Adult Play. + 2 more, by Trevor Conway

Act I

A barren scene: furry things
like bodies flat on a battlefield.
Baby coos, strapped in a chair,
beholding a performance like a queen:
Father hides his face
behind his trembling hands,
in the hope she’ll be amused.
Baby claps a stuttered applause,
still learning the language of arms.
A whimper,
a cry.
Baby wails her disapproval
as Father frets, curses, forgets
the lines he’s learned to quiet her.

Act II

He reaches to the wings for props:
milk, water, dummy –
delivered swift as a sword to the mouth.
Others enter: Teddy and Cup, followed by Train.
Baby flings them to the corner.
Father taps the teeth of a xylophone,
unloosing a tune to the air.
Baby smiles, droops in the chair,
eyes heavy as stage curtains.
Father’s tapping softens,
Her eyes close, and he lifts her,
hopes gathering of a whole hour
to wallow in a soliloquy
of things he adores
(a book, a bath, perhaps a quiet coffee).
The interval is imminent.


He rocks Baby,
slow at first,
but soon a little too fast,
gains momentum like a charge of horses,
to the point that Baby wakes.
He tries to undo it,
reasoning and rocking with shhs and oos,
but her cries curdle to a climax.
He sets her down, presents a show
of jumping, dancing, falling to the floor.

Silence now:
Baby stares.
Father reads the tone of her eyes.
He knows he can’t give her all she needs,
that there will be petite failures,
and in time, she’ll need other things –
for him, a new role.

Having found a home that fits his frilly criteria,
even having paid a deposit,
he consults his press,
noting the level of his oregano jar
to script his meals accordingly.
His diary is inked with various colours:
green assigned to manual tasks
like opening drawers,
gathering, boxing,
the slow dismantling of furniture.

Despite his grand preparations,
he hasn’t yet considered
the reservoir of spirit he’ll need to draw on,
scrubbing and washing from room to room.
In the final hour, a feeling
– exhilaration, perhaps,
with a dash of despair –
will flourish within him,
snagging his mind on memories,
telling him the past has to be mourned.

When he can clean no more,
he’ll gather his bags, stand at the door
and think of the sprinkling of Spanish he’s learned:
they use estar, not ser,
when speaking of someone’s address,
as if to say
all homes
are fleeting.

Shelf Life.
There is a pageant
of fascinated souls here,
where aisles are piled with products,
vivid as paintings on gallery walls.
One waits by the door,
pinching his hood, a hostage of rain
that batters an afternoon beat on the roof.
A man with a thin moustache
like a dusted fossil above his lip
gropes loaves of sliced pan
till he finds the one that yields most
to the curl of his hand.
An old lady with a trolley,
squeaking and jerking with neglect,
eyes jars on a high shelf,
jammed tight as stained glass.
Her fingers tremble as she reaches.

There is relief in the breath of the freezer,
its chicken corpses dismembered, minced,
mummified in breadcrumb.
Time to consult the shopping list,
be sure nothing’s missed,
to study the casts of queues
and make a decision.

A man with mountainous arms
red as the meat pressed to his chest
regrets his choice as the lady at the till
dashes off to fetch an item.
He closes his eyes and wonders
how much of life he’ll spend in queues,
how many minutes waiting
as others fumble
with petty change.

Trevor Conway writes mainly poems, stories and songs. Subjects he typically writes about include nature, sport, society, creativity and interesting moments. His first collection of poems, Evidence of Freewheeling, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2015; his second, Breeding Monsters, was self-published via Amazon in 2018. Website: