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).