an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

Poems by Denise J O’Hagan

The Dry-Cleaner’s Daughter

Denise O’Hagan

Published on
page 16 of Tarot #1
(Dec 2020)

I’d catch the sharp smell of solvent
As I rounded the corner down from our apartment
Hurrying each morning to the station at the Cross
Under the glorious jade and scarlet cascade
Of dozens of swaying bougainvillea
Where, with practised bendings and twistings,
She’d be folding and smoothing and hanging
And sheathing in plastic the incessant array
Of shirts and trousers and jackets and suits
That hug so many of the city’s nine-to-fivers,
Until finally one day I stopped and entered,
And handing over a neighbour’s creased receipt
A child in the backroom stared back at me
Her almond eyes unblinking in the gloom
And I wondered why she wasn’t at school,
As the manager, with my change, explained:
‘I keep her with me, since a week ago,
A man, he try to buy my daughter.’

Twenty-Two Years

Denise O’Hagan

Published on
page 40 of Tarot #1
(Dec 2020)

since I last heard your voice, or saw you
step off the plane at 76, quite an age to emigrate,
newspaper in hand as my mother pushed the trolley,
aware you weren’t quite the man you used to be
unaware of what you brought by merely being there
grasping your trusty cherry wood walking stick
shiny handled from all the years of grasping,
time enough to scrape a meeting with my son
who grew up not knowing what he missed,
yet still that great grey slab of time keeps stretching
getting no more distant for being more thinly stretched
week by year by decade, and now you’re doubling back
two countries ago, tea-towel slung over your shoulder,
pouring a glass of red and flipping potatoes in olive oil,
steadying the fry-pan with the wobbly black handle
as I slice garlic and onion, and tear off a chunk of bread,
jamming it between my lips as my mother taught me
to shore up the watering in my eyes.