Subway Song

by Oz Hardwick

It’s a voice with a clock in its throat, 
a stopping train at a stockyard siding, 
a turbine in the wilderness, powering dreams. 

Come in. Forms creep from cracks in midnight, 
spiders weaving across gaps between fence posts, 
webs frosted like sugar in the dawn, but 

that’s a long way off. Now, on a Viennese square, 
a veteran of every war we have ever fought 
strokes wine glasses into songs of solace and surrender, 

before silence caresses his papery hands.
A subway train arrives, departs, and in between 
hundreds of lives change, brushing their futures against 

each other. Here is one: she sits on a park bench, reading. 
It may be Gogol, or it may be The Guardian, 
but she sees the word lawful, which makes her think, 

‘how did I wind through so many streets to find myself 
sitting here, reading?’ So she takes out her library card,
tears it, into small, pieces, which she places on her tongue. 

When she stands, she sees she is wearing lilac ballet pumps, 
along with the belted raincoat of a noir detective, so 
she hunches her shoulders, plunges her hands into pockets, 

ascends en pointe, and spins like smoke 
between laurel hedges and flower beds,
lost in the clock, the glass, the subway song.

At over six hours in length, Morton Feldman’s String Quartet #2 (1983) is a subtle, surprising, hypnotic, challenging work that, if you let it, will possess the listener and dislocate every last articulation of time and space. I have only allowed it to do this once – a live BBC radio broadcast by the FLUX Quartet from London in December 2016 – and this is a record of the selves it released. A king of catharsis / a kind of exorcism.

Oz Hardwick is a European prose poet and medieval Art Historian, among other proclivities. His chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018) won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award for poetry, and his latest publication is Wolf Planet (Clevedon: Hedgehog, 2020).

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