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 updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). 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 blog posts as much as possible.

22 December 2010


Gold moon
low and bright,
with the curved shadow
halfway across.

We didn’t wait
out in the cold.

It was so quick,
when we looked again
the moon was bright white
high and full.

Today the first image
still floats in my mind.

19 December 2010

Sweet Chili Calamari Stir Fry

It was a quiet taste but with character
like the way my favourite teacher
used to speak: quite softly
yet with authority.

It was a sustained flavour too,
as if the teacher’s voice
had explained at length
and completely.

The aftertaste lingered
subtle as a whisper,
like understanding
coming bit by bit.

At last it was only
in the mind,
like a song.


I just came across this in my 'Working on' folder and decided it's fine as is. It was inspired by a prompt, which I can't now find the source of, to describe one sense in terms of another. The shape of the poem on the page is my own idea, illustrating visually (a third sense!) the 'fading away' progression in the other senses mentioned. 

I include the date of writing as it's posted so long after.

5 December 2010

Verse Portrait 89. The Lady from Lombok

‘My husband beats me,’ she murmured,
eyes downcast, to Bill in reply to his praise
of her gentle beauty. Perhaps she thought
to reject an advance? I never saw a mark
on her delicate face, nor a bruise
on her dainty arm, and she didn’t move
like one with hidden injuries; she was lithe.

Nor did she, later, reject his advances.
I wasn’t with him on that trip. But I knew.

Now also forms part of my 'Remembering Bali' series.

Another year, another word

I am 71 now, which gives me another word to play with — if anyone except me is counting.

This blog has been languishing many months (again!) while I've been busy with other projects. But, however slowly, it shall continue.

I resume at this particular time because, whilst I always intended to write a poem on my next subject, it happens that I need it now to complete a series on Bali which has just appeared at my Passionate Crone blog.

2 December 2010

Dawning excitement: November tanka/gogyohka

Two gogyohka:

Sunny morning.
I open the blinds
just enough.
The street is quiet,
the garden shines.


Melbourne Cup Day:
dawning excitement.
The winner will be
the best horse —
so you think.


The hill top
is full of flowers
after rain.
I climb skyward
in scented air.


quiet drive
after the meeting
empty roads
warm soft darkness
and my man waiting


My rose blooms again,
one flower on the long stem.
Spring is really here.
I miss the kookaburras,
not seen these past rainy weeks.


In this Caldera
white ibis wander freely
parading the streets,
decorating trees en masse —
reminders of my friend Thoth.


Spring rain.
My herb garden
spills over:
white flowers
on the lawn.


1 December 2010


What did I learn?
Perhaps that we don’t learn —
killing the things we love.

My stepdaughter visited Kuta
just last week. Gentle people,
she remarks, but expensive taxis!
‘No bemos?’ I ask. (Little buses.)
In my day they were everywhere.
She never even heard the word.

‘Wish I’d known you were going,’ I say,
‘I need some new sarongs.
The ones I bought in ‘73
have finally all worn out.’ ‘Oh!’
she says, pleased, ‘I got you one!’

That’s one thing I learned from Bali:
in summer I live in sarongs
(thirty-seven summers now).

I open the paper and read of a man
who fell in love, as I did, with the place,
in 1983 when (a few years late for me)
you could build a home there,
live there — and he did.

It was the spiritual world
and the aesthetics which drew him:
‘the offerings in the homes,
the stonework in the temples ...
being part of community,
and answerable to the gods.’

Never mind the shops and tourism,
he says. The real life of Bali remains
resilient. That I am glad to learn!

Note: Last three verses refer to an article 
in The Sydney Morning Herald News Review 
Nov. 27-28 2010: A new life in the lap of the gods.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 30
Prompt: lessons learned and/or lessons not learned.

In dripping rain: November 2010

Three young magpies strut
with high heads
in their fine feathers.


al fresco dining
heavy rain
my birthday party


six Indian mynahs
huddle squawking on my rail
in dripping rain


Busy, can’t recall
that coffee
I only just drank!


Our bed is noisy.
I hear snuggled cats purring
and hubby’s deep snores.


30 November 2010

Next Steps

Keep very quiet. Tell no-one
what you experienced in Semarang
on your last visit to Bali.

(Yes, Semarang’s in Java. We went there
from Bali, to visit people we met; took in
Jogja and Borobudur on the way.)

Wrestle alone with the strange
things that happened. Try to find rational
explanations. Fail.

Driving across the island, south to north,
going up into the hills, we passed a hut.
A young woman came to her door
and stared out. Our eyes locked
a long moment. Behind her I saw
two small naked boys on a dirt floor.

At once it seemed I knew all about them,
what their lives were. It seemed I had lived
that childhood, become that mother.

Experience increasingly severe headaches.
Conceal them from others. Fear
you are going mad; fight for control.

Approaching Semarang, I felt
a dull headache begin and worsen
until I was dumb with pain.

When we came into the city, I knew
before we got there, what was around each bend,
in detail as if familiar. Shocked, said nothing.

Suddenly that stopped. The remaining streets
were unknown. Our host mentioned later 

an old and a new city. We’d driven through 
old Semarang to arrive at his home in the new.

After three months of silent battle, notice
you are still functioning in your life,
and are no danger to yourself or others.

Looking across Semarang harbour,
I saw two grey warships — visible, solid, and yet
I knew they would disappear if I shifted focus,
and that no-one else could see them there.

‘Did the war come to Semarang?’
I asked very casually. He shrugged.
‘The war came everywhere.’  Only
at home, when I did my research, I found

a picture of warships in that harbour —
not positioned exactly as I'd seen,
but I recognised the type of ship.
(Research said, probably Australian.)

Give up. If you are indeed building
a delusional structure in your head — well
it seems harmless; and it 's not going away.

Decide: If you can’t find a rational
explanation, accept the irrational.


The head pain stopped on the instant.
Peace engulfed me.  Surely
it was all fated. I became
aware of God.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 29
Prompt: a ‘next steps’ poem.

A request to my readers

Dear Readers

I only have two more Bali poems to write, or possibly three as we always get the option of two on Tuesday. Then December will be spent editing and revising, and choosing which ones to include in a chapbook of 10-20 pages to enter in the competition.

If any of you have the time and inclination, I'd love you to tell me which ones you'd like to see included.  I am making a 'Like' box available at the end of each post, which you can tick if applicable.

Most need much editing, so I am really only asking which ones you consider worth working on for inclusion in the book.

(All I know so far is that the book will be called 'Remembering Bali', will probably start with the first poem, 'Remembrance of Times Past', and might end with day 17's 'Tell Me Why'. Others will likely not be in the order they were written.) 

Many thanks!

29 November 2010

What Really Happened?

My youngest, twenty-odd years later,
found a new Bali — enough of the old
and enough contemporary thrills
to delight him. He liked the bars and clubs
as well as the directness of the villagers;
made friends, goes back sometimes.

Cool cat Adi, at 27, carried on the family business
with his own small hotel, dressed in jeans
instead of the traditional jacket and sarong,
had an Australian girlfriend (live-in)
and rode a motor-bike. It crashed. At 27 Adi died.

The French couple who took us to Tanah Lot
sent a surprised post-card at Christmas
in answer to my long, warm letter. So I learned,
‘Let’s keep in touch’ doesn’t always mean that.

David, my older son, said while still a child,
‘I don’t think I’d like to marry a Balinese girl.
I noticed that they start looking old very quickly.’

We didn’t keep in touch. Our lives changed
as lives do: we moved ... we split up
twelve years after our last trip to Bali.

Long before that, friends came as our guests
to Australia. We didn’t give them the good time
we all desired. Not so rich in our own country
as we looked in theirs, we were working hard.

I remember a hotel maid in Sanur, who asked,
‘How many servants do you have, at home?’
‘None,’ I told her. She murmured politely
but her eyes showed disbelief. ‘Feel my hands,’
I said. My hard palm visibly shocked her.

This happened, that happened, all of it real.
But just for a brief, unforgotten time, I saw
life lived as I’d always dreamed it could be.
That altered, and the country is richer now,
which may be good. But that short glimpse
was enough for me to know I wasn’t mad.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 28
Prompt: a "what really happened" poem.

Blame Hitler, Blame Hirohito

Blame Hitler, blame Hirohito, I don’t know —
whoever took war
to the beautiful islands of the South Pacific.

Blame them for the bomb
that simultaneously killed his parents
and deafened him for life.

It was Bill’s mate Neil who met Mendra,
and decided to take him to Java
to get his hearing fixed.

It was expensive. Bill helped too.
After that, Mendra was their friend forever
and the kids’ and mine as well.

He loved our kids and they loved him.
He was like a big elder brother or funny uncle
who made up games of clowning and mime.

The vocal chords had atrophied.
He could hear, but he still couldn’t speak.
So, as he always had, he used expression and gesture.

And he drew!
Those drawings were as good as speech.
We thought they were brilliant. Well, they were.

We wanted him to have a future
with his hearing and his art,
instead of the begging and the menial jobs.

But Mendra had TB.
I don’t know if you can blame the war for that.
He died suddenly, young, and we wanted to blame someone.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 27
Prompt: ‘Blame ...’  and fill in the blank.

28 November 2010

The Lady from Lombok / Tail Between His Legs

Tail Between His Legs

When we had become
friends again,
able to talk and even laugh
about our respective peccadilloes,
he told me of the night
he tried to go to her bed a second time,
barefoot across the dark veranda
from his room to hers.

He almost stumbled into her husband,
leaning back in a chair
with his air rifle over his knees.
‘I’m just watching out
for stray dogs,’ he said.
‘If any old dog comes sneaking
into my place here
where he doesn’t belong,
he’ll get a big “Ping!” in the tail.’
and he rocked back and cackled.

I don’t recall what Bill replied, or if;
but he got the message. I think
he made a bit of conversation
and some excuse for being there —
knowing the other man knew
and knew Bill knew he knew —
then went back to his own bed,
concentrating hard on not running.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 26
Prompt: an ‘on the run’ poem


At night, the island was full of spirits.
There were no street lights in those black lanes
only lamps on the verandas below the thatch,
or hung on poles beside the gates.

While the gekkos rustled in the cabin walls
we stayed indoors. ‘Don’t go out tonight,’
our friends said. ‘This is not a good night.
There are ghosts.’ On some other nights,
they whispered the names of demons.
They meant it seriously, and we believed.

It was not our country. Our rules
were absent here. This place lived
by its own reality. Besides, you could see
shapes in the shadows, and in the tendrils
of trailing smoke from the cooking fires.

I was glad, therefore, to meet the Barong
with his wild sunburst mane of a head
and the good face in the middle. I didn’t see
that face as animal or fierce. To me
the Barong was friendly, his gaze direct.

They told me he sometimes appeared
as elephant, horse or goat, but most often
the hybrid I encountered: lion and tiger mixed.
‘Who is that great animal with you?’
clairvoyants ask me. ‘Some kind of cat?’
It must be the Barong, still looking after me.

‘He wouldn’t let me near you,’ complained one —
who proved to be a bad friend. But that was in Australia.
In Bali I watched as villagers danced with the Barong
and Mendra hammered its image into beaten metal.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 25
Prompt: an animal poem


I remember, at the resting place of the king,
a thin old man, hunched double, crawling like a spider
and grinning happily. Su explained, cripples were hidden
away from tourist centres, but this was a quiet spot
little visited. He could find a living here, minding the garden.

Even so, it was hard to comprehend that happy face.
‘All his needs are met,’ said my friend. And I looked around
at the old stone walls, the carved seats, the sunlight,
the straggling strands of bougainevillea, and thought:
This is one whose whole life is lived in regenerative spaces.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 24
Prompt: a spaces poem

27 November 2010

Defining Moment


At Uluwatu the water boiled green.
Su was with me in the temple on the cliff.
Was there anything more beautiful I’d ever seen?
At Uluwatu the water boiled green
and the froth was lacy. I had not foreseen
that gorgeous abyss, the unspoken ‘What if?’
At Uluwatu the water boiled green
as Su and I stood on top of the cliff.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 23
Prompt: a ‘form’ poem.

Submitted for dVerse Poetics: It's Tempting

Stand By Me

In time we read of the death
of the man who was still known
as the last Rajah of Denpasar,
though he never ruled.
We called him Bapah.

As his family did. It was a word
for Father, and he was Patriarch.
He and Bill talked philosophy, sang
old Dutch songs together. (Amazing
to us, how many Indonesians
had fond memories of the Dutch.)

When Bapah went to hospital,
Bill found him in pain on a thin mattress.
‘We’re not putting up with this!’ he said,
went back to the hotel and ripped
the comfortable one off his own bed.
He marched back into the hospital,
carrying it on his shoulder, lifted Bapah
on to a chair and remade the bed.

The old man recovered, and went on
visiting in turn each of his five wives
allotting equal time to keep the peace.
‘Have one wife only!’ he advised BIll.
What Bapah really wanted
in his old age, was to be a priest.

It was years later we read
of his cremation, and the tale
of how he was found as a baby,
only survivor of the mass suicide
of his conquered family.... A gentle man.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 22
Prompt: taking a stand.  (There are several in this poem.)

Note: The word for father is properly spelt Bapak, but we pronounced it as written here.

Permission Denied

I’m going home,’ he said.
‘You and the kids can stay longer.’

Good heavens, I thought,
he’s bored! How can that be?
But I never argued with Bill
when he was in that kind of mood.

I didn’t, but some did.
The trouble was, the boys —
too young to travel on their own —
appeared on his passport, not mine.

‘I’ll fix it,’ he said,
striding up to the counter.

Through calm request,
blustering, some vague threats
of 'important contacts',
and an attempted bribe,

the uniformed man
continued to smile
politely, contemptuously.
‘I’m sorry sir.’

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 21
Prompt: a ‘permission’ poem

26 November 2010


‘I must believe,’ he said.
I understood. ‘Yes,
because you have seen.’

He nodded. He was speaking
of the witches in his home village
in Karangasem, past the mountain.
His uncle was one of them.

Already I too believed,
though I didn’t know then
that I myself was a witch.
There were just these things I did,
these things that happened....

I think of that acceptance
now, in my own country,
where so many ignorantly think
witches are evil, magic is wrong.

In Bali the villagers knew
witches are healers, magic
like all things, is a gift from God.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 20
Prompt: a ‘what’s wrong or right’ poem

24 November 2010

The Children

The children squatted in a circle
around a space on the ground,
heads bent, hands moving
in a game I couldn’t see:

David and Stephen, blonde,
aged six and four — mine —
and Rini and Trisna, dark,
quick and thin, a little older.

Absorbed in their play,
unconcerned with us,
unconsciously beautiful
in opposite ways,

they spoke to each other
with looks and gestures
and with words they didn’t share,
the meaning understood.

In the centre of their circle
was a space, which they filled
with the business of play
and with communication.

There was no gap between them.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 19
Prompt: write a poem with a hole in it.

Lost and Found

(The Effect of Holidaying in Bali)

We lost
the certainty
of being our greatest loves.

We lost the keeping
of our promises to each other,
the warmth of them,
and truth.

He did allow himself
to be seduced
by the soft-voiced young woman
with lowered eyes.

And I, refraining from golden youth,
fell into other (unregretted) arms.
A fellow traveller, a romantic
tale I won’t tell here.


We found
the real truth of each other
to each other —
which we then ignored.

In our hearts
we were brother and sister,
not lovers.
Not even best friends, but mirrors.

We found a way back
to our interrupted marriage.
There was love; it was real.
And there were the kids.

I played him like a whore
rather than risk them a stepmother —
mine had been cruel, my Dad too weak.
And that’s the truth.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 18
Prompt: a ‘lost and found’ poem.
(The marriage didn't last - how could it? - but it endured until the kids were grown.)

Submitted 23 May 2013 to Poets United's Verse First: The Wild Truth

Tell Me Why

Why do you still think of Bali
after all these years?

Love is the answer to every question
and this one too. I fell intensely in love
with the place as you might a person.

Why did you burst out crying
so often on that first visit?

As Bill said at the time, understanding first:
it was the Indian in me. I was seeing
memories of my grandparents’ house —
bowls, carvings, vases, jewellery....

And after your third visit, why did you sob
uncontrollably, all the way home on the plane?

I knew I would never return to Bali,
never be with my love again. I was right.
Life has a way of cancelling our plans.
And now it’s too late; my Bali is dead.

Why are you writing so many poems
on your Bali? Why not let go?

I am old at last, and selecting
what is precious out of my life.
I offer the essence to God, and I feast.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 17
Prompt: make the title ‘Tell me why (blank)’, fill in the blank, then write the poem.

(My poem has several questions, so I left the title unfinished.)

22 November 2010


Mendra’s drawings were thrown away.
‘We’ll go back there another day,
and get some better ones,’ I said.
Three months later Mendra was dead.
We never went back anyway.

In gifted drawings, he’d portray
the things he had no speech to say
from out his deaf-mute, silenced head.
Mendra’s drawings,

which he made for my sons in play
and in love, on our final day,
scribbled on scraps of a note-pad,
turned out to be all that we had
of our friend. But I threw away
Mendra’s drawings.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 210: 16/2
Prompt: an unstacking poem

(And it's another rondeau.)

21 November 2010


‘She will dwell too much in fantasy,’
the palmist told my parents
when I was a child. ‘Make sure
she keeps her feet on the ground.’

The ground I walked then
was the island, Tasmania,
and I wanted no other place to be.
Nature fed my inner world,
fantasy mixed with reality.

I was river and sky,
ocean and mountain,
earth and tree. I was
inside dream and fairy-tale.
The spirits of place
spoke to me.

Wrested away at 15,
to a flat, dry landscape,
I lived in longing.
Fate moved me. I merged
with a city; seldom returned
to my island, except in sleep.

I was 34 when I stepped off a plane
into Bali — another small island
of mountains and streams.
Ocean and sky embraced me.
The spirits danced, surrounding me.

Afterwards, though I walked the ground
of Melbourne, I lived my life
in a strange state of removal, my soul
inhabiting an island.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 15 (slightly out of order)
Prompt: a "just when you thought it was safe" poem.

20 November 2010

Remembering Bali

I remember processions of women
winding their way on narrow roads
to the temple.
Their sarongs were edged with gold,
their kebayas lacey.
I remember the deep colours:
vivid pinks, magentas,
inspired by hibiscus and bougainevillea.

And on their heads
high, conical towers of offerings:
trays of food and flowers
in colours to match or outdo
the kebayas and sarongs —
piled to impossible heights,
and tapering
to the tiniest points at the top.

Every offering,
every portion of every layer,
was an intricate work of art
created lovingly
without hurry.
And without hurry
they walked to the temple
straight-backed, with gently swaying hips.

The serenity
of those petal-soft faces
completes me still
as I gaze in recollection.
Watching the processions pass,
not with fanfare but simply
as day-to-day life,
day-to-day life becomes enough.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 16/1
Prompt: a stacking poem

I'm blocked on day 15

... so I am giving up for now and proceding to day 16.

Day 15 shall appear at some time, out of order.

16 November 2010

Crossing Points

At the intersection of two paths
she placed rice and flowers
in a tiny palm-leaf boat.

Seeing me, she smiled,
put her hands together and bowed.
I returned the unknown gesture.

It was my first morning in Bali.
I‘d slipped out early
before the others woke.

Six years later, guests
at Ngurah’s father’s cremation,
we shared the preliminary feast.

Some tourists opened the gate.
Ngurah strode down the path. ‘Sorry,
this part is only for family.’

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 14
Prompt: a crossroads poem

How Shall We Spend the Money?

He had such a good month,
we found ourselves unexpectedly rich.
We needed carpets, we needed curtains —
but we never even had a honeymoon.
Kids and all, we went to Bali.

That was such a good month!
The experience proved unexpectedly rich.
Woven carpets, bamboo curtains,
and the holiday became a honeymoon,
kids and all, in exotic Bali.

Laughing and silly,
we sprawled on the bed. The kids
were having their afternoon sleep.
‘Just think,” I said straight-faced,
“We could have had curtains and carpets,
if we hadn’t come to Bali.’

We laughed ourselves silly,
rolling on the bed — while the kids
somehow managed to stay asleep —
to think how ridiculously straight-laced
it would have been, buying curtains and carpets
instead of coming to Bali.


November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 13
Prompt: Ask a question in the title and have the poem answer it.

(This form doesn’t have a name yet; it’s my own invention.)


We visited Semarang
to see the old couple, Javanese,
who’d stayed at our hotel.
(Indonesians holiday in Bali too.)
Our friend Linda was with us.

We couldn’t stop staring
at the two teenage daughters,
nor restrain our praise for their beauty.
(Recollecting, I gasp even now.)
‘We,’ the old lady said,
‘Think you are beautiful womans.’

Another time we lounged,
after dinner, on Putrha’s veranda.
His pretty wife Tini remarked,
‘We walk down the street
and everyone calls you beautiful.
I hear them all say, “Cantik, cantik”’.

‘Which one?’ I asked, thinking
of course they must mean Linda;
of course it couldn’t be me.
Tini leaned over and tapped me
firmly on the knee
with her index finger. ‘You!’

For the last thirty-one years
their forgotten words
have been less than whispers
against that older voice in my head
which calls me a plain girl: mine.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 12
Prompt: a ‘forget what they say’ poem.

14 November 2010

No-one Wants That Stuff

No-one wants batik caftans
in a Melbourne winter.
He was going to set up
the perfect import business
to enable us all
to return often to Bali.
He returned often,
the family only twice.

He opened a little shop
on Beach Road, Beaumaris,
and put a dressmaker there.
She invented short caftans —
ugly, and not the vogue.
No-one wants to look weird.
And no-one wants to wear
resort clothes in the suburbs.

I wonder if, in Bali,
the tourists still wear sarongs,
or do the Balinese
all dress Western now?
I miss those caftans, though —
the long ones, made over there.
But no-one wants that style today;
you can’t get them anywhere.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 11
Prompt: Title the poem ‘No One Wants ...’ and fill in the blank.

Oh Golden Lad

Oh golden lad, where are you now?
I hope not gone to dust below
the ground, or into the last fire.
You were the all of my desire
when you were young, so long ago.

It was thirty-seven years ago
we first locked eyes. How could we know
that swift passion would not expire,
oh golden lad?

And yet we always had to go:
too soon, too far each parting. So
those flames were not to flare higher.
Nor yet would they die down entire —
as you too, if you live, will know,
oh golden lad.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 10
Prompt: a love poem

13 November 2010

Balinese Time

The bride’s sixteen-year-old cousin
wore one white flower in her hair
(frangipanni). She herself
was beauty in bloom.

We had time to gaze,
standing about in the courtyard.
Honoured to be asked,
we made sure to arrive promptly
but nothing seemed to be happening.

Where were we meant to sit?
When would the priest turn up?
With such a long delay,
why did no-one look tense?

I approached the bridegroom’s aunt,
our chamber-maid who invited us.
‘When does the wedding start?’
She smiled, waggling her fingers. ‘Oh,
when we are ready, we begin.’

Gradually the courtyard filled.
Reaching for a delicacy on a passing tray,
I was politely admonished:
‘The old ones first. It will come to you.’

During the tooth filing ceremony,
that sacred Balinese ritual
without which they could not wed,
the bride was pale with fear
and brave, uttering no sound.

Her headdress was like a cupola.
The groom wore a long jacket
of bright embroidery, red and gold.
A gamelan orchestra played into dusk.


Three weeks later, we had the rhythm.
You can’t walk fast in floppy thongs
nor try to hurry the tide. The buffalo
move slow in the paddies, as do
women with baskets on their heads.

The chambermaid asked, ‘What time
do you make your tour today?’
‘When we are ready, we will leave,‘
we said. Then we all laughed.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 9
Prompt: a ‘go slow’ poem.

Submitted in May 2013 for dVerse Poetics: 'Asians Are Ugly!' (We are invited to write of our own Asian experiences. This is one of many poems about my Bali experiences, which taught me that Asians are beautiful.)


(shadorma sequence)

was not forthcoming.
‘You can’t live
in Bali.
Without work, without money,
they won’t let you stay.’

‘I can’t lie
on the beach all day,’
said Himself.
‘I’d get bored.
The good life’s Australia.
But we will visit.’

Home again,
no-one understood.
‘The children!!!’
‘In Bali,’
I said, ‘Children are happy,
and educated.’

‘You tourists
will change what you love,’
said my Dad.
‘No,’ I said,
‘The culture has stayed the same
for many centuries now.’

Six more years
and dirt roads were paved;
at Kuta,
bright gardens
were replaced by crowded shops;
there were drug dealers.

More and more
I’m forced to agree:
I can’t go
back again.
Old Bali, if not quite gone,
is too much altered.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 8
Prompt: Agreement

10 November 2010


We didn’t guess, even though
the solitary Englishman at the bar
joked with her suggestively.

We only knew her airport job,
arranging sightseeing tours:
blue suit behind a desk.

Dinner times at our hotel,
in sleek black evening dress
she table-hopped, chatting.

She spoke English, French and Dutch
as well as Balinese and Indonesian;
good company in any language.

‘A woman as smart as that,’ said Bill,
‘Should be working for herself.
She’d be wonderful in business.’

The Englishman stared at us
over the top of a whiskey glass
and delivered his conversation stopper

(drawing out the word): ‘She is
in business for herself — she’s
the highest-priced hoor on the island.’

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 7
Prompt: a 'pro' poem (in the sense of being 'for' something, 
but I've allowed myself a slight reinterpretation).

7 November 2010

Looking for Us

There they were at the airport
looking for us over the heads of the crowd,
jumping up and down with big grins
behind the thin rope barrier —
half a dozen of our Balinese friends.

We started jumping and grinning too.
I’d missed that spontaneity, that truth.

Back in Melbourne, whenever we mentioned
our new friends, old friends said,
‘You mean — NATIVE people?’
We gaped at them in turn.
Suddenly we were among strangers.

‘You wouldn’t like it so much,’ said Melbourne,
‘If you went again. It was the novelty.’ No, it wasn’t.

We weren’t searching for ourselves;
we didn’t know we were lost.
But our hair grew thick, our nails grew strong,
our backs became straight and flexible,
and every day we laughed till our stomachs hurt.

Melbourne said, ‘You wouldn’t like it
if you lived as the people do.’ Wrong again.

In the quiet night of the village,
sitting with the women of the family
on Putrha’s veranda, learning to weave
palm leaves for the next day’s offerings,
I was at peace and at home. It was good

to be in my skin, and see my own thread
in the great fabric: tiny, essential.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 6
Prompt ‘Looking for ...’ [and fill in the blank].

6 November 2010


In her hair she wore a flower.
Her power
lay in her lowered eyes and voice.
His choice
was hardly that, more a portent.
My lament
is that he changed in that moment.
She was more beautiful than dawn.
From childhood he’d dreamed such a one.
Her power, his choice, my lament.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 5
Prompt: a metamorphosis poem

(An attempt at the ovillejo form.) 

Explanations of ovillejo: 


We flew home with Qantas,
the ‘graveyard shift’,
scheduled for midnight
and running three hours late.
The cabin staff
were hard-faced, grumpy.

The head steward
addressed us:
‘Your cabin baggage
is so heavy it’s a hazard.
We’re not taking off
until it’s all stowed in the hold.

Up and down the aisles
the hosties checked
lockers and under seats.
Guiltily Bill offered
the overnight bag on his lap.
A glance. ‘We don’t need that.’

Relief. In the hold
the old Dutch lamp
of curved white glass
could have broken,
smashed by its own
lead weights.

Our legs were cramped.
It was cold.
The kids were fractious,
so were we.
No-one got much sleep.
The crew continued surly.

shuffling through Customs,
we said with a laugh,
‘You can tell
who’s been to Bali.’
Other travellers were neat.

The Bali mob
straggling, yawning,
looked like refugees
in stained t-shirts, thongs,
and all kinds of bags
hanging off us.

We also had even tans,
an unhurried air
and a conscious, unspoken
complicity with each other —
knowing now a simpler, sweeter
life we could not import.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 4
Prompt: a containment poem

5 November 2010

The moon's path: October 2010

a quiet street
disturbed by garbage trucks
the cats complain


Hot spring rains.
Small black winged ants hatch,
swarm and die.


all night
she lies between us


rain clouds hide the moon
spring showers
my cold, dark garden


life in the delta
dim lights looming through the fog
and empty bellies


the moon’s path
wide over water
invites me


not dew but raindrops
lingering on leaves and grass
this quiet morning


His hair is Snowy
yet still that wild bush horseman
plays on his Banjo.


4 November 2010


Kuta Beach 1973

‘It’s been a beautiful autumn in Melbourne,’
our friends said, arriving three weeks later.
‘One of those Indian summers. We almost
didn’t want to come.’ 

We felt like old hands by then. Already
we were drying our sarongs by spreading them
over the nearest shrubs, and taking our tea
black and very sweet.

Bill went for a swim while the rest of us
lazed outside the hut, sipping iced lemon.
He was gone a long time, and came back
amazed, exhausted.

‘This German girl was caught in the current.
Nobody realised but me. I had to save her.
She was dazed, disoriented, nearly turned round
and went straight back in!’

In those days the Balinese didn’t swim. (Now
they surf with the Aussies.) It was tourists
in the water. It struck us then that the Europeans
couldn’t read the sea.

Even I, a poor swimmer who hates the surf —
bred in Australia, I can look at a beach
and know at once where to swim, and exactly
where I’d drown.

Melbourne Afterwards

The strangest thing was walking down the street
and no-one smiled at me. That and wearing shoes.
And only in Bali was I considered, for my fair skin,
a great beauty.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 3
Prompt: a location poem

Beginning / Arrival

After editing, what was one long poem has been divided into two (and tweaked a bit).


He bounced in the door, grinning.
‘Would you like to go to Fiji?’
All his friends and their wives
were going to Fiji that year.
‘Sure,’ I said, ‘Anywhere.’
I’d never been out of Australia.

Then he came home
with tickets for Bali instead.
He’d dreamed of Bali
since he was a boy
reading old travel books
that his grandfather owned.

‘Fine by me,’ I said.
‘Anywhere you like.
What will we do with the kids?’
He looked at me
as if I’d gone mad.
‘Take them with us, of course!’

We flew Garuda.
Everyone was in holiday mood,
the stewards and hostesses
happy too. Lots of kids on board;
nobody minded them running about.
We had a drink and relaxed.


When we landed, I was shocked.
A tiny airport, a few palms,
and soldiers with guns.
The taxi wound though narrow lanes.
The heat felt solid. How long before
I could get my stockings off?

We walked past reception
through a door in a wall
and into a wide courtyard.
A profusion of bougainevillea
half hid, half revealed
thatched two-storey huts.

A man lounged at the bar
looking as if he lived there.
I heard him order a gin sling
in a Pommy accent.
‘It’s like something out of
Somerset Maugham,’ I whispered.

Our hut had a ceiling fan
and a green tiled bath and basin.
A shy young waiter appeared
with a tray of welcoming drinks.
He was slim and golden.
Just like that, I fell in love.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 2/2
Prompt: A ‘ready to start’ poem

3 November 2010

Leaving Bali

I wasn’t ready yet to leave
the tiny island, nor to grieve
so heartbrokenly and so long
as I knew I must. It was wrong,
I said. Indeed, I still believe
I wasn’t ready.

For all my mourning, no reprieve
was possible; I had to leave
the colour, the fragrance, the song.
I wasn’t ready

to farewell new friends: either give
them a last goodbye, or deceive
them and me with, ‘It won’t be long.’
My companion told me, ‘Be strong!’
How optimistic, how naive —
I wasn’t ready.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 2
Prompt: a ‘not ready’ poem

(An attempt at the rondeau form)

2 November 2010

Remembrance of Times Past

I have been in my mind
revisiting Bali

back before drugs and surfers,
before the century turned.

Some things, I’m sure,
haven’t changed.

There will still be offerings
left on the paths:

tiny trays of woven palm leaves
filled with rice and flowers.

Processions of villagers will still
tread the rock path to Tanah Lot.

At Ubud, water trickling downhill
unseen through vines

will still tinkle
and the thick, dark leaves glisten.

I wanted to stay there then,
in the Island of the Gods.

But that was when I was young
and thought I would live forever.

That was before the nightclubs
and the bombs.

November Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge 2010: 1
Prompt: a "closing the door" or "turning the page" poem

November Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge 2010

This has just begun at the Poetic Asides blog of Robert Lee Brewer. (Look in the sidebar for November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010.)

And here I go again!

1 November 2010

rain, rain, rain ... October tanka/gogyohka 2010

‘Black snow’ again,
a sudden attack
out of nowhere.
Shut the car window!
They’re burning the cane.


rain rain rain
the paddocks are lakes
the creeks overflow
I drive in the dark
on a narrowed road


The day so far

Take man for blood test,
walk briskly by river bank,
trip and nearly fall,
write and mail urgent letter,
forget to create tanka....


in the sky
there are many dragons
but they hide
they pretend to be clouds
angels do that too


I’m lying in bed
reading a tale of dragons.
I must get up, must
put the cacti back outside:
daylight-safe from gekko bites.


Spring morning.
The promise of cool showers.
A few warm moments
fire our anticipation
of long, hot days. Come, Summer!


31 October 2010


This is a newish Japanese form designed to bypass some of the constraints of the tanka. It has five lines, but instead of a syllable count each line is supposed to be equivalent to a breath.

I've started using it sometimes as an alternative to tanka, or just for its own sake.

30 October 2010

The Feast of Beltane

Sunset ritual: Beltane fire
tonight on a hilltop
ringed by mountains.

We walked up the path
two by two, singing.

One of us carried incense,
another a lit candle
to start the blaze.

And it blazed!
It crackled with heat.

As dusk deepened
we called the Archangels,
gave and received gifts.

We fed the fire with symbols.
Orbs of light danced with us.

We came back down
towards dark,
to strawberries and cream.

We drank lotus tea
spiced with mint.


I used to feel
a surge of joy,
coming up the hill
past Seabreeze Estate:
‘There’s Amanda’s house!’

Climbing this hill today
I joy to see the ocean,
but I pass Seabreeze Estate
and it’s nothing now.
Amanda moved away.

21 October 2010

Driving in the Rain

It was only a dribble this morning,
not much more than a fine mist,
letting us get from house to car
almost dry — but now

we can hardly see out the glass
as the squall hits fierce and fast,
the gutters fill and the road itself
seems almost to flow

and I am thinking how strange it is
that I got to be the chief driver
these days, and how accomplished
I’ve finally become

as small waterfalls from the hill
gush onto the road and spread
and I manouevre the slippery bits
and we arrive safe.

30 Poems in 30 days, 2010: 30
Prompt: A poem that takes place inside a vehicle

19 October 2010

I Return Sometimes

When I crest that hill
just before the town
where you change speed
down to sixty k,
I slip off my sunnies,
look out across the land
to the line of blue
and yell, ‘Hello Ocean!’

Today the colour is deep
and glowing: sapphire.
I start the descent.
The strip of sea drops
below the edge of sight.
I cruise into the village,
perhaps don’t even visit
the beach I used to walk.

Perhaps it’s enough
that it’s just over the way.
Or is it truer to say
I can’t bear to go close
knowing I must leave?
Still it is present, roaring,
and I see it in visions:
sparkling, cerulean.

30 Poems in 30 days, 2010: 29
Prompt: Write a poem in which you use three
different words for the same or a similar color.

16 October 2010

Aura Drawing

I am sitting with Letitia in my consulting room
drawing a picture of her as an angel.

I am hovering in a different dimension,
talking to Letitia’s Higher Self.

The angel has soft purple wings
of rippling feathers, lit with magenta and orange.

Gradually every colour in the rainbow
is included. I write her name in deep Ming blue

inside the space that represents her heart.
It means that she communicates love and peace.

My own name I sign, as always, in purple. I like purple.
I come into my body to choose the exact shade.

I have been floating in space above my head
and talking to Letitia from that space.

I have been sitting in my chair in my room, my fingers
selecting the pencils, my voice clear.

We rise and go into the house. I get coffee.
She rolls up her picture, for the journey home in the car.

You should stay with us here, says Andrew.
You should stay with us 24/7.

What would I do with my life? she says. I can’t do that.
But I can be with you in spirit 24/7, and I will.

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 28
Prompt: A poem that uses two or more different settings / locations.

15 October 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside

All afternoon the rain smell was coming back in
from over the ocean, as the storm turned —
a different kind of freshness in the air,
that slight, sharp savour filling my nostrils.
Now the wind howls and bangs at my door
as the water descends in torrents. Only yesterday
the puddles across the road from days of wet
began to dry and dissipate. We could smell
the steam coming off the asphalt, a singed odour.

We got home just before the storm arrived in force,
and settled in with our plates of barbecue chicken.
The hot, tangy flavour was reassuring, so were
our deep armchairs, and the ABC news on TV.
Situation normal. I poured myself a shiraz,
and you a version with alcohol removed. Yours
tasted sweeter (although not very sweet) but I liked
the deeper, spicier taste of mine. Later we finished
the cupcakes with strawberry icing and licked our lips.
They tasted of sugar and cream. Baby, it’s warm in here.

30 Poems in 30 days, 2010: 27
Prompt: A poem that includes at least three different flavours and two odours.

14 October 2010


His family comes from South America
but he himself was born here.

He likes lots of bright colours.
I’ll put some around his bed.

He is growing a new tooth.
It makes him itchy and demanding.

And yet his heart is peaceful.
It’s full of music and love.

He has been tenderly looked after
by his brother, my friend Brad.

Now he’s left in my care,
I’m anxious to know his needs.

I know he likes the garden
and the plants he sees there.

I think he feels at home
or is starting to, at least.

I’ve given him lots of crystals
for his pleasure and his health.


Rosemary, in adjusting to Pedro’s rhythms,
starts to nod off. Wake up!

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 26
Prompt: A poem in which each line has six words and makes
a statement or at least expresses a complete thought.

13 October 2010


What is the name of the Goddess?
It is Gaia, Mother, Mother Earth.
She is the life that surrounds us.
She is sun, wind, land and sea.

What is the name of the Goddess?
It is Ishtar — Night, Moon, Star.
She is the dark and the light.
She is the womb and the grave.

What is the name of the Goddess?
She is Isis, Freya, Diana, Maria.
She is Hecate, Pele, Kali, Sekhmet.
And yet you will not mistake her.

What is the name of the Goddess?
She has as many names as faces.
Call her Endless, Ageless, Eternal.
She is many and she is one.

Where shall I find the Goddess?
Wherever your eyes light.
Wherever your feet dance.
She is everywhere. She is here.

30 Poems in 30 Days, 210: 25
Prompt: a poem in which each stanza either begins or ends with a question.

12 October 2010


There once was a chicken who crossed the road
in order to get to the other side.
The tar had such heat
that she burnt her poor feet
and the eggs she laid all came out fried.

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 24
Prompt: Write a poem in the form of a joke

Not thrilled with my own attempt, but Leigh Spencer has a good one at the Poewar site.

10 October 2010

Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve

I liked the white flowers,
the white robes of the priests,
the soaring music
from the choir up the back.

I liked the wafting incense,
borne up the aisle
in metal bowls
on swinging chains.

I liked the Latin: ‘Adeste Fidelis’
more sonorous by far
than ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’,
‘Dominum’ than ‘Christ the Lord’.

I liked the late hour, the dark,
the magic of midnight;
my Catholic cousins’ excitement,
the festive, dressed-up crowd.

I was raised Agnostic,
streamed Protestant at school
for compulsory Religious Ed.,
and wound up Pagan.

Was it Midnight Mass
gave me my taste for robes and ritual,
music, incense, exotic words?
(Not quite what anyone had in mind.)

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 23
Prompt: A poem that takes place at a public gathering

9 October 2010

What I Build

What I build with my hands,
my dexterous fingers moving
to make it visible,
I also create with my brain:
finding the words,
placing them down like blocks
to form a structure;

weaving around the struts and rafters
ideas — the scent of jasmine,
the breath of a melody —
and images — stars
glowing from darkness,
deep red roses
starting to droop in their vase....

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 22
Prompt: A poem about building or creating something by hand.

4 October 2010


I cut the cards
divide them into sequences
red on black on red ...

over and over again
until — sometimes —
the game chops me off.

Nowhere further to go,
or not that I can see.
Scrap it. Start again.

Cut, divide, arrange ...
and sometimes I win,
it all works out.

Then, at the last
it becomes easy,
the cards fly into place.

The reward of winning?
A new game.
Cut the cards, divide ...

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 21
Prompt: A poem that involves cutting, chopping or dividing something.

3 October 2010

Defending My Friend

Rage can be a fuel
as good as love —
and in this case love
was involved,
fuelling my rage.

The mind-game player
the manipulator,
had her so twisted
so torn in pieces
she got cancer.

Managed to turn
and survive that. Finally
kicked him out of her life.
But he didn’t quite go.
He devised torments.

Don’t tell me words
can’t hurt — delivered
from ambush
with shock value,
designed to drive her insane.

They were doing that.
Until I made it stop.
Well I don’t do hex, I prefer
working with Love. But needs be,
I can bind and it will stick.

He moved suddenly
across the world.
She spotted him on facebook
years later, gone to fat;
laughed, shrugged and forgot.

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 20
A poem about defending yourself or someone else.

2 October 2010

I Want

I want
him always here, and
I want my aloneness.

I think
in case he goes first
I’ll ask him to haunt me

but not
when I’m meditating
or writing a poem.

I also want St Kilda
to win the Grand Final repeat.*

*Aussie Rules. Playing off after a draw last week. 
(They didn't win, though.)

30 Poems in 30 days, 2010 19
Prompt: A poem in which you discuss
three things that you or your persona wants.

1 October 2010

It is morning and ... September tanka 2010

It is morning and
I decide to go to bed
as midnight recedes.
The early watches are cold
and I am alone out here.


‘Chattering’ sparrows
and ‘laughing’ kookaburras —
foolish, wishful words
in our human loneliness.
(They don’t really laugh or speak.)


invisible now
the other side of the dark
the ocean expands,
its limitless breadth stretching
its endless line advancing


In the dark wood
the path to the stream
is closed.
A tiny fern finds light
from its rock crevice.

Inspired by some of John Palcewski’s photos


morning overcast
the paper undelivered
or stolen
my cat’s off her food
and I’m feeling old.


the fog lifts
to a sunny morning
and good news
I read over breakfast
in bed with man and cats


29 September 2010


After watching the movie, Balibo

There were six.
We always think there were five:
three from Channel 7,
two from Channel 9.
And there were.
‘The Balibo Five’.
The five who died.

‘Caught in the crossfire,’
the Indonesians said,
and that was true too;
only that was not
what killed them.
They were executed.
There were witnesses.

There were three witnesses —
just teenage boys
but already freedom fighters —
who came to give the story
to the other one, the sixth,
the sixth Australian journalist
killed to prevent truth.

(In 1975, I was
a Melbourne housewife,
a young mother with zero
special information, but even I
knew what was going to happen.
You can’t tell me
the Australian Government didn’t.)

There were three
and then two more.
There were five
and one came after.
There were six
white Australian journalists.
Oh, and 183,000 East Timorese.

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 18
Prompt: A poem that repeatedly uses numbers

As night falls: September haiku 2010

The kookaburra’s laugh —
loud, long and raucous but
too seldom heard.


As night falls we hear
the chuck chuck
of an unknown bird.


I wake from a dream
of ocean
to the sound of rain.


the returning moon
once again
I dream of the dead


September rain.
The weeds on the lawn
grow clumpy.


gekko sounds
like a bird calling
in the dark


27 September 2010

The Eden Plan

A garden,’ He said. ‘A garden planet
with everything you need for living well.
You can look after it. I’ll fill it
with all sorts of plants and animals,
insects, birds and marine creatures.
You can look after them too. Mostly,
though, they’ll look after themselves.

‘I give you free will. And there’ll be
a lot to learn, to keep you interested.
Just be careful how you apply
the knowledge; take my advice!
I’ve already looked on My work
and found it good. You won’t need
to go improving anything.

‘You’ll want to have a bit of a play;
that’s natural. Intelligence
likes to explore itself. Just make sure
you can put everything back
the way you found it, OK? Take it apart,
you’ll need to piece it together again, unless
you want the whole thing to stop working.

‘The knee bone’s connected
to the thigh bone, and
the ocean’s connected to the rain cloud, and
the tiniest flutter of a butterfly’s wing
is connected to a storm about to happen
over the other side of the world.
Now hear the word of the Lord!’


The DNA uncoiled its serpent length
all the way up to the brain.
The brain began exploring.
Individuals multiplied.
The long journey began.
It seems the plan is almost played out.
Shall we reassemble or exit the garden?

30 Poems in 30 days, 2010: 17
Prompt: A poem that involves a plan.

26 September 2010


He has written the story
of our first meeting.
I would write it
a different way,
altering the details.

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 16
Prompt: A poem that includes something that malfunctions or breaks down.

25 September 2010

The Distant Goal

Age seemed so far.
I thought there was time
to practise poise and wisdom,
but now it has caught up
and I’m still only me.

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 15
Prompt: A poem about training for something or working towards a distant goal

The Names of the Island

When I grew up there,
it was known as The Apple Isle.
My grandfather had acres of orchards.

I don’t know what
the First People called it.
I don’t think anyone ever asked them.

Abel Janszoon Tasman,
Dutch explorer, found it in 1642.
He gave it the name Van Diemen’s Land.

Renamed Tasmania,
it became a British colony —
the cruellest one to convicts and Aborigines.

It was much later
that my grandparents came.
In time my brother and I were born in Tassie.

I left at 15, but I visit.
If you ask where I come from,
I use the joke name (a proud name): Taswegia.

30 Poems in 30 days, 2010: 14
Prompt: A poem about a person or place that has several different names.

23 September 2010

A Conversation

When the sky opened
the small being that fell through
was definitely not an angel;

said: ‘I am not one of those
great winged fellows of light,
though I have my own light
and I float, as on wings.’

Alighting gracefully, feet first,
appeared humanoid, more or less.
‘Are you fairy?’ I asked. ‘No.’

‘Meadows of bliss,’ I said,
live in the clouds. I see them.’
‘Rivers of light,’ he replied,
‘inhabit the ocean. Do you
see them too?’ ‘Of course.’

I was eight at the time.
I could still see everything.
I had not forgotten, not
blurred the extra world.


You ask me, ‘What happened
next?’ You want completion.
There is none. People fall
out of the clouds. The sky
opens, closes over, re-opens....

That is the way of it.

30 Poems in 30 days, 2010: 13
Prompt: A poem in which something is opened or closed.

22 September 2010

Verse Portrait 88: Launceston Girls

My Mum saw her sobbing backstage
after the elocution competitions —
second to my first. We were eight.

Grew up in the same suburb,
came to each other’s birthday parties,
attended High School together.

Thirty years later, surprise:
reunion onstage in another city,
reciting our own works.

Awhile inhabited the same
publications, venues, academies.
Supported each other, allies.

Went different ways again:
fiction her love, poetry mine —
rivalry, like childhood, past.

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 12
Prompt: A poem about a rivalry


How considerate, how reasonable!
He tells me he’ll soon be nearby —
an opportunity in case I need
to see him; actually says that.

It’s a win-win (for him). I could give in
and agree, going against my word
and the reasons for it. Or refuse,
and demonstrate madness.

‘Look,’ he will show his friends —
‘my approach: so calm, so kind;
and her response: hysterical.
You can see that, can’t you?’

And they will. They see what he tells them.
Until they don’t, but that takes time.
Meanwhile he proves himself right
again. Why is that such a need?

I used to believe in his sweet reason.
I used to believe we could start over,
get it right finally. But not any more.
In private, the mask always drops.

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 11
Prompt: A poem in which something gets faked or simulated.

21 September 2010

My Old Home

This place has changed so much!
There’s more of it now, spreading
beyond the old boundaries; but new
isn’t necessarily better. In fact
those are the very spots
that look seedy, run-down.
When development is not
well thought out, new suburbs
degenerate into slums.

I travel closer in, to the centre,
and there I find familiarities.
I knock on a door. I can still recognise
the woman who answers. She
is not best pleased to see me.
I think she hoped I’d look
more prosperous, better dressed,
as befits an older sister. I know
she’d have liked me to be famous.

When I go exploring, I find
the intellectual life of the place
is still thriving. Busier than ever, but
some things have gone out of fashion.
New interests replace them. It’s good
that technology has been embraced
so readily. The music played
is better now, but the books being read
I have to say, are lighter.

Manners have certainly deteriorated
but, paradoxically, I observe
more real compassion.
It’s natural there should be
physical alterations; that’s just time.
But what of tastes and attitudes? They 
perhaps result from choices, habits,
even mistakes. Overall, though,
I’m happy enough with how I’ve turned out.

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 10
Prompt: a poem about a place that has changed considerably over time.

20 September 2010


I’m no good at that.
Scorpio girl —
if I feel passion
it’s much too urgent
for pretty games.
I want to know now
if it’s yes or no.

And if I don’t burn,
what’s the point
of pretending?
Downcast eye,
fluttering glance,
simpering voice —
it’s just not me.

I like my innuendos
blatant, my lusts
my laughter deep.
Don’t hint, don’t tease,
don’t dilly-dally.
Don’t waste my time!

30 Poems in 30 days, 2010: 9
Prompt: a poem that involves flirtation

A Path in a Forest

When I lead people in meditation
on a path through a forest,
it is a path I have walked many times.

I walked it as a child
on the hill behind Trevallyn
going down to The Gorge.

That’s when I began
finding broken branches for staffs.
I liked going it alone.

I walked it in Three Bridges
on the trail outside my back gate
with my dog for company.

And through Marty’s place
at North Tumbulgum — the bit
they left wild — with Andrew beside me.

It leads also,
in a picture my Dad painted,
past a farm near Devonport.

And when at last I walk into Death,
it will not be a race through a tunnel of light,
but that same track among trees.

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 8
Prompt: A poem that includes a path, a trail, or a map.

17 September 2010


I keep feeling as though
he’s in bed already,
waiting for me as usual.
Maybe in the hospital
he is dreaming he’s here?

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 7
Prompt: A poem that involves a long-term relationship.

(Also I was keen to try a form I’ve just found out about, the gogyohka.)


Cheating a bit: this was my post today at Haiku on Friday, MySpace, 
then I realised it also fits the prompt I'm up to.

the returning moon
once again
I dream of the dead

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 6
Prompt: Write a poem that takes place at a specific time of day


It was a consequence
of falling into the bathtub
(empty at the time)
and sliding down
and hitting his head.

And that was a consequence
(they think) of low blood pressure
just then, but we are more inclined
to deem it a consequence
of the codeine they prescribed
for his inexplicable back pain.

They told us it could
make him dizzy, make him
unsteady on his feet.
But I never thought
it would be so sudden.

As a consequence
he’s been in hospital 24 hours
and no-one is any closer
to knowing what’s the matter —
only what’s not. Well,
that’s something, I suppose.

I want him to come home
now, and he wants that too.
The doctor’s busy, hasn’t called.
I’d like to discharge him myself
but the consequences....

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 5
Prompt: A poem that involves consequences

16 September 2010



We live in a time where our own home can be a classroom. Tonight on TV I have heard and seen the bringing back to life of a derelict old garden; a woman with Alzheimer’s who can’t remember her own name or street recalling every detail of the day she fell in love; swirling 3-D images of invisible, hypothetical dark energy and dark matter; and the voices of dying men and women on 9/11 phoning their loved ones from the Twin Towers. What has this classroom taught me? To value life. To value love. This is the great lesson of all religions. This is what we must come to understand before we die ... and do come to understand.

30 Poems in 30 days, 2010: 4
Prompt: A poem that takes place in or otherwise involves a classroom.

In Emergency

The nurse can’t find a good vein for the drip.
They’re slippery, she says: they roll about.
Eventually the doctor does it.

My shoulders feel crushed under pain.
I swallow back the vomit in my throat.
My mind goes blank; I nod off.

He too, full length on the trolley,
has closed his eyes. He is pale
but starting to recover some colour.

The hours pass. He must have a scan.
They need to check for bleeding in the brain.
They‘re sending him up to Tweed for that.

I go home, eat lunch without tasting it,
phone. He has been moved finally, yes.

I do some chores. I phone Tweed.

He has arrived. The scan has been ordered.
It may take up to two hours, but
by all means phone earlier, they say.

He fell this morning, slid into the bathtub
after he came out of the shower. Then he blacked out
over breakfast. His head bashed and bounced.

The headache was fierce but brief.
He yelled, slurring his words like a spastic.
I called the ambulance. He didn’t argue.

Nothing now to do but wait,
him up there and me back here.
Will he be home tonight? I don’t know.

30 Poems in 30 days, 2010: 3
Prompt: A poem about waiting for a specific event

15 September 2010

I found his photo yesterday

... the big one he sent from America,
taken in the New York subway.

In it he’s already losing his hair
but he’s still slim, still handsome.

That smile reminds me
of the child he was. Lost, long lost.

30 poems in 30 days, 2010: 2
Prompt: A poem about getting lost or losing something

A Message from 'qetitodd'

It had nothing to do with my post,
the comment from a stranger.
‘F off,’ he-or-she said,
(only they spelt it fully)
and invited me, if I hate HP,
to go in a fire and not come out.

HP.... High Priest?
High Priestess?
It was on my witchy blog —
reason enough, perhaps,
to consign me to fire.

‘I know his childhood nickname,’
the person said, ‘His hair colour.
His personality.’ Who?
‘I know how he died.’ Um,
could it be Jesus?
Doesn’t seem to fit.

I looked up the pseudonym.
This user, I found, has posted
zero journal entries, and
made 65 comments so far.
There is no other information.

Somewhere else entirely,
I notice Harry Potter called HP.
Never mentioned him in my blog.
But I post my reply: ‘Don’t be silly,
I LOVE Harry Potter.’ Then
I make my whole journal ‘Friends only.‘           

30 Poems in 30 Days, 2010: 1.
Prompt: A poem about getting or sending a message.

30 Poems in 30 Days ... er, 15 Days

There's been a lot going on. I only just realised, it's September: there might be a month of poetry prompts at John Hewitt's Poewar blog aka Writer's Resource Center.

Yes, there is.

With the month half gone, I'll be doing two a day.

9 September 2010

Using 'croodle' in a sentence

Fiona Robyn thinks we need to revive the word croodle and
invites people to use it in a sentence.  I agree, and here's my go:

On days of cold and rain
sometimes we stay in bed
and the cats come too,
croodling close. We all purr.

1 September 2010

Recalling those eyes: haiku for August 2010

Most of these are lunes — but one of the best haikuists I know tells me they can be called haiku too, so from now on I'm not going to differentiate in the labelling.

Her face turns whiter
as I gaze
down time’s long tunnel.


I walk alone
to hear their cold music,
the sonorous waves.


Recalling those eyes,
I am back
in youth and summer.


Fried mushrooms on toast
and our daughter visiting —
lunch was good today.


And some Dada:

ha ha ha ha ha
hah! hah! hah! hah! hah! hah! hah!
ah ha ha haiku

And some not-really-Dada:

Hi  I hai I ku
high high high high high haiku
I ku I ku ... you?


31 August 2010

Always there's dancing: August Tanka 2010

Cascading orange
the neighbour’s vine and flowers
pour over my fence
announcing the early Spring
with a surge of warm colour.


I anticipate
summer’s blue sky, cool water —
but I’ll miss the creek
where I swam with pelicans
before we moved into town.


Heavy, steady rain,
gutters like torrents gushing —
and I’m out in it.
How delightful to come home
at last and write a tanka!


On this fine Spring day
the lawn is full of flowers:
bright dandelions,
clover, and unknown blue ones —
weeds I don’t want to remove.


In the fierce sun
by a pool in Italy
books are discarded
as the poet comes unstuck
'twixt melting verse, hot kisses.


Mum’s old sugar-spoon
that I saved after she died
is too tarnished now.
In my seventy-first year
I throw it out — my childhood.


Always there’s dancing
as your breast rises in sleep,
as the moon rises
like a white gardenia,
smoke and music dance on air.


Barbra Streisand sings.
My husband turns her up loud
while he makes coffee.
He brings it to me in bed
to the the strains of ‘I Loves You’.


The fifth and seventh were responses to tanka 
by Donall Dempsey at Tanka on Tuesday, MySpace

2 August 2010

For a long moment: July tanka 2010

Our small cul-de-sac
ghostly and peaceful at once
is perfectly still
under the three points of light
from street lamps and rising dawn.


There are some who like
the wild, wet cold of Melbourne,
ferocious traffic
etcetera. There is no
accounting for tastes, my dear.


My aunt’s wide warm smile
greets me now from the DVD
my cousin sent me
of the recent funeral:
the photo on her coffin.


To go deep, I play.
How solitaire frees my thoughts,
poems release them —
so I find myself able
to float on those depths, then dive.


Oh splendid sunset
peach-coloured over the hills,
the navy-blue hills
ringing the fading valley
where the light starts to withdraw.

For a long moment
light suffuses the valley
with warm clarity.
Outlines of trees and houses
glow as light pauses, withdraws.

Like a dying fire
behind criss-crossing branches
red intensifies:
the blaze before the embers
when the light flares and withdraws.


He ran to the car
(we’d paused at the traffic lights).

‘Quick,’ I said, ‘Get in.’
He collapsed on the back seat
laughing, his dark curls bouncing.


The cloud's silver edge: lunes (and haiku) for July 2010

The cloud’s silver edge
turns to gold.
My old man gets well.


On phototgraph : Gyorgy Kepes ("Juliet's Shadow Caged," 1939)
courtesy of Joel Soroka Gallery

My shadow looks in
yet forward
I face out, gaze back.

Opposites, we’re tied
and mirrored.
See: we are both caged.


the black snow
from the cane fires begins
marking the season

across the road
two black birds flap slowly
this bleak day


I hear my cat snore
and pretend
my man’s home in bed


Helping him undress:
‘You great big beautiful doll!’
making him laugh.


The rain-washed street
shines in early morning light.
The slightest breeze....


Response to a haiku about koi

Pretty things the koi —
in northern ponds and rivers.
Here we carp at them!

For one man's meat fish is
another's introduced pest:
dangerous beauty.


Spring blows hot and cold
enfolding, piercing....


'Smoke gets in your eyes'
he sang on the old record.
My Mum sang along.


1 August 2010

This Sunday

I sat in the sun with my friends
late afternoon, eating Tim Tams
after the Reiki class and the photos,
listening to Brad read poems —
warm, and reluctant to move.

This day was sacred to Brigid
Goddess of healing and poetry;
it was also National Tree Day
and all the way there we kept admiring
the tall trees along the road.

Our friends’ pet bird died this morning;
they were sad when we arrived
and will weep once more now we’ve gone.
Sometimes death is the ultimate healer
but we do not like to think so.

And yet today was a happy day
of laughter as well as tears,
a day of feasting and music
as these new friendships deepened.
All we love dies, and lives.

8 Days of Happiness: 8 / Six Sentences

31 July 2010

Teaching Reiki

The fullness of today
wants quiet contemplation,
not a poem. I have never
been able to write what Reiki is,
and the contentment is so complete
I just want to hug it.

I could talk of my three students:
the man full of bounce and joy
whose energy expanded rapidly
so that after the second attunement
he felt it burn; the girl slim and delicate
whose touch was cool like silk;
and the woman of steady warmth
whose crown opened like a lotus blossom.

I could say that this
is the weekend of Imbolc,
and I am teaching three witches.
It’s a time for purification
and new beginnings, a time
of gradually increasing light.

Instead, I’ll go to bed
now that I have put together
their folders of notes
and printed and signed and stamped
their certificates, ready for tomorrow —
to dream, perhaps, of wordless love
or messages conveyed by touch,
smiling as I sleep.

8 Days of Happiness: 7 / Six Sentences

30 July 2010

A Happy Day in North-West Pakistan

Her name is Parveen.
She teaches a girls’ school
in Pakistan — the north-west
corner of Pakistan.

This, we are told, is
‘the center of a deadly triangle
between the Taliban,
Pakistani army forces
and U.S. drone attacks’.

Once it was ‘known
as the “Switzerland of Pakistan”
for its scenic and natural
beauty‘, but not any more.

Since the school was bombed,
she holds her classes in a tent.
‘The few days we don't hear gunfire
or explosions,’ she says,
‘We feel really happy.’

Based on an email from Amnesty International.
Link: Eyes on Pakistan

(This poem was written before the news of the disastrous floods in north-west Pakistan.)

8 Days of Happiness: 6 / Six Sentences

29 July 2010

Before Bed

The door is shut.
The kitchen light is out.
The dishes are done
and the cats are fed.
My man has already
retired for the night.

I’ve finished another
piece of proofreading,
answered one question
in a psychic reading
to be sent by email,
and fobbed off a late caller.

I get into my nightie,
pour a glass of port
and sink into the poem
of today’s happiness,
again relishing
the small and ordinary.

8 Days of Happiness: 5 / Six Sentences

28 July 2010

The End of the Day

Her happiest time of day is night:
bedtime, when she snuggles
and receives the caresses
that aren’t always spared
during busy daylight hours.
At some point she just decided
night was her cuddle time.

It’s a threesome.
When he and I draw apart,
she enters the space between us
and we both stroke her
as she purrs,
and purrs and purrs,
settling herself against us.

Funny little grey cat,
getting old, as we are —
she’s even more determined now
to have what she needs,
and she knows her needs.
She has grown ever more loving
as she ages; we have too.

8 Days of Happiness: 4 / Six Sentences


Coming back from Tweed
there is always that moment when
the mountains come into view,
the hills and mountains
that ring Murwillumbah.
Some of them have local names
and some of those have become official:
Sphinx Rock, The Devil’s Armchair,
The Pinnacle, Hospital Hill ...
and of course, presiding over
the whole span of the deep blue
Border Ranges: Wollumbin.
Ownership and name
are in dispute. Perhaps
they always were. Mt Warning
it’s often still called, a foreign name.
Some claimants say it looks like
a brush turkey, and it does and I
believe them, yet also,
wider and higher than all the rest,
it is mighty enough to be named,
as others say, for a warrior
and beautiful enough to be,
as only a few insist, a Goddess —
and it calls to me always;
it spells home, and always
the sight of it makes me
instantly happy.

8 Days of Happiness: 3 (2) / Six Sentences

(Late yesterday I came up with this extra piece which really belongs to that day.)

27 July 2010

Siesta Time

He lies at the bedroom door
on guard like a dog —
my black cat.

My husband,
napping, rests secure
this overcast afternoon.

It’s an indoor kind of day:
light rain this morning,
dark sky now.

(Last night’s moon
was full but unseen.
Only the cats went outside.)

Happiness is a warm house,
with my man in it
and the cats,

stretched out and snoozing,
while I make a new poem.

8 Days of Happiness: 3 / Six Sentences

Visit from the Surrogate Grandson

He has permed his hair,
he is wearing a white top
with a cable pattern
and two gold rings
(one his mother’s,
who doesn’t know
he’s got it; ‘Take
very good care of it,’ I say,
‘There’ll be hell to pay
if anything happens to that’)
and he is smiling
because it’s so long
since we saw each other
and now we are....

I was about to crack,
to ring him up and say,
‘Isn’t there a bus?’
it being now too far i.e. too long
to drive over and fetch him,
leaving Andrew alone, still weak
from the recent illness,
and no-one else who could stay—
but he beat me to it,
phoned this morning
excited with details
of bus timetables, saying,
‘Can I come over today?’
and yes, we were free!

Oh, we just did
the normal things, you know,
like bringing him with us
to Andrew’s check-up
where we sat in the waiting room
and waited, with time
for all the news
of each other‘s lives,
and when we were through
we drove down to Subway,
left Andrew in the car
while we went to choose,
and he chose Chicken
Teriyaki, so I did too.

Back home, I made him
strong coffee the way he likes,
and he played us his new DVD
of Tina Arena looking weird
in an awful dress, but sounding
surprisingly jazzy,
so I liked her after all
which made him glad
and me too; I even decided
to get some of her tracks
on my iTunes, which I never
would have thought of
before, when I didn’t
think I liked the way she sang.

We played around
on the MacBook Pro
where I showed him
Mickie’s new photos
on facebook, sliding
down a sandhill, looking
happier than I’ve ever seen her,
and a photo of her new man
who, we agreed, looks
very gorgeous, and
I told him how the rest
of the old mob are going,
and then showed him pics
of the new mob here in town.

The time went fast
of course, and too soon
I had to get him back
to the bus; we were just
heading out the door
when Andrew said, ‘Hey, wait!’
and gave him a huge hug
and to me an admonition
about meridian tapping
which indeed I did show him
at the bus stop hastily
(he wasn’t even embarrassed)
before it lumbered along
and he kissed me and went.

8 Days of Happiness: 2  / Six Sentences

25 July 2010

Days of Happiness

Jennie wants ideas
for writing a poem a day.
Among others, I suggest
the ‘8 Days of Happiness’ meme,
where every day you find
some new reason for happiness
and write of that.

I decide to do it too; I could use
finding some causes,
just now, for happiness.
He asked me what it was like for me
when he went to hospital
for three weeks, and nearly didn’t
come back out ... then we both
relived that distress.

Happiness today, for me,
is a cold spell when we stay inside
and he, still weak, lies down to rest
in his own bed in his own home.
It’s a cloudy sky he lived to see,
above a garden of weeds that awaits
new order, new sunlight,
and us old dears in our chairs
enjoying each new day.

8 Days of Happiness: 1 / Six Sentences

(I'm also playing a game with form, inspired by the site Six Sentences.)

23 July 2010

Silent song in the mind: June Lunes 2010

Reposted from The Passionate Crone blog

Purring pussycat
all night long
she sleeps in my arms.


On our verandah
butcher bird
sings to greet the sun.


She goes away,
wanders back for a look.
Already it’s changed.


Went to town.
There was Patsy walking around
in the sun.


In his photos
I notice the sad eyes,
wish I didn’t.


My favourite mountain —
I see it every day:
my father’s painting.


Wakeful all night long
I remembered
my very first love.


Warm winter sunlight.
We lunch with old friends,
drive home replete.



Wining and dining.
In my youth
it was a prelude.

Now that I am old
food and wine
are ends in themselves.


He’s away tonight.
I buy chocolates, and snuggle
with my cats.


Silent song in the mind
creates a crescendo:
internal music needing no instrument.



Will there be roses
She loved them in life.


The city of Perth
today hosts
farewells and haiku.


Lune Sequences: May 2010

Reposted from The Passionate Crone blog

Lune Sequence for Aunty Ev

My dear Aunty
is dying far from here
they tell me.

She is old
and has forgotten her life.
She is afraid.

My cousin asks,
‘Will you write the eulogy?’
Yes I will.

But I keep
putting off beginning the task.
My dear Aunty.

Lune Sequence for D

My favourite plant
grows new leaves,
dark green and glossy.

This plant I have had
many years;
never learned its name.

It was a present —
all I keep
of that dead friendship.

As for my false friend,
I’ll never
say her name again.

The plant is hardy.
I like it:
a tough survivor.

Both writtem 25/5/10

Editorial: Lunes

I was going to discontinue this blog. Lately I'm exploring the lune instead of the haiku form. But wot-the-heck, lunes were invented as a form of English-language haiku, so I shall include them here and broaden the scope of this blog, rather than turning it into a static archive.

There are two kinds:

The Kelly lune has three lines of 5 syllables / 3 syllables / 5 syllables.

The Collom lune has three lines of 3 words / 5 words / 3 words.

There are no other rules.

In May and June I posted some over at The Passionate Crone, which I'll leave there and also repost here; then will post newer ones here, not there.

16 July 2010


She is arched
over the earth.
She is black
and her body
is made of stars.

Her long hair
drapes her shoulders
like smooth dark wings.
Her fingertips
are extended
touching the ground.

My friend Geb,
old earth god, he
is who loves her.
Between them,
good kind parents,
they hold us safe.

Their wisdom
is very old
yet they are new.
They are new
every day
as the sun is.

12 July 2010

The Helpers

In the waiting room one white-haired woman
has a walking-stick painted from handle to tip
in a garden of florals, pretty as a summer dress.

Another has decorated her wheely-walker
in big bright stickers, joyous as a children’s party —
butterflies, and her name: Eunice.

Andrew’s walker is unadorned black. It’s new
and has the wide wheels that are better on carpet.
I tell myself its plainness means it isn’t permanent.

7 July 2010

More lunes for June

Went to town.
There was Patsy walking around
in the sun.


In his photos
I notice the sad eyes,
wish I didn’t.


My favourite mountain —
I see it every day:
my father’s painting.


Wakeful all night long
I remembered
my very first love.


Warm winter sunlight.
We lunch with old friends,
drive home replete.



Wining and dining.
In my youth
it was a prelude.

Now that I am old
food and wine
are ends in themselves.


He’s away tonight.
I buy chocolates, and snuggle
with my cats.


Silent song in the mind
creates a crescendo:
internal music needing no instrument.



Will there be roses
She loved them in life.


The city of Perth
today hosts
farewells and haiku.