Oz Hardwick – The Modern Idol

Hardwick LE P&W July 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing July 2023

The Modern Idol, poems by Oz Hardwick.

The Modern Idol

after Umberto Boccioni
Madame sees the future in pinballing stars; sees what you want
and exactly how guilty it makes you feel. She understands that
choice is contingent upon planetary alignments, and that any
you make will be misguided. She commands you to look into
her eyes, but her lips are so red you can feel them on your skin,
while her hands move with practiced disinterest beneath the
table. Flowers prickle your skin and scratch your eyes to tears,
while Madame rehearses her mystic mumbo-jumbo with all the
conviction of Death Row and, although you know it’s all sham,
you’re ashamed to admit it’s scratching at your conscience.
Madame removes her mask to reveal her face, which is your face
buffed in blowsy slap, reflecting stars on your greased chin. You see
a future of flowers plucked and wilting, and of planets drifting
irrevocably out of whack. None of this will be your choice, but
you’ll feel guilty as sin itself.

The Inevitable Decline of the Modern Age

after René Magritte
Over the fields, it’s raining stones, smooth teardrops obscuring
the eastern horizon. It’s flat out there: the kind of flat that makes
even the most rational doubt that the Earth is round; the kind
of flat the gives birth to monsters. Birds with scissoring beaks
scrape at hard ground, honking their frustrated hunger, as self-
important burghers burn inside expensive suits. They circle a
tower that’s a confidence trick, built brick by brick from guttural
speech, and they raise their palms to the falling stones as if they
were doves or apples. And I am a pillar of salt, with fluted drum
and a head full of wild acanthus. Lick the corner of this poisoned
page. See how the rain leaves no trace.

The Hireling Shepherd

after William Holman Hunt
Too much colour and my head’s awash with bleating. Coarse is
the word, from fabric to faces, though fiery would fit the bill, and
the background leers and leans between the trees, messing with
perspective. It’s a day which would afford censorious critics
much perturbation at its wanton displays, paint-wet and sticky,
red-wired and ready to flood the world with the wrong sort of light.
Dirty-handed, the light’s alive with reaching, animal instincts
straying into daze. The wolf adjusts his rakish fleece. Blush and
fluster scatters apples and coarse fabric rucks at the teasing
hem. The moral of the story is no. Later, the river can swat the
fire to soft. The moral of the story is yes.

© Oz Hardwick

Oz Hardwick is a European poet, photographer, occasional musician, and accidental academic, whose work has been widely published in international journals and anthologies. He has published “about a dozen” full collections and chapbooks, including Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018) which won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award for poetry, and most recently A Census of Preconceptions (Dublin & Reggio di Calabria: SurVision Books, 2022). Oz has held residencies in the UK, Europe, the US and Australia, and has performed internationally at major festivals and in tiny coffee shops.

In 2022, he was awarded the ARC Poetry Prize for “a lifetime devotion and service to the cause of prose poetry”. With Anne Caldwell, he edited The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019) and Prose Poetry in Theory and Practice (Abingdon: Routledge, 2022). The anthology Dancing About Architecture and Other Ekphrastic Manoeuvres, co-edited with Cassandra Atherton, will be published by MadHat Press (Cheshire, MA) in 2024. Oz is Professor of Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University. https://ozhardwick.co.uk/

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