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')


These poems 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.

31 July 2008

Verse Portrait 32. Lightnin' Hopkins

Just listening again
to you singing and playing,
hootin’ and hollerin’
on “Blowin’ the Fuse”
and you know, I’m darn sick
of all this piety I meet,
everyone so sweet and light.

I’m wishing for a nice dirty boy
like you, Sam; suggestive
without saying one bad word.
Just listening to your quiet laugh
your wicked laugh
and your music, I know
you knew all the right moves.

30 July 2008

Verse Portrait 31. Favourite Uncle

You walked on your hands
across the floor, up on a chair,
along the dining table
and down at the other end.

And you could whistle
and play a comb and tissue
just like a mouth organ.

You called me Mary Rose,
my Dad’s name for me.
You were his youngest brother.

At 70, grey-bearded,
you rode a motorbike.
90 this year, you requested a party
“small but memorable”.

29 July 2008

Verse Portrait 30. Surrogate Daughter

Slight, almost waif-like,
you walked past my market stall.
Mid-psychic reading I looked up,
caught your penetrating eye.

Returning when I was free,
you told me you’d seen how true
was my link to the Universe.
“You’ve chosen this work,” you said.
“And deserve your pay.”

Adopting me, you switched off
your own brilliant, burdensome gift,
preferring to cook for people
or give the homeless a bed.

28 July 2008

Verse Portrait 29. Full Circle

When you started
on your path of healing
thirteen years ago,
I taught you Reiki, Level One.
Pretty little woman,
you looked nervous, held in.
It was grief you were holding
for the end of your marriage.

This weekend
you taught me Theta Healing
in the comfortable home
of your present love.
(Met him dancing rock'n'roll.)
Every year you look
younger, prettier, lighter,
your real self more revealed.

After the cold night: haiku and things for July 2008

(Several of these in response to posts by MySpace friends.)

3/7/08:

In memory of Jane McGrath

What we remember –
more than her beautiful face
and famous husband,
even more than her courage –
is her joyous laughter


4/7/08:

This overcast day
my cat on the garden bin
finds one patch of sun.


11/7/08:

After the cold night
sunshine, blue skies and birdsong,
my rose opening.

***************************

Haiku on Friday

The second Friday
in January last year
a new adventure
began, goes on beginning,
continually renewed.


13/7/08

I water my rose
find her a sunnier spot
between the haiku.


15/7/08

Thanks for the memory!

Couldn't find a rose
so he sent me a pansy
for thoughts ... years ago.


18/7/08:

The first bud blossoms
on the first rose I have grown
and cared for myself.

***************************

Bittersweet

When losing a friend
the memory of a smile –
such comfort, such pain.


19/7/08:

Busking fruit seller (netsuke)

Fruit fills the basket
but he holds his real treasure –
the ivory flute.


22/7/08:

haiku from between
tradition and tomorrow
forges a new form

***************************

haiku from between
tradition and tomorrow
kaleidoscopic

(in response to a challenge to complete the first two lines with a third)


25/7/08:

A wild wind last night.
I brought my rosebush inside
but it needs real light.

****************************

Green frog on the grass
in danger from careless feet
only yesterday.

Her two gentle hands
lifted and carried the frog
to her safe garden.


26/7/08

As twilight deepens
mountains improbably blue
fill the horizon.


28/7/08

Driving home last night
as rain clouds threatened I smiled
thinking of the frogs.

**************************

Had to prise her off.
She was such a clinging vine,
poor little Ivy!

26 July 2008

Verse Portrait 28. Fellow Student

The energy of stillness
beams from you,
sitting in the corner,
white-blonde plaits
contrasting with red
pants and shirt and woollen shawl
wound around your waist like a skirt.

Your big eyes gaze
over striped spectacle frames.
Long fingers prop your chin,
the deep crimson polish and silver ring
strangely like an understatement.

Then you speak. It’s definite, fast,
knowing. You ripple with laughter,
your movements are dance.

25 July 2008

Verse Portrait 27. One Lover

You looked like Jesus
except he probably
wasn’t a red-head.

“So strange,” you said
our first night together,
“I’m in love with you
and not in love with you.”

I was older,
married with kids.

You gave me
Leonard Cohen’s poems
and an album of Ry Cooder.

Encountered decades later,
you were cynical
and resigned.

The young man I remember
was worth all the lies
and the tears.

How To Talk To Inanimate Objects

It might be a tree, or a table. Either way,
if at all possible touch the object
not with fingertips only but your palm.
Touch it firmly but gently, and hold it.
Send love to the object, purposefully.

Stand still and take a deep breath.
As you breathe in, allow your cells to open.
Become a large, empty, waiting space.
Keep very quiet, focused and yet relaxed.
Then feel the subtlety of its message to you.

The message will be a feeling, an energy,
before it is anything else. Afterwards
it may become music or a picture
or even words. Whatever it is, it will come
into your mind like your own thought.

Keep sending love. Otherwise
you will not trust the message, you’ll think
it’s only you: “I just imagined that.”
And keep breathing, feeling your breath
go deeply in and out and your feet on the ground.

Say thank you to tree or table or
anything else you have. Separate slowly,
bringing your energy back in your own body.
If you can, write the message down. You think
you’ll never forget; I promise you will.

24/7/08

(Wednesday prompt: a "how to" poem.)

24 July 2008

Verse Portrait 26. Sister

When my father married your mother
we were already friends. Became
allies – against them.

You taught me to smoke:
puff, cough, sip raspberry cordial,
lie down dizzy on your bed.

We escaped to Melbourne,
you dragged me from studying to parties:
dancing in the dark to Nat King Cole.
Later we hosted children’s birthday parties.

Always talked for hours;
literature and theology, with coffee.
Wish you weren’t dead.

23 July 2008

Verse Portrait 25. Dr Mac

It was the old doctor I liked,
his gentle voice and smile.
I liked his worn brown jacket,
tweed with elbow patches
matching the faded brown eyes
in his worn face.

The way he talked about me
to Mum, I knew he knew
there was a person in here.

I sulked for his replacement,
a loud young man in a navy suit.
At four, I didn’t understand retirement.

22 July 2008

Verse Portrait 24. Enemy

Once friend.

We were a threesome,
kindred poets.
The Three Musketeers
had nothing on us.

Wine and talk
in your flat,
she and I escaping
children, husbands, pets.
Wicked laughter, gossip
and literary theory.

Then you found cause
to sneer at me,
when the Human
Potential Movement
got me too.

Our third Musketeer
I lost; she
found me again.
Your poisoned words
failed to destroy.

But something died.

My Friend's Son

At my house in Beaumaris
when you were five,
you ran straight down the passage
out the back door, jumped
in the pool and lay still
face down on the bottom.

Your mother, alerted
by profound instinct,
looked up at that moment;
in three strides reached the edge
leaned in and hauled you out.

Now you’re thirty-eight,
and the fault entirely
the other driver’s. Once more
you lie motionless. You have
your mind, your speech
and some use of your arms.

She is rescuing you again
in slower, subtler ways.
This time it takes
lawyer, carers, bedside visits
and long-term practical plans.

When I phoned, your voice
was strong and glad.
You sounded just like you.
And I kept remembering
you were such a funny
wriggly little boy.

(Wednesday prompt: Write a poem to an audience, i.e. addressed to a person or thing. Identify your audience in the title.)

21 July 2008

Verse Portrait 23. Dinah

Calm light fills your space.
In the garden you’ve created,
profusions of leaves
pour over fences,
flowers abundant as weeds
mix with the trees to enclose
a sanctuary for creatures.

The cat you rescued
purrs on your knee.
Once he was shy, fierce
from cruel mistreatment.

Your smile is deeply dimpled.
You read us a meditation
channelled from Mary Magdalene.
The air is singing,
the light turns gold.

20 July 2008

Verse Portrait 22. The One I Care For

Light arrives with the roses.
I’m nourished by such small things
which are in fact large.
What could be more important
than Life manifesting itself
in that form, that fragrance,
those rich yet delicate colours?

“Beautiful,” you agree,
“But those two flowers look sick.”
I explain they are buds
gradually opening; and know again
how life starts to elude you,
little by little the world
unravels, becoming unknown.

19 July 2008

Verse Portrait 21. Joseph

(Magnetic healer, Philippines)

He told us about the jagged scar
on his neck. Tumour.
Even the Manila doctors
wouldn’t cut near the artery.

He climbed the mountain
behind his village and prayed,
one hand cradling his throat.
The swelling burst and drained.

The people said, “You must be
a healer. Cure this boy.”
He prayed, laid hands; the boy lived.

“I can’t explain,”
said my doctor back home.
“Your cancer’s gone.”

18 July 2008

Verse Portrait 20. Primary School Headmaster

“Mum!” nudging her,
“It’s Mr. Wilson.”
The vague-eyed man
lifted his hat, but I saw
he no longer knew me:
a soft-faced child
under his silver hair.
And I was grown.

Always silver-haired,
he’d wander into classrooms,
his impromptu English lessons
more enthralling than stories.
He gave me then my grasp
of Latin roots.
Every child in the school
loved him. He knew us all by name.

My November Gift

(Another Robert Frost Challenge – except that it isn't quite. I only have a "Selected" Frost and haven't seen the original of this particular title. It's actually "My November Guest" but my mind kept reading it as "Gift" so I went with that.)

It was life, it was me,
it was the world opening,
a blossom before my eyes
or a window onto a view
or the door to outside.

Life was me, I
was the world, and
the whole world
came alive!

I was born in November.
I was born on the twelfth,
and I always knew
in some mystic way,
that was my day
Johnny Mathis remembered
singing “The Twelfth of Never”
(voice of a fallen angel
rich, sad, hauntingly sweet).
"And that's a long, long time."

And I love November,
month full of grace
full of splendour,
the month that will never
burn down to an ember.

I was born into spring
and renewal, that soft
Tasmanian spring,
late spring when it starts
toward summer, turning
more and more golden,
warming to boundless blue.

I was born on a Sunday.
Mum used to say:
“The child that is born
on the Sabbath day
is bonny and wise
and good and gay!”
(Gay meaning joyous
in those old days.)

I was born to good fortune
and every November
candles are lit, there is cake,
there are gifts, everyone singing.

I was born
into life, and that is the gift
and the world is a great gift
still, and I like after all
the gift of myself to me.
Now I look back, I see
the adventure I’ve been
this long, long, exciting time.

18/7/08

17 July 2008

Verse Portrait 19. Mistaken Identity?

I called her name through the crowd.
“It’s me, Rosemary,” I said,
rattling off places and dates.

A soft, uncertain girl
surprisingly steely if pushed

(rebuked my urgent force
after a fit, when I jammed a ruler
hard between her teeth)

she was still plump and pimply
hanging her head.

Finally she lifted her eyes.
“That’s my name, but I don’t know
you or anything you’re talking about.”

16 July 2008

Verse Portrait 18. Prisoner Poet 2: Kindred Spirit

Swift recognition,
though at first
you were wary
behind your exercise book.

Some years later
published poet, on the way
to an Honours degree.…
Out, you returned
to the thrill of oblivion.

Visiting after I broke my leg
you brought armfuls of food,
your methadone,
your wife and baby son.

I never saw you again;
you just vanished,
our birthday pact
broken that year.
Rumour said you OD’d.

Into My Own

My place is a small island.
There are many islands,
most of them warmer,
good to explore,
but the one I return to
always in heart and mind
is the one where I was born.

I cannot lose this island.
I hold it within me,
leaf and stone. Now
as I start to be old,
I visit more often – or no,
the island visits me.

I thought it was calling,
I thought I hungered
to walk its earth again,
but when I looked, I saw
there is no more need.

I am always there,
swimming below The Bluff
or rounding that little bend
in Burnie, where deep pink flowers
cascade over a low fence.

I’m climbing with my book
to sit in the fork of the black wattle.
I’m tramping with my staff
through the bush behind The Gorge,
and the nature spirits
move with me.

Yellow roses bloom
in my father’s garden,
and I fall asleep
hearing, like an “All’s well”,
the chimes of the Town Hall clock.

15/7/08

15 July 2008

Verse Portrait 17. Prisoner Poet 1: The Youngest

You sussed me out a while,
finally sidled up. "I got
these poems here,
they're not very good."
They were very good.

I bought you a handsome pen
engraved with your name —
an illegal act, I found out later;
but no-one told.

After five years, still angry, you emerged.
We got drunk together, mourning
our friend who died.

I think I was the only
Outsider you never betrayed.

14 July 2008

Verse Portrait 16. Indigo Child

Never saw such huge, round, dark blue eyes
as that baby’s when she gazed at the air
above people’s heads, laughing aloud to watch
their rainbow auras flicker and dance.

I heard the child’s thoughts and she mine;
we talked that way. When Bill died,
she asked me if she could have
"something special of his". I gave her
his quartz crystal. She held it to her heart.

13 July 2008

Verse Portrait 15. Myself

... the one I met first of all,
who discovered and gave me

the fuzzy feel of a blanket
lightly rubbing my lips

the pattern of whorls
in the straw sides of my cot

intonations of voices
coming and going around me

the sensual pleasures of food,
light coming in a window,

whose thoughts and fancies now
enrich my dreaming hours ...

perhaps she is my best
friend, perhaps not

12 July 2008

Verse Portraits 14. Finally

How could I not
know it was over,
that day in the local café
for lunch – my idea –
your sour face glued
to the daily newspaper,
your back half-turned away?

In this café today
Andrew reads the paper,
looks over it at me,
laughs, asks a question.
So different!

It wasn't, after all,
the mere fact of reading
that gave me the signs
I ignored,
and remembered later.

11 July 2008

Verse Portrait 13. At the Place of Tall Gums

You came chasing rumours:
a Reiki Master
out back of Pumpenbil.

Missed the famous one;
wrong house.
Found me.

Your frail friend
was deathly sick. We gave her
another decade, it transpired.

Always allies, we added
Reiki and magick
to your Youth Centre.

I left the hill. You sold
your corner cottage, moved
interstate to your daughter.

Where are you now,
what are you doing?
I miss you.

My Crowded Solitude

(Wednesday Challenge: crowd poem)

The veil wears thin.
Last night a man I didn’t know
walked past me through the living room.
Just visible against the air,
he gave no sign of seeing me.

Short and squat and slightly hunched,
he was wearing a camel shirt
under a red wool vest.
Was he perhaps a gnome or leprechaun?
He looked purposeful, busy.

The night before, as I wrote
a poem for my dead friend Anna,
gone these sixteen years,
I felt her draw close to my side.
I had the impression she was still dazzling.

Most days, the cats have spates
of chasing invisible somethings
all around the house – between the chairs,
up over the boxes in the garage –
whatever-it-is staying, obviously, just out of reach.

Sometimes a group of lights
dances and swoops across my vision,
bright, white-blue, zig-zagging
in unison like connected lightning bolts.
I believe they’re sylphs. I tell no-one.

10/7/08

10 July 2008

Verse Portrait 12. Thanks for the Memory

It wasn’t the rite before the altar
but the way, next morning
when I fell over that damn rock,
you picked me up and held me.

"I’m OK," I kept saying, "I’m not hurt,"
as if I didn’t want to lean
forever against your chest.

You’d slept all night by the fire,
I in your truck. You told
of waking, watching
a red eagle soar from the trees.

Verse Portrait 11. Ice Demon

It’s freezing tonight!
When it’s this cold,
my thoughts turn again
to you, Miss Winter.

Grade One teacher,
Grade A sadist, you liked
bringing the bending cane
down briskly, to sting
our six-year-old palms
for any reason.

You taught us all year,
but in my memory
it was always winter.
Your name filled the world.
Even your face
and voice chilled me.
I thought I’d never
be warmed.

8 July 2008

Verse Portrait 10. Screw

Usually the screws were polite
when I entered the prison
to work with poets. Only
this day I was late.

It was Visiting Day. I lined up
with others just arriving.
Women mostly: wives,
girlfriends, mothers.

The blonde in uniform
barged through us,
shoving contemptuously hard
with her shoulders and hips.

Glaring, we knew
not to protest.
I realised right then
I was one of — not them, us.

7 July 2008

Verse Portrait 9. Images That Come

Front page: ‘Mother and baby
lead march.’ Slim again
after your third, carried
snug on your chest.

Backyard picnic.
Red wine, hot debate.
The police helicopter passing.
Your bright face raised:
"Wave to ASIO!"

Dinner. Our favourite
food and music; goodbye kisses —
your farewell, we comprehended
when, two nights later,
you jumped into death.

Honey-blonde hair,
open smile, emphatic voice
rippling with quick laughter….
Never saw you cry.

Note: ASIO – Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Acronym pronounced AY-zee-oh.

6 July 2008

Verse Portrait 8. Black Sheep

You were the aunts’ whispers,
the rebel we shouldn’t meet.

One day my brother said,
"I met that cousin. She’s brilliant!

You must meet, you’d love her."
So I did, and you were, and I did.

Actor, dancer, thinker.
Black hair, bangles, throaty laugh.

We adored each other through decades
of marriages, babies, moves interstate.

Then what happened? A sudden
cooling. I still don’t know what I did.

5 July 2008

Verse Portrait 7. Flint

I kept seeing you
before I even knew
there was a you,
walking with me
down to the road
for the morning paper.
I got colouring, height,
even your approximate age.

When you turned up at my door
thin and rather scruffy,
"You’ve been homeless a while
haven’t you?" I said,
bringing you in for a drink.
Then I looked again.
"Oh, it’s you," I said.
"You’ve arrived."

Disclosure:
I can name this one because

a) he’s dead now, after a good life, and
b) he was my wonderful dog.

4 July 2008

Verse Portrait 6. Mentor

Years after
you were the bluff neighbour,
I encountered you
in a Geelong café.
I’d just done a prison visit,
a poetry workshop.
You said you could tell
I’d been somewhere very sad.

You were sad yourself —
marriage broken, job lost —
but you’d found
certain compensations:
a singing talent
finally expressed,
and psychic gifts.

You became my friend,
my teacher:
a great magician
I understood after you died.

3 July 2008

Vacation

I could use one.
The Universe has given me
one broken toe,
a big black splinter
in the same foot
which bled when I pulled it out
(the foot not the splinter)
and now I have to walk on
the sore spot – right on the ball!
(I don’t think so, ha ha,
not if you mean me.)
I keep bumping
the toe that I broke.

My little toe.
I look at the metaphysics.
“The little ones.”
Those fights with my son?
A sibling’s death?
But think — it’s on the left side.
Perhaps my direction …
spiritual direction.
Oh, what am I doing wrong?
All of it, probably,
every damn thing.
I bash myself
mentally as well.

My friends tell me,
“You need to slow down and relax!
You were running.
Stop going so fast,
that’s the message.
You hit a wall in the dark?
So quit rushing about.”
Can it be so darn simple?
Is that all I have to do?
Are my guides yelling, “Stop!”?
Well, it’s like I said.
A vacation.
I sure could use one.

3/7/08

Verse Portrait 5. Balinese Waiter

You came upstairs
with our tray,
tall golden lad
wearing jacket, sarong
and awkward grace.

I was even charmed
by your too-big
feet in floppy thongs.
But you grew into them.

Six years later,
our last visit,
you kissed me
a little too long.

My youngest said, smiling,
"He’s just like another
boy, isn’t he Mum?"

Your voice went husky.
"I think, not boy
any more," you said.

2 July 2008

Verse Portrait 4. Mysterious Reader

You make your impression
by being unknown —

unexpected, unidentified.
Your blog is set to private.

I had a student once
with your first name …

but, a respected poet now,
not likely secret or shy.

And there was a friend.
We shared a son

a long, long story.
His early death

drove us apart, our pain
in each other’s faces

too much to bear.
You will not be her?


1 July 2008

Verse Portrait 3. Old Man Hitching

Rose from the side of the road
exceptionally tall and thin,
sudden scarecrow in the mirror
only better dressed.

Grey suit in a country summer.
Waving his stick for attention,
smiling like a child,
flopping awkwardly towards
the only car.

Might have waited ages.
(We were a bit off track.)
Going to town to shop
five miles; in eighty years
he’d never been further.
Said it proudly, gladly.

Verse Portrait 2. First Boyfriend

We eyed each other off a while
before you made your move.
Or was it I who invited you?
So long ago …

You came to my house.
When I heard the knock I couldn’t
walk straight up the corridor,
stumbled though I wanted to skip.

Our mothers chatted politely.
We ran outside to play.
It ended when you told me
you didn’t believe in fairies.
(We were five.)