation on the other side of the world, but it was probably the same whale I would have seen in cold waters, so I stopped looking.

Conyer Clayton is an Ottawa-based artist and gymnastics coach, originally from Louisville, Kentucky. She has 6 chapbooks; most recently Trust Only the Beasts in the Water (above/ground press, 2019). In 2018, she released a collaborative album with Nathanael Larochette, If the river stood still. She is the winner of Arc's 2017 Diana Brebner Prize and The Capilano Review's 2019 Robin Blaser Poetry Contest, and writes reviews for Canthius. Her debut full-length collection of poetry, We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Guernica Editions), appeared in May 2020.

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