Denise O’Hagan

Denise O’Hagan is an editor by trade. Born in Italy, she lived in the UK before emigrating to Australia. She holds an MA in Bibliography and Textual Criticism and works in publishing. Her poetry is published in various literary journals including New Reader Magazine, Other Terrain Journal, Pink Cover Zine, Literary Yard, Backstory, Other Terrain Journal, Scarlet Leaf Review, Poet’s Corner/InDaily and The Blue Nib. She was commended in the Australian Catholic University Poetry Prize (2018), shortlisted for the Robert Graves Poetry Prize (2018), and received a special mention in the Pangolin Poetry Prize (2018).Website:

A gift for the taking

Hunched on the edge of her bed

Fingernail curling into the blanket

She felt the slow wings of panic

Closing in around her

Beating her thoughts out of her

Squeezing her breath thread-thin.

                                                                      Life is a gift, my father said

She sat there

A husk of her former sixteen-year old self

So light she could blow away

It would be a relief, really.

                                                                       It’s a gift I never asked for, I replied

But what would it be like

To not be?

                                                                       No one asked, he responded

Hugging her thin t-shirt tighter

She frowned at the ink stain on her sleeve

And shivered on the edge

Of a perilous moment.

                                                                        It’s still a gift for the taking.

So she clutched at his words

Mantra-like, embossing them

On the walls of her mind

Shielding herself

From herself

And from what lay outside.