The Operation

by Oz Hardwick

It’s a stone, by which I mean a flower,
by which I mean: look, it has been
six centuries since I tied you to this
medically-approved, state-of-the-art
armchair – six centuries in which you
have raged against your own shadow,
seeing it darken the eyes of strangers,
friends, sons and daughters, parents,
siblings, everyone you hold close, or
you fear, or you envy, or you despise,
or you view with abject indifference –
six centuries in which you have killed,
tortured, maimed, dispossessed, scorned
or refused outright to acknowledge all
but your oily reflection – six centuries
of calling yourself King, Emperor,
Glorious Leader, Pope, Basileus, Tzar,
Sapa, Chhatrapati, Khan, Ri,
Wang, Deshmukh, Maad –
and now it’s time to slit your skin,
slip within, and draw this poison stone, 
by which I mean flower, into the light,
to die.

In the early modern period, it was thought by some that madness could be cured by removing the stones of stupidity from the sufferer’s head, and many artists – most famously, Hieronymus Bosch – painted satirical images of charlatan physicians performing just such an operation. 

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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