Sunday, 7 January 2018

Honour.

Honour.

Looking at you in that photo
you seem so happy.
You smile your charming smile,
your image in black and white
for your young wife and child
on the other side of the world,
even though in the background 
are the propellers of the war-machine
in which you set out into danger
night after freezing night,
flying over the cold North Sea
or down into the Bay of Biscay.

Looking at you in that photo
I think of the complexity of love,
the chasm between reality and desire,
the razor wire entanglement denying
our bright anticipation for the future.
What did your future bring? 
Shrunken lungs, a cocktail of pills, rage 
and a terrible, conflicted love for your second son, 
the one who could only bend for a little while 
before he refused to be like you
and fought against your need to control.

Looking at you in that photo
I am filled with tender sadness.
Scabs disappear, wounds heal,
time brings changed perspective.
I now know that there is nothing
other than love and forgiveness.
Compassion replaces tears and defiance.
You gave me life and held me in your arms
but I have never walked in your shoes.
I never went to war, never suffered from chronic illness,
never was gripped by something darkly horrible
that held tight and would not let go.

Now, looking at you in that photo, 
somehow, miraculously, 
from the bombed rubble of the past
a younger, happier man emerges.
Is this your true self,
the person you always wanted to be?
What I see is a good young man standing
in front of a Wellington bomber,
trapped in a global nightmare,
far from from home and family,
making a huge sacrifice,
true to the values he holds,
a lovely young man whose smile, 
in the midst of daily danger and death,
is now forever fixed in hope.

I have always loved you
and I have wept for you.
Now, finally, I give you honour.

First published in Verse-Virtual.







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

beauty


beauty

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