Thursday, 25 August 2011


For Brenda Lynette Creighton, born 1919.
When I was just mere growing cells-
Before I breathed on the earth-
A bonded cord sustained my life
In those months before my birth.

And when I, a naughty, restless child
Could every fence and barrier climb,
In care and love you took a cord
And tethered me safely to a line.

Then when as a boy in deep delight
I through swamp and bush would roam
There was an unbroken, invisible cord
That drew me safely home.

Later there were challenging times
When waves crashed hard and I almost drowned.
You were a rock, a light, a cord
To draw me safely to solid ground.

Time cuts all early dependant cords
But others grow that cannot be broken,
Spun by faith, time and maturing mind,
By laughter, tears, and love unspoken.

So it is with my mother and me,
Where cords of flesh were cut at birth
But invisible cords of faith still grow
Transcending this sentient life on earth. 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

I scratch my hand across the glass

I scratch my hand across the glass
To let the light come through
But the pane is thick and frosted
So it dulls and obscures my view.

Perhaps if I scratch hard enough
These shadows will come clear
And if I unceasingly persist
What is distant will draw near.

I feel that there are truths
That I can strain my eyes and see
But all I see are shadows
Glimpsed but fleetingly.

Then I comprehend 
The glass is clear and bright;
It is the scales upon my eyes
That hinder and distort my sight

And clarity of vision is clouded
By the curtains of the mind,
So the dark things held within
Willingly distort and blind.

Knowing then that this is true
Provides a ray of light;
It is the simplicity of love
That surpasses clarity of sight.

And though the glass be dull and frosted-
Denying us things we want to know-
We can strive to dwell in love
And thus in brightness grow.

And in this state of blessedness
Truth can grow and shine
And sight can be directed
By the transformed mind.

1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass darkly...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Three sonnets for Paul and Sue Armstrong, who’ve taken me to some amazing places.
Come, If you walk with me I’ll show you a place
Near where the Hawkesbury River runs wide and brown.
Into those rugged sandstone ridges we turn
And past lovely trees the track winds gently up and down.
Here’s a spot where we can sit a while.
Huge water gums tower into the sky,
Their roots twisting and flowing over rock
While with eddy and swirl the creek gurgles by.
Look, in those rocks in the stream, deep grooves
Made long ago for sharpening spear or club.
Close your eyes, try to hear the children play,
Or see long gone shadows flit through scrub.
It’s tempting, but in this place we cannot stay.
Our destination is still some distance away.
We’ve turned off the main track, jumped a little creek,
Skirted a pretty pond, scrambled up the hill
Until, at last, we stand on an expanse of rock,
A place where the world seems quiet and still.
It’s hundreds of metres long, wide, not quite flat.
But look, ground into the stone are many features,
Kangaroos, emus, a woman, men, shields, spears,
And further along a great spirit creature.
Then I know that Dharuk people met here
Beneath the stars, or sun, to dance, laugh and cry,
To draw, to worship, to wonder, and to belong.
Do I sense them here, or is that a comforting lie?
Their culture, their life, their laughter and song
Have shrunk into the past and are now long gone.
I lie on the rock. Underneath my back
Like some divinely stamped tessellation
Are great swirling curving patterns in the rock.
I feel connection; wells of strong emotion.
Above my head is the vaulting dome of sky,
Now clear blue but filled with transforming light,
Cloud, rain, sun’s rising, sun’s falling, moon, stars,
The velvet, diamond studded quilt of night.
I hear voices; I see them emerge from bush,
Greet, paint their bodies, tell stories, dance, sing,
Belong, feel purpose, feel love, draw and carve.
Oh how could they see the changes time would bring,
That where they did in such deep belonging roam
England’s rejects would land and claim it as their own.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

When I Come to Life's Well

 When I come to life’s well let me not drink
 In timid, cautious and cowardly sips
But let me partake in great gulping drafts
Of the cup that is offered to my lips.

In those timid and cautious little sips
The blaze of light can never be.
Little sips are a twilight nether world
Where truth can’t be found or minds set free.

For when we drink of the entire rich cup,
-As indeed we all undoubtedly must-
We grow in mercy and compassion
And in the knowledge that we are dust.

So now while I live let me drink deeply,
Let it pour down over my sides
In a stream that is rich and deep and full
For as long as breath in this body resides.

For the night will come, and sleeping too
And into that darkness all thoughts must sink,
So now while it’s day I rush to life’s well,
And In great gulping drafts continue to drink.

Wake up, little man

For my daughter Catherine and her son, Jet, when he was about 20 months.

Wake up, little man, breathe the morning air,
Don your climbing gear, there’s exploring to be done,
Mountains to scale and great treasure to be won.
That pile of dirt you can see in the distance there
Is Everest’s foothill which you can easily climb,
That narrow gap between the post and gate
Is where a crevice does painfully wind.
But uh oh, today the summit’s fence will have to wait
For the Sherpa is coming to take you away,
Scold and say it’s too dangerous to climb today.

Later there are prizes to be won if you dare,
If you can reach your hand up, open the shed door,
Check if it’s empty, trot quickly over the floor,
Then scurry off up the hill without a care.
Up there are riches and wealth beyond measure,
Your Nanna’s fridge filled with things so sweet to eat,
But just as you reach out your hand to take your treasure
That Sherpa’s there kissing, murmuring about sleep,
Saying it’s late, your teeth are clean, it’s time for bed,
Promising tomorrow to lock the doors to the shed.

So snuggle in, little man, she’s wrapping you up tight,
Giving Elly the Elephant for holding in your arm,
For playing Mozart’s “Lullaby” to sooth and charm,
For keeping you company through all the dark night.
O little man, your eyes get heavy and you slowly blink,
Your breathing gets quiet and you look soft and cuddly.
She looks in on you and you can almost hear her think
“He’s so cute when he’s sleeping; he’s really, really lovely”,
But we think, little man, that for all of your dream time
You’re finding sweet treasures and high mountains to climb.

4th August, 2011, for Jet, when he was about 20 months.

Time Folding

For my dear schoolfriends, Mara Pavlidis and Laurel West.

They say Time separates
But it is not always so.
Sometimes Time clarifies things
Youth’s fog can but dimly know.

So Time revealed one friend in mind
And another friend in heart,
Knowledge poorly understood in school
Or understood, at best, in part.

And as he thought on this
He came to understand
That Time’s relentless lineal march
Can be folded by friendship’s hand.

So in heart and spirit he rejoiced
But then a darkness came to mind,
That Time only plays a waiting game
In its triumph over all mankind.

But then he knows that Faith’s nimble hand
Can Death’s tangled knots unwind,
And the deepest bonds of faith, hope and love
Will conquer even Time.

The Whirlpool and the Light

“What are you doing, you old man
With eyes of deepest blue,
The sea is rough, the wind is high,
What do you strain to view?”

 The old man turned his eyes to me
With a deep, penetrating stare
And even before he began to speak
 I felt my soul stripped bare.

He began a story that was so strange
And yet it seemed so true
And the words he told me on that day
I now recount to you.

“When I was young I heedless plunged
Into a rip both swift and strong.
It was youth’s folly that sucked me out
Into chaos deep and long.

In that glossy, trackless deep
All seemed so bright and new
But as I gazed in wonder around
The land slid from my view.

Then black despair formed in my heart
As thick darkness gathered round
And the lapping, growling, roaring wave
Drowned out every other sound.

I struggled hard against the flow
In that surge of deepest black
Until at last I understood
There was no turning back.

As I swept along in the swirl
My eyes accustomed to the night;
I saw others drifting as if in joy,
Oblivious to their plight.

But beneath the windswept roar
I could hear a distant sound
As the tumult inexorably sank
In whirlpool underground.

Soon a huge and towering wave
Loomed out of darkest night
And as I surged up to its crest
I saw a distant light.

Into the dark and pitiless night
Poured forth my urgent cry
And as I prayed to reach that light
A plank came floating by.

It lifted me above the surge;
I held with all my strength
And as it rose and then it fell
I climbed upon its length.

And presently it calmly drifted
Into a smoother, gentler sea
Where from the savage undertow
I was at last set free.

Soon there was a scraping sound
As it came upon the land
And with grateful but exhausted heart
I fell down on the sand.

                                                                But presently I raised my head
And there beyond the beach
The light shone clear upon
A narrow path within easy reach.

On it I walked and with every step,
The blaze much brighter grew
It beckoned through lustrous light
To promises deep and true.

It called me to its light
With promises deep and true
Whispering that even if whirlpool prevailed
All could arise anew.

From a high and hilly place
I could see the rip run clear
See swimmers caught in its flow,
See the whirlpool drawing near.

I saw fellow travellers at the place
Where the land meets waterside
Throwing long ropes out into the deep
Or launching planks into the tide.

And as the safety floated by
Too few were those who grasped;
Most spurned both rope and plank
And wilfully swept past.

Sad, too sad to see them sink
In the wild and whirling foam;
Sad, too sad to hear their cries,
To hear those last deep groans.”

“Strange friend,” I cried, “If this is true
Why are you standing here?
Why are you on this windswept beach
With the storm clouds racing near?”

“I cast planks and ropes into the tide
When I hear a swimmer cry
To see if any will reach out
Before they all sweep by.

For all must into the tumult sink,
Even travellers on this road
And into its murky silent depth
Cast off their mortal load.

So with every passing day
The whirlpool is drawing near
But you can face its murky depths
Without the slightest fear.

Just carry in your heart the hope
Of those promises deep and true
Then even though whirlpool prevails
You too can arise anew.

The newness that is promised
Is totally unlike the old
But enlightened, free, undying,
Pure like burnished gold. “

With that he turned and walked away
And beckoned me to follow
But I hesitated and pondered
If his story was true or hollow.

But I do hear approaching near
That howl of swirling night
And hope to rise up on a swell
And see a distant light

Hope that all can certain be,
Hope that it will draw me near,
Hope that from that swirling pool
It will hold my head well clear,
Hope that by that light of life
I can great treasure hold,
Hope that my life can be changed
To glow like burnished gold.

Hope that all this dark, dark world
Can be consumed with light,
Hope that all those I love
Can be rescued from the night,

Hope that all that in this world is dark
Can into the whirlpool pass,
Hope that only things good and bright
Are the things that forever last.

So out I reach to grab a plank
With hope now stirring bright
And as I rise up on the swell
I glimpse that distant light.

The Mirror

I look hard into the mirror
Hoping not to see my face
But that of Jesus Christ my Lord
Now fixed and firmly in my place.

It’s his eyes looking into mine
That I really want to see;
His heart, his mind, his character
Is my desire and hope to be.

I swipe my hand across the glass
To wipe the mist away
To see if can but dimly glimpse
His character in my clay.

O can He be there just a little
Or are these eyes so blind
That they think that they see him there
When it’s really just my mind?

So I pray that he will enter in,
Peel these scales from my sight
And that when I turn to the glass again
I can catch a glimpse of his clear light.

Then as I continue to stare and stare
It will with more effulgence shine
So that in steps both small and great
His bright face will transform mine.

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The love I have for you.

For Diana.

The love I have for you
I lack the gift to express.
What finely wrought phrase could catch
Its strength, its depth, its tenderness.
So I must as a quiet man be
And keep my love inside,
As silent as some poor dumb beast
In whom no speech resides.
But I will follow faithfully
Wherever you abide
And my sweet joy will be
To lie down by your side.
There if I stay till death does come
Then none more rich under this sun.

Diana and Neil at Wombeyan Caves, c. 1984

The Clay and the Potter

Throw this clay upon the wheel
And shape it in your hands,
Thump it, squeeze it, mould it,
Make it pliable to your commands.

Draw it into the kind of form
That you will most desire,
Then fix it into that shape
By testing it with fire.

You are the master potter;
Keep on working with this shape
Applying expertly the heat
Until it will never break.

Then bring it to your house
As a vase that you do choose,
Coarse crude clay transformed
To a vessel that you can use.

There let it dwell with things of gold
In a final state so fine
That with the other transformed things
It can stay till the end of time.


I have been in dark places,
Heard Death call my name,
Whisper words of promise
To end breath and ease pain.

I have been in clear places,
Seen the revelation of light
In the swaying of leaves  
So glitteringly bright.

I have been in deep places,
Seen in still, joyous trance
Bay’s water and light play
In sparkling, bright dance.

I have been in loved places,
Gained strength to withstand,
Felt promise and gained hope   
From the soft touch of hand.


If I Live Long

For Diana.

If I live long, grow to be old,
Contemplate the years gone by,
Then no regrets can make me cold
Or make me groan or sigh.

Others have searched for lesser things
And found fulfilment there,
Yet richer I, more powerful too
Because of the life with you I share.

You are my world, my joy is true,
I need no other bliss
Than to spend my life with you
And taste your so sweet kiss.

O clouds may come and troubles bring,
The years to come too few,
Yet still I in my heart will sing
Of the love I have for you.

Eyes to See

 I found the way to the tree of life,
Or rather, it was shown to me.
The path looked hidden, steep and hard
But I had eyes that could see.

I thought it for the good and great
And not for such as me
But found that all could walk that way
As long as they have eyes to see.

I said that the cost would be far too great
But found that the path was free,
Save I must seek to share the way
With all who have eyes to see.

I said to my friend and my neighbour too-
“Come walk this path with me.”
They shook their heads and said “What path?”
For their eyes were too blind to see.

But what sweet joy I have had as I’ve gone
Despite vale and hill and adversity,
All of which have just made me strong
And my eyes are much brighter to see.

So years have passed since I began to walk
And am still yet to reach the tree
But look, how bright with hope it shines
For those who have eyes to see.

But when I think of that other path
That broadly descends to dark, silent sea,
Then my heart is filled with tenderness
For those with eyes too blind to see.

O that I could make the path plain,
From their blindness set them free,
Salve their blind eyes, remove their blind scales,
So that at last their blind eyes could see.