Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Three Kings.

Three Kings.

Three kings of the earth,
seeking wisdom,
met on a mountainside
beside a pool of vision.
They sat for a while and stared
until their respective kingdoms,
in watery reflection,
floated on the still water.

The first saw smoke of war,
limping trudge of amputees,
industrial smudge,
ruined cities,
mudslides covering villages,
rivers thickly stagnant,
shanty town shacks,
rising sea engulfing farming lands
and a dust covered child,
face blankly devoid of hope,
sitting alone in the bombed rubble.

Finally, he spoke.

“We must do better”, he said,
“if there is to be a future.
My role must be service.
Time is short. I must lead my people
into the best sense of what they can be.
Self-interest may be their natural state
but they have potential,
can understand great concepts
like generosity, mercy and compassion,
can act selflessly, can raise their minds
beyond the here and now
into the blue, cloud-flecked sky.
I seek revelation and vision.
My people are sheep.
Where I lead, they will follow.”

The second stared into the water.
Light rain fell on his city.
Neon lights pooled in flouro flare.
Glittering glass buildings
glowed in the night,
crowds linked arms, jostled and laughed.
Then someone staggered from a building
and reeled through the street.
In a darkened, syringe-discarded alley
someone else slumped against a wall.

“All this is mine”, he thought.
“All its wealth is mine.
All these people are foolishly weak.
They are vulnerable and easily manipulated.
I sell the image they desire.
For that they willingly surrender
to me their wealth.”

When the third gazed into the water
there rose to the surface
poised and thrusting missiles,
tanks rumbling over the sand-hills,
mile upon mile of trench
embroidered with twisted, tortured
tangle of body and wire,
armies goosestepping through streets,
refugees in flimsy boats
or imprisoned in detention centres,
the world’s new and bitter gulags.

He laughed. “Fools believe anything.
My persuasive tools are their fear and vanity.
So simple. Feed them this:
‘You are the special ones.
I give you the greatness you merit.
Enemies without would take it from you.
Enemies within would betray you.
Fear all not of your tribe.
Arm yourselves.
Build your walls.
Embrace your flag.
Those who are not for me are against you.’
In speaking thus I embrace my power
and make this people my slaves.”

Then the kings rose and went their separate ways.
Behind them, the great mountain stood darkly stern.
Above them, the mute sky was cloudless.
The pool they left was still and quietly smooth.

First published at Praxis online

A Beam of Light.

Scoff, you cynics,
you observers of the here and now,
but we are only our dreams
so why shouldn’t I,
with prophets and seers,
float out of my darkened window
on a beam of pure light,
soaring high above the swamp and desert
to see, just over the horizon,
a new world rising out of the dark,
that one where justice descends
like the morning dew,
swords are beaten into ploughshares
and peace, like a mantle,
covers the glistening earth.

First published at One Sentence Poetry

Turned and Gone Away.

This one explores a complex kind of sadness. I suppose it is a lament.

Turned and Gone Away.

For my loved sister, Jean.

Your house,
gripped by flood,
floats from its foundations,
sinking ever lower.
You sit on the roof.
I cry out to you, 
swim, throw a rope,
beg you to leave
but you can only wring your hands,
turn and float away.

Small and diminished,
you tremble before a precipice
filled with darkness.
I cry out that I understand
your fears of age,
diminished powers, loneliness,
the horror that shuffling dependency
may lead you into actions once unspeakable
but you can only wring your hands,
turn and step away.

In deep denial you reel
from the mirror, truth.
You close your eyes
and cover your ears.
I cry out that I understand 
how time and circumstance have trapped you,
that you have grown far too old for truth,
that you need to pretend you still are
the wonderful person you once were
but you can only wring your hands,
stagger and flee away.

You shuffle
down a long corridor
in the slow and painful way
of your last years.
I cry out that I understand
how extreme age forced you
into secrets, deceptions, 
and, much worse, sad betrayal 
of some you so loved.
I shout I love you and forgive you
but the words echo and bounce 
down the empty corridor.
You have ceased wringing your hands.
You have turned and gone away.

First published at Better Than Starbucks

One Early Morning.

Here is one of my early poems, written when I was about 23.

One Early Morning.

I lie on a large sandstone platform
beneath blue, cloud-flecked sky.
The air is full of cicada song.
The gorge drops steeply away,
past boulders, bright flowers in yellow and red,
smooth, pink barked apple gums,
soar and crack of whipbird.
I know at the bottom
yabbies scurry in clear pools,
fairy wrens flit in dappled shade
and water gurgles and ripples
around green mossy rocks.

Somewhere else, a world away, is a snarl of traffic.
Somewhere else someone blasts their horn.
Somewhere else someone yells abuse.
Somewhere else someone in a suit plots and schemes.
Somewhere else crowds of commuters in dim half-life
sit in trains, eyes blank, faces dully impassive.
Somewhere else pedestrians stand at lights, resigned to the day.

I look across to the other ridge.
The land rises in quick steep climb,
all wind and trees and movement.
As a cicada sheds its exoskeleton
I want to shrug off the past,
let the wind carry away
the relentless search for identity,
the realisation of personal limitation,
misjudgment, mistakes and failures.
I want something better, all-consuming,
beyond the pettiness and triviality
of what we call “ambition”

but for now, for this moment,
I am almost content to lie on this rock
listening to the throbbing ecstasy of cicada song,
watching the scud of cloud and sway of branch,
dreaming and sighing in the sun.

Published at Verse-Virtual.

Me, about the time I wrote this poem.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Autumn Day

                Autumn Day

In this part of her southern kingdom 
she slips in quietly, pre-dawn,
opening windows,
letting the heat of summer seep away.
A thin mist hovers briefly on the river,
then lifts into the still sky.
On the mirrored surface
the smooth, white trunked water gums
hang upside down in sky
blue from horizon to horizon.
The day shortens.
Westwards, the distant mountains,
blue by day, darken to purple.
Above them, briefly,
a swathe of orange.
Above that the indigo sky
and the Evening Star.
Then the orange dims
and black, velvet night, 
diamond studded, descends 
over the quiet and cooling earth.

Published in “The Weekly Avocet”

Wednesday, 25 October 2017



where surge meets sand
sun touches sea
and light in column slants

where wagtail fidgets
swordfish surges
and silver fox leaps in snow

where green shoots curl
dappled profusion grows
and the mountain ash touches the sky

where pen strokes page
brush the canvas
and songs in cadence rise

where palm meets palm
mind meets mind
and hearts in union beat

where responsive spirits
seek high ideals
and transcendent beauty grows

Published at Peacock Journal as author’s statement about beauty

The Transcendent Tide

The Transcendant Tide.

The current sweeps us
past laugh and splash
of free running water,
falls that shout and plunge,
red poppy fields, 
green pendant droop of willows,
curving bends, lazy meander 
to finally, in the distance,
the still dark sea.

Remember, long ago,
before the river grew mighty,
how in the morning song-birds 
flitted through the sparkling air.
Somehow, wonderfully,
you floated by, 
I reached out, felt your hand 
and it closed on mine.
Why? The body’s desire?
The mind’s fear of loneliness?
A beauty of need,
to love and be loved?
Who can tell, but every day
sunlight caressed the waves
and every night the current filled 
with silken sheen from moon and star.

So what if we are still swept
towards the rumbling confluence
where river protests to meet sea.
A lifetime ago I surrendered to you
and your tide consumed me,
took me way out beyond 
sheltered cove or stagnant stillness,
deep, deep into a trackless wonder,
into mighty waves of beauty and joy,
deep troughs of compassion
for heartache and pain,
a pure, sublime tide far beyond self.
There I have dwelt.
There, in wonder and surrender,
I willingly sink and drown.

First published at Peacock Journal



Beyond morphine detachment,
out of the bed’s encircled darkness,
when pain recedes just enough
to let the mind tiptoe 
a cautious step or two,

through a small window
in the antiseptic room 
comes a gift the darkness brings,
a rush of revelation,
just glint of light playing on green leaves 
swaying to the wind’s caress,
sun-dappled tangle of branches,
cloud-flecked blue sky,

but each simple, commonplace moment 
transformed, miraculously new,
never truly seen before,
now shouting glory to ears
that had been deaf,
beauty to eyes 
that had been blind.

First published at Peacock Journal

Mother and Child at Piano

Mother and Child at Piano.

Light spills into the room.
She sits at piano,
her baby on her lap.

Her fingers move
in skilful patterns
and fluid chords flow.

The sound is liquid, 
as clear and delicate
as running water.

The baby gurgles
in new delight
and waves her little arms.

First published at Peacock Journal

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

I Read of Massacres.

I Read of Massacres.

When I was a child I learnt the first Australians
built no homes other than simple gunyas,
temporary bark shelters propped up by branches.
Now I read of villages of stone and thatch.

When I was a child I learnt the first Australians
were exclusively hunters and gatherers
wandering continuously through the land. 
Now I read of storehouses holding tonnes of grain.

When I was a child I learnt the first Australians
offered no resistance over land declared 
“terra nullius”, nobody’s land, open to claim.
Now I read of brave Pemulwuy’s twelve year war.

And now I read of murders,
“forgotten” colonial wars along the east coast,
one hundred and fifty massacres,
maybe fifteen thousand dead.

I read of poisonings, planned dawn attacks
on unsuspecting, sleeping villages,
gun and steel against wood and stone,
more blood to add to history’s dark pages.

I think of the pain of dislocation,
two hundred years of oppression,
of stolen children, stolen land, stolen hope
and the horror that hopelessness brings.

I think too of myths and lies told to children,
endless justifications invented and repeated
so that conquerors and their descendants
can live easily with their conscience.

There is no real ease of conscience in lies,
only the tortured twisting of the past.
Nor is there healing without truth,
nor reparation without acknowledgement.

What can we do now, we who for generations
have lived on land taken from others?
Now we also feel its deep connection.
What reparation for crimes long gone?

Knowledge of darkness can bring light.
Can light bring healing, help us be brothers?
From whence comes the compassion gifting us shared walk 
through land once deeply stained with blood?

First published at Praxis online mag.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid

Woman writing a letter, with her maid.

Johannes Vermeer.

The light from the window

shines richly on

the contrasting, chequered floor

and on two different women.

One bends from the light. 

The other turns to it.

In the foreground, 

with brooch and pearls,

head bent to her letter,

face partially obscured,

the privileged one sits, 

writes to her lover,

face strangely impassive,

a blankness beyond the moment.

Behind her, unadorned, 

standing, dressed in plain grey,

arms folded in practised resignation,

her servant girl stares 

out of the window

into the middle distance,

mouth open in a secret smile,

lips parted, lost in a private moment 

of recollected delight.

First published at The Ekphrastic Review

Friday, 29 September 2017

Cordelia's Grief.

Cordelia’s Grief.

Published at Verse- Virtual

Here I disclaim all my paternal care
-King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1.

Should I complain?
My Lord’s domain is beautiful,
sunnier than home,
filled with mountains, rivers
and vineyards on the rolling hills.
My Lord, great France, is kind and loving.
I want for nothing.

Yet grief fills my nights.

Then I remember, my sisters,
our young lives together.
What hardened your hearts?  
What stole your sisterly affection?

But most I grieve for you, my father.
When I was young I lay in your arms,
trusted you and felt safe there
yet you have cruelly banished me.
What happened to your judgment?
What happened to your love?

I want to let you go.
I want this nightly grief to leave.
The heart-hurt is deep.
I want to be free of it.

But every night, in my very essence,
that place where my spirit dwells,
heavy chains of blood and love
bind me to the full sad weight of you.

O my father, my father,
what happened to you?
Was it only time that diminished you
or did my love make me blind?

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Sun Dance.

If only I could 
throw words 
onto the page
like Jackson Pollock 
threw paint onto the canvas,
a kind of divine anarchy,
beautiful chaos
celebrating nothing 
but itself,
dripping molten stalactites
in flouro red, orange and green
over the primordial world
aeons before 
the red blaze cooled
and life emerged,
from the cobalt blue.

Published at One Sentence poems

Friday, 8 September 2017


The butcher bird pours
liquid ripple of song
into the blue sky.
The rosella dips his red head
at the stone bird-bath
and drinks in alert delight.
We sit on the verandah.
Your eyes smile.
I reach for your hand.

Published in Naturewriting 

Monday, 28 August 2017

I Gave You All.

I Gave You All.

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.

Published in Verse-Virtual and in The Weekly Avocet

Tuesday, 15 August 2017



Then the earth went quiet.
No creature called.
No background hum.
No crickets, cicadas, frogs.
Birds gasped, opened their beaks,
held out their wings to cool,
then fell to the ground.

Then water took low atolls,
covered dunes,
inched up river valleys,
covered abandoned houses
and twisted war machines,
lapped tall towers
still standing like strange sentinels
in the orange tinted tide.

Then, on the far horizon,
the sun flamed dirty smudge,
lit the mountains 
and the haggard faces
of the survivors
moving higher and higher
over the pock-marked land.

Then suddenly it dipped
into impenetrable black.
No silver pepper of stars.
No moon, though the ocean
still ebbed and flowed.

Then only darkness
covered the face 
of the mighty deep.

Published in Autumn Sky Daily.

Saturday, 12 August 2017



His head is brilliant blue
his composition bright and fair
and the fairy wren with jaunty flit
hops and bounces through the air.

This head is scarlet red,
the flight all speed and swerve.
as rosella glides on brilliant wings
in dipping, parabolic curve.

In his suit of black and white
and rising heavily from the ground
the magpie flies with a swish,
a muscular, purposeful sound.

Crow’s song is a monotonous caw,
his feathers are dull and black,
but he still rises into the air
in slow, direct and functional flap.

The butcher bird pours liquid song
into the morning light
whilst eagles on high thermals soar
and falcons dive with speed of flight.

Crow, wren or hawk, I love them all
and I raise my head to stare
in silent praise and wonderment
as they slip and glide in silken air.

Published in The Weekly Avocet

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Fallen Forest Tree.

The Fallen Forest Tree.

I think on this blue planet,  
slant of rain, scud of cloud,
surge of river, the glittering sea,
flocks that flit, dart or soar,
wandering herds, encircling wolves,
coral blaze, fish, whale and krill,
leopard lazing in curve of tree,
myriad life given and accepted back
over aeons as the spinning earth treks
through the black void of space.

I raise my eyes from the fallen tree
to the tree tops and to the sky.
The abundant cycle of life and loss
stretches endlessly beyond 
this transient moment where I live,
yet why should I regret its brevity?
I embrace its mystery and privilege,
thankful that for at least this brief moment 
I have lived to gaze upon the earth 
in deep wonder and in awe.

First Published in Praxis Mag Online



Saturday, 22 July 2017

ironer, Degas

Ironer, Degas.

It’s not much more than a study,
just shades of grey,
grey bonnet, grey blouse, black skirt.
She is older, almost featureless,
the merest suggestion of nose, mouth and eyes.
Her body bends to her work.
Her right arm, clasping the heavy iron,
is strangely elongated,
as if stretched through time and labour.

Yet compassion is so deftly captured
in brief strokes of fluid simplicity
I must stop, stare and in tender sorrow
think of the life of this anonymous woman 
labouring through her monotonous hours
in tired, uncomplaining resignation.

Published at The Ekphrastic Review

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Dream Thieves.

The Dream Thieves.

In sleep I saw a House of Dreams, 
golden doors open wide,
liberty written on its walls,
equality glowing inside.

Then came the smiling thieves
in tailored suits and ties,
deceitful intent glibly oiled
by their well practised lies.

Inside, they plundered all its treasure,
stripped all the jewelled beams,
carried away the golden orbs
that lit the House of Dreams.

They left the merest appearance, 
a painted, empty facade,
and everything that they spewed out
was stained deceptive fraud.

I awoke drenched and shivering
from the horror I had seen,
blood now oozing through the door
of the ruined House of Dreams.

First published at Guy farmer’s “Social Justice Poetry”.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The Forge

The Forge.

The golden bird on golden bough
first came from furnace fire,
dross removed, skilfully hammered
into object of desire.

The curving razor sword that glints
along its lustrous length
was heated, folded, beaten
into its shining strength.

I much desire the forged-steel strength
but not the hammer blows,
yet I must bend before the forge
from which the lustre grows.

First published at Praxis on line, June, 2017

Postcard from Lac d'Annecy.

Postcard from Lac d'Annecy.

Lake, shore, mountain and sky merge,
light ripples and plays,
yachts float quietly,
a woman strolls with her dog,
stops, sits, gazes upon the water,
three boys play on the jetty,
peer, point, call "Regarde!"

Regarde! I stare into water and see,
beyond the snow-clad ridges,
that ancient rank beast rise again,
drag itself onto the land,
crumbling dreams and spewing lies,
the same old mirthless song
of deception, self-interest
and hollow fairy tales.

Fairy tales. I sit in a story book scene.
Behind the lake a grand hotel 
lazes by the shore,
a distant, turreted castle
squats on its protective cliff,
the mountain rises from the lake
to snow-clad, cloudy ridges.
Is not such beauty enough?
Is it not enough to sit in peace,
to sense the wonder of the world?

Why then do I continue to stare 
into the silent water?
First published at Verse.Virtual, July 2017



Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were
Wilfred Owen. “Strange Meeting”.

War courses through
the arteries of the world,
flowering in dark lumps,
lodging in tangle of wire, 
muddy trenches, gas, 
acres of green grass,
neat white crosses,
bleak eyes staring
behind razor wire
or skeletons uncovered
from shallow pits.

Young men, going home,
carry one cell or more.
It wakes them at night,
hisses in pills and booze,
flames in white rage
that scorches all
who stand too close,
shrinking wife, 
sobbing daughter,
son trapped
between anger and love.

It evolves in corporations
grown swollen and fat
from feeding on corpses
and is then sold 
by snake-oil salesman
who, salivating 
for power and wealth,
offer it to the gullible
wrapped in a flag
or the promise of greatness
or the gross deceit 
that the necessary cure exists
in multiplying the tumours.

First published in Verse-Virtual, July 2017