Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Come Closer, Child.

Your clothes are meadow fragrant.
the smell of sunshine is in your hair.
Your voice is music, your laughter young.
The song you sing is bright and fair.

Come closer, child. My eyes are dim.
Feeble the light left in the day.
My ears are weak. My heart is full.
So much I wish that I could say.

Take my hand. Kiss my cheek.
Run your hand over my hair.
I feel your love. I see your tears.
I know and feel your tender care.

Weep not for the dying light.
Look how the stars trek the sky,
How with each passing night
The slither moon does magnify.

We all must pass. Imagine the horror
This glorious earth would be
if these mixed and complex minds,
Untransformed, lived for eternity.

I have watched the stars,
Grasped at life from within the womb,
Smelt green shoots from warm wet ground,
Danced to earth's relentless tune,

Sensed some great directing spirit
Great beyond the power of mind,
Behind, within and through everything,
Felt it to be merciful, loving and kind

But now, right now, darkness closes,
Thick, complete, more total than night,
My eyes have shut, my heart has stopped.
O look, look, the light! the light...

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Prayer for Help.

In this mire I sink and drown,
in this mire are only frowns.
     Each step a threat,
         for all around
             the mud is thick
                 and bears you down.
                    You feel its grip,
                     its downward suck,
                and finally admit
            the power and pull
       of this bottomless pit.
O let your hand reach down.
Please pull me out to solid ground.

Sunday, 30 November 2014


The swamp is all around.
In the still, mirrored water
Float the reflections of tussock and branch.
Beneath its stillness mud grips and sucks.
Can it draw so deeply down
That to its mire you must surrender and drown?
Body and spirit begin to tire
From the struggle through heavy mire.
Is this the place to stop and wait,
To quietly surrender to chance and fate?

But look, even in the deepest swamp
There is a tussock here and there,
A branch partly submerged,
A rock just beneath the surface,
A fallen tree to clamber along,
And there, in the distance,
Like an adrenalin surge of hope,
Is a rise of land clearly above the mud

So clamber, hop, struggle and climb,
Pull your feet clear with a slurping suck,
Believing that high and firmer ground,
That for which the struggling heart longs,
Will surely soon be found,

Knowing that somewhere the sun shines
In a beautiful blue cathedral vault,
Somewhere people laugh and sing,
Somewhere is music playing,
Somewhere is the bright sound of children,
Somewhere lovers kiss,
Walk hand in hand
On ground that is joyously high above
The swamp's deep, disturbing, miry suck.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Words for Mum.

I'm the second of Brenda's five children. I'd like to tell you about Brenda the mother, a share a few snapshots that show you what she was like as a mother and a person, and to show you how happy and joyous it was to be around her.

Before memory there is feeling, and my earliest feelings about home were a sense of security and comfort. My feelings of infancy and early childhood are happy ones and I'm certain that was about Mum and the environment she created. Most of you would remember the imaginative woman, but that creativity during our young lives existed with a real pragmatism and great maternal care. I'll tell you a story she told to me. The young me always climbing the fence and escaping down the road. She solved that problem in a way that gave her security and me some freedom. Those days were pre Hills Hoist. Our clothes line was line attached to two poles at either end of the yard. She tied a rope around my waist and then loosely onto one of the lines so that it could move easily along the line. I could happily run the yard but not climb the fences. A very neat, pragmatic solution and win win. That kind of win win problem solving was very Mum.

I of course adored her but was unaware of her extraordinary self. My first realisation that she was a bit more than ordinary came from a strange competition that happened when I was about nine. We were then living at Rathmines on Lake MacQuarie  Maybe it was 1956. I had a much loved Annual, "Buffalo Bill", full of stories and drawings of the Wild West. I loved to copy the drawings and fancied myself as being  pretty good. Anyway, this draw-off happened between Mum, myself and I think my brother, Duncan. I whipped quickly through mine and then wanted to see what she was doing. Wasn't allowed. Got bored. Went outside to play. Finally came back to an exquisite line drawing of a horse in full gallop, not just accurate but with elegance, movement and flow. I looked at hers and then at mine and I quickly looked away. What she had done was real drawing and before that I had no idea that she could draw at all. Actually, Mum was always had pleasure in creativity but was entirely free of boastfulness.

So she was special and I was slowly becoming aware of that. As my brother has said, she was also very social. She made friends easily, was deeply empathetic and always had a air of calmness, even when things were troubling. I'll tell you a story that shows these things. When I was five Dad rejoined the RAAF and thereafter we led a gypsy life so she had lots of opportunity to practise her social skills. She also loved playing cards and was a very good player. She formed card clubs and the RAAF wives would meet once a week in someone's house, often ours, to play cards and socialise. When I was 14 we were living in WA. The year was 1962. Mum had her friends around for cards. I saw a snake close to home and I killed the poor thing. Then I thought I would show off my trophy to the gathering of card players. There they were, all dressed up as they did in those days, drinking their cups of tea, quietly concentrating on the serious business of cards when I rushed into the room waving a long snake. I do remember a few squeals, some cards dropped, chairs pushed back, a little tremor passing through the room,  and I remember  Mum, gently, coolly, and calmly, "Neil, take that snake outside." Maybe later she had a quiet word with me about proper behaviour in her very non-judgmental way. Maybe, because her parenting wasn't a censorial kind although we all knew how to behave and I think we all wanted to please her. And I don't know what happened when I left the card players. I suspect that they all had a good laugh.

Certainly Mum loved a laugh, right to the end and I was sometimes the butt of her often waggish humour. So to 1965, I was 17, we were living in Victoria, in a town called Werribee and it was a challenging year because Dad had become very ill. This story shows how, even in tough times, she could find some fun. I loved playing cricket and football in those days and in a moment of naive idiocy allowed myself to be talked into being on a sporting committee. I was the token young person and there was one particularly officious member, Arthur I think, always ringing up or coming around with some bit of dreary tedium. One morning I was sleeping soundly like an adolescent does when Mum came into the room and woke me up. "Arthur's at the door. He wants to see you." "What! What time is it?" "6.30" "6.30.This is crazy. Whatever could he want at this time." So grumbling and cross I headed for door, apparently pulling on my trousers as I emerged and calling out "I won't be a minute Arthur". I did notice that my sisters were up but didn't take too much notice. When I got to the door there was no Arthur but behind me was a lot of laughter. It was, of course, April 1st.

It was about this time that I became aware of the esteem in which Mum was held. In about April,1966, my family left for Sydney. I was attending Melbourne Uni and stayed in Werribee. People would ask me of my family and many spoke highly of Mum. Forty five years later I returned to Werribee for a school reunion and one of my class mates remembered Mum and asked about her, describing her as "a very gracious lady". Accurate, I think. Perhaps as a child, I had taken her for granted, but by 1966 I knew she was special.

She was also very gentle, but for all her gentleness, she was strong. In the years that I lived with her I never saw her lose emotional control. It's fair to say that she was the glue that held our family together. Given the fourteen year gap between my brother Duncan and sister Fiona, there was a long period where Mum was exposed to that often difficult transition from adolescence into adulthood. Our father was also very sick for much of that time. It must have been a worrying period for her but her love was unwavering in that gentle and supportive way she had. I think the fact that we all came through those years was in large part due to her, not directly, but from that deep sense of being loved and valued. It was the bedrock of our young lives.

And so into adulthood, where the parent/child relationship has to change if it is to grow. This transition was easy for Mum. We became friends and another thing occurred that is of particular importance for our adult relationship. Duncan and Colin have told you of her strong faith. In the early days hers was an ecumenical understanding but by no means trivial. In 1971 I began a thorough investigation of religion which led me along a winding path to the little hall up the road that we call the Bible Education Centre and also the close fellowship I share with many in this room. Some time in the mid 1980's, when Mum was in her mid sixties, she decided that she would investigate more thoroughly aspects of her faith. So every Friday fortnight she and I went to classes run by a person some of you will know, Rick O'Connor. Mum listened carefully to those classes, embraced our understanding of the gospel, and in 1987, when she was 68, she was baptised into the Lord Jesus Christ and joined our church. I think that says so much about her. She had many great characteristics. Flexibility of mind and openness to ideas were two of the great ones. At an age where most people are fixed in their ideas and incapable of change, she embraced her new understanding. I've learnt a great deal from her, not just in my young life. It also meant, for me, a connection which transcended the biological. For the first half of my life I had a wonderful mother; for the second half I had a wonderful mother and a deep fraternal connection through shared faith.

So she was a treasure. All we five, my brother Duncan and my sisters Jean, Susan and Fiona, are intensely aware of what a treasure we was, how privileged we were to have known her and to  have had such a woman as a mother. Who would not miss her companionship. We will all miss her greatly, but the greatest burden here will fall on my sisters Susan and Fiona, who have lived with Mum for many years and have for a long time provided the care and support that allowed her to continue to live in her much loved home. I'm certain that caring for even such a sweet person as Mum imposed challenges and demanded sacrifices. I'm thanking them for their love for her. I know they are grieving a great deal, as are my brother Duncan and my sister Jean.

My grief is modified by two things. The first is the thought that we children and our children were privileged to know her, to take life from her and to carry something of her spirit with us into the future.

The second is deeply personal. I've told you that Mum and I shared a common faith. We both believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, in His return and the resurrection of those who are His. I believe that Mum is one of those who truly belong to Christ. I believe her next waking moment will be bright and shining, that her mortality will be swallowed up by immortality and that Christ will say to her "Come, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world".

So let not your hearts be troubled. Rejoice. Now she but sleeps to wake again.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014


I watch the rise and fall of her chest,
listen intently for her breath,
part fearful, part hopeful,
waiting for the king to come and take her home,
knowing that life can be lived for far too long.
Where is she now?
With her much-loved mother?
Hearing the little girl at piano practice?
Smelling the rich warmth of the milking shed?
Seeing her brothers walking across the near paddock?
Living evenings full of girl-song, laughter and love?
Let her be anywhere but this
faded, diminished and difficult present
where vitality is gone,
where each day she seems to fade a little more.

She wakes.
There is a little smile,
as if sweetness cannot be washed away,
no, not even by the relentless grip
that sweeps her inexorably along.
Suddenly, seeing that smile,
I think of what she was,
how she walked through this world of selfishness and self obsession
in quiet anonymity,
a creative spirit in whom virtues dwelt,
deeply gentle, beautiful in character,
a will calm and self controlled,
a mind flexible, open and inquisitive,
her thinking free of prejudice about race or creed,
her heart tempered in love
with faith made strong through adversity-
and thinking of this quiet gentle spirit
passing almost unnoticed into the night

I say that if God exists,
if there is a great unseen world,
if there is a judgment day,
if He raises to resurrection life those who are His,
if He weighs in his balances
the heart and spirit of those
who live out brief moments in the sun,
then surely He can say of her
"this kind of person I am seeking,
this surely is one of my chosen ones",

and bending to kiss her, perhaps for the final time,
walking from that place,
past the repetitive muttering
of the vacant ghosts in their wheel chairs,
this sad, last abiding place,
my heart is strangely swelling
with a sense of privilege and gift;
yes, sad that life can come to this
but proud and elated that I have known her,
been nurtured by her,
loved her and been loved by her,
marvelling that my also anonymous life
could be so rich, so full of blessing,
so beautifully filled in its entirety
with the wonderful love of women,
and raising my eyes heavenwards
in silent, sad, complex thankfulness
I ask that I can carry her gentleness with me,
passing it on to those that I love,
yes, setting free her unknown greatness
to ripple and wash through and over
the countless generations yet to come.



Thursday, 23 October 2014


Wrap your arm around that rope
and sound that bell.
Make it peal, make it echo, let it ring
across this harbour,
down the dark and sleeping coast,
over these low, blue mountains,
across the dry, brown continent,
over land rippled by some vast tide,
over glistening dry salt lakes,
past castle clouds and distant high-rise metropolises,
beyond glittering complacency,
smug, self-satisfied, too-comfortable, insularity
and into the entire vast world beyond.

Let it ring out
"Awake! Awake!
The enemy is near.
Awake! Awake!
The fire-storm rages.
Awake! Awake!
Feel its gathering heat!
Awake! Awake!
Sense the surging tide!
Awake! Awake!
See the descending night.
Awake! Awake!
They are at the gate.
Awake! Awake!
For your children's sake."

Some do rouse and set forth the cry.
Many roll over in their beds and snore.
"Today and tomorrow", they say,
"Will be just as it was before,"
Accepting the easy lies they have been told,
Ignoring the great echoing of bells,
Unwilling to stir from their comfortable bed,
Content to let whatever will be unfold.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


"I punched me Mum so I had to bolt.
I 'id all day in a tree. I could 'ear 'em callin' me.
No way I wuz comin' down.
I wuz scared me step-dad 'ud bash me.
Then I got on a bus and come down 'ere,
to me Ma and Pa's.They're awright.
Better than 'ome anyway."

Probably his story was only half true
but he told it with such direct simple power
that momentarily the whole room went dead quiet
and through my mind washed
waves of sorrow and compassion,
a wish that over sad, complex, humanity
at least childhood could be simply joyous.
He'd come from North Queensland,
big for his age, raw-boned,
a guileless, strange kind of innocent
always in conflict with older boys.
He was only twelve.

Some years later I passed him in the street.
For a moment I didn't recognise him.
All that child's health had disappeared.
He was thin, very thin.
His head was studded and shaven.
His cheeks were drawn.
His eyes had that hollow, empty desolation
you sometimes see in those
who have seen too much or known too much of human misery
and who have sought momentary respite
in a powerfully destructive vortex.
He was, I would guess, fifteen.

Finally, I read about him in the local paper.
A tide passed over me,
anguish for loss and waste,
for the misery of some children's lives,
for the blight that perpetuates abuse,
for those trapped in their individual torment,
He'd killed a man, a paedophile, his dealer.
Late one night he knocked on the door of a house
in a quiet sleeping street.
When the door opened he pulled the trigger
and fled into the night
whilst those in nearby houses slept peacefully on.
He was only eighteen.

I thought then of that quiet street,
of separate lives, of sleeping comfortably
in our separate houses and our separate beds
whilst young lives in agony of abandonment
flee headlong into the dark
and I heard the tolling of bells,
deep, sad notes ringing out
for every young and damaged life,
for every abused, abandoned and neglected child,
ringing out loss, waste, heartache, sorrow and pain
all through this dark and too often
sleeping land.

Monday, 22 September 2014


The shadows are lengthening.
Soon night will descend.
and with unwanted haste
this blaze of light will end.

The shadows are lengthening,
old friends no longer here.
I say goodbye in resignation
more than in sad tears.

The shadows are lengthening.
There's hatred in the air,
the violent, base and wicked
lusting for power everywhere.

The shadows are lengthening.
Old certainties seem to fade.
Is it that sight is improving
or diminishing with age?

But with the growing shadows
there is perfume in the air
and in the developing darkness
there is beauty everywhere.

Clouds are now backlit,
there is glory in the sky,
a beauty made more intense
because it cannot abide.

Much is not diminished
but in the shadow glows.
Thus the gift and joy of love
lengthening shadow grows.

Lengthening shadows highlight
one walking long ago,
the Son of Man, the Nazarene,
bathed in deep, bright glow

and every morning I see enacted
a joyously wonderful sight,
thick darkness being defeated
by morning's rising light.

Sunday, 21 September 2014


I would that all eyes open to this
cloud-tumbling, wind-waving, pink-hued, scarlet-blazed, sun-sparkled,
gurgling, tumbling, surging, pounding, mirror-reflecting,
tendril-gripping, needle-leafed, tree-towering, cacti-flowering,
rose-scented, daisy-drenched, nectar-dripping, bee-buzzing,
bird-filled, insect-littered, mammal-cluttered, fish-crowded,
spinning, revolving, space-floating, voyaging
the planet earth,
shared home of all life,
living our brief moments in peace as caretakers,
tending, beautifying, sustaining,
handing it to the future
so that they too, in their brief moments,
can live in, gaze on, be inspired by, sing praise about
or wonder in awe upon
its great, complex and diverse magnificence.

Monday, 15 September 2014


Some build their ships of death
and load them with their precious things,
others sail towards a golden realm,
a world of art they call "Byzantium",
all searching for some distant shore,
setting their minds on realms invisible,
choosing to chart a mysterious sea,
the unknown vastness of the spiritual.

That self-same spirit has set me to wander,
throw my heavy pack upon my back,
and set out for some unseen place
along an undulating, winding track,
making foolish turnings, carrying weights
which impede or render willingly blind,
but adding delights found along the way,
in essence searching for truths of the mind

and in so doing, seek transformation,
for though the journey's end inspires,
this road is more about a personal quest
to shed the mind of selfish desires,
low things like hatred, strife and envy,
replacing them with the pure spirits of love,
joy, compassion, mercy and gentleness,
qualities not of earth but from above-

a quest towards a state of becoming,
sadly so wretchedly incomplete
that the mind could easily in despair
stop, give up, concede defeat
were it not for the end of the road,
the sustaining goal for which I search
includes a future of glory, joy and peace,
created not in heavens but here on earth.

And if this modern world of discovery,
in its quest for knowledge and the physical,
scoffs at such dreaming as foolishness
and seeks satisfaction in realms material,
I still turn my head to those ancient hills
in grand, ambitious spiritual yearning,
and in this beautiful earth continue to walk
as if life is a momentary sojourning

where there is no abiding place,
not when there are torrents of grief,
where sorrow mourns, mortality reigns
and humans cruelly inflict arrogant beliefs.
I then will walk, will continue to wander,
on paths which in challenging undulations wind,
searching for peace, truth and transformation,
desiring the journey's end to be a state of mind.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Narrow Gate.

"Enter by the narrow gate....For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." Matthew 7:13-14

The beautiful gate swung open,
all I had to do was ask,
then entering through its narrow way,
embrace its wonder, accept the task

and set my feet steadfastly upon
a path made deep and smooth,
where much love and care ensured
all impediments were removed;

a beautiful, deeply polished way
from many walkers gone before,
come from nations over all the earth,
from near-at-hand or distant shore,

all walking towards that shining grace
that I'll call it the light of dawn,
where multitudes of angels dwell
with the assembly of the firstborn,

where the King of Glory reigns,
in joy, love, hope and peace,
a place beyond all pain and tears,
a place where praise will never cease,

a place made open by the man
who walked alone long, long before
with such strength, love and self-denial
it fills my mind with love and awe.

I've seen Him set His face to walk,
lift up the shame-filled harlot's head,
touch a leper, heal the sick,
raise a widow's son from the dead;

I've come to know He is the door,
come to see He is the road,
come to understand as well
it was He who bore my heavy load,

because the pack that I do bear
is weighty with objects that retard-
vanities, pride, selfish desires.
These I have longed to discard

and replace them with the fruit
so freely strewn along the track-
love, joy, peace and patience-
a sustaining lightness in my pack,

and I have come in hope to know
that citizenship in that beautiful place,
the promised city, the journey's end,
is granted freely through faith and grace.

O yes, the journey's end that I desire
though not within my strength to fulfil,
is Yours to give in love and grace,
so help me to surrender to Your will,

and leading, guiding, help me to walk,
directing my steps along the way.
O take my hand like a little child's.
Let Your grace transcend my clay.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Transcendent Surge.

Sometimes, when the heart is heavy,
the world of wonder and beauty can seem
little more than a vast, pitiless sea
with dark waves rolling relentlessly on,
great, towering crests and troughs
carrying only strife, struggle, injustice
and a squalid, petty, deceiving tide
of narrow self-interest. Then
I reach for your hand, feel its warmth,
sense a strange, mysterious connection,
the greater sea of lives intimately shared,
and buoyed by a wave of love, hope and joy,
surrender to its greater, transcendent surge,
letting it take me wherever it will.

Monday, 21 July 2014

In the Nursing Home.

That great gift-giver, Time,
Has brought them to a point
Where they shuffle slowly in their frames
Or sit quietly in their chairs
Sustained by remnants of memory,
Waiting for they know not what.
Weep for them, shed your tears,
But in this life of vulnerable mortality
Time has gifted them abundance of years.
The weight of Time's gifts has bent them,
Carried them at last to the great, dark portal
Through which all life must flow,
Carried them ceaselessly along
With one final gift to bestow,
The release into serenity,
Into quiet, conscious-less eternity,
Time's final gift of letting them go.

Friday, 4 July 2014

the spider's web

the spider's web hangs
in silky soft symmetry
laced with sun and dew.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

I search for words

I search for words for earth's mystery
but they, like mercury, slip away,
or lie, too dense, like heavy clay-
what remains are haiku, mere slithers of day-


         a microcosm-
         dewdrop's quivering glisten
         on silvered soft grass

         the slow fluttering spiral
         of single spent leaf

         o now gaze upon
         this stunning white flowering
         on bare winter's branch

For youth, death and rebirth
these will suffice-
but not for sun, moon or sky,
nor love, hate, fire or ice.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Earth to Humankind

When I walked beside the magnificent Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland, saw how much it had retreated, read about the speed with which this is happening, heard the glib pronouncements from our politicians, I was moved by the idea of how exploitative we humans are and our need to act to protect the earth, the only home we will ever have. This poem and its abusive metaphor is the result.

I gave you all, said "Come, lie with me,
on me, in me, live by me, through me,
gaze upon my face, caress my curves,
I give you life and beauty too-
all I have is yours to share
but please place me gently in your care."
Was it right then to tear my garments,
steal my jewels, scar my face,
besmear and besmirch my silken skin,
grope and gouge my secret parts-
your rule, cruel, your treatment, rough,
so insatiable you could never get enough?
Come, repent, be my friend,
be tender, gentle, make amends,
it is not yet too late to start again,
before the future's children bemoan your folly,
and, despairing about their hope and fate,
curse your abusive misrule,
and you for being a short-sighted fool.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Aletsch Glacier.

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland.

Awesomely immense,
Greater than the mind can grasp
Until, in close proximity you stand
Cowed by its size-
Beautiful in grandeur,
Sweeping a wide curving path
From high mountain top-
Utterly irresistible,
For millennia gouging
Its curving, deep-crevassed, ice-piled,
Turquoise-tinted, moraine-laden,
Boulder-strewn, U-shaped path
Through immense, snow covered,
Treeless, granite mountains-
Unstoppable, utterly irresistible,
Until the 21st century's
Insidious warming, partnered
With apathy and denial,
A water-laden, gushing, ice-boulder strewn,
Slow, sad retreat.

From Wikipedia.

The Aletsch Glacier (German: Aletschgletscher) or Great Aletsch Glacier (German: Grosser Aletschgletscher) is the largest glacier in the Alps. It has a length of about 23 km (14 mi) and covers more than 120 square kilometres (46 sq mi) in the eastern Bernese Alps in the Swiss canton of Valais. The Aletsch Glacier is composed of three smaller glaciers converging at Concordia, where its thickness is estimated to be near 1 km (3,300 ft). It then continues towards the Rhone valley before giving birth to the Massa River.

On August 18, 2007, photographer Spencer Tunick used hundreds of naked people in a "living sculpture" on the Aletsch Glacier in a photo shoot intended to draw attention to global warming and the shrinking of the world's glaciers. The temperature was about 10 °C (50 °F) at the time of the photo shoot. The 600 participants on the shrinking glacier volunteered for Tunick (a collaboration with Greenpeace) to let the world know about the effects of global warming on the melting Swiss glaciers.[6] The Aletsch Glacier receded by 100 m (330 ft) between 2005 and 2006.[7]

Monday, 16 June 2014


He was the Sun King.
His image is everywhere, in painting, bust or statue,
Mounted proudly upon his horse
Or, with forward thrust leg, imperiously staring from canvas.
Long ago he planned this splendour,
A palace and garden as grand
As ego, unlimited funds and meticulous design
Could ever conceive and achieve.
Beyond the gilded cavernous marbled palace,
   -Its crystal-chandeliers, its Hall of Mirrors,
   Its room upon room of glory and wealth,
   Its frescoed ceilings,
   Its marbled-gloriousness of chapel,
   Its grand staircases, its corridors of wealth
   Garnered from those with much less-
Lie eight hundred acres of garden
Designed to demonstrate power over nature-
   Planned, regular, controlled, mathematical,
   Great straight lines of canals,
   Clipped avenues of trees, manicured swathes of grass,
   Bright glowing beds of flowers,
   Sculptures classical and heroic
   And everywhere a chorus of fountains
   Displaying their bright sparkling dance.

Yet in the midst of all this vaingloriousness,
I think of his antithesis,
A man born to a modest family,
Who turned his back on possession and power,
Who owned nothing but the clothes he wore,
Whose wealth was his words
And the beauty of his character,
Who set his mind not on monuments and self
But on service and love
And his face not on glory
But the lonely, difficult path towards Jerusalem-
And thinking that such a man I can admire
And such a man I can deeply love

I turn back to the statues and paintings
Of the Sun King in mounted splendour,
The glory of his gardens, the wealth of his palace,
Believing that he is dust,
His crown long gone, his fleeting moment passed,
Whereas he who said
"Put not your trust in silver and gold"
Is Son and King, the first-born from the dead,
Transcendent, transformed,
Glorious, the Prince of Peace,
Wonderful Counsellor
And Reigns now from heaven above.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Monet's 'Water Lilies', Musée d'Orangerie.

The room is hushed.
People sit or stand as they stare,
Awed into silence.
Encircling the cylindrical room
Are four huge canvasses,
Without horizon or foreground,
A mastery of colour, paint and brush.
What do they see?
Is it water or sky, clouds floating
In a wonder of blue and lilac,
The surreal float of water lilies,
Shimmering splashes of green, pink and yellow,
Slender green-leafed pendant branches
Of exquisite gracefulness,
Moments cloudy, hazy, sun-sparkled in a way beyond beauty
Or rippled by momentary touch of passing breeze?

Or do they see the master at his work,
Sublime, magical, mystical,
Representing the great beauty of the world,
Seeing it as transcending time,
As more than a collection of concrete images,
Without beginning and without end,
Ever-changing but forever there,
And taking this sense of timeless beauty,
Transferring it through his mastery
So that all we lesser humans
Can momentarily glimpse in the small things-
     The shimmering play of colour from light,
     The changing dance of water and wind,
     The float of colour upon the blueness-
What is eternally there,
If only we had the eyes to see.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Australian War Cemetery, the Somme.

The day is weeping, quietly, but weeping.
A soft grey mist covers the distant ridges,
Lies close upon the green, lush folds,
And drips off the thousands of white crosses
Standing rigidly at parade ground attention,
Marked with this sad simplicity:
"A Soldier of the Great War".
Hard to think that in this landscape a century ago
A voracious, nightmarish Nationalism
Opened its giant maw and rumbled creaking
Over the green folds, quiet woods and farmlands,
Venting as it went a putrid, reeking stench
Of mud, barbed wire, crater holes, shells, gas,
Kilometre upon winding kilometre of trenches
And a tangled, twist of young lives
Stuck in the deep mud, or huddled
Beneath the percussive thud of artillery,
Or emerging from their trenches
Into the withering staccato spray of machine gun.
Yes, it is quiet. The landscape is green.
The guns have gone. The young men are dust.
Gone too are their mothers, or lovers,
Their brothers, sisters, family, friends.
Gone too is the mud, the gas, the trenches,
The inconsolable grief and loss,
But a soft grey mist covers the distant ridges,
Lies close upon the green, lush, folds
And drips off the thousands of white crosses
Marked with this sad simplicity:
"A Soldier of the Great War",
For the day is weeping, quietly weeping
And must go on weeping still.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

La Loire à Vélo

La Loire à Vélo.

We cycle along the Loire for a while.
There is bird song in the air.
It is quiet. The only sound is the swish of tyres
Or the gentle whirr of chain.
We are in no hurry, drifting along
As the Loire makes its full-bodied, green/brown,
Cloud-shadowed, tree-mirrored, sun-sparked way-
Dropping over weirs with a roaring surge,
Swirling and eddying around islands and under bridges,
Drifting beside
Fields of young green wheat,
Bright green burst of new leaf grapes,
Long rows of young corn,
The beautiful litter of bright-red poppies,
Flowing past
Teetering, hay-filled ancient barns,
Little, carefully tended allotments,
Old villages with their cobbled, twisting streets,
Cottages bright with rose-flowering walls,
Grand chateaus either sheer and impregnable above the cliff edge
Or enveloped by its protective, swirling current,
Meandering through deeply shaded forest,
On and on, for hour upon hour, until finally we are at Tours,
A little tired, glad of a rest, a chance to attend
To the momentary human needs
Of beings so anchored in time,
To wash, eat, sleep, dream,
While the Loire makes its full-bodied, green/brown,
Cloud-shadowed, tree-mirrored, sun-sparked way,
Swirling, eddying, drifting, meandering,


and on

and on

and on....

Thursday, 29 May 2014

On First Viewing Paris

There is the low hill of Montmartre
And the modest river of the Seine
Carving an elegant curve through the city
And curling around two small islands,
But it is not geography that makes Paris great.

There are lovely, low-rise, red-geranium-dotted stone buildings,
Six stories and then an attic roof of slate or curving metal;
Many little parks; tree-lined wide boulevards;
Winding, history-filled cobbled streets;
But it is not these that make Paris great.

It is along the monumental stretch of the Seine,
Under or across its beautifully arched bridges,
Past buildings grand, golden and rich in history,
Where ancient obelisks stretch into the sky,
The spires of towering cathedrals soar
And the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay
House and shelter their grand beauty
That you can begin to feel the greatness of Paris.

It is a greatness beyond buildings.
Everywhere are the words Liberté , Égalité , Fraternité,
And everywhere the sense that here
A blood-stained tide swept away a past
Based on inequality, justice and oppression,
That the sweep of human history was irrevocably changed,
That the idea of privilege of birth
Should not determine opportunity
And that citizenship should be open to all.
Here you begin to feel the greatness of Paris.
It is in Napoleon's Arc de Triumph,
Not just a victory arch or a monument to ego
But a statement about justice and opportunity;
You sense it in the once blood-soaked Place de Concorde,
Where the guillotine took ruthless revenge
For a thousand years of injustice and greed.
Yes, it is here that you  feel the greatness of Paris.

And inside the great museums that line the Seine,
Musée d'Orangerie, Musée d'Orsay and L'ouvre,
Hang the great paintings of the world,
Not just for a strutting, privileged few
But for a great human throng from all over the world
That stand in long queues to glimpse their beauty,
Their extraordinary representations of the complexity of the world
And the creative power of humanity.
This also is what makes Paris great.

And even if you know as you walk along the Seine
That these grand and monumental buildings
Once stood as the proud boasts of individuals,
Or rose because of the stifling oppression
Of the cruel co-rule of Church and Monarchy,
Which for more than a millennium built and maintained power
By a cruel, ruthless, selfish oppression,
They now stand beautiful, graceful, golden and grand,
Monuments to the greatness of Paris, the glory of France,
And, by extension, to the whole of humanity.

Thursday, 22 May 2014


From the massive, white-limestone, staggeringly ornate Notre-Dame de Fouviere, Lyon flows down over the ancient Roman ruins, through the cobbled, twisting, narrow-laned medieval Vieux Lyon, over the beautiful Soane and into its low-rise, elegant, park-filled Enlightenment centre until finally, leaping the nearby Roane, it washes into the modern city, spilling out into the suburbs and satellite towns in the far distance.

It is a handsome, prosperous place. On its narrow streets cyclists are everywhere and cars are few, even at peak-hour. Underneath the streets, a superb metro swiftly, cheaply and regularly transports its willing population.

Until late in the evening the pavements are packed with crowds from the innumerable little bouchons that line the brightly-lit, narrow streets of this ancient city of beautiful river walks, massive cathedrals, museums and a rich history that winds, like its traboules (secret passages), through Vichy France, the birth of cinema, silk weaving and printing back to antiquity, to Caesar Augustus and finally, in 43 BC, to the Roman military colony of Lugdunum.  

Sunday, 18 May 2014


At first there is a gentle glow
Appearing in the dark of night,
Followed by a gorgeous display,
The herald of fullness of light.

What blessings come from light.
Green plants and fruits abound
And brightly coloured flowers too
Come suddenly surging from the ground.

Through fissures, flaws and cracks
Light must come seeping through,
Exposing dark and dangerous things
Previously hidden from view.

Opened doors receive more light,
Likewise the opened heart too.
Into these rooms floods the light
And what it touches it can renew.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Spring in Geneva.

15 May.

Spring waves its luxuriant, green wand over the city. The wildflowers raise their red, blue and yellow heads and dance above the meadow grass. The hedges that line the streets and gardens are thick and green. New bright leaves adorn the ancient oaks and chestnuts. Everywhere is a pink or blue abundance of azaleas, rhododendrons, lilacs and wisteria but across the mirrored silver lake the steeply-rising Jura Mountains are still tipped with a thin ribbon of snow, a lingering reminder of the bare coldness of now almost swept-away winter.

Flight from Sydney to Geneva

13th May, 2014.

A little wobble. A bump. The great wings stretching a long way out above their massive pendant engines. A pause. A whine. A sudden surge. Rumbling. Shaking. Gathering speed. And then suddenly smoother, the land is falling away, the light is lying in great, softly glowing columns upon the silver sea, turning west, across the dry, brown continent, over land rippled as if by some vast tide or occasionally deeply gouged by a giant claw, over the expanse of dry salt lakes, above castle clouds and distant high-rise cloud metropolises, westward, ever westward, towards the setting sun, the endless night and finally the high, snow-covered, green-valleyed Alps of Switzerland.

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Myriad Stars

The myriad stars - diamond points of night-
Make a great journey across the sky;
Day’s spoked and beautiful columns of light
Are majestic ladders descending from high;
Behind the gentle waft of zephyr breeze
Is the wind’s vast, relentless, shifting heft;
Within the shimmer of the glistening seas
Is the eternal crash on cliff and cleft.
In mystery and wonder we stop and stare,
Search for meaning, a firm rock of belief,
And seeing the shooting star’s final flare
Or the spiralling flutter of a falling leaf,
Meditate upon vast Time’s eternity
And fleeting life’s momentary brevity.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Lyre Birds.

Well above the boulder-lined mountain creek,
Its tangled profusion of vine and tree,
The spreading glory of the strangler fig,
The remnant cedar’s towering beauty,

In a place where the mountain steeply slopes,
Where the filtered sun casts a dappled light,
Where tall trees grow from the leaf-littered ground,
There stop and stand still in hushed delight.

Two young male lyre birds cavort and display,
Practising for some more urgent future time
Their dance, spread of tail and joy of song
With a beauty far beyond the power of rhyme.

Their tail is two curves of yellow and black,
Enclosing an inside of silver gossamer wisp,
As seemingly delicate and coloured
As dew-filled web or wind-blown sea mist.

This unfolding glory they arch over their back,
Graceful, delicate, curved, surprising long,
Then dancing a quick, little staccato bob
Pour from their throat a liquid miracle of song.

Mimicry of all the diverse forest sounds
In effortless beauty from their little throat pours-
Kookaburra’s laugh, whip bird’s soar and crack,
King parrot, rosella and many unknown more.

Hush! The vault is coloured blue, white and green,
There are ethereal slants of light,
Great supporting buttress columns of trees,
And a choir praising in unrestrained delight.

Walk quietly away from this pure moment
With feelings elevated and sublime,
A heart full of wonder and gratitude,
A sense of a glimpse into some great divine,

For on that on that leaf-littered mountainside
In effortless beauty these small birds raise,
Without tuition or much thumbed page,
A wondrous hymn of beauty and praise.

Monday, 10 March 2014

The Eureka Flag.

In a wooden stockade the flag they raised-
The southern sky with a cross of silver stars-
Declared an egalitarian dream, a new land
Where inheritance would never decree
The measure of any individual’s worth,
And that any child’s opportunity
Should never be limited by wealth or birth.
It was never much more than a dream,
-For sadly there are always the dispossessed
And, for those men, the indigenous and women
Were not amongst the reasons for their unrest-
But dreams are much more than mere seeming.
They set a standard for what we think best.
From the blood spilled for this dreaming
Into the national consciousness came the idea
That this land would not be based on class
And under the cross of stars and southern sun
A new world of equality of opportunity
Could be freely available for everyone.

That flag remains, its vibrance faded,
Its corners ragged, torn and worn by time.
It is still the silver stars on deepest blue
But dream for which it flew
Is shredded beyond tatters.
Base and cunning men in their lust for power
Have laid siege to the stockade,
With low guile infiltrated the ideals,
Besmirched the fragment of justice and fairness
With crass and loathsome things of their invention.
Is “aspirational” now our highest aim?
Is our best a narrow, shallow commercialism,
A smug, mean spirited complacency,
A relentless seeking for personal advantage,
A competitive pursuit of possessions,
The tiny idea of “relaxed and comfortable”
In a new, divided and insular hierarchy where
Worth and opportunity is unequally proportioned
And power and privilege is the real mantra
Behind a sad, diminished and empty “monetocracy”?

But Listen! Listen to this land! It speaks!
Its eucalyptus scent, colour, heat haze,
Its great brilliant blue beauty of sky,
Its star’s glorious evening blaze,
Its distant blue of low mountains,
Its tangle and twist of scrub and tree,
Its rollers crashing upon the coast,
Are crying out for more than mediocrity.
O my country, Wake! Throw off these shackles!
Rebuild your stockade! Dream of great things!
Raise your flag! Let equality of opportunity
Again soar high on justice’s wings!
Reclaim the dream! You have the power,
The vote for which the Eureka Flag flew.
It was institutionalised privilege
Against which they fought and railed.
Demand equality of opportunity
For all children of this great south land.
Raise again their dream and their flag.
Let children grow together under this southern sun,
This evening blue crossed with silver stars.
Let equality of opportunity be for everyone.