Charlie
  
 Every hospital has a Charlie
 Someone who’s slipped through society’s cracks
 And sits obstinately on the outside
 A grit in the eye of every passerby
 And a reproof to government healthcare.
  
 He was sitting there today
 By the thick glass sliding doors
 A great raw trunk of a man
 Marooned in his chair 
 By bewilderment and swollen ankles,
 A latter-day Humpty-Dumpty.
  
 His eyes rake you in as you walk past 
 Slit windows to a private hell
 As he wages his daily battle with self-expression
 But his sentences dangle, words mangled
 Limp as the cigarette in his mouth.
  
 You nod and smile:
 It’s the least you can do
 Hoping this tiniest of overtures
 Won’t lead to more
 Then wishing you didn’t feel that way
 Because you know, deep down,
 Irrelevance plays no part in it – 
 There is meaning in the fall of a sparrow
 And Charlie has something to tell us.
  
 So you plug up the holes in your heart
 With well-practised, comforting pity,
 Blink away the tears in his eyes
 And wave goodbye to something in yourself
 As you walk on to the rest of your life
 Scarcely daring to wonder 
 If things had been different
 Could you have been him?
  
 First published in Other Terrain Journal, Issue 7, 16 June 2019
 http://www.otherterrainjournal.com.au/issues/issue-seven/issue-seven-poetry/charlie/
 
   
 I walk on seashells
 (Petrarchan sonnet)
  
 I walk on seashells, I walk on oyster shells
 And tread the fine-grained sand between,
 Gaze at the rippling water’s pearly sheen
 Stretching to waterfront lawns of grand hotels,
 The ebb and flow of the tide, the swells,
 And wonder again what might have been.
 For I lost it all, yet still I dream
 Of castles, bells and citadels.
 I gather my skirts, hold my head up high:
 He bruised my body but not my mind,
 My penurious family turned a blind eye
 Pray tell me, on whom could I rely?
 My husband is seen as wealthy and kind –
 But I’d rather the boarding house nearby!
  
 

Denise O’Hagan was born in Rome and based in Sydney. She has a background in commercial book publishing, and worked as an editor for Collins, Heinemann, Routledge and Cambridge University Press, and was consulting editor for the State Library of NSW. In 2015 she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, through which she assists authors wishing to publish independently. She is also Poetry Editor for Australia/New Zealand for Irish literary journal The Blue Nib. Her poetry is widely published and awarded Her awards include the Dalkey Poetry Prize (2020), first prize in the Adelaide Plains Poetry Competition (2019), second prize in the Sutherland Shire Literary Competition, shortlisting in the Saolta Arts Poetry Competition, the Booranga Literary Prizes and the Robert Graves Poetry Prize. The Beating Heart is her debut poetry collection (Ginninderra Press 2020).

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