"The Meritocratic Oath," "The Likelihood of Unseasonable Snow," and "70mm"

The Meritocratic Oath

As child after child falls into the world, we wonder who’s even going to name them, never mind feed them. This child we’ll call Platitude, with her peachy birthmark shaped like a heart, and her misshapen heart dancing to its own offbeats. This one we’ll call The Rider of the Third Horse, who even the Bible doesn’t name, and whose black beast is steaming on the front lawn each time we glance out to check for rain or new arrivals. And this one we’ll just call This One, all simple gestures and charabanc outings to the coast, with bruised knees, and a leaking biro in her charity shop donkey jacket. When they’re hungry, we’ll feed them manna; we’ll feed them loaves and tofu fish fingers; we’ll feed them ambrosia, the milk of human kindness, and salty porridge from the Three Bears’ two-up two-down. Because as child after child falls into the world, someone has to catch them, wrap them up in donkey skin, and coax them into the feverish ballroom that only opens its doors once in every lifetime.



The Likelihood of Unseasonable Snow

These bones don’t look like animals. These days don’t look like hope. This breath doesn’t sound like music. Weather is a way back to the point of incidence, to the point at which the car door closes like a book or a kiss, with Jacques Brel playing on the radio and a sky that could be promising snow if we could just wait a little longer. These letters look like words. These words look like sentences. These sentences look like an approximation of meaning, but what I really want to say is something about horses spooked on a country road, a dark house with stars tapping at the window, and that dead space on the map which protocol forbids cartographers from recording, but in which we find ourselves on days that don’t belong to any season, sifting through bones, our breath meeting where our hands never touch.




Streets are movies, and people speak like drums under fire, harping of windows around glass houses. Behind the perfect transparency, it’s the little things that dissolve, while behind neat shutters, families assume guilt like flags in snow. Each story is a bolted gate or a bolted goat, a rising lake latched to smashed skin, a thin soup that barely sustains bobbing bodies. In come generations of mismatched youth, from slap-faced flappers to ghoul-white goths, bunched in an untidy march of theatrical makeup and tidal hemlines – now high, now low – their transparency retouched by hands steady as snipers, who never win medals nor see their name in the closing credits. Gosh, how snow fills all our shoes – a perfect cinematic shorthand for death or nostalgia – and the racket at the gate ratchets up a notch or two, animal shapes flickering in the incongruous bleating distance, before tearing into melting celluloid.



Oz Hardwick

Oz Hardwick is a European prose poet and academic, whose work has been widely published in international journals and anthologies. He has published “a dozen or so” full collections and chapbooks, most recently A Census of Preconceptions (SurVision, 2022), which was shortlisted for the 2023 Rubery International Book Award. He has won many prizes, mostly at fairgrounds and pub quizzes. Oz is Professor of Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University. Oz recommends the MS Society.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, November 13, 2023 - 20:31