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

Some of these poems are autobiographical, some are entirely fictional, and some are a mixture of both. The intention is art rather than self-expression. I don't allow factual details to get in the way of poetry! (I do seek emotional truth.)

They are works in progress, and may be subject to revision without notice. Completed versions appear in my books. Nevertheless copyright applies to all texts found here.
Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your posts as much as possible.

31 January 2012

The water: January tanka 2012

I’m alone tonight
watching a program on twins
how they are bonded
identical DNA
the self recognised and shared


hot rainy day
thunder blowing close
while you lie still
unsettled weather
weeping up a storm


rainy morning
the cats fight over breakfast
I chase them outside
they try to catch my eye
plaintive faces through the glass


Water Dragon year
begins with torrents of rain
following king tides
New Year is good for cleansing
the rivers keep on rising


the water
keeps on coming
some people think
we can control nature


black feathers
on my doorstep
oh foolish night-bird
when I chased you away
from my cats I meant it!


end of the month
a long month of sorrow
and heavy rain
I come to it sighing
and spoiling for a fight


29 January 2012

The clock ticks: January haiku 2012

her journals
have been deleted
so she’s gone


I keep ignoring
the smart-arse
why doesn’t he leave?



the clock ticks
he is tired again
and lies down


green cacti
rotted by mould
the black spot


Dragon’s blood incense
powerful for this New Year
the Water Dragon.


when the rain pauses


20 January 2012

Respite Carer

For the first time
I call on emergency respite 
so I can go out:
chiropractor today,
doctor next week.

How will he cope with this,
being baby-sat like a child?

When I come home,
they are watching Shakespeare in Love.
She hasn’t seen it before.

‘You don’t have to leave,’ he says,
as she rises and gathers her bag.
‘Stay and watch the rest.’ 
She sits back down at once.

At the end, when she does leave,
they hug each other goodbye.
‘See you Monday!’

Submitted for Poets United Thursday Think Tank #81 - Goodbyes. 

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.)

7 January 2012

'Sad Am I Without Thee'

I liked the last turn of the last page
of the school choir songbook,
where we came to the Maori lament —
because it was beautiful: sweet
mournful notes and mellifluous
syllables of a foreign language,
finishing with the plaintive
long-drawn-out English: ‘Sad am I
without thee.’ We would sigh then
softly, on the last out-breath
before closing the book.

This is what comes to me now,
with your lingering death
finally accomplished, New Zealand girl.
Although you were not Maori,
perhaps you won’t mind that I return
to that most lonely and lovely lament
in my long memory, when I think of you.
Which at present is all the time.

I am sadness incarnate,
it lives in my body, shakes me
like the seizures you had,
doubles me over and throws me
into an absence of comfort, the pit
of black grief, abysmal
contemplation of
how young you were, Penelope.

I am old, but already
life calls me back to itself.
From the bedroom, my husband
in pain, is talking to me as if
I could hear, and I do hear
as he crashes to the floor.
I pick him up, massage his foot,
help him to the bathroom and back.
The cat on the bed murmurs
to greet me; I croon in return.
My body is crying for coffee.

You were here, you are gone.
I have spent all night
and half the morning weeping.
I know you loved me.
You knew I loved you.
I wanted to save
your stories and poems and paintings, but
the world is full of art.

Strangely, the world
is full of you. You can’t be cancelled.
I drink my coffee deep.
Tonight I shall watch
a show you would have liked too
on TV. Tonight
I’ll turn the next page. What comes after
‘Sad am I without thee’?

A 'page turner' poem submitted for dVerse / M:/P MAG collaboration.

1 January 2012

Wet Spring: December haiku 2011

wet Spring
my parsley dies


fairytale mountains
misty in the crevices
outlines floating clear


Who comes silently
in the rain
glimpsed as a shadow?


the day is over
told the truth
and we all survived


he goes to bed now
head aching
a long kiss goodnight



full moon eclipse night
we’re early to bed



sleeping cat
paw covering eye
‘Do Not Disturb’


the atheists
have all the best arguments
come to the same end


at SummerSolstice
all I ask of the Goddess
is my darling’s health


a quiet circle
as two old people
observe the Solstice

the earth quakes
a cyclone threatens
we breathe deep

guided by instinct
we pray for balance
and a good outcome


I read poetry
the porridge burns


when I was four
my first naked pink earthworm
so alien I ran screaming


poetry workshops
in Pentridge Prison
time of my life



no Christmas greeting
yet no obituary
for her a new year?