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I’m the movement you almost see, the shimmer

at the corner of your eye, the flood of shadow

beneath your feet, the quicksilver claw -

but when you look again, I am


elsewhere, transfixed, reading secrets


                 from; The Alchemist’s Cat by Oz Hardwick






The Ringmaster's Apprentice


Throwing Stones

The Collector

The Seafarer’s Return

Elvis Lives Next Door

A Rock’n’Roll Tour of Plymouth

Sleeping with Dragons

The Alchemist’s Cat


The Good Shepherd



1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Oz Hardwick


Oz Hardwick is a York-based writer, photographer and musician, whose most recent poetry collection, The Illuminated Dreamer (Oversteps, 2010), has led to readings from Glastonbury Festival to the United States, via countless back rooms of pubs. A keen collaborator with other artists, he has had work performed in the UK, Europe, US and Australia. To pay the mortgage he is programme leader for English and Writing at Leeds Trinity University College.





The Ringmaster’s Apprentice


At the first scent of autumn she pitched her tent,

unfurling her rags and her old colours,

her hand-me-down gauds staining your neat fields.


As sure as days grew shorter, she stretched

her threadbare canvas, hoisted flags,

erected cages away from the paths.

With pained and patient fingers she sewed

constellations of teardrop sequins

to snatch your eye from tell-tale holes.


For days you never saw her, working

somewhere inside, but you might have heard her

distantly humming fairground tunes.

Late at night you’d sometimes catch sight of her,

heavy pails in hands, staggering

to feed her hungry, restless beasts.


As leaves fell, the air grew hard,

choking on greasepaint, burnt sugar,

wood smoke, sweat and expectation.


Unsure on your own land, you approach,

raise a tattered flap and enter,

tentatively take your ringside seat

as she paces the perimeter of her silent circle

to no applause, no cheers, no roars,

no brassy fanfare or cymbals’ clash.


Now spotlights converge, colours blending

to fringed white as she takes her place,

facing her audience of one, opening

her scarlet mouth as wide as a lion’s,

her tongue a tightrope where promises dance

like careless acrobats falling into fire.




·        Today we bury language,

its inefficient death unmourned

in acronyms: RIP.


·        We mean business, can do

without communication.


·        The SMT decrees

an end to meaning. Clumsy

words – we say: good riddance.


·        Art, eloquence, subtlety

never got us anywhere.


·        Initials are the way forward:

The Corporate Plan achieved.

Meaningless efficiency. QED.


Throwing Stones


She is here again, ankle deep in bladderwrack

and the gritty tingle of cold shale and regret,

hands and heart full of pebbles, smooth and salt

to the tongue. Between high and low water marks,

this uncertainty is a home of sorts; familiar, at least.


Stone-skim skips years, she is childhood in abstract,

hailing family and lovers, beguiled by the waves.

Ghosts of hands held, arms flung far

to scatter gulls and touch the perfect sun,

flash in the foam at the corner of her blinking eye.


With the rocks she remains, a lighthouse without light or foundation,

without footprints or future, lost in the trip of tides

like that first flung stone, forgotten, sunk

in sand, eroding, becoming bed and beach.




The Collector


I woke in the carriage, still counting trees

passing, the night before, almost close enough

to touch sickly leaves. I half remembered

hesitant but precise English, awkwardly accented

as she spoke of burning witches outside the gates

of old cities whose names she could not recall.


Her skin was pale, dry as parchment, blue

eyes too watery for ink. She tried to explain

that stories grow off the edge of maps, as language

becomes uncomfortable, uneasy in tight mouths.


She lost all words, became silent

as I counted passing trees, measuring my course


from one unfixed point to another.



The Seafarer’s Return


My salt-caked sea chest is heavy with shells and stones

gathered from empty beaches. Rough Guides

never mention such places: dangerous tides

deter all but the most determined. I have travelled alone,

gleaning beauty from shores where seas had thrown

silence upon silence upon silence, where forever hides

in the glimmer of spray, where no gull glides

on dead air and secrets remain unknown.


At your door I stand, tongue tied in weed,

footsore, with blistered palms and a distant stare,

my shoulders stooped with the weight of my journey. I need

more than I can ask. But first, share

these far-gathered gifts of shell and stone

whose value resides in the grace of you alone.




Elvis Lives Next Door


His hair’s now white, cropped close,

he sports a neat goatee,

wears loose trousers in the garden,

a sweater that’s thin at the elbows,

sometimes he smokes a pipe.

He’s lost a lot of weight,

looks better for it, more healthy

than he did in the seventies. Now,

in his seventies, he smiles

rather than sneers, his lip

curling to a private joke.


He keeps himself to himself,

though is friendly enough, a regular

in the pub on a Friday night.

I didn’t suspect it was him

until once, after a couple of Guinnesses,

he got up for the karaoke,

swivelling his replacement hip

as he hollered Jailhouse Rock,

amazed us all. Later

in the gents, I had to ask:

‘Are you…?’ I let the question hang.


He turned from the sink, fixed me

with his steady brown eyes,

shrugged his shoulders and said:





A Rock’n’Roll Tour of Plymouth


We’ll start with the obvious: here

ELP played their first gig, before the Isle of Wight,

were banned for life for damaging a tapestry

with an overenthusiastically flung dagger.


And this is where The Beatles played

two shows on the same day. Before my time,

though girls still screamed when they ran Hard Day’s Night.

And Summer Holiday, come to think of it.


Before they built the mall, here was the club

where the Pistols played as a mystery band,

posters bearing nothing but a question mark

signalling to the drainpiped cognoscenti.


Somewhere near Toys ‘R’ Us, as I recall,

the post-Beeching arches once crumbled

onto the best selection of second-hand guitars

this side of Bristol. No questions asked.


Where the flats are now, or there on the wasteland,

amongst the Dickensian curiosities and porn mags,

a dank shop sold scuffed vinyl that smelled of damp,

by Germans and Italians your mates hadn’t even heard of.


Probably in this garage, or maybe that church hall,

we played our first gig, drunk and out of tune,

practically cleared the place, drank more

and felt like we could conquer the world.


And just over there, past the houses,

 is everything else: all the music in the world.

There we go, Blakey’d platforms sparking on cobbles,

hand-sewn flares flapping in the rock’n’roll night.




Sleeping with Dragons


The island stands no fire, no venom,

its barbarous beasts banished – long ago

fled the fishes’ road to land,

hid deep in caves, colonised cracks

between prayer and superstition.



here on the hill, I share my dreaming

with dragons’ descendants – lizards, half-waking

beneath my bed: ‘Dim the lights,’

they plead, ‘don’t answer the door.’




The Alchemist’s Cat


The philosopher’s unblinking stone, I am

sublime, my substance refined, distilled

to quintessence of silence, self-contained

in my crucible of inscrutable darkness, yet


I’m the movement you almost see, the shimmer

at the corner of your eye, the flood of shadow

beneath your feet, the quicksilver claw -

but when you look again, I am


elsewhere, transfixed, reading secrets

in blank air, staring beyond

human understanding. Eternal

youth? Watch me play. Seriously:


look and learn. I’d burn my books

if I were you, settle by the blaze,

curl, Ouroborian, and let firelight

transmute my amber eyes to gold.






We walk in soft shoes on fragile floors,

doors locked to left and right.


Embarrassed eyes avoid each other

and ourselves. There are no mirrors.


Empty shelves, warped with the weight

of absence, warn: do not touch.


Sometimes we recall who left us here,

how long ago and why. But


it’s better to forget, to accept our state,

repeat the mantra: we are safe here,


surrounded by stained glass birds,

watched over by a clock with no hands.





The Good Shepherd

For George Lowden


yan, tyan, tethera:


out on the hills blown

to the mills with the race of the rush

of the Force of the fingers

that would draw the child


here is the wringing of the wrestling strength

gripping the wool and the sweating flesh

tearing the cloth seizing the silver

watch that tells no time


methera, pimp:


from the fruit to the fire to the rough

music squeezed from the sinews

of the song of the hunt

from Burns from the Lakes

from the tell-tale light in the hospital night

to the leaf-mould loam the dickie-birds' rest

tapping the pipe stamping cramp

hush hush


sethera, lethera, hovera:


fellside shift to meerschaum glow

knowing the secret names red

clouds of morning promise snow

draw the child in charcoal


ragged jacket roaming gaunt

clipped grass and whitewashed lines

in habit of hermit unholy of works

rocking backward sunk in sleep


dovera, dick:


dreamed a dream a wonder it seemed

a field of folk with tower and ditch

all held between at the foot of the stair

he is there again

calling calling


yan, tyan, tethera:


hush hush



3 - Publishing History


'The Ringmaster’s Apprentice' first published in HQ

‘Memo’ first published in Orbis

‘Throwing Stones’ first published in Oz Hardwick, The Kind Ghosts (bluechrome)

‘The Collector’ first published in Bite Me, Robot Boy (Dog Horn Press)

‘The Seafarer’s Return’ first published in Oz Hardwick, The Illuminated Dreamer (Oversteps)

‘Elvis Lives Next Door’ first published in The Connecticut Review

‘A Rock’n’Roll Tour of Plymouth’ first published in The Interpreter’s House

‘Sleeping with Dragons’ first published in Reflections on Lake Orta

‘The Alchemist’s Cat’ first published in Balancing Act (Leaf Books)

‘Asylum’ first published in Scars

‘The Good Shepherd’ first published in Oz Hardwick, Carrying Fire (Bluechrome)



4 - Afterword

Email Poetry Kit - info@poetrykit.org    - if you would like to tell us what you think. 

We are looking for other poets to feature in this series, and are open to submissions.  Please send one poem and a short bio to - info@poetrykit.org

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