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

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?



places diamonds in the blue-black sky,
clothes the horizon in orange glow,
the sea in silver shimmer
and the distant clouds in purple gown.

Even the houses on the low hills
transform into sparkles of coloured light
and all the land’s imperfections, pock marks and wrinkles
brush clean away by her gentle touch.

First published at Peacock Journal.


She kneels 
amongst the strawberries,
sunshine in her hair.

“I can do it Pa.”
Her little hand takes the plant
and parts the rich earth.

She snuggles in close.
Her arms encircle my neck.
I feel her eyes shine.

Ten thousand thousand
small, miraculous moments 
fill my heart with joy.

First published at Peacock Journal

At Piano

She keeps her sadness hidden,
eyes clear and direct,
mouth curved in a gentle smile,

but when her hands touch the keys,
a new richness seeps 
through her fingers, hangs 

for a trembling moment
in the expectant air,
then disperses into our changed minds.

First published at Peacock Journal.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Desert Ruin

Desert Ruin.

Trees huddle in dry, rocky creek beds.
Beyond the horizon's heat-haze
the distant mirage shimmers
and the Flinders Ranges
rise suddenly in knuckled lumps.

In the stark beauty
of this barren world
a single ruin crumbles,
a doorway and a few walls
all that remain of a dream
that sparkled, sweated,
flickered and died.

Then, beneath the dome
of cloudless blue
or star-littered black,
the flat land shrugged off
the puny human scratches
and returned to its harsh eternity.

First published at The Ekphrastic Review


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

i woke this morning

i woke this morning

to a neutral voice intoning
bombs in marketplaces
and refugees washed upon the shore

to music of breath and skin
dark cascade of pillowed hair
gossamer feather of touch

to dreams of justice
from the vast sea's edge
to beyond the distant shore

to a jacaranda blue day
dancing through the curtain
and kookaburras' chorus of song.

First published at Gnarled Oak



The Indian Pacific from Perth
has arrived on Platform 2.

We poured from the train.
The platform surged with people.
Baggage handlers scurried around.
Grey day. Spiteful rain. Cold wind.

Better check on your dog, son.

My dog was in a dog-cage in the baggage car.
He was eight. I was sixteen.
His puppy self had lain in my arms.
Together we paddled the glittering lake,
he in the front, alert, mouth open, excited.
He loped alongside my bicycle.
He bounded comically through high grass.
He lay at my feet in the evening.
He was my brother and my friend.

There’s a dog loose on the tracks.

I barely heard that announcement 
as I wandered down to the baggage car.
I’d checked on him on each stop.
Now I’d take him to our new home.

I’ve come for my dog.

Jeez, mate, sorry, he’s gone.
We tried to get him out of his cage.
He held back and slipped his collar
and he bolted.

I ran through the crowd, searching the tracks, 
calling and whistling again and again.
No dog loped up happily to lick my hand.

Finally I stopped.
He was gone,
3,400 kilometres from his home,
running in a strange city
full of noise and trams and cars and trains,
increasingly desperate, hungry, alone.

The day was cloudy, cold and wet.
I reached for my sunglasses
to hide my grief, though tears flowed freely.

Sammy, my dear friend,
don’t run too far.
Find someone to take you in.
Let them love you like I do.

In a sad huddle, my family waited.
I walked past them towards the platform steps.
They seemed so very far away.

First published at Silver Birch Press

Sunday, 23 April 2017



Published at Rat’s Ass Review

I linger no longer
in this labyrinth.
Darkness suffocates.
The sulphurous air
stinks of bitterness.
Besides, your locked door
has no key.

I wade the dark river,
my pack heavy.
I shed weights,
slip on rocks,
halt before the last sheer face.

High above, light pools,
casts dappled patterns,
slants in descending columns
through cloud and tree.
Birds arc and flit in the silken air,
the dome gloriously blue,
the night diamond flecked.

I drop my pack.
The leaden thump
echoes through the darkness.
I look upwards, breathe, place one hand 
on the smooth surface
and climb.
The living wait.
With each inching ascent
I feel other hands
reaching down.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017



Published at Guy Farmer’s Social Justice Poetry.

For sale,
Planet Earth,
The Solar System,
Orion Arm,
The Milky Way.

This planet,
filled with abundant life
and suggestion of spirit-force,
is slightly used
but has great potential.

Prospective buyers will notice
some wear at the Poles,
difficulty with the air-conditioning,
considerable habitat loss, 
coral bleaching,
and species extinction
due to short-term thinking
from the dominant species.

Repairable with care and planning,
the site retains much natural beauty.
In particular, the dome 
remains largely untouched,
ethereal blue by day,
stained-glass beauty 
morning and evening, 
diamond-studded velvet quilt at night.
Other features include 
snow capped mountains,
vast oceans that crash on cliffs
or curl and slap on sand, 
rivers that rush, fall, roar, meander,
and a dazzling array of vegetation
too varied to list.

But hurry.
A myopic beast called “Corporation”,
caring little for plunder and greatly for profit,
is intent on consuming everything in the yard.

All responsible buyers are welcome.
Please organise inter-galactic
visiting rights before inspection.


Thursday, 6 April 2017

Island of Songs.

Island of Songs.

Published at

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

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

The eastern wave always sings
as she washes from her sand
the tracks of 4 wheel drives
that deeply scour the land.

Even though tomorrow
the traffic will resume,
following the tide will sing
her lyrical cleansing tune.

Yes, all day long strange music
ripples or crashes in the sea,
and high in towering treetops
come songs of exquisite beauty. 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Caravaggio and St John the Baptist

Caravaggio’s St John the Baptist

(Published at The Ekphrastic Review. A longer, more narrative form of this poem appeared originally at Verse-Virtual.)

I walk through a darkened crypt
past fading depictions of gospel scenes
and suddenly there it is,
not a prophet from the Judaean wilderness
with fiery, uncompromising words
but a slender youth
rendered in exquisite truthfulness.

He turns from his simple shepherd's task
as if you've suddenly surprised him,
a complex mixture of knowledge,
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 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.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

They Know Not What They Do.

                     (First published at Praxis Online)

Joseph’s brothers threw him down a well
then sold him as a slave,
yet when he held them in his power
he hugged, blessed and forgave.
“I am Joseph, your brother!”
was his heart-felt cry.
What is the torch
to lead you through the dark?
What is the high and sunlit place?
The clear and cloudless sky?
Stalin sat up late at night
marking victim’s names off a list.
Did twenty million people fall
beneath his prideful fist?
“Lest one of them threatens me,
they all must surely die.”
The merry-go-round slowly grinds
with its choice of horses to ride,
cankerous beasts of revenge, resentment,
folly, heartache and murderous pride.
The Pilgrim Fathers fled to a new world
in search of religious liberty.
There they tried and hanged their brethren
for the “crime” of blasphemy.
“Such abomination,” they declared,
“can never be spared.”
The grinding beasts they mounted
and then so loved to ride
surely were ignorance, hypocrisy,
bigotry and murderous pride.
The Nazarene healed, taught and blessed,
freely giving, never counting the cost.
He was betrayed, ridiculed and flogged
and then cruelly nailed to a cross.
“Father, forgive them,” he said,
before he bowed his head and died.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

this fog

this fog

makes us love light

and it descends

the mountain
the trees
and paths

and we huddle together
longing for light

the clarity of the sun

for a glimpse
of the distant mountain's

Accepted by Rats Ass Review for the "Such An Ugly Time" collection.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Monet's Water Lillies, Musée de l'Orangerie

Monet's Water Lilies, Musée de l'Orangerie.

(Published at The Ekphrastic Review)

 The room is hushed.
People sit or stand as they stare,
awed into silence.
What do they see?
Is it water or sky, clouds floating,
a wonder of blue and lilac,
the surreal float of water lilies,
shimmering splashes of green, pink and yellow,
slender green-leafed pendant branches
of exquisite gracefulness,
moments cloudy, hazy, sun-sparkled in a way beyond beauty
or rippled by momentary touch of passing breeze?

Or do they see the master at his work,
sublime, magical, mystical,
representing the beauty of the world,
transcending time,
without beginning and without end,
ever-changing but forever there,
taking this sense of timeless beauty
and transferring it through his mastery
so that all we lesser humans
can glimpse in the small things-
    the shimmering play of colour from light,
    the dance of water and wind,
    the float of colour upon the blueness-
what is eternally there,
if only we had the eyes to see.

Monday, 6 February 2017

I Am, We Are.

I Am.

(Published at Praxis Online)

I am the wind that ripples the water,
the sun rising from the sea,
the dark clouds scudding the sky,
the leaf that falls from the tree,
the womb in which I was woven,
ten million million words that whirl,
my love who shares my body and mind,
the little child's hand enclosed by mine.

I cannot lift my hand against you, my brother,
abuse or oppress you, my sister,
exploit you, my neighbour,
or burden you, my little ones.
We are all the wind that ripples the water,
the curling swell upon the sea,
the clouds that billow, wisp or scud,
the momentary glory in the west
the darkening mystery of the night.

Night Meditations

Night Meditations.

(Published at Praxis Online)

Night has descended, dark and thick,
that surreal time when image and reality merge
and the mind wanders alternately in fear and hope.
Another contemptible man has received
high office and great power.
I hear someone say,
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 hear in those words
patronising condescension,
satisfaction with being in possession
of secrets unknown to other mortals
and into my mind comes a challenging thought,

that if God is in control He is doing terrible job

because I have seen,
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
and a little naked girl, her face contorted in terror,
running along a dusty Vietnamese road.
and saw too the dark history of humanity.

I have also seen wind blowing across the water,
clouds billowing, rain falling,
plants climbing towards light,
forests, meadows and mountains,
the stained-glass wonder of evening,
night's diamond blaze,
the complex unity of it
and again I return to humanity,
gifted, capable of beauty, dreaming great things
but warring, violent, unjust and oppressive too.

I raise my eyes and ask:

What do You think
when You look at the world?
It is scarred with holes.
Its polar caps are melting. Its glaciers shrink.
Its forests burn.
Millions starve while some feast.
The smoke of war rises everywhere.
Are You anguished?
Are You filled with grief and sorrow?
Do You lament and weep for what You see?
Is the world dark because You have given to us
the freedom to choose?

At the Hustings.

At the Hustings.

(Published at Rats Ass)

Citizens, I say to you:

Shed no tears for children caught in war.
There is no money in that.

Think not upon your children's future.
Take your profit here and now.

Ignore questions about neighbours.
Your responsibility is to yourself alone.

Poverty and inequality are always with us.
Your wealth is only yours.

Fools worry about the state of the earth.
I say you cannot bank beauty.

You cannot live on bread alone,
The only real wealth is money.

I set you free.
Accept liberty.
is security,
a mere commodity.
Gather to yourself
beautiful wealth.

Go forth.
Exploit, exploit, exploit.



(Published at Autumn Sky Poetry)

(For Joan Colby in thanks for her poem, "Tom Sawyer")

Yes, it's true, Tom married Becky,
became a lawyer, then a judge,
forgot that vibrant youth,
harrumphed and carved the roast
and settled into opinionated age.

But not you, Huck,
weeping over the dark heart of your fellows,
triumphing in goodness over faulty conscience.

They say you lit out for the Territory
but you have had many guises.
I know you re-appeared in Greenwich Village
in the 1960's with curly long hair,
dreamy eyes and a bag full of songs
about the folly and darkness
of the mighty river of your country.

We need you on your raft again,
writing and singing of all you see.
The King and the Duke are still with us,
lying, cheating, vilely manipulating.
The Shepherdsons and Grangerfords still feud
and the murderous madness of the mob threatens.

Come again, Huck. Re-appear.
We need your truthfulness and your vision.
That at least is a kind of liberty.