an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

Poems by Denise O’Hagan


Denise O’Hagan

Published on
page 31 of Tarot #3
(Dec 2021)

Down cobbled lanes bequeathed with history, alive with the indulgence of thin cut fritz, mayonnaise dipped, Duvall and Hoegaarden, full of grand choices, Belgium waffles with sugar clusters that coddle my soul on brusque wintry Antwerp days, a chocolate booth styles charming assortments of chocolates with parfait fillings. But the warmth from decadence, antique alleys and gothic facades leaves me wanting. For the sun has been hidden for six months, blocked by a low ceiling of dense grey cloud. Only on flying through the bleak barrier, do I finally come out

to meet the sky’s blue arc

concealed below

though untouched, pristine

                       and yearned for waves of zonlicht


Denise O’Hagan

Published on
page 37 of Tarot #3
(Dec 2021)

Tree snapped
encroachment still now
but for wind and sea

devastation left entangled
amongst the living green
succumbing to intrusion like a disease

desolation imperfect
natives cling to imposed change like an axe
forced abscission of broken pieces

the will to survive, to senesce, resilience
innate amongst survivors
perseverance a modus operandi

dehisce seminate germinate
seedlings peep through decaying humus
nature’s will endurance

Bougainvillea Flower Fall

Denise O’Hagan

Published on
page 50 of Tarot #3
(Dec 2021)

Summer swirl
a cacophony of kaleidoscopes
in the murky blue,
pink and violet,
itinerant, dipping, tumbling
on the tide
enchanted dancers
mystical flight
paths defined by currents
chop and sway
wings of coloured allure
their final journey
a charmed display


Denise O’Hagan

Published on
page 55 of Tarot #3
(Dec 2021)

Sweet scent of sweat rises off Matuchi, that rich raw hide
of chestnut stallion allocated to me as if I could ride

bold confidence he leans down, bored, to munch on pampas grass
pulled forward, I compensate with patience

iron soles stomp, clomp familiar rocky paths echoing
crystal waves of sound through Polylepis dotted foothills

sneakered feet nudge past cordon cactus as we are lulled in a line
of dappled greys, white and brown, pinto and roan

through Argentinian Andes amateurs’ knuckled hands grip reins
while local horses stumble and trip, soles slip

sighs spill in tune with silence in the valley’s afternoon mist
trepidation hides behind walls of smiles, denim and dust

through an amphitheatre of pink sunsets and shadowy hinterland
sweat-soaked hides carry intrepid travellers back

to smoke-infused beef and red Malbec, Mendoza’s soul
salty decadence in the dark amidst mountains of lust

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.