Michael Conley

Michael Conley

Look Who It Is, Drifting Out To Sea On Stand-Up Paddleboards

It’s the dads, all of them! Did they plan this?
None of them are wearing the recommended full-body wetsuits: 
instead they have bared their backs to the sun 
and snipped their stonewashed jeans off mid-thigh.

All the different shapes and sizes of dad are represented here. 
They’ll have learned their paddling technique from watching 
instructional YouTube videos. They’ve started, sensibly, 
on their knees, and just above the surf’s slow insistence

you can hear them sharing tips and inspirational mantras.
It’s only when all of them are ready that they move
smoothly onto their haunches and then into a standing position:
they do it together, like a re-formed boyband at the key change.

This is impressive: if some of their stances look rickety to you, 
it’s only because you don’t know how difficult this is.
As the wind picks up, you can still make them out
using the zoom function on your phone’s camera.  

Track them until they are the size of little bugs, until they disappear.
Look at the expressions on their faces: animal joy
the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Their decision 
not to include you has been entirely validated.  

MICHAEL CONLEY is a poet from Manchester. His work has been Highly Commended in the Forward Prize. His pamphlet, These Are Not My Dreams, was published by Nine Pens. He was the 2022 winner of the Peggy Poole Award.