Stephanie Conn

Rough Island & Fish Trap

Stephanie Conn

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Rough Island

Below the locked tower

Comber Estuary twists,

rich enough in salt marsh

and eel-grass to tempt

Brent Geese from the sky.


We are restricted by tides,

must wait for the reveal

of a narrow path, walk

the concrete causeway

still wet beneath our feet.


The route is circular –

a mile and a half round

the island edge. Strangford 

Lough strung out for us

like a blue silk ribbon


or an old rope tightening

around the neck. Time is short.

Our joined hands have barely

warmed but there is nothing

to be gained by getting trapped.


Our fingers come undone.

I’m unaware this patch

of disappearing land is named.

We hurry into the dark,

slip inside separate cars.


Fish Trap

It is not my job to mind this lower land.

I should be on the southern shore

collecting sea-wrack for the upper fields,

not crouching out of sight, watching men

bent double at Port Ramon, constructing

their stone trap in the shallow inlet –

a long linear strip of stacked rock, to meet,

at an oblique angle, this shorter arm,

perfectly set to catch fish on the falling tide.


I learned that Pollock feed over wrecks,

have a preference for ragged sea-beds,

feed on sprat, small mackerel, sand-eels,

dive to avoid our nets and rods, outsmart

us in the tangled kelp. My father calls

them fighting fish. I nod in time with him.


At night, after the candles are blown out,

I see their massive mouths, protruding jaws,

the staring eyes. With mine pressed shut

it’s easier to pick out the lateral line, silver

and curving upwards, the three dorsal fins.

In the sea their flanks are brown or greenish-grey

but in my hands their backs are shining copper,

their bellies white, and sliced and oozing

iridescent flesh and fine bones that pierce my feet.


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 www.stephanieconn.org