Oz Hardwick: a poem



Asylum


On the other side of words, we rely on hand gestures, so I keep my grandparents' glove puppets close in order to spread the news. Every day we're shedding more than we gain, and I express each loss with figures from the commedia dell'arte. Il Dottore bows and smirks, his twiggy fingers fiddling for flesh and money, as Colombina crosses her ankles and sweeps her cheek with a neatly angled fan. Death is a painted background against which Il Capitano clucks and struts, and last comes Arlecchino, his patched tongue flapping and fox tail lolling across his mask. As I lay each figure back in the box, my wrists stiff with exegesis, I kiss each expressive eye. If there were words, I'd string them into loops and stitch them into fine new costumes; but we're a long way past that now, and even my hands can't manifest the days ahead.



Oz Hardwick has published nine collections, including Learning to Have Lost (2018), which won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award for poetry and, most recently, Wolf Planet (2020). He has also edited several anthologies, including The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (2019) with Anne Caldwell. Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the postgraduate Creative Writing programmes.