Neil Slevin is a 26 year-old writer from Co. Leitrim, Ireland.
A former English teacher in the U.K., having graduated with a B.Sc. in Physical Education with English from the University of Limerick in 2011, he has returned to university to complete an M.A. in Writing at N.U.I. Galway and to pursue a writing-based career.
His work has been published by The Galway Review and various American journals.
When My Colours Run…
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Learned old men tell the story of Cathay’s emperor,
a man who avoided the future
like the plague;
who, in his divine wisdom – and facing death –
forbade his people from using the future tense,
because without him they could have no future.
And they muse about time and how we tell it,
highlighting that before Christ we had no such thing,
and that after His birth we had options…
Did you ever make that mistake at school (you know the one),
believing that if B.C. stood for ‘Before Christ’,
then surely A.D. meant ‘After Death’?
And later, did you read of Macbeth’s raging against tomorrow,
of Othello’s beseeching kind-hearted words
written in hindsight-parted letters?
Wiser now, I wonder if old Cathay and Christ,
Macbeth and Othello were one and the same,
perhaps not in face or nature, but in outlook:
all believing that Time would wait for them
to find their way back from the ether,
as if men could forbid the wind from breath and stars from smile,
their fellow man from a life
of dreams and death,
while they packed up the moon and dismantled the Sun.
And I wonder who will care when my life-clock stops ticking,
whose day will speed up
and whose night will slow down…
Who will remember me not as I was –
but as I am and always will be –
when my dreams die and my colours run?
“Have you ever
tried to remember
that you’ve never remembered before?”
his face asked
curling into a mischievous grin,
like a magician’s goatee laughing
at its master’s double chin.
Incredulous I thought he was joking,
but soon realised he was not;
he wanted me to summon something I couldn’t remember –
something that I’d a long time ago forgot’…
So with my mind unleashed
(like the good Catholic boy that I am),
I looked away from him into the distance,
in hot pursuit of the bait thrown from his hand;
I wandered off, all alone in my dark,
scratching at the lower backdoors
of unvisited memoirs,
resisting the soul-consuming urge to bark.
Before pawing at the contents
of my mind’s toilet-bowl mixture,
as around they swirled,
all refusing to unfurl,
and resorting to gnawing at my still-beating heart.
Up all night I played with the frayed edges
of images long before torn apart,
chasing the cars speeding away from me
with far too much of a head start.
All this before, finally,
and slowly made my way home:
no longer was I
a foolish dog of the night,
seeking the bitter reward
of a juicy bone.
Memory-chasing I remembered
that I accept what I can remember;
that I want to forget
what I’ve come to regret;
that my memory is a fire
full of burning embers,
some aflame, some smoking,
it’s one I can’t relight or re-set…
So after a long pause I met his unsmiling eye,
his star-twinkle now buried deep and within,
“No,” I said, forgetting myself –
wishing I could forget him.