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.

31 March 2012

Oh listen — March tanka 2012

oh listen
sixties music softly
how she is here and now
and he is very far 


free morning
I don’t know what to do
with myself
so seldom by myself
leisure hangs loose and strange 


autumn equinox
a day of sun and showers
we get our hair cut
and make calls to creditors
tidying up for winter


when I was ten
my cousins from Burma
brought me a gift
a bamboo parasol
with a tip like a spire

I watch on TV
parasols in the crowd
blooming like hope
round the slender lady
smiling straight-backed

the golden spire
on the great pagoda
shines in the dawn
in old Rangoon city
I always imagined


‘My memory
is getting good,’ he says
childhood’s vivid details
but not last week’s movie.


Late Afternoon Walk

There go the ibis
flying to rest
in their alphabetical lines:
U V, a message of warning
against the sun.

Striping a bank of cloud
the sun sends down
its longest rays,
waterfalls of light.

From behind a higher cloud
the sun emerges,
glittering now
too bright for eyes.

Shrilling, the ibis roost,
dotting the top
of the highest, roundest tree
in this warm hour
before the edge of night.

Submitted, almost a year after writing and posting, for Poets United's Poetry Pantry #142

27 March 2012

Uptight Limericks

To a prompt at Mad Kane's Humor Blog

A man who was very uptight
took a walk on the wild side one night.
After crashing his car
he lurched into the bar ...
loosened up by the end of the night.

A girl who was very uptight
gave her boyfriend a hell of a fright.
She lay there so rigid,
he thought, ‘Is she frigid —
or perhaps she has died in the night?’

24 March 2012


Just for fun, and because it's the current FormForAll prompt at dVerse. Do pop over there and read Madeleine Begun Kane's delightfully informative article on the subject.

I can tell you, it's harder than you might think! These are not very amusing, and the scansion's not perfect. I might have to practise more at Madeleine's blog where she hosts regular limerick challenges. However, I enjoyed the attempt.

I’m sitting here drinking my coffee
while chewing on lim’ricks, not toffee.
I must have a go,
although I don’t know ...
my efforts might be a bit offy.

There once was a lass called Rosemary
whose visage became very scary
when greeted as Rose —
you’d almost suppose
she was really Miss Mary Contrary.

In fact she is Rosem’ry at home.
The diff’rences come when you roam.
In Gay Paree
she’s Rose-Marie;
now that has a certain aplomb!

Miss Rosemary longs to be thinner
but alas, she’s too fond of her dinner.
It isn’t the meat
that she loves, but the sweet,
as she stuffs more and more of it in ‘er.

I think I have run out of steam
or puff, or whatever you deem.
I’ll tell you the truth:
I am long in the tooth
and it’s time for a doze and a dream.

My own favourite limerick is one my Dad used to recite with gusto:

There was an old lady from Nicaragua
who had her false hair clawed off by a jaguar.
The old lady said, 'Ah!'
The jaguar said, 'Bah!
What a false, artificial old hag you are!'

(I now know it has too many syllabes in lines 1, 2 and 5 — but I love it anyway.)

This post also submitted for Poets United's The Poetry Pantry #95

14 March 2012


I keep quitting iTunes.
It keeps starting up anew,
my old mate Dutch singing:

‘When things go wrong,
so wrong with you,
it hurts me too.‘

It’s not even the first song
on the list. Three down, still it plays
every time — after I switch it off.

He’s dead. He was a friend.
Even so, I don’t think he hurts
that bad for my hurt.

Is it Bill (my ex-husband, dead too)?
They were close. And Bill
loved all Dutch’s music. Yes,

he might use that for a message,
and he would care that much
if I was hurting. (I am.)

Someone’s about.
My black cat prowls every room
stalking something unseen, hissing.

He normally doesn’t react
when Bill drops in for a visit.
What’s different now?

Andrew, the living husband,
tells me he has excruciating pain.
He thinks he will have to leave me.

Is it Death that lurks
in my house? Is that the hurt
I am both warned of and comforted for?

Submitted to The Poetry Pantry #91 at Poets United
and Open Night #35 at dVerse.

2 March 2012

The Day We Lost the Volkswagen

During a momentary lull in her head,
the poor old thing lost her grip.
The boat she was towing towed her instead
ponderously down the slip,
backwards into the water.

For a swirling moment she almost floated,
she thought of setting sail.
But her bum tilted, her britches bloated —
she was heavy in the tail —
and the sly seaweed caught her.

I thought even then she might make a try
(she seemed to be righting her flank)
but she spun gravely, one eye on the sky,
gave a dignified splutter and sank.
The sea frothed briefly.

I don’t know — she wasn’t the kind to drift,
much less come apart at the seams.
But the sails and the clouds that day had a lift,
and perhaps she had some dreams.
It was a damn nuisance, chiefly.

© Rosemary Nissen 1974
from Universe Cat, Pariah Press (Melb.) 1985, and
Secret Leopard: new and selected poems 1974-2005 (Alyscamps Press, (Paris) 2005
First published Nation Review.
Also in:
A Second Australian Poetry Book for Children, Oxford
Secondary English Book 3, Macmillan
Off the Record, Penguin
Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets.

An oldie but a goodie, submitted, in addition to previous post, to dVerse Translucent Poetics: Writing Spoken Word, because unlike the previous it's in first person according to the requirements, and because it's my most popular poem in both publication and performance. (The only difference, I've found in practice, is that whereas the last line works best as a throwaway line on the page, in performance it must be hammed up and spoken with exaggerated drama as if written with an exclamation mark – as in the Soundcloud recording below.)

Also submitted in 2019 to Poets United's Poetry Pantry #484 because I think it's time it found a wider audience outside Australia.


‘I’m buggered!’ he said, as he buried his head
in his arms on the table. I am unable
to move or speak or even groan.
Help me someone, don’t leave me alone
paralysed here. Shit, pour me a beer
and then I may rouse to take just a sip,
a purely medicinal wetting of my lip.

But they all ignored the poor drunken sod,
left him alone on his own: his bod
sunken down on the wooden pew,
his brain wandering in a fog, or a stew ...
till morning arrived at last with the dawn
as it usually does — first light of the sun
staining the sky a beautiful red.

They looked for him then. He had not been to bed.
He was still in the pub, revived, looking for grub.
‘I’m not buggered any more!’ he yelled from the floor
(where he had fallen the night before)
as his unworried friends ambled in the door.
Then he shook his fist and out he staggered.
His mates in chorus said, 'Well, I'll be buggered!'

This dissertation on a good old Aussie expression was written in response to a prompt during a WordsFlow session in November last year. I just rediscovered it in my files and decided I like it. (Last line rewritten 31 March 2012.)

I'm submitting it for Poets United's Poetry Pantry #89 and dVerse Translucent Poetics: Writing Spoken Word. (Humorous, rhyming verse goes down well in performance.)