This is a page for posting snippets of whatever I have been working on. So sometimes it will be a poem, sometimes a bit of a short story, sometimes general fiction, sometimes an extract from an article. (And, no doubt, sometimes a blank – I get writers’ block just like everybody else.)
This is the poem published in the Ginninderra Press anthology ‘I Protest’
SHAME THE DEVIL
Truth lies buried at the bottom of a mine.
naked, alone, and well and truly fracked.
She was abused by power, hidden and ignored.
Fact has lost ground to fiction and pretence,
history battles myth, and science falls,
all drowning in a rising tide of lies.
Knowledge is trumped by ignorant belief,
the only voices hailed as genuine
those of delusion or malevolence.
The devil plays truth, dare or promise,
always opts for promises, never keeps them,
meets straight questions with a crooked answer.
The only way to liberate the truth
is to dig deep into her hiding places,
and rescue her so she can set us free.
This is the poem that was published in the Ginninderra Press ‘Mountain Secrets’ anthology. Tai Shan is a sacred mountain in China. We visited it in 2014 on a concert tour of China by the Melbourne Bach Choir.
The spiritual way starts in darkness,
the climb timed to reach the summit
before the sun breaches the horizon
to shine on roofs of shrine and temple,
catch a flickering of scarlet prayer flags,
slowly reveal ancient sacred cypresses.
The tourist way is by guide-book
minibus and cable-car, or meandering
past teahouses and trinket-vendors,
making use of frequent selfie-stops,
excuses to ease the muscle pains
from thousands of granite steps.
Many emperors took this path
past the Midway Gate to Heaven
and the Shrine of the Blue Dawn,
through the South Heaven Gate
to the temple at Jade Emperor Peak
for sacrifices and ceremonies.
Confucius once came here
from his nearby home town of Lu
to gaze at the vistas and cloudscapes
before saying, ‘the world is small’.
Mao also climbed to the summit.
What he thought is not recorded.
I’m only 6 months late with my updating this time, so perhaps I’m winning! This is one of the poems in the ‘Cast of Supporting Characters’ book.
[Waiting for Godot] has achieved a theoretical impossibility—a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps audiences glued to their seats. What’s more, since the second act is a subtly different reprise of the first, he [Samuel Beckett] has written a play in which nothing happens, twice.
Vivian Mercier, theatre critic for The Dublin Times.
They must know I’m a very busy man.
It is not reasonable to suppose
that I can make a visit to the site
except in circumstances of great weight
and even then I must be circumspect.
They’ll have to take their chances where they are,
whatever threatening characters they meet.
I can’t be held responsible at all.
The boy has told me nothing happened, twice,
but I need everything in triplicate.
In any case, I know they do not have
all of the necessary paperwork.
For lack of information, I can give
no further resolution in this case.
Another year has flown by, with more readings, competition successes and publications, and I’m now working on a new set of poems for the Ginninderra Press Pocket Poets series. As last year, 2018 has seen me shamefully neglect this page of the website, but here I am again. This is the poem that’s been chosen for the 2018 Poetica Christi anthology.
I thought I was supposed to be
your special place, so what kept you?
You should have been here at dawn
to watch the slow sun sneaking up behind me
laying its longest shadows at my feet
in homage to the blushing of the sand.
You’re here now, and the shadows are receding,
the light, no longer pink, still soft and welcoming,
my caressing sand cool between your toes.
Later there will be heat and glare and people,
footprints and voices and children’s laughter,
but for now there is just you, and gentle birdsong.
You will not stay for the flaming of the day,
or the sultry evening when lovers watch the sunset,
perhaps the memories are too painful.
You visit me early and alone, seeking solace.
I offer you stillness and seclusion
and a prospect of the boundless sea.
Inspired by the painting: Dune Shadows, by John Whitelaw
A copy of the painting can be seen at the art gallery website
(search under ‘seascapes’ or the artist’s name.)
The trouble with having a page called ‘Extract of the Month’ is that it often becomes ‘Extract of the Year’. I’ve had a busy year with lots of editing and performing, and updating a blog has slipped down the list of priorities. Just to show I’m still around – this was published recently in ‘The Mozzie’ magazine, and will be in my next collection, ‘Lines Waving’.
Occasionally, when I have a fit
I try to balance on one leg
and bend the other knee.
It seldom comes to any good.
Hard to believe it now,
but once there was a time
I did not have to sit down
to put my trousers on.
This poem was published in the Poetica Christi anthology ‘Imagine’.
I begin as a blank, a faceless mannikin
wandering the universe between the stars.
Gradually, I accumulate a skin
of exotic decorations.
Some of my shards are dark and sparkly,
cut out of the night sky with diamond scissors,
others are solid terra-cotta
forged in the red fires of a dying sun;
some are black jet, or creamy pearl,
or water-opal, shimmering
with blue and green and purple
out of the shadows of the deepest pools
within primeval forests now extinct.
Civilisations long gone into dust
provide me with my gold and precious stones,
enamel, glass and silver filigree.
Over the centuries the patterns slide and spread
across my surfaces, shifting and flitting,
fitting themselves together
to define my shape.
From a man of scraps and shadows
I am become a thing of jewelled beauty,
Once I have found a planet with the crystals
that will make my eyes,
then I can begin
the search for you.
Just so that it doesn’t get to a whole year since I last posted any work on here, here’s a limerick to be going on with. It relates to the island of Herm in the Channel Islands, where we were on holiday last month.
There was a young lady from Herm
Who got cold and succumbed to a germ.
Her snuffles and sneezes
Created such breezes
It totally ruined her perm.
Has it really been that long since I put anything on here? Doesn’t time fly when you’re busy! But I have to admit I’m also getting a bit wary about putting too much of my work online, especially new work, because I’ve had poems pinched and performed without my knowledge or permission. I’m delighted and flattered that people like my work and enjoy performing it – but it’s still piracy! Anyway, here’s a poem that’s already been published twice. ‘The Mozzie’ magazine put out a call for long thin poems to help fill the space on their pages. This poem was accepted, and then got chosen for re-publication in the New Zealand magazine ‘Valley Micropress’.
is easy, too,
You have to be
to do listening.
The Poetica Christi Press poetry anthology ‘A Lightness of Being’ was launched on Sunday June 22nd. I had two poems in this anthology – here’s one of them.
THE GOLDILOCKS MOMENT
How thoughtful of the planet to have settled
into the perfect orbit round the sun,
not too close
not too far away
but just right;
and then, on top of that, to tilt itself
upon its axis at the perfect angle,
not too shallow
not too steep
but just right;
also, to influence its mate, the moon,
to regulate the ebbing of the tide,
not too high
not too low
but just right;
then, as I paddle at the water’s edge,
to choose the perfect time of afternoon,
not too early
not too late
but just right
to let the Autumn sunlight
in the Southern Hemisphere
strike on a piece of polished flotsam glass
and make it shine and sparkle
just for me.
This is the story that was highly commended in the Peter Cowan 600 Award, for a short story of up to 600 words.
WORDS AND MUSIC
There were no words left to say to each other. Through the long drowsy warmth of a late spring afternoon they’d sat together in the car, looking out over the lake and talking. There had been laughter and tears, and some silences for thought and remembering, but mostly there had been the soft murmur of talking; her voice frail and sometimes choked with pain, his stronger but infinitely gentle. As the sun began to sink towards evening their voices had gradually stilled, and now they sat in silence, her head on his shoulder and his fingers encircling hers.
The surface of the lake turned from silver to gold as the sun slid towards the horizon, and the roof of the small holiday chalet on the far shore glowed as it caught the rays slanting through a gap in the trees. A reflection in the windows briefly echoed the golden days of light and laughter and music from their past; magical days in this magical place, when they’d both been young and strong and thought that nothing could ever come between them.
He gently kissed her forehead, then leaned forward to turn the key in the ignition and turn on the music. Though they’d agreed instantly about the place, they’d almost quarrelled over the music. She’d wanted Mozart; he’d favoured Frank Sinatra. Then they had remembered one of the songs they’d danced to after their wedding, and the choice had made itself.
Over the background purr of the engine, as the leading edge of the sun kissed the water of the lake, came the sound of their steady breathing, and the voice of Ella Fitzgerald.
Every time we say goodbye, I die a little.
By the time the sun had sunk beneath the water and the sky had turned pink, there was only the music.
A quick post to get me started again after a long gap – the trouble with blogs is that life gets too busy to spend time updating pages. This is one of the poems that I’ve had published so far this year. This one appeared in ‘The Mozzie’.
The anaesthetic didn’t take effect.
Helpless beneath the scalpel of betrayal
I lie spread on the table of your hate
and feel the agony of every vicious cut
as expertly you slice into my heart
leaving it shredded into neat sashimi.
I’m frozen in astonishment and pain
my eyes wide open in a silent scream.
Updating this blog has suffered lately – my husband has had surgery to remove a kidney, followed by complications sending him back into hospital, so choosing extracts for this page hasn’t exactly been high on my priority list. But he’s well on the road to recovery now, and I’ve had some successes with publications and competitions recently.
My poem ‘The Passionate Geriatric to His Love’ is well and truly out there in the public domain now – as well as being in my collection ‘Lines Dancing’, it’s now been published in ‘Pearl’ magazine, and is proving one of the most popular pieces in my performance repertoire, so perhaps it’s time it made an appearance here.
THE PASSIONATE GERIATRIC TO HIS LOVE
with apologies to Christopher Marlowe, whose first line it is, and to John Donne, Cecil Day Lewis and Ogden Nash, who all pinched it before I did.
Come live with me and be my love
And I will thank the Gods above
For sending you to cuddle me
And sit on my arthritic knee.
I’ll lay my pension at your feet
Buy violets every time we meet,
And take you travelling everywhere
With Seniors discounts on our fare.
Move into my retirement flat
And on my hatstand hang your hat,
Just leave your Zimmer in my hall
And I will catch you if you fall.
We’ll tango, sensuous and slow,
To music from the radio.
Forget about your dodgy hips
And pucker up your ancient lips.
I’ll turn my batteries up to hear
You mumble softly in my ear,
And then my cardigan I’ll doff
And help you take your corsets off.
Come park your slippers on my rug
I’ll bring you Horlicks in a mug
And you can rest your snow-white head
Upon my orthopaedic bed.
Passion is not confined to youth,
On bed-side table see the truth
To show the world what’s come to pass –
Two sets of dentures in one glass!
These have been performance months rather than new writing months. And, to be honest, gardening months too – even writers have to get out there and keep the weeds at bay. So nothing to post here but updates: The Graffiti story is now finished and I’m working on two others. There are poems in the pipeline too, but at the stage of putting away in a drawer to come back to with fresh eyes later.
June was ekphrasis month – the posh word for poetry that describes or relates to other artworks. I was involved in an event that paired poets with fashion designers, painters, photographers and sculptures. I worked with an abstract painter, a photographer who took black-and-white images of village kids in Papua New Guinea, and a fashion designer. This is one of my fashion poems.
You gotta have pizzazz,
a bit of razzamatazz
and all that jazz;
you gotta have a fling
and do your own thing
with a barrow-load of bling
to make your heart sing
as your hips swing
you gotta have glitter
to be a big hitter;
you gotta be bold
with the splash of gold
to have and to hold
so you never grow old.
It’s in the roll of the hips
the pout of the lips
the tucks and nips
velcro and zips;
the strut and the glide
the swoop and slide
of the fast stride,
and the slow burn
of the full turn.
You gotta be flash
and cut a dash
to make a big splash;
you gotta burst through the gloom
with a sonic boom
you gotta shine your leathers
and swish those feathers
in all weathers;
you gotta strut your stuff
even in the buff
’cos you can never have enough
Absolutely no new poems this month, though I’m working intermittently on improving some of the ones from April. May is turning into short story plotting month, so here’s a bit of the notes so far on one of them.
First scene – a tour of graffiti laneways in Melbourne. Includes description of the graffiti, and some dialogue from tour guide and tourists. They take lots of photos, including of one particularly impressive large abstract design that hints at a vague animal shape. After the group has moved on to the next venue, the design glows slightly, as if it gained energy from the photo flashes.
Later, after dark, a lad in a hoodie is working on a new design close to the one photographed. He looks up from his own work to notice a gap on the wall that wasn’t there when he started. Something attacks him from behind. Afterwards, there’s no sign of the lad but the gap has gone. The abstract design pulsates and becomes slightly bigger, with the shape more defined.
Next scene – two lads hoping to work together on a complicated design. They’re going along the laneway to reach another site, because they’re not expecting to find enough room in this one, but are surprised to find quite a big empty space. They’re so absorbed in their work that they don’t notice the sound behind them until too late…
(NOTE – each time an artist is pounced on, the design grows bigger and has absorbed the colours they were working with.)
Yes, I do know how it continues, and how it ends, but I’m not giving it all away here! I’m waiting to start writing it fully until after I’ve gone on a tour of Melbourne’s graffiti.
Some of the poems I’ve written in April are here, for NaPoWriMo, so it will have to be a different one for ‘extract of the month’. This is one of the ones I wrote at the end of March, so it counts as an example of what I’ve been working on – not exactly finished, but it’s been tinkered with enough to make it more than a draft.
No need to worry when the fuel runs out,
it’s easy to replace – just make some more.
Take seeds and sunlight, water and deep swamps,
and plant a million forest ferns and trees,
allow to grow for several thousand years
until they wither, die and decompose,
then cover them with silt and sand and rock,
apply enormous pressure, fix with heat,
and all that’s left to do is sit and wait.
About a hundred million years will do,
but several hundred million would be better
to give you anthracite for furnaces.
You say you don’t think you can wait that long?
That really shows a most impatient nature.
You’d better get your act together, then,
and find alternatives to coal and oil
before the power cuts begin to bite,
for that will switch off all your little toys
and even Twitter will not save your life.
This month I’m in crime-writing mode, so here’s a bit of the crime novel I wrote some time ago and am currently rewriting. It’s set in the Channel Islands in the 1980’s, and this is part of Chapter 15 so there’s been one dead body already. This comes at the end of a bird-watching boat trip.
Robbie went forward to the bow-rail as the boat rounded the next rocky outcrop, and lifted his binoculars to his eyes. The mist had retreated again, but still swirled sulkily around the shore-line, parting briefly to reveal the rock formations at the foot of the cliff base and then closing them off from sight again. He swept his binoculars over the rocks and the water around them, hoping for a glimpse of a puffin. He knew it was a forlorn hope, although this bay was the home of the main puffin colony: it was too late in the season. By the time the summer term was over each year most of the puffins had already left, and this year he was a week later than usual because of the scout camp. The best he could hope to see was the odd straggler, perhaps one of this season’s young birds that hadn’t managed to leave with the others.
He kept sweeping the surface of the water, hoping to catch a glimpse of the distinctive red and yellow beak of a puffin bobbing in the waves, but the mist came swirling in again and he lowered the binoculars in exasperation. At the very moment that he did, his eye caught a movement of red in the water close to the edge of the rocks along the shoreline. He raised the binoculars again and tried to home in on the spot, but the edges of the mist shifted and billowed and made it difficult to judge the position of anything in the water. Then all at once he had it, and he sharpened the focus until he could see what it was: not a red beak at all, but a floating crimson ribbon. He frowned as he tried to remember where he had seen a ribbon like it recently, and then the sun stabbed through the clouds overhead, the mist rolled back like a curtain from the rocks it had been hiding, and he didn’t have to wonder any more.
Abigail’s coat had fallen open, and her crimson silk shirt had ripped on the sharp edges of the rocks; the delicate material floated and swirled as the waves tugged at it where her crumpled body lay half in, half out of the water at the foot of the cliffs.
Robbie had never been sea-sick in his life, but now, hearing the fog-horn still booming and remembering the terrible wail he’d heard last night and its abrupt end, he dropped the binoculars, hung over the rail of the boat and retched until his face was a deathly white and his knees turned to jelly.