Two Poems by Hilary Otto


beside the river, no-one but four schoolgirls

sparks of gorse fringing a shingle beach

we laughed for what seemed like hours just pumping

rubber to plump the boat so it was hard, then off

two rowed, slowly marooning us, the steady splash relaxing
so we laid out despite the gravel brands on our backsides

at once, a man was standing on our slip of shale, we turned

on hearing speaking or did he speak on seeing turning

do you mind if I sit here he said, and sat.
one minute passed then he was wearing nothing but a thong

in unison in mirrored shades we checked his height, his mass
his weight and lay quite still, not fight nor flight but stiffness

and when we saw he’d gone we didn’t speak of him

or where he was but strained to hear the sound of oars

and planned the way to run while carrying a dinghy


At times the locust prefers to be alone.
Until one day when it’s too hot, food is short
and there are too many saw-clamp jaws scissoring shut.
When those spiny hind legs rub together
it all revs up. A sex switch flicks.

They’re chock full of guaiacol, buzzing
like a floor of clubbers, bingeing on lush leaves, fat grain.
They get high on grazing, flush wheat-gold, and rise.
In their striped masks, they terrorise the locals
who cannot swat them in such numbers, can’t control
the swirl and swarm. So many wings whirring in the corn,
so many antennae waving in the furrows, weighing down
the stalks until they split. Like remote-controlled drones
they fly as one murky swathe, moving on the breeze
in careless decimation.

They gorge before the spray can settle, then flee
long skies away, their wreckage strewn
in hard and yellowing husks. Far from here,
the upsurge will finally recede
just as hormones do.

Somewhere, among the stumps of a ravaged field
a locust wakes alone, its head buzzing.
It has no scent memory of this place,
or its arrival here. All it remembers is a dream
of flying across deep water, its mind heavy with gold.

About the contributor

Hilary Otto
Hilary Otto is an English poet and teacher based in Barcelona, Spain. She reads poems regularly in both English and Spanish. Her work has been featured in Popshot Quarterly, Black Bough Poetry, Dust Poetry Magazine and AIOTB Magazine, among other publications.

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