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.