Cave Dweller

Cave Dweller

Light frightens her, it seems.
It must be that –
how she cowers and shrieks
when exposed to illumination.
What else
could so dispose her
then to attack?

I don’t know, even so,
if what she hates and fears
is what she sees outside
when the light
shines to reveal ...
or the thought
of herself being seen.

Either way,
she‘d stay in darkness
rather than face the bright.
I have no energy left
to rescue the reluctant,
nor even leave a sign.
I merely fend her off.

The bold roses
and shining leaves,
the trees against the sky –
and the sky! –
think how much she misses.
But, formed by lowered lids,
clouds are in her eyes.

Shared at Rommy’s ‘Weekly Scribblings: New Tricks’ at Poets and Storytellers United 


After All ...

After All …

Will you come after all

with sweeping waves,
and cover the last scrap of land?

Will you form mountains 
towering, falling … to then
flatten and smooth over all?

(As if nothing but sea
had ever been; no land ever, 
nothing at all.)

The land, I believe,
will be tired then,
burnt so empty dry.

Empty of animals,
plants, insects, birds.…
Long gone, people to grieve.

Their cities will stand or fall,
it won’t matter. Only you, Ocean,
I think will still live.

Written for Sanaa's 'Weekly Scribblings #3: Salt-water poems' at Poets and Storytellers United.

The photo is my own.

Note: To some views the text of this post looks weird. (Too far from pic, and/or containing strange symbols.) I’m away from home with limited internet access at present, and haven’t been able to fix it using my tablet. I crave your indulgence!

The Year Ahead

The Year Ahead

It’s the World card, she said. It must be that situation that came up in the previous reading. Remember, this turned up there too, with a message of completion and new beginnings.

No, I said, with a flash of insight. Here it refers to the state of the world. The fires. The people in power consistently not acting. Time running out.

I am in despair, I said. 

She knew I had never been of that mind before.

She pointed to The Star: the card of new energy, of hope. To the Four of Swords: time out, rest. And lastly to the Knight of Cups: raising his chalice as if in a toast, saluting the past with a last look over his shoulder, but riding forwards.

She said, I’m not big on that thing of a word for the year, but I want you to find a word for this year: Strength. She indicated the Strength card in my reading.

Keep saying it to yourself, she told me. And find small things to still love about the world. Write of them; save others from despair. 

halting the fires
rain and storm create flood –
‘Strength!’ I repeat.


I'm sharing this in Writers' Pantry #3 at Poets and Storytellers United, and at earthweal's open link weekend #3.


Lasseter’s Reef

For the latest Weekly Scribblings at Poets and Storytellers United, Rommy invites us to write of a mythical time or place. Here is my take on a particular Australian place.

Lasseter’s Reef

Lasseter’s Reef was never found again, that great vein of gold he said he discovered when he was young, out in that stretch of desert somewhere between the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Or was it, after all, around the big rocks of Uluru and Kata Tjuta? It was such a long time before anyone searched, though he tried and tried to persuade them. There was easier gold to be found at Kalgoorlie.

But eventually that was all gone. Then at last they listened to Lasseter’s tale. Then they mounted an expedition. Fruitless. He was disbelieved. Once more the long years passed.

By the time they searched again, Lassiter was old, frail, morose. Yet he must have been telling the truth. He accompanied the searchers on both expeditions, trying to guide them to the place. He gave every sign of believing his own story. Others decided it was all lies.

They left the search, left him to go on alone. He did go on, determined to find his lost reef. A nomadic aboriginal tribe found him wandering, and helped him for a time; but he died in the desert, alone and emaciated, leaving his diary notes. He spent all his life from the age of 17 telling the story, trying to get people to take it seriously.

One archaeologist said the stones in that area, near where he died, were the kind that could indicate gold. Another disagreed. How could either be sure? No-one has ever seen a map of Lasseter’s Reef. No-one has ever found its location. Many have tried.

The story passed into legend. Some say Lasseter’s Reef is a myth.

I think of that stubborn old man with his lifelong obsession. How much happier might he have been if he’d been able to let go of the dream of enormous wealth? If he’d stopped chasing it through time and the desert and the disbelief?


 NOTE: in actual fact, he seems to have lived a full and interesting life despite his sad end, as Wikipedia reveals:


Red for Danger

Red for Danger

Darkness lit by a red
more sinister than blood.

The sky a shriek of red,
trees and creatures dead.

The pungent smell of red
chokes throat and nostrils hard.

The new death-colour: red.
(Black comes afterward.)

Written for  Sanaa's Weekly Scribblings #1 at Poets and Storytellers United
and also linked to Brendan's earthweal Weekly Challenge: Fire.




For my mother

Tasmania was mine, mmm, I loved it.  The many colours, many landscapes, the movement of the seasons.  The deep blue mountains, the bright meandering streams.  Silver and golden streams, water and sunlight.  Sunlight streaming on my wide back lawn, which spread like a meadow.  Shimmering grass and shimmering sky.  Fresh springtime mornings, their frosts diminishing, becoming dew.  Summer full of bees, their peaceful hum.  Me on my own, mooning through summer days, meandering round my meadow, humming too.

Winter mists hiding the valleys, climbing the hills, almost veiling the mountains, draping my  familiar town in mystery, magic.  Then melting gradually, by midday gone, the gleaming town new-minted.

Murky rain, black mud; myself muffled in overcoat, cap and mittens.  Gumboots to mid-calf.  Squelch, squelch, I am the master of all this mud!  Hurrying home to the warm, the welcoming  mother.  Tomato soup beside the fire.  My clothes hugging me warm: soft socks and cosy jumper.  Hugging myself with my happy arms.

The taste of tomato soup and mushy brown bread.  The taste of comfort, home.  The flavour of a warm room, safe from the frosts and marauding storms. Summer tastes were fruit – gooseberries, raspberries, nectarines, damson plums...  The purplest of plums, dark purple, thick with juice.  Messy all over my cheeks, staining my hair, covering my  hands to the wrists.  My rich purple lips, my inky tongue.  Mum amazed, aghast at so much mess.  Oh miraculous messy damson plums!  Welcome back to my memory, dreamtime summer fruit.

My summer stretched to encompass all the autumn.  Mellow harvest moons, huge and golden, mimicked the sun.  The sky smiled, the cosmos smiled on me.

'Come home!' the island calls me now.  'You are my child.  Come home, come back, you are mine.' 

First draft written 1987; final version 1990.
Published in
Secret Leopard (Paris, Alyscamps Press 2005) 

An old poem for the new Writers' Pantry #1 at Poets and Storytellers United. It seems particularly fitting, as we now include prose or poetry – and this is a prose-poem.

Although the Pantry isn't prompted, i.e. we can write on any topic, this time its host, Magaly, touched on what constitutes home and I was reminded of this piece about my childhood home. Like the rest of Australia, it's burning, so I recall all the more poignantly what it was to me.



My reading of the poem: 



It’s a different kind of fiddling while the world burns,
writing poems in the teeth of devouring flames –
not that we don’t care, but that we do. Not, any longer,
that we think fire is beautiful (we know it’s monstrous)
but because, Heaven help us, we still dare to imagine
that poetry might save the world – though it never did,
it only lamented. Or cried defiance. Or raged. Sometimes
it attempted comfort; more often catharsis. But I’m afraid
our words never changed anything: money remains powerone 
slave trade stopped, but there are still (right now!) slaves; peace 
never lasts for long. And so on. Whatever makes us think
anyone is listening to this? How can we possibly suppose
that in times to come our words will be read, understood,
valued? Can we believe there will be any times to come,
for any kind of life form that could read a written language?

And yet I am here, writing, whether or not. Because poetry
has my soul. I always said, ‘Come the apocalypse, I’ll go out
scratching one last poem in the dirt with the nearest stick.’
This is a different kind of apocalypse. Those of us who live
(while we do) surrounded by fires that make Hell seem tame
go about our day-to-day business with very little complaint –
though many tears and huge anger. We simply feel that doom
is reality. Much too much evidence, now, to doubt. Some pray,
but Heaven’s no help – unless to help us enter it by death.
Those of us who still have lives, and homes to live them in,
celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We eat, drink
and make merry. What else should we do? Those who can
are out fighting the fires; those who must are fleeing or dying.
We try not to think too hard about all the lost trees and animals....
We might as well make poems. There’s nothing else we can do.

Written for Brendan's new earthweal site, dedicated to poetry on the climate crisis.

I am also sharing the video as part of a discussion on Video Poetry in my Wild Fridays series at Poets and Storytellers United.

I've made a slight rewrite to a couple of the lines you read here, for the sake of clarity; the video version is earlier.


Coming Across Her Unexpectedly

Coming Across Her Unexpectedly

A cloud of white hair
surrounds her smiling face.
She’s in a garden,
leaning on a big wooden plant box
under a bushy hibiscus
flowering in soft purple.
What is she looking
so very pleased about?
Life in general? The sunny day?
Or the person holding the camera?

I’m looking at my Aunty Kate
(Kathleen) – a favourite aunt

deceased two decades now
but I know that face:
the family nose, the way
the happy grin plumps out the cheeks.
Instantly familiar, too,
how she holds her solid body
square to the viewer,
uncompromising even when relaxed.

Typical Katy, to look so delighted –
whether at the garden, the day,
the photographer, or life itself.
She didn’t enjoy her ageing though,
after she got so ill. (I’m luckier there.)
I’d rather remember her kindness,
her practical wisdom, the love of poetry
we shared. (She left me her poetry books.
Single and childless, she treasured
all her nieces and nephews individually.)

Unlike her, though, surely,
to wear her glasses in a photo?
(Whereas I wear mine all the time.)
And that pendant, a silver dragon:
incongruous choice, I must say,
for such a quiet dresser – let alone 

the purple and yellow tie-dye. 
So, after all, not in every respect
the dear aunty I knew. (I do know
it’s my son I’m smiling at in this photo.)

Written for the final (sob) prompt, Play It Again, at 'imaginary garden with real toads', specifically for Kim's Portraiture prompt.