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.

13 January 2012

Two Poems for Shelton Lea

Posted to accompany an article about Shelton for Poets United's 'I Wish I'd Written This'.


the book of your life arrived.
You're three years dead.
The author began the story
while you still had breath.
I am scarcely mentioned.

The first time we met
I showed you how to crush aspirin
in the bowl of a spoon,
inserting it through the wires
that held your broken jaw
as if I was feeding a baby.

This was at Mal's.
He showed you my poems.
You told me, 'Make the pauses
where the breath would naturally pause
if you were speaking it.
Shelley and Keats did that.'

I could go on listing anecdotes
piled up over twenty years.
But everyone has many yarns
of you, troubadour,
and most remain untold
except when old friends gather.

It's true I was not central
to your tale. Others, closer,
are also reduced to a line.
She has the essentials.
Still I find it strange
that you are dead and I'm gone.


Poems from a Peach Melba Hat
for its author, Shelton Lea (1946-2005)

I was tiny Abalone Press
operating alone from home
in the hours my kids were at school;
funded by Bill's diving money,
hence the name.
And it had a name by then.

You touted for ads for the end-papers,
a 19th Century practice you revived,  
joyful to demonstrate
self-funding for poetry presses.
But two of the seven ads 
were Bill's and mine, ah well,
and one was your partner Christine's.

You wanted a matte pink board,
a delicate shade. You wanted
Joy Hester's painting
'Head of a Woman with Hat',
her splendid skewiff dignity
on your front cover. You got it.

And on the back 'Chloe' 
the famous nude 
from Young & Jackson's bar
with you, larrikin dandy, 
perched on the brass railing
protecting her frame.
The tenth Muse, you called her.

You came for two days
to consult on the layout
and stayed two weeks with pleurisy.
You thought to go straight back home,
all day on the rattly Gippsland train.
You thought it was just a cough.

Convalescent, you yarned with my boys,
explaining the shape of a fugue
and the reasons crime doesn't pay.
On both you were well-informed.
You were funny and wise 
and you heard them. 
They never forgot.

We argued over apostrophes.
Now I'd have let you leave them out,
but that was twenty-seven years ago.
I missed one, reading 'julias' –
personal name for a lawn, how quaint.
Till I heard you, too late, reciting 'julia's lawn'.

Some of the Establishment scoffed
at the excellent reviews,
insinuating partiality.
The street-wild poet, the very small press.
Who could praise so highly
and not be swayed 
by friendship or even lust?

We dressed very fine for the dinner,
the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards.
You were short-listed for two:
Poetry and Australiana. No, 
you didn't win. But the reviewers beamed
most politely on those who'd sneered.

Three years ago now, a boarder
stole my only copy when he left;
inscribed of course. My son David 
found me another, signed, 
in a second-hand bookshop.
I open it up. It begins: 
'the day was fifteen bright balloons'.

It ends with the line, 
'beware the greed of time.' 
Somewhere in the middle
you're coming out of prison 
on a winter day, hearing the Beatles:
'love, love me do.' And we do.

Published All Travellers We (Montmorency, Vic., Eaglemont Press, 2007.)


  1. Oh Rosemary, these are both so touching. What a lovely tribute. I am so intrigued by these stories of him.I just know there are so many more and that they would make me laugh.

  2. Laugh and cry, and enter into another world!

    Do click the links at the PU post, to learn more.