What You Actually Lost by Conyer Clayton

I convince myself 
.           death comes from the wind  

I kill you
         with my exhale
         with the roughly chopped garlic  

I dream of my mother
          a baby gets measles  

I put on the wrong album
          you wreck your car  

I see a darkness in my own eyes
.            a tumour starts to form 

I focus on the bruised skin of an orange to protect myself
This isn’t unfamiliar 

I’ve run cemetery paths casually
and been scolded by a woman
sitting at her dead husband’s grave
I’ve stared at the turning leaves — overlooked
the names; noticed the wildflowers, not
the freshly-turned earth they sprouted from 

I woke today
         with the image of blood spilling
from an umbilical cord onto my frantic palms
         diving naked into a snowbank
screaming the news of death at strangers 

My dreams seep
into lightness — 
into daytime thoughts  

I woke heavy 

as my mother’s calm voice
a dark brown stain on the carpet. 


Copyright © Conyer Clayton. Originally published in Prairie Fire (39.2, 2018) and placed 3rd in the 2017 Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Contest, also forthcoming in We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Guernica Editions, Spring 2020).


Conyer Clayton has 6 chapbooks. Her most recent are Trust Only the Beasts in the Water (above/ground press, 2019), / (post ghost press, 2019), Undergrowth (bird, buried press, 2018) and Mitosis (In/Words Magazine and Press, 2018). She released a collaborative album with Nathanael Larochette, If the river stood still, in August 2018. She won Arc’s 2017 Diana Brebner Prize, and writes reviews for Canthius. Her debut full length collection of poetry is forthcoming Spring 2020. Find Conyer on Instagram & Twitter.

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