by Denise O’Hagan
It’s far safer now to step out alone Into the legislated solitude of the night, Yet the paradox lies heavy on you, Practised recluse: you need to get out. So you pull on your trainers, don your mask, And slope off into the world of shadows. * Thick-trunked trees line the suburban street, Lumpen sentinels, each in its allotted orbit, Their swaying foliage, rudely slashed for telegraph wires, Gleams under ragged cones of yellow lamplight; You catch the black-ribbed velvet curve of passing wings, Heavy with connotation, in a pulse of air; Hear the rapid padding of possum feet along a fence In a fetid-sweet mound of damp, unraked leaves By an uncollected rubbish bin; and notice, up above, a rat Silhouetted astride a telegraph wire: perfect poise. A great cheese of a moon hangs low among the stars, A hefty, orange-coloured cliché: celestial marvel, the equinox, Washing over pale houses, like mismatched teeth Recessed into the darkening gums of the pavements, Its owners hounded indoors, obliged to front at last The rippling ramifications of their self-indulgence And ask if this may be their own doing, or undoing, As Pandora prowls the empty streets of an empty city. * Closing the front door behind you softly, you feel Questions thicken in the steady onset of witching hour. There’s a slow stealth to your movements now You stand a while, attuned to the breathing of the house, And it’s with something approaching wonder That you realise you relish your new alone-ness
Welcome essay: I’ve always enjoyed walking and found it a mental as well as physical release, but weeks of lockdown lent extra magic and meaning to the experience of ‘getting out’. What was the magic of night walks? I’ve tried to express it in the poem!
Denise was born in Rome and lives in Sydney. She has a background in commercial book publishing, works as an editor through her own imprint Black Quill Press, and is Poetry Editor for Australia/New Zealand for Irish literary journal The Blue Nib. Her poetry is published widely and has received numerous awards. Her debut poetry collection The Beating Heart will be published by Ginninderra Press in 2020.