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

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Millet Cutters.

First light streaks pastel pink.
Mist floats on the river.
Cattle stand quietly
under bamboo clumps.
A willy wagtail flicks and fidgets
on a strand of barbed-wire.
Millet grows in neat rows,
tall and straight, ready for harvest.
Five men gather around their utes,
cane cutters in the off-season.

Laughter. Hard men,
status wrought from endurance.
In the early light we move 
backwards through the rows,
then the glint of sharp knives,
chug of tractor, the trailer filling,
sweat, heat, smoko, hot black tea,
colour in the western sky,
and the tired, slow walk at day’s end.

Those men are long gone.
Time took their bodies
and machines their work,
but I see the fields in harvest,
the quiet men gathered
at the long day’s end,
Bull Williams, needing to be fastest,
Carusi with his broken English
dreaming of his own farm
and gentle, generous Mike,
who’d fought at Milne Bay,
now backlit by the fading light
as he moves through the rows
with long, easy strides
towards his waiting ute.

First published at Silver Birch Press.

Sunday, 14 May 2017



(For my sister, Jean)

             First published at Peacock Journal.

I think of you, Leah,
your young self standing 
against tempests in calm control,
your artist eye filled with dreams
of children in golden forests,
sun dance of poppies,
moon floating high
into the velvet night,
foam ripple of waves 
washing white sand.

I think of you, Leah,
leaf-fragile, partial, secretive,
how you inch in your walker, 
flop in front of the screen’s 
mind-numbing monotony,
dream of painting again,
linger over photographs,
shuffle the years 
and that deceiver, memory,
into forms that make you happy.

Leah, is it comfort
that the gathering tide 
flowed over you, swept you 
out into the deep calm 
where the great swells gather,
far beyond the tears of the living
trapped in this tumult,
this ebb and flow of waves 
that pound upon the sand
and suck back relentlessly
into the ceaseless sea?