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By Denise O'Hagan -


Squatting down at the quayside, he could see it clearly; he’d never been this close before. All hung over with ropes it was, knotted and coiled like the bunched salami in the deli where his father used to work. He watched as the grey steel slab of the boat held steady in the pull of the wash, saw the man bend over, the hard curve of his back dark against the late afternoon sun as he secured chains, ran calloused fingers over shackle and swivel, the bulge of his leather pouch hanging at his side like an extra gut, his mongrel side-stepping the tackle easily, alert to his master’s every movement and raising his nose to the change in the air. He too could smell rain, see the marshmellowing clouds move in to smudge out the light, and thought of his mother, a stone’s throw away, cloistered in her narrow shuttered bedroom, pale and drawn as one of the saints, shoring up her strength to keep house for him and his sister between bouts of treatment. He stood up, slung his school bag over his shoulder, and left his boyhood dreams to the mercy of the tide: his place was there. He was tethered, too.


Denise O’Hagan is an award-winning editor and writer, based in Sydney, Australia. She has a background in commercial book publishing. In 2015, she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, through which she assists independent authors. Her work is published widely and has received numerous awards, most recently the Dalkey Poetry Prize 2020. You can find more of her work at

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