Hilary Otto

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the poet

Hilary Otto is an English poet based in Barcelona, where she reads regularly in both Spanish and English. Her work has featured in Ink, Sweat & Tears, Popshot, Black Bough Poetry, The Blue Nib and elsewhere. Hilary was longlisted for the Live Canon 2021 International Poetry Prize, and her first pamphlet, Zoetrope, will be published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2022.

the poems

A dream of flying

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           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.

What the data about
migration told me

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                       We are incoming packets
                       discrete, carrying our own
                       context. Our aim is to pass through
                       without being stored in a session.


                       We choose the optimal path
                       for delivery, clustering
                       at the interface between nodes.
                       When we encounter a closed path


                       we redistribute, or use a broker
                       for dispatch and settlement.
                       The broker makes decisions
                       based upon current demand.


                       If the load is well-balanced
                       we are outgoing, our movement
                       is invisible to the receiver
                       until we reach choke point


                       we have not yet reached settlement
                       we are asynchronous threads
                                   pooling
                       we are stateless, but we persist

Black star

Scientists recently examining a victim of Vesuvius
found that the extreme heat had turned his brain to glass.

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                       This is no ordinary stain.
                       Here lies a cluster
                       of black stars, a spilling of ideas;
                       the spectacle of dreams on fire.


                       Inside this many-faceted mirror
                       there is a man, exploding
                       from his own head
                       in a shower of thoughts.


                       Vitrified, he shines,
                       his secrets burned dark in the pit
                       of a flame. This is birth itself
                       smothered in sharp death.


                       One catastrophic jewel spreads
                       its brittle offering to Vulcan.
                       Shards of energy cooked
                       in the kiln of a skull


                       are pressed cold across
                       our consciousness in a bribe.
                       This is what you could be, Death whispers.
                       Look how beautiful you are!

Publishing credits

A dream of flying: The Blue Nib (Issue 44)

What the data about migration told me: Ink, Sweat & Tears

Black star: exclusive first publication by iamb