Sunday, 11 December 2016

Here is a link to my poem, Night Meditations", published on Praxis Mag Online.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Rottnest Island

Here is a link to my poem, published at Praxis Magazine Online.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016


First published in Poetry Quarterly, then in V-V.

Dad never spoke about the war,
although, in hindsight,
its heavy hand was everywhere.
Maybe Mum told me the fragment,
the amazing flying away part.
The rest is in my mind.

First, I see the night,
then the twin engined Vickers Wellington
taking off from Gibraltar and flying out
over the approaches to the Mediterranean
in search of U-boats.
I see six young men,
all brave, dutiful, all with a sense of honour,
but all of whom have seen loss,
been shocked by it and become resigned to it.
They must go on,
each evening flying out into uncertainty.
I am not yet born but one of them I know well.
I have often seen his young face in photos.
I know he is 12,000 kms from home.
I know his little country town, the  green valley,
the temperamental river.
I know those who live there,
his mother and father, his brothers and sister,
his young wife and the child he has never seen.

The night passes.
The first light is in the sky.
The silver-grey sea barely ripples beneath them.
The Rolls Royce engines drone.
They have seen nothing.
All is routine. They must head back to base.
Their lumbering plane is vulnerable in the daylight.

Then someone stares and squints.
Bloody hell, what's that block dot?
I think it's a fighter.
Ours or theirs?
O God, it's a Messerschmitt.
He's seen us, boys. He's heading straight for us.
He's too bloody fast. He'll catch us.
Get ready, boys. Give him hell.

The tail gunner and nose gunner
have swivelled their guns.
The Radio Operator, the one I know well,
has rushed to an extra gun.
I hear their thoughts.

We'll never outrun him.
There's cannons in his wings.
We've only got machine guns.
One of us might get lucky.
Concentrate. Concentrate. Aim.
Give it your best.

Suddenly, almost within range,
the Messerschmitt turns
and flies parallel to them.
He tips his wings,
back and forth, back and forth,
a kind of greeting, an acknowledgement
before he peels off and flies away.
They watch him receding,
become a black dot and then disappear.
A wave of relief rushes over them.
They are incredulous.
A crazed kind of laughter echoes through the plane.
They will drink when they land.

But in the Messerschmitt that flies away
sits a young man tired of war,
tired of killing, tired of the mad folly of it.
He knows that plane, its vulnerabilities, its blind spots.
He knows he could have fired his cannons
through its canvas and into the flesh of the men inside,
or into the engines and he knows
he could have watched
their slow, smoke-filled spiral
into the water below.
He has seen too much of war and death.
He is past inflicting harm or even wishing it.
Are not those men his brothers.
What difference is there but place of birth?

And he knows, too,
with a sad but wished-for resignation,
that his time will come soon, soon.
He has heard his scream of engine,
seen his billowing smoke,
seen his water rushing up to meet him.
He will kill no more
and someone, somewhere,
a mother or lover,
will shed tears for him.

And the man in the Wellington,
one of the six, the one I know well,
is free to head back to the rocky little island,
free to fly again,
free to go into his future,
free to embrace his yet to be known,
his great tangled twist of life and fate,
his triumphs and struggles,
his laughter, joy and pain.
He is free to one day return
to the life he left,
to his wife and child
and to the four more unborn children
still waiting somewhere in the future's silence

Friday, 18 November 2016


Does not desert's darkness reveal
the diamond studded tapestry of night?
Cloud's blanketing thickness in time disperses.
Do not then the stars shine more brightly?

Is not the rising sun more glorious
because it emerges from night?
Are not then even the scattering clouds
splashed with red and gold?

Thursday, 17 November 2016

A Man in Dachau.

A Man in Dachau.

In a dream I saw a man in Dachau
give his last morsel of bread
to one he thought was suffering more.
I heard his thoughts.
"I am no mere plaything of circumstance.
They can take my life but not
the freedom to choose my way."

I rushed to tell my friends
that choice determines who we are,
proof sufficient being in Dachau
a man chose compassion over self.

One friend replied:
"Noble indeed is such a one.
Heroes make these choices.
The exception though is not the rule.
Choice is circumscribed by circumstance
and eliminated for most by horror of place."

Another then spoke:
"Oppression's boot can find the weight
To crush all choice away.
Was that man's compassion an act of choice?
I rather think it a gift of grace."

The man from Dachau then appeared
to confirm my friends were right.
"The parade", he said, "is unendingly long
of those who shuffle by-
starving children, women beaten,
the tortured, guiltless and cruelly oppressed,
the dispossessed, the mind manacled,
the legions of the poor.
I merely do what I must do.
Those who can, should follow."

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Rock Dreaming.

First published at Guy Farmer's Social Justice Poetry.

I walk past water gums,
roots twisting and flowing over rock,
past the creek's eddy and swirl,
past deep grooves in rock
made long ago by sharpening spears.
Is that the laughter of naked children?
No. They are long gone,
now only imagination's shadows
flitting through scrub.

I scramble up a long hill
to stand on a huge expanse of rock.
The world seems quiet and still.
All around in the stone are carvings-
kangaroos, emus, women, men, shields, spears,
a great spirit creature.
I imagine clans of Dharug people meeting here
to dance, laugh, cry, draw, worship, wonder,
and most of all, to belong.
Do I sense them?
That is a lie.
Their culture, life, laughter and song
have shrunk into the past.
They seem long gone.

I lie on the rock and close my eyes.
Underneath my back
are curving patterns in rock.
I see cloud, rain, sun’s rising, sun’s falling, moon, stars,
the diamond quilt of night.
I see people greet, paint their bodies, tell stories, dance, sing,
belong, feel purpose, feel love, draw and carve.
I am filled with loss for the changes of time,
for the tangle of history,
for the injustice of the present,
for prejudice, dislocation, theft and murder,
and I know that where they,
in such deep belonging, did roam,
my ancestors, England’s rejects,
came from the other side of the world
to claim it as their own.

The sun is low.
I begin the long walk back.
As I walk I am moved by the knowledge
that Dharug people are still living,
scattered through the land of their ancestors
and although the past cannot be changed,
its loss and sorrow should be sung.
I am taken too by the crazy dream
of a single people
meeting under these southern stars,
upon the great patterned rock of this land
to draw, dance, embrace and sing together

as I descend into a gully
and the sun disappears
and the single evening star
hangs low in the darkening sky.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Tears of God.

Upon the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA, many in my faith community, mostly good-hearted, sincere people, responded with confident statements about God being in control of the world and placing Trump there. They nearly always referred to Daniel 4:17. This poem is my response.

So when a contemptible man was given
high office and great power, someone said,
to a chorus of approval-

"The Most High rules the kingdom of men
and gives it to whosoever he will
and sets over it the lowliest of men"

I thought I heard in those words
a little condescension,
some satisfaction of being in possession
of secrets unknown to other mortals

and into my mind came a challenging thought,
that if God is in control He is doing terrible job

because I saw,
somewhere in Syria, in an ambulance,
a little child covered in dust,
eyes blankly expressionless beyond confusion;
saw too a mass grave
with a hundred decapitated bodies;
saw ruined landscapes,
camps in Germany, Poland, Siberia,
a mushroom cloud spreading up from Nagasaki,
a little naked girl, her face contorted in terror,
running along a dusty Vietnamese road
and saw too the long warring, violent, unjust, oppressive
history of humanity.

Then the thought came to me
that God is not in control,
that He could never control such horror,
that he has not directly controlled
the establishment of monsters
In positions of power

but that He has surrendered these Kingdoms
to the violence and folly of mankind
until the end of times
and that He is deeply anguished,
filled with grief and sorrow,
vexed and lamenting for what He sees,
and that He must be weeping
for the darkness of the world

and surely all those seeking transformation,
desiring the fruits of the spirit,
longing for the Kingdom of God
and its righteousness
must be grieving, lamenting
and weeping too.

Monday, 7 November 2016

At Piano.

At Piano.

She keeps her sadness hidden.
There is no sign of the weight within,
a grief that could engulf others.
She is quiet, dignified and charming.
She gives you that clear, direct look.
Her mouth curves in a gentle smile

but when her hands touch the keys
in those practised, skilful, complex patterns
there is now something beyond accuracy,
as if in some mysterious way
sadness seeps through the fingers
that touch the keys
and the sound is transformed
so strength, dignity,
haunting beauty and pathos
and an awareness of life's mingled mixture
of joy and sorrow
now sound from key, hammer and soundboard
to hang for a moment
in the trembling air
before dispersing
into our changed minds.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Another one sentence poem

September 1.

Winter has muttered goodbye,
kind of slunk away

because Spring has come
bursting in through the door,
face full of sunshine,
arms filled with flowers,
pulling back curtains,
throwing open windows,
dancing and singing all through the house

but if you listen carefully
you can still hear old Winter grumbling away
about how he is coming back.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

A One Sentence poem.

Some things can't be changed

but maybe
when a bramble fire rages
weeds are burnt away

or when blue-black clouds billow
they bring rain and sweet new growth

and even bitter cyanide
poured over low grade ore
removes the dross and what remains
is gold

but it just might take some time....

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

If I ( A Silver Birch Press prompt)

If I had a wand to wave over this world
for what then would I wish?

The first: for warring humanity to beat
swords into plow shares and turn hearts to peace.

The second: for government to free its shackled mind,
rule in justice for the poor,
and seek equity and equality of opportunity.

The third: for the relentless plundering of the earth to cease,
for every acid stream and every gaping ruined landscape to heal,
for water to be clean, the glaciers full,
and forests free in their glorious diversity.

The fourth: that all creatures could have their place
on this life-filled planet,
that soft-eyed orangutans
could hang unharassed in their forest homes,
that no more rhino or elephant
would ever again lie bloated and fly blown,
killed for horn or tusk,
and the tiger could rumbling purr
in sleepy peace in the flecked sunlight.

Yes, like prophets, dreamers, visionaries, poets,
if I could I would wave that wand

but I must settle for what I can do, so
if I can re-make this heart,
step by step, day by day,
in gentleness and kindness,
in tender, merciful love for all things,
if I can be slow to anger and quick to forgive,
if I can live in harmony and peace,
if I can tread lightly on this earth,
this must be sufficient for me,

though I will still lift my eyes heavenwards,
hoping, dreaming, desiring
so very much more
and thinking as well as "If I"
"If we".

Monday, 22 August 2016


Your world shrinks.
You have no thought of death,
although it breathes on you fiercely.
Pain fills the morphine bubble
in which you float in strange detachment
on the edge of alternative consciousness.
It consumes you.
Nothing else.
Just pain.

Then comes despair.
That night when she bends to kiss you,
turns and walks out the door
you are alone in darkness that is absolute.
Is it morphine that drifts your mind?
You are who-knows-where, far, far from your body,
that tubed, monitored, wounded thing
lying stiffly on a bed that is not yours.
You feel too alert for morphine's dulled half life.
Somewhere in the darkness
comes a connection so strong it surges through you,
an awareness of a much greater consciousness
to which your small life is somehow connected.
Despair lifts. There is hope and peace.
The darkness comes again
but it is not unconsciousness
or the numbness of morphine
but the blessedness of sleep.

You wake.
There is a small window.
In it the leaves of a tree are swaying in breeze
and glittering with light.
Have you never seen this before?
How have you missed this window,
this play of light, these bursts of colour?
Have you been blind?
How could you have taken this for granted?
This picture framed by the small window,
is beyond beautiful.
It is miraculous.

Finally, she takes you out, down the corridor,
opening the door, holding your elbow
and you limp out into the world.
Is this rebirth? Everything is new.
That blue of sky.
Those wisps of cloud.
The beauty of those trees.
And down there, at the end of the street,
is Constitution Dock and the Derwent,
light and water combining in sparkling dance,
surge of boats, white sails filling with wind,
gulls rising, floating, raucously begging,
noise of children, crowds of people,
the old sandstone buildings lining the dock,
all colour, light and movement.
The beauty shakes and overwhelms you.
It shouts its glory. It waves its wonder.
You grasp her hand. You stand in awed silence.

Your eyes will never be the same again.
You feel you have seen into the sacred,
grasped at the miracle of life.
Both for the moment are yours to embrace again

for you, who have been in darkness,
have now come out again into the light.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

A Little Bit of Gold.

Bad things happen.
Can you change them to any degree?
Then deal with them and move on.

I'm not talking about Syria,
with whole cities bombed,
gas shells, murderous factions
and a population displaced,
or someone detonating a truck
filled with explosives
in a market place in Bagdad

but just your usual run-of-the-mill disappointment,
bad luck, extortion, loss, grief, betrayal.
What's done is done. It can't change
so move on

and maybe, just maybe,
that bramble fire that swept over your mind
can burn a few weeds away,
or the dark cloud that covered you
will bring some rain and sweet new growth,

or that bitter cyanide
poured onto your low grade ore
can remove some dross
and look, what remains is
a little bit of gold.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Nettle Truth.

"My dear boy," she said,
laughing a little,
patting him lightly on his cheek,
"the trick with grasping the nettle truth
is to not let its sting
embitter your untried heart."

A Walker's Prayer.

I pick up my pack and walk.
What else to do?
Dream of blue skies?
There are mountains to climb,
rivers to cross
and sometimes swamps
through which to wade a weary way.

I pick up my pack and walk,
opening my eyes to
flight of bird, slant of sun,
touch of hand
and if sometimes there are tears and grief
too deep to wash away,
let enduring them
increase strength day by day.

I pick up my pack and walk,
companions by my side.
If any disappoint or betray,
free me from bitterness or anger,
weights difficult to bear.
Grant a heart both soft and strong,
a melody sweet and sad,
a tenderly beautiful life-song.

I pick up my pack and walk,
seeing the fading glory in the west,
the stars, the moonlight on the water,
feeling the wrap of velvet night,
desiring two things to light this rutted track-
that this heart can dwell in love
and this mind find riches
in deep search for meaning.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

What d'ya Think?

"So what d'ya think of the West?"

He hadn't yet learned the right reply to that.
He was only thirteen.
Every day the unrelenting heat was a hammer blow.
The sandy land stretched to low hills.
The only water was the mirage
shimmering in the distant haze.

How could he say that 4000 kilometres away
on the east coast
the sea poured through a narrow entrance
to form a lake of islands and inlets,
rocky promontories, little cave-filled foreshores,
choppy water filled with striking tailor,
and his young life had been filled with
tree houses, forts and cubbies,
splashing and plunging in the cool water,
his eye feasting all day on the changing blue
that he had taken entirely for granted.

So he hesitated, looked down, said

"It's good."

"Right then. Welcome to this school.
We hope that you will enjoy your time in the West."

Too little, too late.
He'd seen the narrowing of eyes,
lips drawn just a little more tight,
the offence too quickly taken.
Months later, on a cold wintry morning,
he would pay for that hesitation,
the implication that where he came from
may have been better.

Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

On the fifth stroke the cane broke clean in half.
His hands grew purple welts.
He tucked them under his arm pits
To warm them and soften the pain.

He was unbowed.
Girls fluttered around him.
The welts were external badges of honour.
Internally he now knew about insecure parochialism
and the abuse of power

so three years later,
when on a windy, rain-swept day,
after another long move with his gypsy family,
he arrived in Melbourne
knowing what to say to the inevitable question-

"So, what d'ya think of Melbourne?"

Me, far left, not long before our move to Western Australia.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Kyle (Poetry Quarterly version)


Maybe his story was only half true
but he told it with such direct simple power
that momentarily the whole class 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.

"I punched me Mum so I 'ad t' bolt.
I 'id all day in a tree. I could 'ear 'em callin' me.
No way I wuz comin' down.
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'n 'ome anyway."

He'd come from a long way,
big for his age, raw-boned,
a guileless, strange kind of innocent
always in conflict with older boys.
They'd veer to bump him in the corridors.
He'd mouth off at them, defiant.
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 impotent helplessness,
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 and 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,
bells echoing 
in desolate mournfulness 
all through this
and too often

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


First published at Silver Birch Press

Somewhere there are dark clouds.
Somewhere the oppressor grief adds his heavy weights.
Somewhere there is war, or struggle, or suffering.

But not here.

Here you can see the mild sun
shining in a cloudless sky.
The moving river seems perfectly still,
filled with floating reflections.
A man from long ago
reclines on the sand, a rod in his hand,
although he doesn't care if nothing bites,
and a little fair-haired boy, his youngest,
kneels near him laughing in pure childish delight.

Let me fill in some things you cannot see.
To the right is the boulder-made breakwater
where the river empties into the incessant sea.
To the left a little fleet of trawlers
sits quietly moored to a jetty.
Hidden too but fixed in memory
and fundamental to the scene
are his other children, playing in the sand,
laughing and splashing in the shallow water.

Hidden too is the woman, his wife,
who seeing the moment and capturing it, said:

Here. Take this gift and carry it with you.
See what joy is.
Know how it is made of small, inconsequential moments.
Cherish it. Always remember,
no matter what comes or what clouds descend,

this still blue day,
lying on this sand, rod in hand
while the children splash and play.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Summer with Jean.

Every summer I went to Jean's.
The dunes between her house and the sea
were wild and thick with banksia and honey eaters.
"Be careful of the death adders," was the constant warning.
To the right a kilometre away was the little fishing village-
breakwater, river, fleet of trawlers moored at the jetty,
Johnny's milk bar and pin ball machines.
To the left the crescent beach curved away uninterrupted
into the distant horizon,
just the waves and sand and the occasional fisherman
standing shin deep in the ebb and flow.

It was a miraculous place
but it was Jean herself who drew me back.
My mother's sister, widowed young,
her only child dead in infancy,
somehow she triumphed in generosity,
larger than life, full of good humour,
never anything else but interesting.
Impossible to separate in my mind
the place from the big-hearted woman.
She was the place and the place was her.

More than fifty summers came and went,
summers where I eventually took my own children
to the place of my young life,
saw them too grow to love Jean,
watched them delight in all my old joys.

But time was the tide
in which we were caught.
My children grew.
Jean grew old.
Then frail.
Then she died.

Impossible to ever return.
The village was the same.
The same waves still crashed on the same sand.
The same white sand stretched endlessly into the horizon.
Solitary fisherman still stood knee deep in the waves.
But it could never be the same again.

Except, in memory, perfect and retained,
I still see her in the garden,
sit with her in the cool of the afternoon
and hear, with her,
the eternal sound of the sea
thumping on the sand
and then,

its long

Tim and me, fishing in the Evans River, Evans Head, 1982.

Aunty Jean with Dan, Cathy, Tim and Ben, 1982.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016


See how
on this rainy day
the honeysuckle
dresses in cream and gold

and how
on frosty mornings
the humble wattle displays
her summery-yellow sprays

or how
through the gloom
of grey cloud's cluster
the sun pokes his bright toe

and hope that,
in whatever darkness,
come splashes of yellow and gold
and descending columns of light.

Friday, 24 June 2016

This Passing Day (revised)

This Passing Day.

It seems to me that the brittle-bright morning
when we first loved
was a glistening shimmer of dew drop.
All the world's wealth was ours.
Time seemed held in fragile crystal stop.

Now it is late afternoon.
The sky is still clear and the sinking sun
more intensely beautiful than it was long ago.
Who can know if night will suddenly fall
or day stretch on past midnight
in muted, dimming, surreal twilight.

No matter. Each transient moment is rich with joy
and passing time has been our strange friend,
gifting us a plaited golden cord that twists and entwines,
tying us richly to each other
and to the present, past and unknowable future.

So come, take my hand.
That fragile morning is long gone.
Evening must fall but the stars promise light.
We have lived and loved together,
shared in glory throughout the long passing day.
Is this not enough? It must be enough.
It is much more than enough.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

The Earth Speaks

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  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.

The Earth Speaks.

I gave you all, said "Come, lie with me,
on me, in me, by me, through me,
gaze upon me, caress me.
I give you life and beauty too-
all I have is yours to share
but please place me gently in your care."

But you have torn my garments,
stolen my jewels, scarred my face,
besmeared and besmirched my skin,
groped and gouged my secret parts-
your rule, cruel, your treatment, rough,
so insatiable you can never get enough.

I writhe and cry out in protest.
I heave and crack,
send mighty tempests.
I stop the rain.
I send parching heat.
I must struggle and strive
and cry for help.

I plead too, say,
"Come, repent, be my friend,
be tender, gentle, make amends,
it is not yet too late to start again.
Think for a moment of the future.
Those children left will bemoan your folly,
and, despairing about their hope and fate,
curse your abusive misrule,
and you for being a short-sighted fool."

O can we not live together?
I give you life and beauty.
Can you then not care for me,
love me, work with me
or must I, at last, finally, regretfully,
in deepest sorrow
turn my back and put you out?

Monday, 18 April 2016

A Vision or a Dream.

In vision or dream
I saw a man in Dachau
give his last morsel of bread
to one he thought was suffering more.
I heard his thoughts.
"I am no mere plaything of circumstance.
They can take my life but not
the freedom to choose my way."

I rushed to tell my friends
that choice determines who we are,
proof sufficient being in Dachau
a man chose compassion over self.

One friend replied:
"Noble indeed is such a one.
Heroes make these choices.
The exception though is not the rule.
Choice is circumscribed
by circumstance
and eliminated for most by horror of place."

Another then spoke:
"Oppression's boot can find the weight
To crush all choice away.
Was that man's compassion
an act of choice?
I rather think it a gift of grace."

A strange and diverse parade
then passed by
following the banner "Choice",
surprisingly small in number,
privileged ones all sleek and well fed-
warriors, warmongers and kings,
artists, writers, scientists,
simple honest folk and villainous ones too.

Then the next parade came in view
following the banner "No Choice"
and they passed by for days.
I wept to see
starving children shuffling by,
eyes bereft of hope-
women marching on and on,
slaves, bruised and beaten, acid scarred,
child brides, circumcised, mutilated,
disempowered, exploited, disenfranchised-
multitudes of poor,
their every choice dictated by need-
the tortured, guiltless and cruelly oppressed-
lastly, the largest throng,
billions with crippling chains forged
deeply inside their minds,
limited thoughts conditioned
entirely by place.
"Is there no-one to set them free?"
I groaned in tears,
until at last in blessed relief
the world went dark
and I could see and weep no more.

In the dark
a voice came softly speaking
words I had heard before.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.
He has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's  favour.”
I cried aloud in answer
"How could this ever be?
How can these captives be set free?
How can the blind be given sight?
How can the oppressed have liberty?
Can there ever be equity?
What the day? What the extent?
What the arm? What the method?
What the power? What the man?
What the promised liberty?"

I awoke suddenly from my dream
in sober, shaken state.
Could so many be choice-less bound?
What of this hope
that chains will be removed?
Can humanity achieve this on our own?
and determining the answer to be "No",
(yet desiring all chains to go)
considered then my choice must be
to surrender in prayer to the hope
that chains be loosed,
and since compassion is a gift of grace,
my choice must also be
to pray that such grace comes to me
so that I too can,
in shared humanity,
offer my last morsel of bread
to those who need it more.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Caravaggio's St John the Baptist.

After the relentless repetition
of Annunciation, Nativity and Crucifixion,
the sadistic scenes of Last Judgment,
their florid, cruel sensuality,
their crowded, muscular nakedness;

after the ornate splendour of palaces
covered from wall to ceiling
in blue, gold and red,
depictions of battle, death and victory
or violent, Biblical narrative;

after these you walk down a darkened crypt,
past fading depictions of gospel scenes,
your mind numb from days of surfeit
and suddenly there it is,
Caravaggio's "St. John the Baptist",

not a prophet from the Judean wilderness
with fiery, uncompromising words
but a slender youth
rendered in exquisite truthfulness.

His skin is luminously beautiful.
The light, from the left, touches him
on cheekbone, shoulder, thigh, knee, calf.
The lines, composition and colour are masterful
but its real wonder is its truthfulness.
He turns from his simple shepherd's task
as if you've suddenly surprised him,
a complex mixture
of amusement, confidence and shyness,

a friendly, joyous gaze,
as if the nuance of his mind
in this single, fleeting moment
has been caught in Caravaggio's brush
and effortlessly placed upon the canvas
so we, who come to it after so many centuries,
can be transfixed by its beauty and truth
and be privileged by the momentary glimpse
into the mind of that boy
and the transcendent power that captured it.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Lascaux II

It is a facsimile
but few galleries are more beautiful.
There is a hush,
a sense of the sacred.
In the dim light the walls shimmer
with copies of artwork,
walls and ceilings covered
with confident boldness of line,
beauty of eye, antler, hoof and horn,
curves and bumps and ceiling too
masterfully integrated into one fluid flow.

17,000 years ago,
in the nearby cave of Lascaux,
men and women mixed their colours,
prepared smoke free oil,
built their scaffolding and,
like Michelangelo,
covered the walls or lay on their backs,
painting the roof,
moved by their muse,
a deeply human compulsion
to not just represent
the power of hoof and curve of horn
but to create beauty,
to seek meaning
and surely to reflect the sacred,
a sense of something vast beyond themselves
of which they were a small, vulnerable
but gifted part.

I know you, my brothers and sisters.
Your sensibility is mine.
This human finger, touching the keyboard,
shaping words into patterns,
seeking order and meaning,
surely comes from shared desire.
Is it really so different
that your vision was herds, horns and hooves
and the mark of your hands upon the wall,
whilst mine is songs of the heart,
longing for compassion and surrender to love,
when we, in vulnerable mortality
and common humanity,
across this vast desert of time
desire the beauty of art
and seek communion beyond self
with the mysterious divine.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Only Chance We've Got.

When you think about religion
It's enough to make you sick.
Blind Freddie has sufficient sight to see
It's full of mind-boggling hypocrisy.

Who hasn't heard the rant and cant
veiling cruel actions and unloving hearts.
"In God's name this. In God's name that."
Blind Freddie can also smell a rat.

There are the diamond shark smiles,
the "God wants me to be rich" brigade,
the sickening show of "humility"
masking a sense of superiority.

Paedophiles lurk behind the smock
and men in gorgeous coloured robes
deceive themselves that church reputation
Far exceeds any moral obligation.

There is blood in Rome, death in Salem
and burning in Calvin's "city of God."
History shows that this sorry mob
should never have any political job.

It's a pretty sad mess, that's for sure,
enough to make you cynical,
but when I think of the Nazarene
I don't feel in the least equivocal.

I'm not talking about that image
with shampooed hair and dreamy eyes
nor all those artistic marble statues
in wealthy institutions built on lies.

I'm thinking of the flesh and blood man
who was a friend to outcasts and poor,
who challenged the rules and status quo,
who gave until he could give no more.

He dined with harlots and publicans,
he touched lepers, the sick and the sad
but those who held the keys to wealth
ridiculed him and declared him mad.

He doesn't seem mad to me.
He had  a kind of moral divinity,
was a great poet and a teacher too
but I most admire his brave humanity.

I'm praying that he comes back.
I've read that he'll fix what we cannot,
the violence, inequity and oppression.
I'm thinking he's the only chance we've got.

Lyre Birds, Minnamurra Rainforest, Budderoo National Park, NSW, Australia

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

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

Two young lyre birds cavort and display,
practising for some more urgent time
their dance, spread of tail and joy of song
with beauty far beyond the power of rhyme.

Their tail is two curves of yellow and black,
enclosing silver gossamer wisp,
as seemingly delicate and coloured
as dew-filled web or wind-blown mist.

This glory they arch over their backs,
graceful, delicate, surprising long,
then dancing a quick, little staccato bob
pour from their throat liquid miracle of song.

Mimicry of diverse forest sounds
in effortless beauty from their throat pours-
kookaburra’s laugh, whip bird’s soar and crack,
king parrot, rosella and many unknown more.

Hush! The vault is 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 privileged and sublime,
a heart full of wonder and gratitude,
a sense of a glimpse into the divine,

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

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Seals At Play. Admiral’s Arch, Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island.

the western waves roll
across three oceans
to crash upon the cliffs.

southwards the rolling sea
stretches far beyond the horizon
to distant Antarctica.

the salt-laden wind blows
over the huddling heathland's
wild, remote beauty.

Beneath the cliffs
but above the surge
are crevassed platforms and a curving arch
leading to a pool of mirrored transparency.
Everywhere fur seals bask,
argue over position, laze in the pool
or clamber awkwardly towards the sea.
Where once men clubbed them
to near extinction
they are protected, contented and safe.

Two young seals are at play
in a steep narrow gully,
a rush and retreat
of foaming turbulence and unforgiving rocks.
They surface in tangled somersault,
wrestling, diving, breaching again and again,
young, joyous and unafraid,
toddlers in a playground
confident in their skills,
except this is no playground
or carefully constructed, rubber-layered, safe zone
but the immense, cold, surging,
cliff-pounding sea.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Fraser Island (revised)

Fraser Island.

Miranda, on her magical island,
heard music in the crash of wave,
high, clear notes in the treetops,
dim timpani resound from distant cave.

Surely here she dwelt with Prospero,
their realm undiluted sand.
No pebble, rock, clay or loam
stains symphonic Fraser Island.

Music softly and sweetly sings
from serpentine streams so clear,
so unclouded and untouched
they could be water or could be air.

Music murmurs in the mangroves,
in the cobalt blue of upland lake,
in banksia grove and pandanas palm,
in forests of coastal she-oak.

It crescendos in the rainforest's
green palms that densely entwine,
stands of white towering blackbutt
partnering spotted Kauri pine.

Twice daily the eastern wave sings
as she washes from her sand
the countless tracks of 4 wheel drives
that scurrying, scour the land

and even though tomorrow
the traffic will again resume,
closely following the tide will sing
her lyrical, relentless, cleansing tune.

O gently, gently, twice a day,
the attendant tide comes in
and joyously singing as she goes
makes the beach pristine again.

Then the magic that Miranda heard
ripples or crashes in the sea,
or high in towering treetops
sings songs of exquisite beauty.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Phosphorescence Lapping.

I raise my eyes in silence
towards the vast solemnity,
distant fading stars,
great symbols of eternity,

sensing that there is something
invisible, veiled from sight,
a portal to reach and tear
and reveal a realm of light,

unutterable mysteries
words can never convey,
beyond this time-trapped
confluence of breath and clay-

only few have ever seen,
holy men in ages past
in prophecy, vision and dream

but then I know that all
can gaze upon the dew,
the moon upon the water,
the sky's ethereal blue

or in privileged reverence gape,
in wonder and in awe
at the phosphorescence lapping
so close upon the shore.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Three Travellers (revised)

Three travellers, meeting on the mountain-side,
paused to speak briefly, each to each.

Said the first:
I seek the mountain's distant height,
the mighty summit's peak,
beyond the struggle and fray,
the endless lies, the dark deceit,
the never-ending thump of guns,
the bigotry, prejudice and conceit,
O high, so high above
the plain's violent stagnation
I seek a vision and a dream
and in desperation flee
from oppressive humanity.

The second replied:
This ledge is sufficient for me.
I have long stayed observing here
and I delight to see
the curious scurrying and strife
on the distant plain below,
the march of armies, the boom of guns,
the inevitable ebb and flow,
and when this ceases to delight
then I raise my eyes up to the sky's
interplay of colour and light
or wrap myself in velvet night.

The third said:
I have walked to the summit
and now return to the plain,
though the armies plunder
and the rapacious growl for gain.
I have heard the orphan's cry,
the widow's sorrowing groan,
the homeless sigh,
the wounded moan.
I descend, taking what I can,
gifts ever so slight and small,
touch soft and gentle like a kiss,
words as kind as healing balm
and empathy that is palm to palm.

Three Travellers.

Three travellers, meeting on the mountain-side,
paused to speak briefly, each to each.

Said the first:
I seek the mountain's distant height,
the mighty summit's peak,
beyond the struggle and fray,
the endless lies, the dark deceit,
the never-ending thump of guns,
the bigotry, prejudice, the preening conceit,
O high, so high above
the plain's violent stagnation
I seek a vision and a dream
and in desperation flee
from cruel, oppressive humanity.

The second replied:
This ledge is sufficient for me.
I have long stayed observing here
and I delight to see
the curious scurrying and strife
on the distant plain below,
the march of armies, the boom of guns,
the inevitable ebb and flow,
and when this momentarily ceases to delight
then I raise my eyes up to the sky's
interplay of colour and light
and wrap myself
in glorious velvet night.

The third said:
I have walked to the summit
and now return to the plain,
though the armies plunder
and the rapacious growl for gain.
I have heard the orphan's cry,
the widow's sorrowing groan,
the homeless sigh,
the wounded moan.
I descend, taking what I can,
gifts ever so slight and small,
touch soft and gentle like a kiss,
empathy that is palm to palm,
my tenderness and humanity,
words as kind as healing balm.

With that the first and third went their different ways.
The second stayed and watched them go.
An eagle circled, gliding on the thermals.
To the west, beyond the sea,
with orange glow
the sun suddenly slipped beneath the horizon.
The artillery emitted tiny sparks.
Night sounds emerged.
The Evening Star swung low.

Friday, 29 January 2016

let me be

let me be an open ear,
slow to speak and quick to hear
each rustle, whisper or stifled cry,
both joy and sorrow, celebration and sigh

and let me be an open hand,
for hands can in compassion touch,
a gentle hand to serve and heal,
a touch to confirm care's gentle seal

and if this tongue must needs speak
let words such truth and beauty seek
that they, in purest distillation, combine
balm for souls and salve for minds.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Eleanor's First Year.

1. Prayer for My Grandchild.

May you, dear child of the winter solstice,
Born on this clear blue winter’s day,
Have a heart so warm and loving
That it blows all the chills away.

May you, dear child of this shortest day
Grow to be so joyously bright
That in your dear sweet presence
All bask in warm, clear morning light.

May you, little babe of Tim and Prue
Bring them such deep sense of pleasure
That through all life’s frost and cold
They are filled and warmed beyond all measure.

And may you, little babe, little girl,
Precious gift from God above,
Forever dwell in the pure warmth of faith,
Snug in the arms of God’s great love

2. Eleanor.

Because she was so bright and shining,
Theirs to love and to adore,
For her they  just had to choose
The beautiful name of Eleanor.

3. Eleanor and the Shiny Piano.

There is a girl in the piano’s shine
And she looks exactly just like me.
Whenever I crawl to that same place
It’s the same little girl I see.
She has my doll and has my toys
She sits so quietly and makes no noise.
Whenever I want her she’s always there,
She wears my clothes and has my hair,
She has my smile and shares my stare,
And finally she even has my glare,
Especially when at last I see
That she does nothing but copy me.

4. Eleanor and the Little White Dog.

A little white dog sits on the bookcase
On top of the big red dictionary.
When my Pa’s hand goes behind his back
He nods his head and barks at me.

He has a little black nose and a pointy face
And his coat is snowy white,
A little red vest that says “Guide Dog Pups”
And eyes that are black and bright.

I think he’s funny and very cute;
He makes me smile and laugh,
But though he barks and nods his head
His voice does seem a lot like Pa’s.

5. Eleanor Looks at Books

Hush! Tread quietly and don’t disturb
For here is a moment to always treasure
For Eleanor Miette, though she’s less than one,
Is looking at books and chatting with pleasure.

Hush! Tread quietly and softly retreat,
Tiptoe gently away from this place,
For who for a moment would ever disturb
That look of pure joy all over her face.

Hush! Tread quietly and don’t disturb,
Yet linger a moment for one last little look,
For this little girl though she’s less than one
Is lost in the world of a wonderful book.

6. Eleanor and Lizzie.

Some people indeed have unusual pets-
A pig, a python, a fish or a frog-
But none of them can ever compare
To the commonplace, marvellous dog.

You think she's dozing by the hearth
But she’s always got one eye on you.
She knows exactly how you’re feeling;
She knows exactly what to do.

When Eleanor is upset then Lizzie
Places her muzzle on Eleanor's knee,
Looks at her with gentle soft eyes
And gives her wonderful sympathy.

One day Eleanor will come home from school
And Lizzie's greeting will make a dull day bright;
Her ears will go sleek, she'll bark with joy
And shake and wag in pure delight.

Can you take a python for a walk?
Is a frog a blind man’s guide?
Can a fish be taught to sit and stay?
Will a pig lie faithfully by your side?

For slithering snake the answer is no
And also so for fish, frog or hog,
But Eleanor knows the very best pet
Is the loving, loyal and wonderful dog.

7. Eleanor at Eleven Months.

Bend, little baby, and kiss
The picture of Teddy in your book;
Love and hug your soft toys;
Reach for them with adoring look.

A miracle is each day unfolding.
Eleanor's heart is rapidly changing.
Now with toys to fondle and play
She grows in loving and caring.

She laughs and sings as she turns the pages
And then her chatter turns sparklingly bright;
Look! The pages with pictures of children
Are filling her heart with special delight.

8. Eleanor Learns to Walk.

From the very moment its life has begun
The little antelope can walk and run.

The same thing is true, of course,
Of the very lovely baby horse.

The infant giraffe first kneels on its knees
Then stands and runs with incredible ease.

A little monkey from a high, high branch
Leaps out boldly without risk or chance.

A baby elephant weighs one tenth of a tonne
But soon walks beside its three tonne Mum.

The tiny elver, it would seem
Can very easily swim upstream.

These creatures can swim, stand or run
Well before they’ve reached the age of one.

For months Eleanor just waves  legs and arms,
Giggles, gurgles and certainly charms.

Finally, at four months old she begins to roll.
Alas! without very much control.

Animals at eight months old can frolic without falling,
the very age when Eleanor is still crawling.

To stop her flopping to the ground
She holds onto cupboards as she walks around.

Finally, at twelve months, she steps and wobbles
She has joined the much loved group called toddlers.

Her Mum and Dad are, of course, excited
And Eleanor herself is truly delighted.

And  Eleanor Miette knows she would certainly fall
If she had tried to walk before she could crawl.

9. Eleanor is Puzzled.

I’ve been practicing for quite some time
and now I feel quite delighted
Because today I took five unaided steps
Which made my Mummy very excited
Since then I’ve noticed that Mummy
Is putting everything up very high,
And although I’ve thought about this a lot
I just can’t seem to understand why.

10. Eleanor and the Plum Tree.

Look little Eleanor,
The leaves have turned yellow,
The sky is pure blue,
The day mild and mellow.

Look little Eleanor,
The trees have turned bare,
There’s frost in the morning
And cold everywhere.

Look little Eleanor,
There’s buds on the trees,
Flowers are blossoming
And buzzing with bees.

Look little Eleanor,
In this blossoming blooming
The cycle of life
Is forever renewing.

11. Eleanor and Old Mother Goose

Old Mother Goose is a friendly old bird
And when her Pa takes  Eleanor for a walk
As they pass close by to the neighbour’s fence
Old Mother Goose comes over for a talk.

She’s white and waddles and is the only goose
In a scratchy, snatchy  flock of hens.
She’s old and she’s lame and in a race for food
The speedy hens beat her time and again..

Eleanor gives her some bread in a special place
Where the greedy hens can’t grab it and run,
Where it’s safe and secure and she’s left in peace,
So that she can enjoy every crumb.

For this little act of kindness and care
She's Eleanor's very best friend
And when Eleanor's gone for a little while
She’s delighted to see her again.

So dear little ones with minds young and fresh,
The lesson is nothing so new,
For everyone knows that doing kind things
Brings that same kindness straight back to you.

12. Looking at Books and Practising Words.

Eleanor Miette, with sparkling eyes,
Is looking at books and practising words
And because she is just twelve months old
Some people may scoff and say “Absurd!”

Her mother says she’s got more than thirty
And even Grandpa can understand a few.
He smiles and he knows that on every day
Eleanor Miette is finding something new.

Whenever she comes into the lounge
Eleanor Miette gives a sweet little growl.
It is the leopard’s picture on the wall
That makes her whisper her gentle “Miaow”.

But when it’s dark and time for bed
Though she can chatter, wave and say “Bye bye”,
Eleanor Miette, like so many babes
Can crumple her face and start to cry.

13. Goodnight, Eleanor.

Eleanor can now walk very well.
Soon she will begin to run.
She’ll play outdoors and go to parks.
A great big adventure has now begun.
But now it’s dark and she’s so tired.
She’s had her bath and she’s been fed.
She’s had a story and closed her eyes
And Eleanor Miette sleeps sweetly in bed.

14. Haiku on Mother and Child at Piano.

Light spills through the room
Where Prue sits at piano,
Eleanor on lap.

As the fingers touch
In light skilful patterns
Chords fluidly flow.

The sweet sound is as
Liquid, clear and delicate
As running water.

The baby gurgles
Her new, innocent delight
And waves her small arms.

What greater beauty
Than mother, baby, music
In this harmony.