3 Prose Poems by Oz Hardwick
Beyond insomnia is invisibility, hiding in plain sight, sliding in moonlight; not even specks flecked in bright, wide-open eyes. This is our best life, running without encumbrance through star-stunned streets, twin vexatious breezes flipping heads and tails, heads and tails. We sail like detuned fiddles, wailing at windows where nothing but spider-cracked glass separates winter from summer and the picture book city from the bottom of the sea. We’re sleight of sight, a hallucination of shopkeepers with loss leaders stacked high as teetering clouds and free gifts falling from the pages of kids’ comics and Sunday magazines. Beyond invisibility is incandescence, and we burn like Bengal matches in the dawn-dazzle chill, brief and blazing, as piano keys turn, unlocking the swooning tune of our reborn bodies relearning space.
When they assessed my distant cousin’s properties, it wasn’t the listed cottage on the South Downs or the Kensington flat that raised eyebrows, but his lustrousness and malleability. Though admiring of his limewash and quarry tiles, his characterful “shabby minimalist” aesthetic, it was the way in which he could be hammered, pressed, or rolled into thin sheets without breaking which caused his executors to stiffen slightly and catch each other’s eyes as they considered the charm of an absolute melting point (1536 or 1538 ˚C). Similarly, while his three fields of undulating pasture elicited satisfied nods at the prospect of a cool (temperature not recorded) half million, it was his position on the continuum from earthy to metallic, which could not be recognised simply by studying photographs, that drew whistling breath between polished teeth. Because, although some may claim all property is theft, some are surely given – double refraction and diffraction, standard potential, and ionic radius, for example – and although my distant cousin’s properties could be assessed in terms of pounds, euros, or dollars, it was his conductivity in microsiemens per centimeter (µs/cm) that brought hard-headed businessmen to tears.
Chamber Music and the Workload Planner
The Committee sits in a room full of musical instruments, shuffling papers and matching procedures, delivering interim reports and outlining the way forward. Task-and-finish sub-committees report on the tasks they have finished, and table new objectives, new tasks, new sub-committees. The similarity to musical chairs is observed, minuted, and added to the spreadsheet. There is uncertainty concerning some members of the woodwind family, and no one can remember when they started having to bring their own coffee: these questions are noted for Any Other Business, and will be overlooked when the proper time comes. A printer problem means the second half of the agenda is missing, but force of habit keeps things on track: reports from the steering committees on silence and sober ties, a soliloquy by the Director of Lost Things, and a sermon by the prison chaplain – the only one who understands the nature of the decisions made and deferred. Not one of the instruments has been played since 1973, and no one is sure whether it was a violin or a viola, or even a hurdy-gurdy, but there’s general agreement that everyone sang along, whether they knew the words or not. There is an attendance sheet to be signed, and music to be remembered – or forgotten – between the tapping of tablets and the scraping of chair legs.
Bio: Oz Hardwick is a European poet and dabbler in diverse arts, not all of which are dark. His work has been widely published in international journals, anthologies, and other media. He has published nine full collections and chapbooks, and his tenth, A Census of Preconceptions, will be published by SurVision Books in 2022. Oz is Professor of Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University (UK).