Oz Hardwick


It’s the time of year when hands wake up each morning 
with an itch and a clipboard full of lists: things to make, 
things to do, and Big Questions to ponder in the slant 
light. The first is easy, with war and peace available 
online in self-assembly flatpacks, and love in a pack of 
sachets half hidden behind the bins. Then I set myself 
attainable goals, set camera traps to capture foxes, and 
set cats among pigeons in a purely metaphorical sense, 
before starting a further list of clichéd phrases to be 
avoided like the plague. It’s a work in progress. Next, I 
settle in the low sun to consider who first may have 
turned from a straining table, glut-happy and dazed 
with perfection, and set down their satisfaction in 
rhyme or shaded line, siphoning their immortal sleep 
into dust. Are shadows, I wonder, caged or free; and if I 
burn my books, will I even know I’m alive? I add 
Mistakes to the “Make” list and Incineration  to the 
“Do” list and – when my hands wake up tomorrow 
shaped into birds and rabbits, just like my mother 
showed me when I was small – I’ll wonder whose 
writing this is and whether or not I should trust them.


Safe in our cars, we pass headless women, straight as 
classical statues, their shopping clutched like babies to 
their marble breasts. There are ambulances and police 
cars, circling helicopters and packs of sniffing dogs, but 
there are no crimes or accidents, just an uncanny jolt 
and the inability to look away. Press loiter, picking at 
stories that resist headlines and the constraints of news, 
growing instead into wild flowers that squeeze between 
paving slabs. There are no heads to talk, and sound 
engineers wrestle with booms and dials, desperate for 
mouths, while passers-by lift their phones for fleeting 
snaps but vanish without speaking. Out of an alley, a s
mall boy runs, loose trainers slapping like a circus 
seal. Cocteau! he cries, observing the sea for the first 
time, gulping in the flower-wreathed women and the 
whole dazed carnival. His voice is the shifting of gears, 
tyres on gravel: his face is monochrome in departing 
rear view mirrors.


Before the invention of rainbows, we hoisted whatever 
we had to hand; anything from white flags to red rags. 
It was less about the end of rain than the altering of 
perspectives and all the concomitant aesthetic shifts. 
Realism slips in and out of fashion, while the lines of 
human forms mutate between smooth arcs and angles. 
Naturalistic colour is optional. Likewise, harmony is 
sometimes sound’s raison d’être, sometimes mere 
ornamentation, and sometimes left for the listener to 
add if they consider it appropriate. It’s change itself 
that’s important, and if we don’t innovate, we’re no 
different to Damien Hirst’s shark or a fluffed chord in 
Cage’s ASLSP. Rain, on the other hand, comes and 
goes, comes and goes and – however many words we
 invent, and however reliable our narrators appear – sea
 levels will rise or fall and, sooner or later, rainbows will 
be consigned to memories and museums.

Oz Hardwick is a York-based poet, photographer, occasional musician, and accidental academic, whose work has been widely published in international journals and anthologies. He has published nine full collections and chapbooks, including Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018) which won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award for poetry, and his most recent publication, the prose poetry sequence Wolf Planet (Clevedon: Hedgehog, 2020). He has also edited or co-edited several anthologies, including The Valley Press Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2017) with Miles Salter, which was a UK National Poetry Day recommendation, and The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019) with Anne Caldwell. Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the postgraduate Creative Writing programmes. 

Oz will be a guest poet at our spoken word Flight of the dragonfly on 14 September - details here

Flights. Issue Two, September 2021