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

Metastasis.

Metastasis.

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

Leah.


Leah.

(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?








Evening.

Evening

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.

Bella.


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

Sammy.

Sammy.

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

Labyrinth.

Labyrinth.

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

Advertisement.




Advertisement.

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 whispersinthewind333.blogspot.com

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
thick
impenetrable

hiding
the mountain
the trees
and paths

and we huddle together
groping
despairing
longing for light

remembering
the clarity of the sun

yearning
for a glimpse
of the distant mountain's
foothills

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.

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


Go forth.
Exploit, exploit, exploit.

Huck.

Huck.

(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.

Rottnest Island.

Rottnest Island.

(Published at Praxis online)

The wind blows across the dunes,
low trees and shallow lakes.
It doesn't weep or cry aloud
but it should.

The swells roll across the sea,
curl in foam then slap on the white sand.
They have neither words nor tears
but they should.

The luxury boats bob at their moorings,
and the restaurants stare out to sea.
They do not weep or cry aloud
but they should.

Should they not weep for the 369
indigenous men and boys
perished from disease, malnourishment
or the cruel violence of guards?

Should they not weep for the 3700
indigenous men and boys
cramped in fetid cells now converted
to luxury accommodation?

Should they not weep for men
ripped from the Karri forests of the south,
or the red soil of the north
and imprisoned on this low island?

Should they not weep
for these soft eyed men
with their bleak and hollow stares
and for all the horror of humanity's history?

But always the wind blows across the dunes
and still the waves slap on the white sand.
They have neither tears to weep nor words to lament
but surely they should.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Mother



Mother

(For my mother, Brenda Lynette Creighton, 1919-2014, and first published in Verse-Virtual)

I watch the rise and fall of her chest,
listen intently for her breath,
part fearful, part hopeful,
waiting for death to come,
knowing that life can be lived for far too long.
Where is she now?
With her much-loved mother?
Smelling the rich warmth of the milking shed?
Seeing her brothers walking across the near paddock?
Let her be anywhere but this
diminished and difficult present
where vitality is gone,
and each day she seems to fade a little more.

She wakes.
There is a little smile,
as if sweetness cannot be washed away,
no, not even by the relentless grip
that sweeps her inexorably along.
Suddenly, seeing that smile,
I think of what she was,
how she walked through this world
​in quiet anonymity, a creative spirit,
deeply gentle, calm and self-controlled,
flexible, open and inquisitive,
her heart tempered in love,

and bending to kiss her, perhaps for the final time,
walking from that place,
past the repetitive muttering
of the vacant ghosts in their wheel chairs,
this sad, last abiding place,
my heart is strangely swelling
with a sense of privilege and gift;
yes, sad that life can come to this
but proud and elated to have known her,
been nurtured and loved by her,
marvelling that my anonymous life
can be so rich, so full of blessing,
so beautifully filled in its entirety
with the wonderful love of women,
and raising my eyes heavenwards
in silent, sad, complex thankfulness
I ask that I can carry her gentleness with me,
passing it on to those that I love,
yes, setting free her unknown greatness
to ripple and wash through and over
the countless generations yet to come.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

I am, we are

Here is a link to my poem, "I am, we are", published at Praxis Mag Online.

https://www.facebook.com/neil.creighton.3/posts/1386658841344390

Friday, 6 January 2017

Joy Bevan.

Joy.

(A response to a Silver Birch Prompt-"Me, at 17")

At seventeen I met Joy Bevan,
her voice so soft and low,
her mind entirely beautiful.
her gentle inner glow.

At seventeen she was my guide
through the realms of gold.
With a kindly, skilful, gentle hand
she let those realms unfold.

At seventeen she showed me treasure
beyond all place and time,
deep, powerful, beautiful and sad,
a complex journey of the mind.

At seventeen she helped me love
a landscape littered with jewels,
said the journey and not its end
should be your lifelong rule.

At seventeen I gave poor thanks
for her gifts and dedication.
Now, too late, I sing her praise
In sad, posthumous recognition.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Conversations with my hat.

Conversations with my Hat.

(A Silver Birch Press prompt-"Me, in a Hat)

When I'm off adventuring
first thing I throw in my pack is my hat.
Great for shade. Foreign legion style.
We've seen some great places together
and that hat has taught me a thing or two.

We're hiking in New Zealand,
Queen Charlotte Sound, Ship's Cove.
My hat says, "You know Captain Cook was here."

"Was he?" I say.

"Yep. Repairs to his ship.
Two of his men got cannibalised
just a little way down there."

"Seriously," I say.
"What did Cook do?"

"He didn't do anything.
Wouldn't let his men do anything either.
So the men caught one of the native dogs,
put it on trial, found it guilty,
and then ate it."

"What. Why?"

"Proxy," says my hat.
"They were satisfied with that."

There's no doubt you can learn
a thing or two from under that hat.

Get some good advice too.
We're hiking the Overland Track,
right along the mountainous spine of Tasmania.
It's blowing a blizzard with vicious horizontal sleet.
"Mate," my hat says, "can you get your beanie out?
It's freezing up here. I'm made for sun."
Sure enough, that hat was right.

Our last adventure together was a long walk,
the Cape to Cape in Western Australia.
After we've finished the eight days,
I'm sitting at the lighthouse cafe, having a coffee,
my hat on the table, and I hear a voice.
"Mate, that was great. Hump-back whales breaching,
wildflowers and birds everywhere,
that towering Karri forest,
beaches and headland, limestone cliffs and caves,
mile after mile of beautiful coastline."

"Yep, sure was," I say. "A privilege."

"The world is so beautiful," says the voice.
"How come you humans don't value it more?"

"Hat," I say, "I've got no idea."