Emptying the Cupboard
by Oz Hardwick

At the bottom of the cupboard my father built
is the lino I’d forgotten, as cold to my touch
as a winter morning, dressing for school, rushing,
three stairs at a time, to the two-bar fire, the wireless,
the settee with the slack springs. Squared like a game,
it’s where I played with cars and soldiers and, later,
guitars and girls, fumbling teenage songs, rehearsing
grown-up roles I still can’t play convincingly.

Splatter-patterned, in sickness I joined dots,
formed twisted faces that chased me deep beneath
nylon sheets that sparked with static as I read,
cocooned in torchlight, lost in a multiverse mapped
in that same Cartesian grid. Lost beneath school bags,
toys, then music mags, I don’t even remember forgetting
such insignificant detail. But now, at the bottom
of an empty cupboard, I find everything I’ve lost.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Bedroom lino, excavated December 2015.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My parents bought their house in 1955, and I was born there in 1960. My father died in 2013 and, following my mother’s death in 2015, I cleared the house before it was sold. Naturally, it was a very emotional time, and unexpected moments would prompt intense memories. One such occasion occurred when emptying a built-in cupboard my father had made in the early 1970s in what was then my bedroom, and discovering that the floor still had the lino that dated from before I was born.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Oz Hardwick is a writer, photographer, music journalist, and occasional musician, based in York (UK). His work has been published and performed internationally in diverse media: books, journals, record covers, programmes, fabric, with music, with film, and with nothing but the reverberation of air. To make best use of life-long insomnia, Oz is also Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, and has written extensively on misericords and animal iconography in the Middle Ages under the pseudonym of Paul Hardwick. His sixth poetry collection, The House of Ghosts and Mirrors, will be published by Valley Press in September 2017. Find out more at ozhardwick.co.uk.