3 October 2011

Voices on the wind: poem

From the crow's lofty gaze
no human trace is seen
on this rugged stone land.
No standing stone or broch,
no ancient road or field
beneath a verdant green.

Through a eucalyptus haze
nebulous sandy trails
meander the grey-blue bush
shifting their twists and lines
with the uncharted pounding
of wallaby paws and silent feet.

Across the knobby plains
beneath a relentless sun
where the grassy hummocks
cut and lodge in milky skin,
do you hear the memories
on the voices on the wind?

10 September 2011

Moon: poem

I touch myself
under the gaze
of the peeping moon.
My luminous gasps
her cold, mute delight.

21 August 2011

Morning walk 1: poem

Blotchy-trunked gum trees
cluster in the morning,
lean and lanky
 as adolescent boys
 in school assembly.

14 August 2011

The Mirror: poem

I fought
the sightless beast
with sword and wit
and still my foe
matched every move

in exhaustion
we dropped as one
pressed cheek to cheek
in self-defeat.

7 August 2011

Vivid: poem

Just before lights out
the pink and blue striped pyjamas
of the Winter sky
shamelessly vivid
like early jasmine on grey, drab days
before Spring arrives.

Photo: Thanks to Daisy

31 July 2011

Alchemy: poem

Who's that across the crowded room?
Sullenly silent, drink in hand
all jagged edges, slicing words.
I feel I know her, what's her name?

I feel her pulse, her raging heart,
her sightless wander through our lives,
her fitful struggle to transcend
the cold worn grooves of hollow steps.

She slithers wraithlike out the door
as laughter falters, with a sigh.
That sharp and scary, scowling girl
I think just might have once been me.

24 July 2011

Not begging: poem

Aborignal lad
bare-chested and painted
breathes life inexpertly
to the didgeridoo.

Occasional coins tossed
by fast moving shoppers
turning their faces from
an invisible truth.

His elders are long dead
from the grog and disease,
or soon will be dreaming,
so he's travelling alone.

But he is not begging;
he plays us a glimpse of
a hard-won achievement,
that should fill us with awe.

17 July 2011

The sound of green: poem

Fragile creatures crawl
silver trails of moist meanderings.
I am the music of rain
bouncing on leaf trampolines.
A gentle percussion.

A verdant carpet of moss
cushions your cinnamon slumber
as with each breath
I am inhaled, immersed.
My heart arrested.

And then. I live again.
as you exhale a dream
of birdsong and falling leaves.
All things are possible
I can write the sound of green.

9 July 2011

July stones: poems and observations

Joining the river of stones challenge for July 2011


31 July
Tubular orange blooms drape the white stucco wall in a fluorescent curtain, reminding me of the 1970s.

30 July
A kookaburra perches on top of the spindly pole of the sewer vent. Its chilly plumage, a feathery plug for the rising warm fetid air.

29 July
A little more daylight
a little less night
I walk a little further
Spring is in my step.

28 July
Tossed toe-nail clipping
New moon imprinted
On the morning sky.

27 July
Eyes lock on glowing screens,
fingers tap and thumb at
mute conversations.
I seek a simple smile
on the bus ride home.

Ibis glide in graceful arcs to join the night roost; their honking greetings rise above the roar of the traffic below.

25 July
The delicate pinks and greys of the Galah are brushed across the canvas of rainclouds at sunset.

24 July
Two rainbow lorikeets, like harlequin vultures, perch atop the limp form of a ursurping Mynah bird.

23 July
Draped over my sleeping waist
darting tongue seeking my ear
little foxy dog greets the day.

22 July
Umbrella carcass
skin flayed, ribs exposed
drowned in the deluge
flaws unforgiven.

21 July
There is no shelter. Water gushes through rusty street awnings. Buses dump drenching waves. Rivers run under my sodden feet.

20 July
Pigeons paddle
in a violet puddle
beneath a neon sign.

19 July
The bus crawls slippery streets, jostling its bellyful, forcing an intimacy with wet wool, long hours and a sour hint of urine.

18 July
A suspended eerie stillness
as muddy clouds amass
in a sinister armada
has me scurrying for home.

17 July
Two anxious lads, caught
like roos in headlights
as the smell of pot
escapes their furtive lair,
sweetly wafts my way.

16 July
The city is smudged,
the horizon furry
as mould on old bread.
A glass pane divides
that drizzly softness
from my jagged self.

15 July
A flying fox hangs
arrested grimace
on the overhead wires.

14 July
Fierce-faced red wattlebirds fend off interlopers, desperate to raise their chicks before the Spring cuckoos arrive.

13 July
The morning sun burns a white-cold halo where Centrepoint tower's needle has punctured earth's grey quilted skin.

12 July
Wire-cloaked double As
of Sydney Anzac Bridge
stand poised and proud before
evening's orange spotlight
until day's curtain close.

11 July

Pink and grey galahs strut unconcerned by the busy roadside, plucking at roots from the verge, ignoring the intruders in their domain.

10 July
A dainty black cat, bell at its neck, flattens at my cajoling to slither down the gutter drain. Someone's princess, out for the night.

9 July
From the blanket nest
twitches and whimpers
of giant adventures.
Secure in his lair:
my little foxy.

8 July
A wattlebird guards a Callistemon's sweet ruby brushes. Its hoarse scold and spitfire tactics send an interloper tumbling towards me.

7 July
Scorpio stretches herself across the canopy, smaller stars hiding from unseen turmoil. I ponder the orange dying star on her back.

6 July
The wind, gusty and irritable, finally settles at dusk to silent sleep. Leaves cluster, arrested by gutter and tyre.

5 July
The dogs diligently search the garden perimeter for rats as a lone cricket calls its 3-syllables into the chilled night air.

4 July
A tidy line of ibis, brushed with morning gold, slowly traverses a sky left bare by the recent crimson swirl of rainbow lorikeets.

3 July
All is shrouded in mist as we descend. Suddenly the snaking road appears in the headlights, luminous gums leaning toward the intrusion.

3 July 2011

Prickling dream: poem

I dreamed
I stood at heaven's gate.
There was no bearded sage in white
no mystic choirs resonate.
Just a keypad and a flashing screen:
<Enter Password Here>

Oh No..
Parades of digits march in line.
Strings of letters loop and twine.
Facebook? Twitter? My mobile phone?
Or work - what about the toilet door?
Yes - I tried them all!

Oh bliss.
I'm launched to dizzy heights.
My body soars towards the light.
I'm water-borne, yet still in flight.
I am now Dolphin. I am Fish.
I surf the greatest tide.

I scrape
at living cavern walls.
My heartbeat echoes, my fins fall,
my soul yearns for where I was before.
Squeezed tight by fate, I plan escape.
Yet. Still I see the light.

Then spat
into waiting hands
that wash salt from my skin of sand.
Disbelief burns bright, then fades
as all I know is wiped; erased
but for a prickling dream.

26 June 2011

Wild design: poem

I'll see you in heaven she murmured
then closed her eyes for the last time.
I traced my fingers across her cheek...
this life I loved will soon be dust.
No heaven, just this random life.

Though steeped in chaos, fateless, free
we have invented lives of wild design.
We've trodden paths that merge and part
through the snowy tundra of the years.
We have tossed each other silver threads
and spun them into glittering webs.

Our thoughts have wandered through the starlight
we've strummed our minds to seek the truth
found all the world in a rock pool ripple.
We have danced in loops, as drunken fools.
Laid out the pieces of a bad day...
and found a lonely jewel.

And god? God is the gaze of my dog's eyes
the familiar touch of my lover's hand
the grateful smile on a stranger's face.
And if there is a heaven, it is Us
our dust mingled with the stardust,
waiting to be redrawn into lines of beauty.

19 June 2011

Odd creatures: monologue

Humans have evolved into the strangest creatures.

Other creatures surely look on and shake their heads. They see us gather and collect things - bright, clever, useful and useless things. Far too many things to carry with us. We cover ourselves in layers of skins and trinkets. We build elaborate structures to live in, play in, work in. We collect things that have no bearing on the basics of our lives - that of food shelter, sex, safety.

We have evolved a huge frontal cortex, and use thinking to manipulate our world. How this happened was probably because of a gene mutation billions of years ago. Some might say this was the hand of God. Some might say the devil. But it is what it is - a mutation that allowed us to change. Allowed us to think so much that perhaps we have forgotten we are creatures at all. Why do I wonder this? The way my dog looks at me when I stop to put on an array of clothes before I walk out the door. Why can't I just walk out naked? The way he rolls his eyes as the conversation bounces from one human to another, waiting for the moment we will actually do something like run, hunt, forage, explore. Creature things. Dogs know us because they have evolved alongside us for over 50,000 years. They tolerate our oddities for the sake of the companionship that they treasure.

Oh yes, relationships and collaboration! They are the stuff of survival. And we have this so right dont we? With our phobias, fears of intimacy, our violence and manipulation, our greed and lack of compassion. We are ever-striving for connection with other humans, but so constrained by how we think, that we cannot enjoy the the moment as other creatures do. Can't I just hug you if I feel so inclined, enjoy that moment of connection? Not usually. Too much thinking - what does this mean, what if they think this or that, not appropriate, and on it goes.

Too much thinking ourselves into corners.

Have we forgotten a creature's basic instinct - perpetuation of the species? I dont just mean sex. A being that uses its brain to think so much can surely think more strategically about the perpetuation of the species. Yet we rape and pillage the resources of the earth with little consideration for the generations to come. Oh yes, we are exploring other planets, having given up on this one. Or perhaps I am just being too short-sighted - perhaps we are forward thinking, exploring options for when our sun dies in 30 billion years time.

On the other hand, perhaps we really are just creatures - past the prime of our world domination. Over-populated, too-successful, in a world of shrinking resources our instinct to keep going has become an individual instinct to survive, without consideration of others.

All very sobering. I'd like to think that we still strive for the connections and relationships that will redeem us. That we will use technology to satisfy our basic need for connection with others. That we will re-learn the art of feeling - through poetry, through walking slowly through the busy day, through running with our dogs, through living in the moment and opening our hearts to others, without thinking that perhaps we should not.

12 June 2011

Mysterious writers: literature pairs

Here is an odd pair. Novels that enclose a writing mystery are among my favourites.

In Felice Picano's The book of lies (1998) a young ambitious intellectual discovers a lost piece of writing while overseeing the writing collection of a leading member of the Purple Circle, a gay literary group. His search for the mystery author is a back-drop for an exploration of friendship and betrayal. One of the interesting explorations in the book is that of identity. Are we who we purport to be, who we are assumed to be, or is the truth much more simple?

Carol Shields explores this theme in Mary Swann (1987). Four people with different relationships to Mary Swann, set out to discover and dissect her as the poet who was murdered by her husband soon after handing over her collection of poems to a third party. Who was Mary Swann? The answers slide and escape the reality of Mary's life and become interpretations moulded by academic ambition, conjecture and subjectivity.

Both books are intensely engrossing. For me they raised vaguely disturbing questions about the relationship between writer, writing and reader.

5 June 2011

Christmas gifts: poem

My Nan
always arrived in a green van
secreted inside
un-wrapping and re-wrapping
the forgotten shapes of gifts.

My Mum
hung wet blankets in the doorways
hoping for a breeze
that would stir the stiffling heat
and keep the sherry trifle firm.

My sister
complained of a belly-ache
among other things
after eating all the chocolate
from gifts that would never be.

My brother
knobbly-kneed, quiet and gentle
bestowed no gift
to those who had crossed him
in his living memory.

At night
emerald-emblazoned beetles
flung themselves, pinging
at the screen door like popped corn
under the porch light.

Next day
folding crumpled paper flat
eating ham again,
the languid days stretched out before me
until the next school year began.

29 May 2011

Subtle joy: poem

Blue Mountains, NSW  Australia
Posted by Picasa

Subtle joy
discovering sublimity
when I stray from
the familiar path.

View my old-fashioned film camera amateur photography on Flickr at:

22 May 2011

Birdwatching: literature pairs

On my bookshelves I have numerous field guides and photographic books on bird identification. Despite this, I had doubts about the concept of birdwatching as a central theme to a good story. I felt that any attempt would reek of nerdy ornithological elitism, never resulting in an engrossing story in its own right.

Two unusual books have proven me wrong. Perhaps all the more for discovering them by accident - one in an op shop and the other in a book clearance store.

Watch the birdie is essentially the memoirs of the British police photographer and birdwatcher Alan Parker. The book didn't resound with me as good literature, but as I persisted through the pages I found it had an appeal. Alan recounts his adventures, especially those across Iran, taking risk after risk for the sake of the rare sight of a particular bird - and surviving to tell the story. It was his larrikinism that drew me in. Eventually. His stories roll across the crammed pages chronologically with little distinction in treatment between unimportant and critical facts. Nevertheless for the persistent (or those with a passion for photography or ornithology), there is satisfaction. Alan comes to life as a reminder of what young men used to do; of the risks young men could take in a world that is now quite changed. I imagine he would be an entertaining reconteur and I am left wishing I could sit down with him and hear more.

The other unusual gem I found is A guide to the birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson. Contrary to the implications of its title, this book is not a field guide but a quirky story of love and integrity among a community of Indians living in Nairobi. This book has achieved what I thought not possible - a good story that encompasses birdwatching. Its not nerdy. Its not just for those who know their egrets from their godwits. Its a delightful story, with a birdwatching challenge winding through its chapters, a scaffold for the incredible misfortunes of its central character Mr Malik, in his quest to gain the attention of Rose, the local birdwatching group leader. It is delightful.

15 May 2011

Secret stage: short short story

The gun rubs its rigid barrel against my bare belly in a cold embrace. The park bench presses into my back and buttocks, biting at my nervous flesh.

I expected a furtive cloak of darkness, but great globes of light, suspended like full moons, are strung along the park path. Their brilliance pins me to the spot like a museum exhibit. I sit exposed and sweating on a cavernous stage. There are secret eyes in the shadows of the trees, I know. I can feel their waiting, focussed, patient presence. I imagine them, this secret audience, smoking to pass the time but ready in an instant to lean closer, hungrily, still in their shadowy anonymity, expectantly awaiting my soliloquy.

Under my shirt my finger plays gently with the trigger, biding my time, delaying the final act. Will they clap in a glove-muffled silence, those bright eyes in dark faces? Will they turn and murmur each to the other, a tide of sound blending with the cicadas’ drone? Will the lights mysteriously extinguish when the show is over? Will my performance be a success? Or defeat? And who is witness enough to judge?

In the end it is only the flying foxes, disturbed by the sharp finale, that wheel and screech at curtain call.

8 May 2011

The glassy sea: my father

We are gliding over a glassy sea. The only sound is from the oars as they rise and dip beneath the surface. That and my thumping heart as I gaze into the inky depths below. I see the black weed waving and imagine it clutching at my limbs, just as it does to the underside of the canoe. My father is not afraid. He carries me safely above the murky depths - its real and imagined dangers.

For me, this is the symbol of my father. His influence carries me safely above the baseness of the world. He has modelled tolerance, despite having his firmly held beliefs and attitudes. I have never heard him speak ill of anyone depite their difference. He argues with facts, without resorting to abuse. Unthreatened by any argument. Confident, sure and fair-minded.

His lesson of tolerance still resonates within me and carries me through my days.

He makes light of illness, death, misfortune - especially his own. If it can't be controlled then its better to laugh than to worry. I may occasionally cringe at his predictable jokes, but I value the ethos that underlies them - of riding, not fighting, the unrelenting waves of life.

1 May 2011

Lighthouses: literature pairs

I love it that one book can conjure up another completely different one, by its theme, subject or ambiance.

Peter Hill's Stargazing: memoirs of a young lighthouse keeper slowly pulled me into the rhythms of a lifestyle that only recently became obsolete. The routine life of the men maintaining the lighthouses off the noth west of Scotland was by no means mundane but full of risk. But more than that, the book is about being human, the tales we pass on to each other about our fundamental struggles in the face of the monumental force of nature. The wind roars on the other side of the stone tower. In a tiny space you share an aromatic meal and ponder the gossip of old men who in half a lifetime have experienced more than you know you ever will.

In contrast to this true story, Jeanette Winterson's Lighthousekeeping is pure poetry and fable. Her characters' stories are woven amid the same storm-tossed world of lighthouses but her words leap in exquisite beauty from one unexpected idea to another. There is a mystery at its heart. But the taste you are left with is that of the young Silver questioning the timeless Pew in the darkened lighthouse, while the wind and sea rages around them.

And I cannot help but make another leap here to Annie Proulx's The shipping news. The same wild force of the sea and wind. But a house, not a lighthouse, tied to the rock it crouches upon. A way of writing that couples words and images in extraordinary and exciting ways. And another character looking for their self in the stories told and histories that were shaped by the force of nature.

I loved all three!