Poetry: Twenty-two years by Denise O’Hagan

Twenty-two years

since I last heard your voice, or saw you
step off the plane at 76, quite an age to emigrate,
newspaper in hand as my mother pushed the trolley,
aware you weren’t quite the man you used to be,
unaware of what you brought by merely being there,
grasping your trusty cherry wood walking stick
shiny handled from all the years of grasping,
time enough to scrape a meeting with my son,
who grew up not knowing what he missed— 
yet still that great grey slab of time keeps stretching,
getting no more distant for being more thinly stretched
week by year by decade, and now you’re doubling back
two countries ago, tea-towel slung over your shoulder,
pouring a glass of red and flipping potatoes in olive oil,
steadying the fry-pan with the wobbly black handle
as I slice garlic and onion, and tear off a chunk of bread,
jamming it between my lips as my mother taught me
to shore up the watering in my eyes. 

First published in Tarot (Issue 1), New Zealand, 1 December 2020
https://www.tarotpoetry.nz/ 


Author bio:
  Denise O’Hagan is an award-winning editor and poet, born in Rome and based in Sydney. With a background in commercial book publishing in London and Sydney, she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, in 2015 to assist independent authors. Recipient of the Dalkey Poetry Prize, her work appears in various journals including The Copperfield Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Quadrant, Books Ireland, Eureka Street and Hecate. Her second poetry collection, Anamnesis, is due to be published in October 2022 (Recent Work Press).
https://denise-ohagan.com    


Poetry: In the Shadows from Denise O’Hagan

In the shadows

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura … 
                               (Dante, Inferno, Canto I)

Crossing the park this morning
the world is still and silent and waiting.
Mist lies over the grass, the trees, the everything
as lightly as a suggestion.

I tread the curving path into the bush
with something between awe and trepidation.
A slim brown snake shudders its way across the ground,
gone in a blink, leaving me wondering
if I had only dreamed it.

I look up at the ashen underbelly of the bridge
(not quite the turreted beauty seen from up above
but simpler, workmanlike and more prosaic),
home to a darker side of human nature:
the ghosts of last month’s flowers laid there linger still.

The path to the creek is grey and veined by tree roots
the water is flowing cleanly and clearly, not a plastic bag in sight
and cut through by a sinuous line of stepping stones
with their petticoat of pebbles, mottled lurid green with moss.

A darkening of the foliage on the other side
brings a parallel darkening of my thoughts
and in the shadows I see the shape of my deepest fears.
I stumble over a tree trunk, fallen, split open and bleeding sap,
its roots jerked from the earth, a gash exposed.

Righting myself, a scratching sound tears at my thin composure
but it’s only a bulbous-bodied, spindly-necked bush turkey
picking its way up the hill. I too will rise,
negotiate my way through the mesh of undergrowth and my life,
catching my thoughts on brambles, tripping on memories, as
still heavy’d by longing after all these years,
I cut between great slabs of rock, polished lustrous
and emerge, at last, panting, on a high flat path
streaked by sunlight and dappled in hope.
The blue-grey gums, dusky as eyeshadow
sway easily against a pale sky, yet anchored to the earth
they tether in turn my own emotions
and I hear, as if on cue, the high fluting of a bird.

I tread the last quarter home,
vindicated, triumphant.
I have, once again, negotiated the thickets of my mind
and can finally see the little things:
weeds thriving in dull concrete
where spoiled orchids in suburban gardens strain to grow,
rainwater, in silver rivulets, running off the street
pooling in ridges between pavers
making glistening cushions of glass
or hanging, in balls of silver on the underside of railings,
from last night’s rain.

Denise O’Hagan, 2018

First published in The Beating Heart (Ginninderra Press 2020)

Winner of the Adelaide Plains Poetry Competition (open section), 2019 

Author bio:
  Denise O’Hagan is an award-winning editor and poet, born in Rome and based in Sydney. With a background in commercial book publishing in London and Sydney, she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, in 2015 to assist independent authors. Recipient of the Dalkey Poetry Prize, her work appears in various journals including The Copperfield Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Quadrant, Books Ireland, Eureka Street and Hecate. Her second poetry collection, Anamnesis, is due to be published in October 2022 (Recent Work Press).
https://denise-ohagan.com    





Poetry: Street seasons by Denise O’Hagan

Street seasons

Summer was marked out
In the red curve of watermelon slices,
Dripping water pearls from a tiered rack.
	
That russet-tinted after-season, autumn,
Blew in with the leaves, moist and cool:
By late afternoon, the pavements blushed.

Coiled in the sweet Christmas smell 
Of ember-warm, shell-cracking chestnuts, 
Lay winter, in rough newspaper cones.

As the air quickened and buds thickened
Spring slipped in, like a half-smile,
And the watermelons grew plump.

First published in Vox Galvia, Galway Advertiser, Ireland, 20 November 2020
https://www.advertiser.ie/galway

Longlisted in the Segora International Poetry Competition, France, 2020
https://www.poetryproseandplays.com/poetry.htm 


3 Re-published Poems from Denise O’Hagan

Bio: Denise O’Hagan is an award-winning editor and poet, born in Rome and based in Sydney. With a background in commercial book publishing in London and Sydney, she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, in 2015 to assist independent authors. Recipient of the Dalkey Poetry Prize, her work appears in various journals including The Copperfield Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Quadrant, Books Ireland, Eureka Street and Hecate. Her second poetry collection, Anamnesis, is due to be published in October 2022 (Recent Work Press).
https://denise-ohagan.com    


3 Re-published Poems from Denise O’Hagan

Between beauty and decadence

Like a shred of satin
Crumpled and creamy
It caught my eye
Lying there, near a clothes peg
Against the brick red patio.

Luminous, exposed
Halfway between beauty and decadence
With the day’s bruise already on it:
The world’s aches
Perfectly expressed
In the throwaway gift
Of a fallen petal.

First published in The Blue Nib (Issue 39), 15 Sept. 2019
https://thebluenib.com/article/denise-ohagan/  

Separateness

The silence
Between us
Thickens and grows
And flows around us
Like a third presence
Waiting, malevolently,
For one of us to break it.

How did we
Get to this point?
Is there a line running
From the quickened heartbeat
The clutched hand
Of youth
And easy collusion
Of middle age
To this?
Was the end
Implicit in the beginning?
Or did we
Take a wrong turn
Creating a fault line
Damaging ourselves
And dislocating the ‘us’?
My thoughts are heavy, clunky
And going nowhere.

Years of misalignment
Have made us wary 
Suspicion lies coiled
Between us, serpent-like,
So we take refuge in routine,
Imbibing the evening news
With our chamomile tea
And the other rituals
Of stale, safe domesticity.

But all the while
Nuggets of resentment
Weigh down any deeper disclosure 
And neither of us
Want to admit 
To boredom.

First published in The Blue Nib (Issue 37), 15 March 2019
https://thebluenib.com/article/denise-ohagan-new-poetry/


A journey of sorts

You didn’t see me
But I turned back 
And then for years
Every time I passed that place
I’d see your crumpled form
Wheelchaired across the courtyard
Plastic bracelet pale against your wrist,
Resistance in the set of your shoulders.

Did a lifetime spent abroad
Sliced up between three continents
And all the years of travel
(good luck tiki in your inner pocket)
With their attendant rituals
Of collars pressed and briefcases clicking 
Inching forwards in countless check-in queues
Nodding acceptance of clunky hotel keys
Patient layers of rewritten drafts
Pencilled scribbles up and down the margin
Handshakes, boardrooms, coffee in plastic cups
Inhaling overblown officialdom
With cigarettes over too-long lunches
In that quiet way of yours – did all this
Stand you in good stead?
For this, too, was a journey of sorts. 

The white gash of your hospital gown
The glow of multicolored monitors
Recording your vital functions
While nurses replenished, adjusted and tweaked 
The spaghetti curls of drip lines and silver stands
With which my mother and I did hopeless battle
To ease your situation
Prompting a final, wry quip
And a chuckle from a nurse of stone:
Humour in extremis.

And on the last night 
They gave you the last rites
And then we settled down 
To wait.

First published in Eureka Street, Vol. 29, No. 18, 16 September 2019
http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article/the-quiet-assimilators 

Bio: Denise O’Hagan is an award-winning editor and poet, born in Rome and based in Sydney. With a background in commercial book publishing in London and Sydney, she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, in 2015 to assist independent authors. Recipient of the Dalkey Poetry Prize, her work appears in various journals including The Copperfield Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Quadrant, Books Ireland, Eureka Street and Hecate. Her second poetry collection, Anamnesis, is due to be published in October 2022 (Recent Work Press).
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