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 July 2016

The Heart Breaking

The heart breaking silently awake
wishes to drown itself instead in loud tears
because it is afraid of the waking up
to what is real, and afraid of the silence
in which it must confront the void,
which may be endless – but there is no escape
from the breaking that opens the heart
out into a different world, unsuspected
when the heart was whole and firm, and closed.
How can I know this? Because, it is my heart.

A second poem linked to Because It Is My Heart – Micro Poetry at 'imaginary garden with real toads'

'Because It Is My Heart ...'

I place it in a small, enclosed garden
with a view of sky
and expansive trees.
Twined vines
dangle orange trumpets 
down the surrounding fences.
(Winter flowers. In Spring
will come pale, floppy stars.)
My black cat with white whiskers 
is here too – because.

10 lines for Because It Is My Heart – Micro Poetry at 'imaginary garden with real toads'.

Title from Stephen Crane: 'The Black Riders and Other Lines' (though his use of it is very different from this!).

30 July 2016

Communing with Ghosts

Morning coming thin
in a small town with hills and a river.
I got home just as the light was changing,
the cool and sweet
rain running down.

Our house had stained glass windows.
The water blurred the glass:
waterfalls of cloud.
You smiling,
drinking the quiet cold.
I wonder at this great blessing.

But that was only the beginning.
Late afternoon sun,
long summer nights.
Hibiscus buds fall open,
red gauntlet to bloody the first ...
trails of fern move to evade.
I am not quite ready to engage fully with my sorrow.

The old church never alters.
The wind clings to the wall,
down through the strange dark –
the confluence of waters where
further mysteries open,
chalked on dark stone.

You kept falling over
in absolute amusement.
The gates were slow to close.
You don't remember that now.
You cough in your sleep.
The old dog knows.

Today I'm grace but for litter.
I am a void that everything flows through. 
(Owl with the black face,
what is the name of this power?)

He is alone in another country
using his derelict hat to salute me.
It was all a long time ago.
Again we have stayed silent,
not knowing we lied.

The moon is coming to the full.
Moonlight and your shining face.
And afterwards we wept as we embraced.

And remember last year in Lamesa –
the evening light on the grass,
the house where she planted roses?

She came on the night blinded,
radiant with tears.
Her skirt fluttered...
I had to do what I did.

This is an 'egomaniacal cento' (found in The Crafty Poet: a Portable Workshop by Diane Lockward). A cento is a poem made up entirely of lines borrowed from other poets. The egomaniacal cento uses lines taken from one's own discarded drafts, journal entries, etc. In this case, they are all from discarded drafts, and chosen to create a certain mood. The fun is in the arranging, and sometimes re-punctuating, so as to suggest actual meaning.

Linked to dVerse OpenLinkNight #176

26 July 2016


I went away today
to visit poetry
in a place where 
I used to play,
and might again
some day. I dawdled
through the streets
enjoying the familiar,
noting the new and strange.
At first I felt like a voyeur, 
but then the delight 
of reconnection 
grabbed me and the joy 
of hearing that language, 
breathing that air…. I 
went away today 
into poetry 
and lingered there
for several hours. What 
luxury! It was something 
I did just for me.

24 July 2016

My Role in the Circus of Life

Most circus performers
are versatile now. You have to be.
Acrobat and clown, weight-lifter
and juggler, aerialist ...
well, you get the idea. Me,
I'm a little different: between
specialties, not this one plus that, 
but something of all. Or none. 
What I do is – 

                      I jump sideways. 
And the way I do it is to land 
somewhere unexpected, leaving
my audience scratching
its collective head: 'How did ...
why ...?' And I love it!
Not that I do it to shock.
It's just the way I'm made, 
how my freaky synapses work.

Written for Play it Again at 'imaginary garden with real toads', in  response to the prompt: 'Is your life a circus?  If so, which circus performer are you?  Tell me about your act . . . in 90 words or less.' (Mine's the full 90, excluding title.) 

See also Jumping Sideways (memoir material).

23 July 2016

The Teacher

I believed you were holy and strong.
I wanted a good teacher, wise enough
to instruct me faultlessly, so I could make
my life perfection. I knew you knew it all. 

The re-assessment was gradual. You said
things I couldn't agree to. My subservience 
to your understanding was shaken. Then,
on some facts that I knew, you were just wrong.

Yet you spoke with conviction. Oh well, 
it wasn't a lasting problem. I moved away.
Our correspondence was brief and infrequent.
I remembered you as a great teacher.

Twenty years later, while travelling, I visit
the bitter old woman you have become.
During most of our lunch, you castigate
one of my closest friends for an ancient mistake –

ignoring her many achievements since.
Our conversation has nowhere much to go
after I contradict you – though, in the old habit
of reverence, I say little. Soon it's time to leave.

I know I won't be back. I know I have grown
into my own opinions, my own ways of living 
my (imperfect) life. I kiss you goodbye, saddened. 
I see you are still an excellent teacher.

At dVerse, for Part 5 of the 5th anniversary week, we are asked to:  Write on a belief that you once had that has now changed or you let go of it.  Did it change any relationships that you had?  

22 July 2016

Title: I explore & examine my totems so as to create #poetry – which I'll post on twitter, that is I'll tweet – each one called a #poetweet

First I #poetweet Owl, 
my Left-hand Guardian
connecting me to the dark,
penetrating mystery
with clear incisive sight
an advantage for #poetry

My Right-hand Guardian is Serpent
for Cunning (Owl's Wisdom)
giving day/action streetsmarts and 
the Healing I want in my #poetweet #poetry

Last, Great Mother Spider 
childhood terror / lifelong totem.
Protector. And Weaver 
good for a maker of #poetry,
blessing my every #poetweet

Note: Each aforegoing #poetweet was written in response to prompts from 'imaginary garden with real toads'dVerse, playgrounds for #poetry

[And a further note just for readers of this blog – the hashtags have to be within the 140 characters, so for this exercise I needed to include them in each tweet. Because, yes, I have tweeted all of the above, including Title and Note. But not this bit.]

21 July 2016

Coming a Long, Long Way

“I am cold, even though the heat of early summer is adequate. I am cold because I cannot find my heart.” ~Sebastian Barry from his novel A Long, Long Way

I grew up cold. Frosts every morning
in the long winters – thick and deep, lasting
half the day before they thawed. The wind
biting to the bone, the relentless rain chilling.

I grew up cold. The ice of a mother love
which included criticisms and no cuddles
that I can remember, only the tense few
cheek kisses immediately withdrawn from.

Years later, well into adult life, I always
wore cardigans right into summer, unable
to feel warmth all the way through, inside,
even when I surrounded myself with huggers.

But life is long. I live now in a warm climate
all year round, and I generated enough
warmth from my own heart at last, for others,
that it reflected back to me and filled me.

I no longer wear cardigans in high summer.
That was long ago. I understand now 
that my poor mother loved me, but couldn’t
express it freely from her paralysing lifelong cold.

For dVerse, day 3 of the 5-day fifth anniversary celebrations

20 July 2016

Sevenling (My Favourite Music)

Nothing made Freya happier
than to snuggle between Andrew and me,
purring all night in deep rhythm.

Later, when Andrew and Freya were gone,
Levi would curl up next to me and purr.
Now he too has left me; they are all gone.

My new cat is wary, and shares the bed silently.

Yes I know, comparisons are odious, and the new cat is gradually getting more trusting and affectionate. (She did purr the other night while sitting on my lap, as I wrote two poems ago.) I love her – and I still miss the others.

A sevenling for dVerse. We were asked to write about music.

At This Point on the Journey

Good companions are leaving – 
some without farewell. Let me now revisit 
places where I paused in delight, 
before I too stop travelling. 
                                              In Nepal 
I recall we walked through fields of weed
to meet the Bonpo Abbott. He revealed
wisdom but no lasting answers.

A quadrille for dVerse, on the word 'journey'.  

Back story:

Vivienne Blake, a warm and talented English poet resident in France, whom I knew only online, died suddenly and unexpectedly on July 5th. Billy Marshall Stoneking, an American-Australian poet and film-maker, died on July 15th. As far as I can gather, that was sudden and unexpected too. I remember him from the days when we were both young performance poets, committed to taking poetry 'off the page'. In recent years, we reconnected on facebook. Though neither was a close friend, it's a shock.

Today, over lunch with one who is a close friend, talk turned to Tibet, Nepal, Buddhism, and the earlier Bon (aka Bonpo) religion. This evening I looked at dVerse to see an interview with another poet I only know online, just returned from time in Nepal, plus a prompt for a quadrille on the subject of 'journey'. And it all came together....

14 July 2016


My new cat, who has in her past 
been abused and abandoned,
has chosen to remain silent – 
until, tonight on my lap,
for the very first time she made 
faint but continual purring.

(We were actually on the couch at the time, but I certainly wasn't going to disturb the moment by taking a photo, so this on the bed, is the most similar one I've got.)

A note to my email subscribers

I do apologise for my bad habit of posting poems when I think they're ready, and then immediately noticing things that could be improved.

I wonder if you get several versions popping up in your inboxes in quick succession? Probably. All I can say is, prefer the last one.

I am making good resolutions to wait, go away and do something else, and have a fresh look at a new, supposedly finished poem after some hours have passed. That might work. (But there's something about seeing it posted which instantly highlights all the faults!)


The Settling In

(The first six months)

She is running all over the house just now 
like a kitten, although she is eight –
well middle-aged for a cat – 
and has been a mother.

I don’t know what became
of her kittens. I don’t know why 
she won’t purr or miaow. Or who taught her
to cringe away if I even raise my voice.

‘You’re very expressive,’ I told her,
‘with your eyes and body, but if I’m busy 
I might not notice you want something. 
Either miaow, or mind-shout louder.’

She makes her own choices. Instead,
if I don’t immediately see her needs 
and respond, now she runs up to me,
tapping my leg with a gentle, insistent paw.

She’s a spectacular beauty. Maybe that
got her saved and homed, until at last
fate brought her to me. I think
we were meant for each other.

We have learned the right moments
for her to sit on me, and me to croon and pat.
We have learned to know when both of us, 
old girls set in our ways, need space.

Sometimes, now, I can pick her up
and hold her, and she doesn’t struggle.
(But I keep it brief.)  She likes me nearby
when she spends time outside. I oblige.

A wise woman told me she is my witch cat,
my new familiar. ‘You are equal partners,
not one overpowering the other.‘ I wait.
Perfect love and trust are almost here.

I'm linking this to Poets United's Poetry Pantry #313

12 July 2016

As If

It’s as if 
I could go back
to some other 
real, solid moment

and stay there
anchored in my life
as it was then 

(when I start

as if I could

some ordinary

you were sick,
and not have to 
leave that spot

or you.

This poem seems a perfect fit for Poets United's latest Midweek Motif: Absence

10 July 2016

Against the Tide

There are still prophets.
They are yelling. Nobody listens.
We haven't got time now
to use them to build religions –
anyway, look where that got us.
(What if we had simply done 
as Jesus and Co advised?) 

Now it's a race, for the Angels to save 
our world and us. It always was. 
I was a child when Grandpa 
gave me 'The Silent Spring'. 
Now I'm 76. Governments, finally, 
begin to show concern ... some.

Many prophets of recent time foretold 
the breakdown of our systems, 
financial and political. Well???
Some say this could usher in –
if we learn – a new Golden Age.  

My father taught me: if everyone waits 
until everyone else stands up, 
no-one ever will. I have to 
do it myself, even if....

Written for Sunday Mini Challenge: Shallows, Deeply (to find something deep in an increasingly shallow world) at 'imaginary garden with real toads'

9 July 2016

Which Famous Writer Are You? (Facebook Quiz)

I wanted songs around the campfire,
and a pet raven.
I decided to walk in the woods.
I chose to become a dragon.

For this, I get Stephen King!
Loved by millions but not by me.
I can be, I am told, a master of horror.
Recalling childhood nightmares, I shudder.

If I had an attraction to horror,
I'd watch the news on TV
or see what was trending on twitter.
No need to write my own.

I suppose it's because I selected
for my favourite holiday, Halloween.
(There wasn't a box labelled Samhain, 
my real choice – not quite the same.)

I pick up my staff and call to my raven.
I'm off for a ramble among the trees.
I'll practise my songs for the campfire,
and turn into Ursula Le Guin.

Linking to the Tuesday Platform at 'imaginary garden with real toads'

My Secret Loves

What I love is to sing.
What I love is to dance.
These lifelong loves
remain my secret –

since early childhood
when joyously
I displayed them
expressed them,

let my full heart overflow
with the soaring, glorious tones,
the swaying, swirling moves.
Oh, how I set them free!

No-one else could hear or see –
not as I did, not as I felt.
‘You have no tune,
you have no beat.’

I hid my love,
I smothered my joy.
Now no-one hears 
or sees me.

Only, when I’m alone,
I turn the music loud:
I sing with all my lungs,
I dance with my whole body.

The rest of the time,
my throat and feet
are sensibly still and silent.
(Secretly, though, they’re dreaming.)

(Tone-deaf and no sense of rhythm! But poetry has taught me how to sing and dance on the page.) 

Written for Sanaa's Prompt Nights: Dancing is like dreaming with your feet, and (simultaneously) for Fireblossom Friday: Secret Love at 'imaginary garden with real toads'.

7 July 2016

Return to the Winter Garden

My new cat has enticed me
to come and sit with her
right now, in our courtyard garden.

Bright orange, the trumpet creeper 
is climbing my neighbour's tree.
Not my job to tell him, and I'm sure
he can see, so I settle back to enjoy.

Once, a huge monitor lizard
climbed it too, and lay all afternoon
along a branch. Earlier today
I heard the fat dove coo,
that lives over there. Luckily

my cat, Selene, doesn't hunt – not
if it means scaling fences. She
is no longer young. Nor am I.

It's a lovely, sunny winter afternoon,
not so cold as yesterday. A plane
drones lazily over. It's nearly four years;
I hardly remember the pain of them –

those years of coming here to my garden
and your large absence meeting me. 
And in noticing how I don't remember,
I do remember – and I turn from that
into today, and peace, and my new cat.

I'm linking this poem to Poets United's Poetry Pantry #311

6 July 2016

Waking / Waiting

Gradually I notice
sunshine has returned
(yesterday’s rain
made a day
to hunker down,

The slow count
of votes continues.
Not looking good.

A brisk wind
rustles itself up
from nowhere.

My cat examines
the outside world,
decides: another day
for staying in.

4 July 2016

Travelling This Road

(After the Federal Election, fearing more welfare cuts)

Where to from here? 
And how to proceed?

I do the things 
I must and can
to make my wheels go round.

I fold the washing, notice
the dishes are getting
too high in the sink
and the bookshelf needs a dust.

Later this afternoon
I might go grab a swim
in the heated pool.
Doctor's orders, and for now
I can still get Pensioner discount.

Time to get out of
the dressing-gown,
the politics, 
even the poems;
to clean my house
and care for the cat.

Time to oil the everyday wheels
and try not to worry about
the way the vehicle of state
keeps looking smaller,
frailer, more ramshackle.

Try not think that the people
who write the instructions
might have lost their grip
when testing the handle-bars.

I'm used to being frugal.
I still manage to donate
food every month to the homeless.

I don't say, ‘They’re not my concern.’
Wouldn't you think...

Possibly the subtitle and the last verse will be best understood by Australians, in the light of specific recent government policies and utterances.

See also

Linking to The Tuesday Platform at 'imaginary garden with real toads'

3 July 2016

Soldier Fathers

Dad didn't go
overseas to war
but to camp,
training against invasion.

(He was already wounded.
His leg, injured at 10,
needed daily dressing
all his life.)

Andrew's dad went
to the trenches –
(wouldn't kill).

20 years later, his son 
found one surviving page 
torn from a war diary:
'Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell.'

Written for Flash 55 PLUS! at 'imaginary gardens with real toads'. We are asked for a 55-word piece (excluding title) plus we may use the theme of war. My father and father-in-law were involved, in these different ways, in World War II.

After the Election

After the election
I wake reluctantly
to a cold morning.
Out there, kookaburras
are laughing harshly.

2 July 2016

In the Land of Flowers

Late, late have I loved Thee, O Beauty most old and yet most new.... Thou didst call and very loud and didst break through my deafness. Thou didst shine and my darkness was scattered. Thou didst touch me and I burned for thy peace.*

In the land of flowers
and buzzing bees,
of berries and ferns
and a lawn like a meadow,
between the black wattle
that spread its thick branches
over the roof of the garage,
and the willow that grew
behind the lattice summerhouse,
I played with my friends.

Most were children like me
only their clothes were different.
(Clothes of bygone eras,
I learned as I grew, 
finding pictures in costume books, 
fancy-dress or historical.)
Everyone else told me
there were no other children,
except for when cousins 
or neighbours came –
I was alone in my garden.

Some of my friends were insects –
spotted ladybirds, gold-striped bees,
tawny butterflies, and fluttery
white cabbage moths which I wasn't
allowed to like because they were pests
(but I did) and beetles with jointed legs.

There were others – bright, quick lights
that flew, and inhabited plants.
They looked like insects, mostly,
to most people, and not like
the pretty, winged fairies in picture-books.
(But sometimes I saw their faces,
so I knew. And there was that day
when one stared back at me
and spoke, mind to mind,
just for a few moments, before –
as they always did – she vanished.)

One of my friends
was a bit like my Grandpa,
but younger and taller.
He and Grandpa both
walked and talked with me
among the ferns and flowers.
They both answered my questions;
both showed me, minutely,
the beauty of insects and grass,
trees and birds and clouds –
but not at the same time.
This wise friend was another
only I could hear and see.

(He never showed me
the mask with the ibis beak.
I found out his name later,
when a seer friend told me
who he saw around me, describing
other details I recognised:
'Oh, him. I know him! He's always 
been here. My old pal.' 
Never, therefore, awed.)

It's a hard thing for a child,
not being believed. 'Tell the truth!'
they say – and you are, but even 
your parents, who promise they love you, 
are sure it must be a story, something 
you made up. They think it's clever. 'What 
a wonderful imagination!' But later
they start to worry. 'She lives too much
in her dreams and fancies. It can't
be healthy.' So I learned 
the habit of keeping secret 
certain things that were real.

I knew even then, without
the words and concepts I have now,
that trees have souls and consciousness,
that every blade of grass 
sparks with Divine fire,
that the earth is alive, that God
is the great Mother – I 
her priestess if she will –
and knew her face, 
evanescent, glimpsed in dream,
flickering in the variety 
of her faceted world,
as exquisite, eternal beauty.

* Words of St Augustine, translated by Helen Waddell and quoted exactly as above in her book on Peter Abelard. (Part of a longer piece of writing, the rest of which she doesn't quote.)

I'm linking this to The Tuesday Platform for July 26 2016 at 'imaginary garden with real toads',