I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world, to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

These poems are works in progress and may be updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your blog posts as much as possible.

30 June 2016

30 Days of Delight

To my companions at Project 366

Every morning
I bring my coffee
and come to the feast,
where I linger.

I meet beauty – my reason
for this whole lifelong
engagement with poetry,
and passion for visual art.

I find quirkiness, laughter,
deep thought
and deeper feelings –
great nourishment.

Oh, I like
poems to get my teeth into,
to devour in gulps, or to savour;
tasty, piquant images,
and others that slake thirst.

So I’m sorry to leave you, and
like Penelope (who just said goodbye)
after 30 days of making poems,
I notice I’m tired. It’s surprising.

‘Writing begets writing’
I said at the outset.
And so it has been. A pouring.
More than one a day.

A delight. A fervour.
(Not taking anything out
of my life – oh, except housework
and exercise. Adding this in.)

I realise now, it must have taken
invisible reserves of energy.
Would persistence have increased
fatigue or stamina? I won’t know.

‘It is never any use
dwelling on goodbyes,’
a wise person, whose name
I’m too lazy to look up now, said.

‘It is not the being together
it prolongs. It is the parting.’ Yes.
The time has come to say goodbye.
And so, my sweets, let us part.

I’ll never grow too old to dream;
still your art will live in my heart.
(Now that I’ve got you all weepy –
don’t panic, I’ll be lurking and reading.)


My final poem as a guest blogger this past month at Project 366

29 June 2016

The Advantages of Poetry

Be faithful to your calling.
It will not desert you.
(You will doubt this at times,
when it seems to take leave of absence,
but trust. It WILL come back.) 

Poetry won't keep you warm
on cold nights,
but will help you celebrate
those who do
(every coupling 
a secret threesome)
and console you
after they depart.

It might not make you rich
but you'll think
your poverty's worth it.

You'll always
have someone to talk to.

Poetry is not a partner
who'll dump you after just one dance.
Poetry wants to go home with you.
And if you can't dance,
poetry will teach you.

Poetry will happily 
get wasted with you –
and in the morning
you'll both look worse for wear.
Later, though,
poetry will help you straighten out.

If the power goes off,
you only need a candle
and some kind of notebook
with keyboard or pen.
You can do without TV
or someone else's novel.

It won't feed you
but it can make you forget about meals, 
and any other hunger or thirst 
except the ache for perfection
of word or line.

No matter what goes wrong,
no matter how helpless you feel,
there is always this to do.

And when everything's right
and beautiful
and buoyant,
poetry enables you
to hold the moment a whole lot longer,
then to return for more.
(With poetry, there is no such thing
as being too greedy.)

Poetry doesn't care
about fame and status. 
You do –
and it may or may not happen –
but to poetry it's simply irrelevant.

You want someone to read your poetry,
someone to hear your words.
You're allowed to want that; it's natural.
And there will be those who do.
Cherish them, even if they are not many.

But know, as well,
that if you stand outside and speak your poetry,
be it in a shout or a whisper,
the trees will hear, and the air.
When you read your words over to yourself, silently,
angels and spirits will stand at your shoulder
reading too, noticing the pictures and the music.
And when the words are nowhere but in your mind,
God perceives them, who put them there.


Linked to Poets United's Poetry Pantry #310

28 June 2016

A Gift of Roses

Unusual pale apricot –
roses from my friend,
in a black pot

where they stayed,
moving with me to all
the rented houses.

Every year
they flowered twice:
in Spring and Autumn.

Until they stopped. 
No blooms, not a bud,
now my friend is dead. 













For Quadrille #12: rose at dVerse

Pluto

Governs Scorpio –
which used to share Mars
with fiery Aries, until
this dark mystery was found.

So small, it's hard to define
as a regular planet. (They
are big and gassy.) 
But it's intense!

It has frozen nitrogen lakes,
a huge, hazy atmosphere
with layers embedded,
a sky that's blue like ours

and, probably, 
vast seas of water 
hidden underground –
very Scorpio, that.

Astronomers argue now.
Can't it still be a planet
as it's so exciting, or
is it King of the Dwarves?

It's far colder
than we can imagine.
And I hate the cold.
Still I want it. We Scorpions

are not direct like Aries,
nor as warlike as Mars.
We are of an underworld
that isn't hot and hellish.

Rather, we are deep 
and dangerous,
like hidden oceans 
or solid nitrogen.


Linked to the current Tuesday Platform at 'imaginary garden with real toads'.

Watching a Religious Parade on TV

Robed in white, the Cardinal
is walking in slow processional,
holding a decorative shepherd's crook –
symbol of caring for his flock.

It is a younger priest I see,
staring through years of memory:
smooth-faced, all those decades back,
and suited in serviceable black.

The tilt of his head, his sober expression,
radiated concern, compassion.
The Church would set the matter right.
Later I read his useless report.

That was for an investigation
into conditions at a city prison.
We put in front of him every detail 
that made the place a renowned hell-hole.

An ex-teacher there, I was at that time
part of a group for prison reform.
His purpose, it afterwards seemed to me,
was to absolve the Church of responsibility.

When he says that it was long ago;
he can't recall, he doesn't know
about pedophile priests and child abuse,
or the cover-up of which he's accused –

I remember that young career priest,
schooling his face to appear earnest
as mothers and sisters of prisoners
confided horrors, fighting back tears.

He nodded, spoke softly, listened well,
took notes, asked questions, got it all.
There was also my long, written submission.
Months of waiting. Then his call to inaction.

His back is hunched, his face is red;
his gaze downcast, not heavenward.
There are floppy jowls and wrinkles now.
Facts might be smoothed away; not his brow.

It's very un-Christian of me, I know –
but then I am not a Christian, so –
I confess that seeing him bowed with age,
morose and shuffling, gladdens my rage.


(Been trying a long time to write this.)

My Dad (Verse Portrait 105)

Grew roses,
strawberries,
ferns and bamboo.

Made wooden dolls
from round-topped clothes-pegs,
drawing faces on.

Sketched for me
water-colour flowers; I remember
pink heath’s delicate bells.

When I had nightmares
sat with me into dawn,
telling stories.

At parties, played
comb-and-tissue
mouth organ;

declaimed with gestures
‘Abdul the Bulbul Emir’
or some Rabbie Burns.

Made an acrostic poem
every family birthday,
the person’s name down the side.

Laughed
sang
danced.


Verse portraits: explanatory note

Linking to Poets United's Poetry Pantry #309


26 June 2016

Once, on a 16-foot Trailer-Sailor

It was Broome to Darwin –
but we skipped 
part of the Sound,
and cut across
the top of the Gulf.
Not enough time
to hug and explore
those long, intricate shores.

It was 40 degrees plus 
(Celsius); only warm salt water 
to tip on ourselves 
from a bucket dipped over the side.
Fresh was rationed for drinking –
couldn't always find
pool or stream  
up the inlets.

It was clear nights 
lounging on deck;
uncountable stars
crowding the vast black dome overhead;
and one tiny, quick white satellite.
It was crocodiles sunning.
Waterfalls. Four-storey tides.
Beach sand inland, impossibly high.


Note: 40ºC is 104ºF.  (It was the tropics! But the nights cooled off somewhat).

Responding to a prompt at 'imaginary garden with real toads', to write on sailing in 100 words max (excluding title).

Don't Talk To Me About Summer

Bloody freezing right now
and Sanaa over at Prompt Nights
is asking for a poem of summer –
hot, sensuous summer
of fiery bosom and bared lips
(or was that the other way around?).

Hard now, already, to imagine
raging heat, naked flesh. Who wants
recollections that only make you shiver
all the more in wretched comparison?
We hate you, Northern Hemisphere poets.
You think your half is the whole world, don't you?

You're so up there. But just you wait.
When you are shovelling snow
and battling blizzards, guess where we'll be?
Yes, at the beach. We'll be sprawling
on smooth sand in the sun, we'll be playing
in our rapturous oceans ..... Meanwhile I'm sneezing.


Written for Sanaa Rizvi's Prompt Nights: Summer

25 June 2016

Recurring Dream

In this dream
you are here again.
We’re talking.

Just that.
No special revelations.
Just you and me.

Just talking.
Friendly. Ordinary.
About nothing much.

The small
deeply important
matters of day-to-day.

It isn't the words.
It’s your head close to mine
on the other pillow.

It’s the warmth between us
unremarked,
not needing remark.

When I wake 
and know,
it’s not so bad any more.

There are always tears
of course
but also gladness.

I understand it’s a dream
of wish-fulfilment. And
I know the dream is true.


Sharing at Prompt Nights: Dreams

Change

The afternoon wind
is loud and busy
rushing everywhere
whooshing and clattering.
Birds nervously shriek
and my cat runs in to tell me
it’s different today, out there.

A playful wind, yes,
but there’s an edge – 
a touch of bombast.
All night our cosy house
feels suddenly less secure.
Next morning I find fallen branches
blown right across my lawn.

Worlds Within Worlds

I walk the invisible paths
of cyberspace
to a centre of art and poetry.

There I find labyrinths
in poem after poem
answering and extending each other.

Today in the physical space
of the Goddess Circle
we sing and dance and meditate

and walk in dance a labyrinth.
We carry invisible candles, and 
are linked like a thread, hand to hand.

We take our light into darkness,
then retrace our steps,
winding our way back out.

A simple ritual and profound.
The deep core.
The ever-expanding circumference.


At the Project 365+1 blog where I've been a guest this month, someone posted a poem on the labyrinth theme and it inspired others. Then the real-life event described above seemed a wonderful piece of synchronicity, and an occasion for me to write a labyrinth poem too.

24 June 2016

Forewarning

In the dream
I was trying and trying
to call out to you,
I was desperate.
Some force, 
some inexorable fate,
was taking you
further and further away.

In my head I was screaming
your name, but I couldn't
get any sound out, and you
had your back to me,
retreating. You didn't see
my choking struggles,
the despair on my face,
my arm stretching.

Finally I forced out
a stifled gasp, which woke me,
and there you were
lying beside me. 
How many years was that
into our marriage?
Not very long. The kids
were still in primary school.

Even then, I knew
what the dream meant.
When I was in psychotherapy,
the Doc (as we called him
amongst ourselves)
used to ask, when one of the group 
told a frightening dream –
'Who wrote the script?'

But I did get your name out
almost inaudibly. Enough
to wake me, though you stayed asleep.
And of course there was nothing
wrong with my life,
how could there be?
Of course there was nothing wrong
with our marriage.

Some years later,
on another morning,
I woke from a dream 
which I didn't and don't remember – 
only, I brought to consciousness 
the knowledge that I was tied
to an incompatible man
and could not fully be me.

Then a calm voice, not mine,
said inside my head,
'But you won't always be here'.
Immediate peace. 
'Oh, of course not,' I thought.
Later I rationalised: it meant
not here in this moment. We could grow
more together, there was hope.

It took 27 years all told
between our joining and parting.
I still say it was you
who chose to end it.
You insisted it was me.
And perhaps it was –
in a knowing dream, when we 
were still young and blithe.


Linking this to the Tuesday Platform, 3 Jan 2017, at 'imaginary garden with real toads'.


Sightings of Crows

Three crows at the side of the road
and a fourth swooping across.
What does this denote?


Put on your witch hat, woman!
Gather your cloak
deftly around your shoulders.
Magic is afoot.

23 June 2016

Rapunzel Retold

Walled in
inside the high tower
I find the young woman
('just a girl, really,' 
she was sometimes told)
who dangled her long golden hair
softly over the faces of her babies,

her babies who
with smiles and tiny grabbing fingers
travelled up those strands to gaze in her eyes,
hoisting their brand-new awareness
in through the open window
of mother love.

When then was now, 
she sat in a house on the ground
with not only windows but doors that opened.
And that was fine for many years
while the babies thrived and grew.

How could she know
one was growing wrong?
To her eyes, the traces were faint
mostly invisible.

The thing became apparent
gradually. Even in his youth
and early manhood
she didn't see.

An infection, of sorts, in the brain –
or a chunk of it missing?
She has her ideas by now,
but even now can only guess.

The youngest son in the tales
meets many challenges, no?
Makes amazing journeys.
His were into delusion.
His were into hatred.

Finally, after years of tears,
she performed a ritual of distant healing
for the troubled man who had become
fearful to her, and unknown.
Then she expunged him from her life,
as had many others.

It was not for cruelty that her Sorceress
blocked behind high walls of stone
a long-ago mother playing with her babies,
and that youngest, enchanting child
with his early gifts for drawing and poetry,
his precocious insights, and the smile 
that still, in memory, makes her heart turn over.


I felt there was more for me to explore in the Rapunzel archetype, and sure enough....

A Poem for Elizabeth

Where inner space widens to outer
she creates her secret places.
They hold strong. She can visit and revisit.

One is a garden, where parts of her
take the forms of animals,
to show themselves more clearly to her.

Then there’s the boulder,
a private place of peace, which she reaches
eventually, after travel and striving.

A large, wise, gentle tiger called Pain
becomes fellow-traveller and teacher –
through all landscapes a faithful guide.

A sassy red tulip reveals itself
as hardy, feisty, in-your-face …
and it’s her face. It has her name.

Elizabeth is the name of great Queens
and of one legendary beauty
who, in her long life, suffered much pain.

And now it is hers. She steps into it, 
claims it. Elizabeth doodles with artist’s pencils,
bringing into this world the shapes of dream.


Inspired by some stories of Elizabeth Crawford's.

22 June 2016

Resilience

Is it a bird that, battered by storms,
rises again to soar on strong wings?

Is it a beast of burden – an ox, say –
that rests at the end of the day
to recover its strength and resume?

Is it, perhaps, a sliding, zig-zagging snake 
moving through grass unseen, at speed?

Or a tough lizard with hard skin
who can freeze to invisibility, then dart …
or shed its trapped tail, only to grow a new one?

Does it even describe me, still here after all?
Does it describe humanity? And is that good?

I like to think it will be our planet
long after the batterings, the burdens,
the need for speed and hiding, 
and maybe our very selves, are well gone.


















Image © Sharyn Williams 2014. This is the cover illustration for one of my e-chapbooks (see right sidebar) and must not be reproduced without permission. I thought it a good illustration for this poem too.


The poem is written in response to Poets United's Midweek Motif: Resilience.

21 June 2016

Goodbye Muhammad

Impossible
that death should finally KO
The Greatest.
We thought he’d be here
always – older and slower, yes,
but still with that smile
lurking in his eyes.

But he taught us
nothing is impossible.
He said that. He showed us,
living his life
on his own terms.
Ah, but death 
sets its own terms too.

Ali is already
two and a half weeks gone,
with his dancing feet 
and his stinging fists,
his wicked words
and his beauty …
his proud head, even in age.

The people of his home
say they remember 
a child who never gave up,
they remember the young hero,
and most of all they recall
the private years 
of a kind, wise old man.

The early dark comes down.
It’s winter solstice here.
We are already a little past
full moon. Brightness
waxes and wanes,
but the good 
don’t always die young.
























Written for the latest Tuesday Platform at 'imaginary garden with real toads'. We were asked if we had written anything on the passing of Muhammad Ali. I hadn't – I thought Gail Hennessy's tribute said it perfectly, and far more economically than this – but, since we were invited....

Intense Rain

Pounding rain, cold rain, flooding rain – it arrives with plenty of warning, with a feeling of inevitability, of doom. It tells us, ‘Yes, here is Winter.’ It travels all down the long east coast of Australia, even to my dear little birth island, so tiny it is sometimes left off the map. I am glad to be far north of there now, removed from that paralysing, deep-frost cold I once knew well. My body still remembers. I remember, too, through all these decades, the aftermath of rain in rural Tasmania: the particular pervasiveness of water dripping from leaves long after the deluge ceased. In this present downpour, everywhere floods – the whole coast, even that island. Here, in the warmer sub-tropics, in the small town where I live now, only the section near the river goes under. Up on my hill, just out of town, I barricade myself inside my cosy house and wait it out.

after the rain
one slow, constant drip –
heavy footsteps














Written for Haibun Monday: 50 Shades of Rain, at dVerse. (I realise belatedly that I was supposed to use the Japanese word for intense rain, shinotsukuame, as my title – but I've constructed this around using the English phrase, so it will have to stay.)

20 June 2016

Anti-Social Networking

She flung hard words at me
like stones – in a public forum.
(Could have been worse. Virtual
reality won't break my bones.)

I knew they were fired 
from a slingshot of rage
looking for the nearest target.
It just happened 
that I'd placed myself
in that general direction.

'I'm not playing in your yard
any more,' she yelled,
or words to that effect.

I stated the facts –
which were also points of logic –
calmly, once, then told her
she was free to leave;
no-one would stop her.

Witnesses remarked
on my gift for diplomacy, 
praised me: 'She was upset.
You let her be heard.'

Later, looking back
on what I'd said,
I was proud to discern
that I had delivered 
a perfectly polite,
unassailable, 
'Fuck you!'

Full Moon Night

No ritual –
black sky and pelting rain.
Still I’m woken at 2am.
All is quiet. The sky
is a little light.

I put on shoes and go outside.
Even my cat won’t venture
out into this inhospitable dark –
she who is named
for the Moon Goddess.

She stands inside the door
and waits. I find no break
in the clouds, no sight
of the moon’s round shape,
no trace. Only,

over behind the palms,
the slightest whitening.
It is enough.
I feel the connection
and breathe deep.


Linked to Poets United's Poetry Pantry #312


19 June 2016

The Sisters, Death and Night

Those
sisters,
Death and Night,
aren't really twins –
though people assume
they mirror each other.
Both can be sweet or bitter,
soft, or impenetrably dense.
But Night always dresses in darkness.
Death – do notice! – is enfolded in light.


Written for the Sunday Mini-Challenge at 'imaginary garden with real toads', for a poem of 10 lines maximum. The subject of the title, suggested as optional, caught my imagination.

Rapunzel Revisited

Part I

Night's my time; it's always been.
In that stillness, all alone,
I find the thoughts that are my own –
not those another mind has given.
Mine is the deep and silent hour.

My parents gave me into care
of another, cruel 'mother'.
We have no blood nor love to share.
She closed me in this Tower.

In the daylight I can see
from my window every tree,
the orchards fruiting merrily
but never to be plucked by me,
the lonely girl with the long gold hair.

I know she does not value me
except as trophy. I can be
her proof of power. And I see
she likes my long gold hair.

She uses them, these long gold locks –
like steps of a ladder, or piled rocks
to climb to my heights. For what she lacks
is her own way to scale the peaks
of thought I reach within this Tower.

She tells me beauty matters, but
my hair's the only claim I've got
to loveliness. 'It won't be cut!'
– my useful, long gold hair.

Part II

As I watched the landscape darken
underneath the moody moon,
I wove from my imagination
ways to travel out, be gone
from the lonely, stony Tower.

And did I let my hair down
for a prince who ventured from the town
and wound my silly heart around
his finger, like my hair?

It's true that I began to long
to join the playful dance and song
I heard so distantly; to throng
with other girls and boys, along
the paths beyond my stone-walled bower.

But it was I who rescued me.
I cut my own locks, breaking free
of her ideas and tyranny.
I left the blighted Tower.

I was not thrown from the window, nor
left out in the wilderness, dirt-poor,
to moan and sigh, and cry some more.
Not I. I marched from the front door,
turned left to town, and breathed the air.

And yes, I met a lovely boy
who fills my heart with lasting joy.
For he is blind, I'm glad to say
to my lack of long gold hair.



(The form is based on Tennyson's 'The Lady of Shalott', whose circumstances were similar.)

Linked to the Tuesday Platform for 20 Dec. 2016, at 'imaginary garden with real toads'.

17 June 2016

I Dream

I dream of a great wind
swelling up from the depths of the earth –
to sweep through all countries, all peoples, 
rushing and cleansing,
blowing away war and hatred
the ubiquitous guns
ignorance and prejudice
selfishness and greed,
expelling with the force of a hundred hurricanes
all the ridiculous games of destruction
we invent and perpetrate,
all the hideous follies we create
in our diseased minds
and teach to our children 
so that these evils
go on and on and proliferate ... 
but this is a dream,
which fades to a slow twilight
in which there is no renewing fury,
no windstorm of pure intense breath
carrying all such horrors before it
into annihilation, leaving a green space
for peaceful, lovely regeneration,
a new unfolding of the world
as it was, once upon a time, 
or could be ... I dream
of a mighty wind.

Written in response to Poets United's Midweek Motif: Wind Power