Stephanie Conn

Decoy Brothers & Resolution

Stephanie Conn

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Decoy Brothers

Volunteers have stuck plastic versions to the rocks;

their stocky build and large flat beaks are true to life;

fifty convincing black caps, pale puffed-up cheeks,

hollow white bellies above orange glued feet.

Sea parrots hear their own call from the island,

blasted from a solar-powered sound system, dragged

ashore by men in matching polo-shirts. This cut off

land will keep the auk pairs safe. No predators here

an expert tells the camera. No lurking vermin;

no rats or ferrets, no foxes to feed on baby pufflings,

and look! A flap of short black wing to prove

they’re coming in to nest on our rocky crevices.

The tourist boat, fed up with fuel costs and empty

seats has stopped running after eighty years. Perhaps

these faithful birds will stay long enough to shed

the colour from their bills; reveal their duller selves.


It is not okay to grab me in the narrow hall,

or press my back against the chipped vinyl

to shove your dripping tongue into my mouth.

Don’t mix talk of cheese, forgotten in the fridge,

with whispered insults, each veined with mould,

or sigh and hiss, insist it is your right or mine.

Yes, cloth covers but black and white cannot blot

out red – bruises blush pink on thinned wrists.

Serpents twist, convince with their forked-tongues

promising nothing but poison. I will suck it

from every inflicted wound, by-pass your face

to spit the venom on the waste ground, walk on.

Stephanie Conn

A former teacher and graduate of the MA programme at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Stephanie won the Yeovil Poetry Prize, Funeral Service NI prize, the inaugural Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing. Her first collection, ‘The Woman on the Other Side’ is published by Doire Press and was shortlisted for the Shine/Strong Award for best first collection. Her pamphlet ‘Copeland’s Daughter’ won the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition and is published by Smith/Doorstep. Her next collection is due out in 2018. Find out more at