I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world,
to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

Some of these poems are autobiographical, some are entirely fictional, and some are a mixture of both. The intention is art rather than self-expression. I don't allow factual details to get in the way of poetry! (I do seek emotional truth.) They are works in progress, and may be subject to revision without notice. Completed versions appear in my books. Nevertheless copyright applies to all texts found here. Copyright also applies to almost all photos posted here, most of which are my own, though a few are licensed under Creative Commons.
Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your posts as much as possible.

30 June 2016

30 Days of Delight

To my companions at Project 366

Every morning
I bring my coffee
and come to the feast,
where I linger.

I meet beauty – my reason
for this whole lifelong
engagement with poetry,
and passion for visual art.

I find quirkiness, laughter,
deep thought
and deeper feelings –
great nourishment.

Oh, I like
poems to get my teeth into,
to devour in gulps, or to savour;
tasty, piquant images,
and others that slake thirst.

So I’m sorry to leave you, and
like Penelope (who just said goodbye)
after 30 days of making poems,
I notice I’m tired. It’s surprising.

‘Writing begets writing’
I said at the outset.
And so it has been. A pouring.
More than one a day.

A delight. A fervour.
(Not taking anything out
of my life – oh, except housework
and exercise. Adding this in.)

I realise now, it must have taken
invisible reserves of energy.
Would persistence have increased
fatigue or stamina? I won’t know.

‘It is never any use
dwelling on goodbyes,’
a wise person, whose name
I’m too lazy to look up now, said.

‘It is not the being together
it prolongs. It is the parting.’ Yes.
The time has come to say goodbye.
And so, my sweets, let us part.

I’ll never grow too old to dream;
still your art will live in my heart.
(Now that I’ve got you all weepy –
don’t panic, I’ll be lurking and reading.)

My final poem as a guest blogger this past month at Project 366

29 June 2016

The Advantages of Poetry

Be faithful to your calling.
It will not desert you.
(You will doubt this at times,
when it seems to take leave of absence,
but trust. It WILL come back.) 

Poetry won't keep you warm
on cold nights,
but will help you celebrate
those who do
(every coupling 
a secret threesome)
and console you
after they depart.

It might not make you rich
but you'll think
your poverty's worth it.

You'll always
have someone to talk to.

Poetry is not a partner
who'll dump you after just one dance.
Poetry wants to go home with you.
And if you can't dance,
poetry will teach you.

Poetry will happily 
get wasted with you –
and in the morning
you'll both look worse for wear.
Later, though,
poetry will help you straighten out.

If the power goes off,
you only need a candle
and some kind of notebook
with keyboard or pen.
You can do without TV
or someone else's novel.

It won't feed you
but it can make you forget about meals, 
and any other hunger or thirst 
except the ache for perfection
of word or line.

No matter what goes wrong,
no matter how helpless you feel,
there is always this to do.

And when everything's right
and beautiful
and buoyant,
poetry enables you
to hold the moment a whole lot longer,
then to return for more.
(With poetry, there is no such thing
as being too greedy.)

Poetry doesn't care
about fame and status. 
You do –
and it may or may not happen –
but to poetry it's simply irrelevant.

You want someone to read your poetry,
someone to hear your words.
You're allowed to want that; it's natural.
And there will be those who do.
Cherish them, even if they are not many.

But know, as well,
that if you stand outside and speak your poetry,
be it in a shout or a whisper,
the trees will hear, and the air.
When you read your words over to yourself, silently,
angels and spirits will stand at your shoulder
reading too, noticing the pictures and the music.
And when the words are nowhere but in your mind,
God perceives them, who put them there.

28 June 2016

A Gift of Roses

Unusual pale apricot –
roses from my friend,
in a black pot

where they stayed,
moving with me to all
the rented houses.

Every year
they flowered twice:
in Spring and Autumn.

Until they stopped. 
No blooms, not a bud,
now my friend is dead. 

For Quadrille #12: rose at dVerse


Governs Scorpio –
which used to share Mars
with fiery Aries, until
this dark mystery was found.

So small, it's hard to define
as a regular planet. (They
are big and gassy.) 
But it's intense!

It has frozen nitrogen lakes,
a huge, hazy atmosphere
with layers embedded,
a sky that's blue like ours

and, probably, 
vast seas of water 
hidden underground –
very Scorpio, that.

Astronomers argue now.
Can't it still be a planet
as it's so exciting, or
is it King of the Dwarves?

It's far colder
than we can imagine.
And I hate the cold.
Still I want it. We Scorpions

are not direct like Aries,
nor as warlike as Mars.
We are of an underworld
that isn't hot and hellish.

Rather, we are deep 
and dangerous,
like hidden oceans 
or solid nitrogen.

Linked to the current Tuesday Platform at 'imaginary garden with real toads'.

Watching a Religious Parade on TV

Robed in white, the Cardinal
is walking in slow processional,
holding a decorative shepherd's crook –
symbol of caring for his flock.

It is a younger priest I see,
staring through years of memory:
smooth-faced, all those decades back,
and suited in serviceable black.

The tilt of his head, his sober expression,
radiated concern, compassion.
The Church would set the matter right.
Later I read his useless report.

That was for an investigation
into conditions at a city prison.
We put in front of him every detail 
that made the place a renowned hell-hole.

An ex-teacher there, I was at that time
part of a group for prison reform.
His purpose, it afterwards seemed to me,
was to absolve the Church of responsibility.

When he says that it was long ago;
he can't recall, he doesn't know
about pedophile priests and child abuse,
or the cover-up of which he's accused –

I remember that young career priest,
schooling his face to appear earnest
as mothers and sisters of prisoners
confided horrors, fighting back tears.

He nodded, spoke softly, listened well,
took notes, asked questions, got it all.
There was also my long, written submission.
Months of waiting. Then his call to inaction.

His back is hunched, his face is red;
his gaze downcast, not heavenward.
There are floppy jowls and wrinkles now.
Facts might be smoothed away; not his brow.

It's very un-Christian of me, I know –
but then I am not a Christian, so –
I confess that seeing him bowed with age,
morose and shuffling, gladdens my rage.

(Been trying a long time to write this.)

My Dad (Verse Portrait 105)

Grew roses,
ferns and bamboo.

Made wooden dolls
from round-topped clothes-pegs,
drawing faces on.

Sketched for me
water-colour flowers; I remember
pink heath’s delicate bells.

When I had nightmares
sat with me into dawn,
telling stories.

At parties, played
mouth organ;

declaimed with gestures
‘Abdul the Bulbul Emir’
or some Rabbie Burns.

Made an acrostic poem
every family birthday,
the person’s name down the side.


Verse portraits: explanatory note

26 June 2016

Once, on a 16-foot Trailer-Sailor

It was Broome to Darwin –
but we skipped 
part of the Sound,
and cut across
the top of the Gulf.
Not enough time
to hug and explore
those long, intricate shores.

It was 40 degrees plus 
(Celsius); only warm salt water 
to tip on ourselves 
from a bucket dipped over the side.
Fresh was rationed for drinking –
couldn't always find
pool or stream  
up the inlets.

It was clear nights 
lounging on deck;
uncountable stars
crowding the vast black dome overhead;
and one tiny, quick white satellite.
It was crocodiles sunning.
Waterfalls. Four-storey tides.
Beach sand inland, impossibly high.

Note: 40ºC is 104ºF.  (It was the tropics! But the nights cooled off somewhat).

Responding to a prompt at 'imaginary garden with real toads', to write on sailing in 100 words max (excluding title).

Don't Talk To Me About Summer

Bloody freezing right now
and Sanaa over at Prompt Nights
is asking for a poem of summer –
hot, sensuous summer
of fiery bosom and bared lips
(or was that the other way around?).

Hard now, already, to imagine
raging heat, naked flesh. Who wants
recollections that only make you shiver
all the more in wretched comparison?
We hate you, Northern Hemisphere poets.
You think your half is the whole world, don't you?

You're so up there. But just you wait.
When you are shovelling snow
and battling blizzards, guess where we'll be?
Yes, at the beach. We'll be sprawling
on smooth sand in the sun, we'll be playing
in our rapturous oceans ..... Meanwhile I'm sneezing.

Written for Sanaa Rizvi's Prompt Nights: Summer

25 June 2016

Recurring Dream

In this dream
you are here again.
We’re talking.

Just that.
No special revelations.
Just you and me.

Just talking.
Friendly. Ordinary.
About nothing much.

The small
deeply important
matters of day-to-day.

It isn't the words.
It’s your head close to mine
on the other pillow.

It’s the warmth between us
not needing remark.

When I wake 
and know,
it’s not so bad any more.

There are always tears
of course
but also gladness.

I understand it’s a dream
of wish-fulfilment. And
I know the dream is true.