Three Poems—Olivia Hodgson


At four, a shot of birds breaking the night’s 
shell. At five, your nose lifts to the gold-glint 
behind the curtain; a chorus of dust  
above sways in and out of existence. 
The morning still fresh in the craters left  
by the fox’s paw. Trade an exhaled breath 
for daylight hiding in fabrics, for prints 
of trees, their shadows amok on the sheets. 
Can a roof cave with the weight of shifting  
birds, they too bereft of touch? Imagine 
their figures, neat as aligned archways 
bleached verdant in the eight o’clock sun.  
Could you bear to place a hand on the heat  
of a shoulder doused in feather? Would you 
carry my elongated bones, the core  
of me scattering soot and salt to my 
 new chromosomes? Gather the afternoon: 
soothe the feeling of a bolt through half-sleep, 
the feeling of a room you have just left. 
Ease my wing, steady my beak to the sky: 

the quills on my back draft a star map,  
our bodies racing for a canopy 
beyond the tile and leaves and dissolving 
carmine sky. I know the feeling of eyes 
pressed shut against my back when we skim close 
to oceans, the core of you scattering  
to one before, behind, but never this –  
reluctant to our reflection, glossy 
in that strange water. Look, take this ancient 
warning when old tempting doors swing open: 
do not match the course of the sun and run.

Chime Hour

I bargain with the baby monitor
to guarantee my measure of silence.
Built with no beat in the heart, built so brazen,
folding a Friday into a suitcase
and nightmare. A berry in the lung,
stinging soft, bursting for a waking ear.
Slide the padlock open, stream through bricked,
arched snickelways, tender as hooks through meat.
I then place my fingers in your hand, small
as keys and fine as a cat’s incisor;
leak my form like oil over your bed.
No night in that fur, but tarmac; the deep
lead paint hidden in the meal of winter.
Grown from masonry, grown with an open
jaw: a place for a promise, a place numbed,
knocked and smithed for your sharpened tongue – your cry.
But when I come from that feather-green dark,
allow me some warmth, a forgiving prayer –
as the day revokes its nebulous twin
with the morning knell, think of me like lambs,
in that this shepherd will fleece and kill them.

The Curiosities of Grief: An Exhibition

Be softer here: it comes, grass-cool, unlocked 
when the intimacy of necessity demands.  
Its keys are lint from pockets dug under nails 
during the eulogy; or hair, snipped and wrapped, 
kept in an envelope creased under the pillow 
of the lover left sleeping. You’re offered tea, 
perhaps, to distract from the scalding walls 
on which, pinned, you’ll find the curiosities. 
It rises from the soft flesh of the garden: 
a small, sudden universe. Sometime after  
the condolences pile thin like glass on the mat; 
sometime before the memory shrinks  
to a cracked seed. This building felt your need, 
your weight, the change in pace when you 
were lifted from the bed to the pooling red of the door. 
Enter slowly, no whispers will be heard. Here: 
an umbilical peg, powder-blue and warmer still 
than a late-June sky. And then, bed sheets, grown 
thick with arterial blood, rising  
to a bleached, bruised smudge: reaching, 
like bubbles from a sinking man. Marvel 
at how small the bell jar is that captured a slumbering 
starless dark. Take note of the empty fingers, the flint, 
the car still heavy from the lake.  
Don’t be dissuaded, smaller pities will too ensure admission –  
a watch that smashed and became the scree within the wrist  
from which it wandered. The fae’s shadow you traded  
for a safer, yet lonelier, saunter home. The corner 
of the husband’s letter; the struck match that lit the hob. 
Be warned here: you too will add quiet sobrieties,  
lit by nothing but the lightbulb-burn from your bones.

Olivia Hodgson completed her MA in Creative Writing at Birmingham City University where she won The Mercian Prize for Poetry. She was shortlisted for the Wolverhampton Literature Festival Poetry Prize 2021 and was included in Secret Chords: The Best of The Folklore Prize anthology. Her poetry and short fiction have been published in The Coffin Bell, Dreich (forthcoming), The Honest Ulsterman, Littoral Press Magazine, The Lyrical Aye, Strix and Wild Court. Her first collection of poetry, The Calls, is forthcoming from Blue Diode Press.  

photo by Ömürden Cengiz (via unsplash)