Creatrix 49 Poetry

June 2020

Selectors: Peter Jeffery OAM and Flora Smith

Contributors:

Anil

Save the Monkeys

d e barnes

a homeless man

Kaye Brand

The Tumbleweed

Peter Burges

Aerial View
The Call of Bones

Lisa Collyer

how to stay put
Irritable Bowel

Jenny de Garis

Following Fire in the Fitzgerald

Gary Colombo De Piazzi

Ageing
Sunday Bleeding into Monday Screaming

Derek Fenton

TB OR NOT TB

Margaret Ferrell

a space in time

Wendy Fleming

A slight disagreement

Kevin Gillam

his numbers
the hours

Mike Greenacre

Dreamtime Fringe
Postcards from New Orleans

Yael Harris

Pillow talk

Ann Harrison NSC

A COVD Day

Jenifer Hetherington

Rare Sea Fog

Glen Hunting

Re-Education

Jackson

The priority seat
The mammogram machine

Ross Jackson

Floreat, east of the Forum
Talking to the voice

Veronica Lake

Clowns of the Air

Brett Looney

Poem Two

Glad McGough

Open Our Eyes
Taste

Diana Messervy

Ivy’s Way
Learning my Father

Jan Napier

Friendship
Skull

Julian O’Dea

Lambing Time
Qurantine

Virginia O’Keeffe

and to us the earth is given
tell me crow

Allan Padgett

Despite It All
I hate dandruff

Chris Palazzolo

Empire of the Inanimate
Gardening and Semiotics

Joyce Parkes

Aqua, Orange, Grey
Lips, Jaws

Yvonne G Patterson

Reliquaries
Wishing lines

Glen Phillips

Bathing My Father
Social Distancing

Laurie Smith

Once a Mosque

SoulReserve

self-appraisal
algal-bloom
Sydney

Amanda Spooner

Aftermath
Past tense

Rita Tognini

Finale

Rose van Son

Case closed

Jessica Vivien

Reading between my lines

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Save the Monkeys! 

The Weeping Capuchin
of long evolution
might die of pollution.
No time for locution
nor hype diminution
for death’s no solution.

Anil

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a homeless man

along the street he walks
clothes unkempt, threadbare
possessions tied to a lean body
across his shoulder is a long strapped
embroidered bag, colours faded
in the early morning breeze

with the sun just risen
people pass quickly
disgust on their faces
wearing their neat, fresh
dry-cleaned clothes, scurrying
into dead steel and concrete buildings
beginning their day’s work

red green,
lights, stop start

he carries on
old eyes miss little
gleam with mirth
notice’s people’s contempt

his hand holds an old hessian sack
near filled:
he strolls to the next bin
hands sink deep into the trash bin
searching for treasure
discarded

towers rise
pinnacles in the sky
glass flashes reflected sunlight
traffic passes by –

It has been
a good morning / day’s work
for his bag, is almost full
he swings his next meal over his shoulder
turns, walks away, swallowed
in the morning crowd

d e barnes  

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The Tumbleweed

Being a tumbleweed
taken from its roots
and swirled across deserts
is not on my life plan.
But here I am in recovery.

As the tumbleweed breaks away,
pain escapes my spine and
invades my total being.
Ice packed and drugged to escape
I slam against a cliff face.

The tumbleweed rolls
down the steep-sided desert gorge.
As movement stops
slumber calms me,
an anaesthetic gift, a reprieve.

In a state of altered reality
I look to clouds so far above,
a witness to their reshaping.

I lie quietly now, mesmerised
by this capacity to renew.

Kaye Brand

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Aerial View

It’s not difficult to imagine
the desert as seabed.

The air a sea
as brilliant as that covering
the Great Barrier Reef.

Gorges as trenches
where weird lives
are being lived.

Those stumpy things—
closer to my idea of prehistoric trees
than the karri down South—

as coral outcrops.
Salt flats parts bleached
and past redemption.

Were we closer
we might see fish shoaling.

Or nosing about
keeping an eye out
for bigger ones.

Strangers.
Scattering as the shadow
of the plane passes.

It was a seabed once.
So long ago
it’s difficult to remember.

But    flying over
it can seem
not much has changed.

Peter Burges

 

The Call of Bones

It can be heard
all around.    The call of bones.
Most clearly when
wandering this Night of the Virus

beyond city lights
 closed cafés    bars.    It’s behind
what we think
the whicker of breezes.    Twigs.

Or fall of leaves.
Is bared by deserts.    Summer droughts.
And only briefly
muted by Spring grass.    Wild flowers.

Able to call us
only once out of the torpidity of earth
life now sounds
our marrow to its depths.    Yet since

it too is bound.
Must draw us    and often alone into
wandering
spaces we’ve always been.   And toward

what shuffles
inevitably    round the corner of the world.
It urges us
to protest always    the lowing of its bones.

Peter Burges

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how to stay put

The world news arrives
on my front doorstep. It knocks−
an unwanted guest. A filmy residue sticks.
An unopened door. A retracted handshake.
My body tempts as hostess to microbial touch.
I retreat to home and remove the welcome mat.
I nest. I fatten on yeasty rolls, fresh baked.
I remember my mother’s, mothers know how
to domesticate. You’ll find it in seeds, their voice
disperses fecundity. I dig in− plant kept envelopes
of dormant hope. Chuck pumpkin, bathe beet tops
‘til they root and plant in a sunny spot. Fend off
pests that threaten to spoil with soap and water
and wait. 

Lisa Collyer

Irritable Bowel
After Kevin Gillam’s to Nannup

I incur physiological angst.
I inherit
abdominal scream.

I incur
memories of meals ate
which don’t distend. I inherit

vapours that inflate a cleaved gut
− the pain it was. I inherit
fodmaps, plan meals around them

then mis-recollect. I inhabit
fidgets in navigating dishes
to choose. I inherit

flush days of intestinal health
‘til irritability follows. I incur
plain tastes, pre-empt chickpeas

in vegetable stew. I inhabit
wail,
foodies howl to wind. I inherit

undiagnosable palate as they
rollick in phosphates as I cuss. I incur
fastidious habits,

dispiriting pride. I inherit
a fear of cream
and cabbage− antagonising muck. I inherit

infinite recipes for
windless plates. I incur
depressing inexplicable

responses that cripple days. I inherit
a groomed plan – loose skirt – unseen
but never to me. I inherit

pain
resist grimace. I inhabit
pain.

I inherit toxic stained guts. I incur
physiological angst.

 

Lisa Collyer

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Following Fire in the Fitzgerald

We drive where fire has skipped all bounds
has burnt November country back to bone,
its spine of land is sepia
between the sky & sea.

Trees hold blackened fractyls bare
as if their sap is frozen
and will never run again to buds,
the synthesis of leaves.

These trees stand west of best intention.
One’s shadow casts a sharp
reminder in the ash.

Somebody’s bottle tossed in bushy thickness
now fired to a reflective silver
lies naked in the light.

In the searing conflagration
dryandras, hakeas, banksias came agape.
In the rough winds off the ocean
their seeds were shaken to the beds of ash.

In June we’re back
to find Fitzgerald Phoenix.
Midwinter spring brings its own blooming –
Nuytsia Floribunda holds living gold;
Nuytsia – Mooja flares spirits from the dead.

Jenny de Garis

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Ageing

Winter’s apex endures beyond the verandah
collects the drift of leaves and the still cry
of a magpie as the sun blinks behind clouds
with their grey beards.

Drives ice picks with each drop of rain
and condenses mist to frost.
Safe behind glass, eyes wander the
smeared view, dwell on the parrot

hunched under a branch of leaves
in a world aching to be silent.
Withdrawn and collected to itself.
It’s as if the membrane between out

and in pulses with light as it brightens
darkens. The cold reach coming in gasps
and the fire that is home, endures
for another season as men grapple

and women waver in the cycle, spring to
summer. Sometimes ageing is like a storm
coming too quick and winter, with mist
for memory, lasts all year.

 Gary Colombo De Piazzi

Sunday Bleeding into Monday Screaming

With a knife to organs of crap
and a flower of shit that seeps black
and white threads of escapism into a sky
of camouflage and a sea of vomit
like worms that belch flame
and trees that scream arias to a sky
pricked by stars smothered by a moon –
its round mouth a scream
and its sickle crescent an exclamation
as blue as the depths of the cold ocean
and as green as the hollow of a valley
where bells toll and choirs sing –
and too many eyes and noses that point
too deep and ears that seethe to listen
and days and weeks and months that slip
into years and in every house –
glass people spill onto glass streets
in a glass city shattered and skittered
to millions of gems on a Sunday night
escaping into Monday tremors to chew
at productivity and the roster glows under
the fluorescent tubes and the overseer
scowls with a crooked mouth
set against a crooked ceiling –
on a crooked day.

Gary Colombo De Piazzi

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TB OR NOT TB?

 I did it over sixty years ago,
so don’t ask me about isolation.
Under ten and in a far off nation,
with TB over sixty years ago
smiling at Dad from a nursing station
at about a hundred meters or so.
I did it over sixty years ago,
so don’t ask me about isolation.
I was able to tough it out back then,
so I’m sure I’ll be able to again!

Derek Fenton.

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a space in time

our world tilts
as anxiety cracks equilibrium
……                         fear filters into minds
public spaces speak silence

our world changes
……                 with panic threading daily life
the unknown threatens

our world’s suffering darkens
when that unseen enemy
……                   sharpens distress      damage

but for the fortunate
             a space in time is ours
to counter our constant hurry and stress –
        be creative   empathise

turn to nature      our lodestar

for birds still sing        sunrise and sunset
                  fire sky with lustrous colour
           cloud patterning
                                 can fill us with awe
trees induce calm
                    silence is our balm

Margaret Ferrell

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A slight disagreement

There’s the imprint, the shadow, the germ
resident in the depths of my eye in my brain
When the magpie’s beak targets that deepest nerve
strikes again and again, clouds darken, guts cramp
arms slacken, knees wobble, my head is quartered
and the wattlebird shrieks. Constant pressure
the deepening hurt, I surrender. Give me ergot
that’s what works, deliverance, rebirth.

There’s a saint who’s recommended for sufferers
of headaches a Saint Gemma who prayed
for more, called for the crown of thorns each
and every evening to take her closer to Jesus.
If I could I would capture her belief. But
all I can stand and understand
is blessed relief and love of the day beyond.

Wendy Fleming

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his numbers

for him, numbers were his plug, as
sometimes (and he’d read this, man of
reason that he was),
he felt the bath-water spiral
(didn’t everyone?) towards madness,
inviting, this sweet collapse, gift of
meander, violent shake up/down
in/out of a jigsaw box

some numbers looped, spun in this man of
reason, and, fully given over, he
didn’t fight them, didn’t kick, couldn’t, just
invited, in from the cold, hot
meal, fire and time, in,
in from the cold came his numbers

Kevin Gillam

the hours

the hour, hours fall, fall slow, slowly, leaves
tick, tick quiet, quietly, my leashed, leashed mind,
mind ticks, ticks and, and falls, falls quick, quickly

sky bleeds, bleeds in, in one, wonder, drunk
cloud, clouding, clouding a, around, ‘round now, now’s
my, my sea, season, season of, of then

a crow, crow thieves, thieves sigh, silence, lent
things, things dig, dig his, history, even, ev-
en here, here I lick, lick day, déjà-vu

truth is, isn’t, fully, fully in,
interlocking, fingers, fingers and, and my,
my pickets, pickets thrum, thrum with, with news

wind combs, combs the, no, disturbs where, where
does, does air, air stop and skin, skin be, skin begin?

Kevin Gillam

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Dreamtime Fringe

Along a red clay track
from the Old Caves Road,
overgrown beneath Tuart and
Peppermint trees – guardians
of secrets whispering “Nobel
and Mitanne” we go by Keenan’s
Cottage to a footbridge over
Ellensbrook: ‘Just follow the
brown track until you
hear the waterfall’ they said.

Branches swept aside
grazing skin, desperately listening
searching, running with
the trees thinking ahead
to Meekadarabee – ‘the bathing
place of the moon’
where Mitanne spent her time
climbing into caves and
places others feared to go –
kookaburras calling,
pushing our direction in
this maze of evergreen.

We came across your entrance
obscured by time and translation
the three of us, drawn by
legend’s tongue and the
intrigue of adventure’s footsteps
leading us where few have known –

a cave with limestone arms
extending out, dark brown
rock moulded in twists like thin
childhood plaits, running
down its face between two
large rocks below, inviting eyes
under the waterfall.

Having been promised to a tribal
elder, Mitanne and Nobel sheltered
their love here behind Meekadarabee,
hiding by day and hunting
by night until the elder’s fury
scattered trackers to avenge –
spearing Nobel – and Mitanne sent
to work as a servant, until
she fell one day and never woke.

A strange feeling survives
with water gushing, echoing
through water crest
and other creek dwellers
unnatural to these southern
ocean surrounds.

Once inside, huge stalactites
and stalagmites glisten, dark
and imposing, as if protecting
their home; a liquid smear
of imagination reading into
every rock pool and crevice
hiding the human prints
of meeting places, of a people
once holding the trance
of land in their hearts and hands.

Mike Greenacre

 

 

Postcards from New Orleans

Day 1

Bourbon Street
once a keen mixture
of drinking, gambling
and sex   now
a pedestrian mall
placed near-by, as if they
know you’re there.

Day 2

Any time day or night
week days or ends
it’s party time –
beer and wine leaking
from pubs and restaurants
as if pouring the crowds
out to cover the street.

Day 3

Hardly a policeman in sight
but those that are,
laughing and shaking hands
as conductors of an
over-the-limit choir   voices
within range and pitch
that grow with the hours.

And there are no fights
or broken bottles
that litter most arenas
like an obstacle course,
not even some flaked-out
bodies lying like tomorrow’s
New Year’s Day resolution.

 Mike Greenacre

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Pillow talk

When I hear you
Sweetly whisper
In her ears behind closed doors
I feel the echoes of your insults
Press against my sores.

 Yael Harris

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A COVID Day

 Isolated
Shut down
Single file
One point five metres
Face masks
Hand sanitizer
Gloves.

I wake to this frosty morning.
The climate set by the world news.
I peer through the window into the day
A vision, glorious,
gentle as a spiders web.
It sparkles like jewels; heaven sent.
I feel warmly cocooned
The world is silent yet noisy with nature bustling.
Birds shrieking
Ants busy
and lizards wary with every movement.
Droplets of water pool on the ground
then gleam myriads of colour
a frosty morning with so much hope.
Nature lives with catastrophe
but still has reserved generosity to colour the world.
Shout Out For Nature.

Ann Harrison, NSC  

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Rare Sea Fog   

bliss of liquid emerald and jade
embraces morning swimmers

spindrift haze mounds where ocean meets sky
the world was ever thus

                           if it was, it isn’t now, that’s smog, or smoke
                           from a new fire

dive deep
burst through to Madonna sky

fingerlings of white mist drift
angel feathers from the firmament

                           talk of angels at this time, be they perched
                           on the head of a pin or not, is fatuous

firmamentum ­
Latin meaning a safe, solid structure

                           there’s nothing solid about sky, call it celestial atmosphere,
                           azure dome or whatever you like – it’s troubled

dense mist tumbles in from over the horizon
blanketing the town

                           our world burns
                           it must be smoke

if so, it’s washed smoke
blown back sweet smelling from far out at sea

                           our world burns
                           fish die as ash clogs their rivers

morning gift of deep ocean breath
fog horns’ music fills the heart

                           each blast sounds the death
                           knell of more charred remains on forest floors

glistening shore break soft tumbles on white sand
whispered clatter-click of shells in swish of foam

                           roll call of bleached bones
                           ocean death bed detritus

shower in soft plumes then to work
the layers of this miracle wrapped day

                           a smoke choked port
                           can’t see road signs with smoke in your eyes

be still, day’s end alchemy studs the sky with blazing clouds
sea fog now the stuff sweet dreams are made on

                           sleep no more, perchance to dream
                           no more but of the heat of flames

word wafer dissolves on the tongue
we are still here
                           scary beautiful
                           shrieks the Audi billboard

scary and beautiful
we are still here

 

Jenifer Hetherington

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Re-Education

I haven’t done this for a while,
a long while…no,
a very long while indeed.
And you must have done—
an insult to think that you couldn’t have done,
at least within living memory.

Each time is supposed to be Special:
a carnival or rite
that seems to compel scintillation.
And you are far fitter than I to judge
that I am unfit for this service.
Besides irretrievable fumbling firsts
and illusions of blazing uniqueness,
this taint of tastes and needs unmet
looms large above
what might become our bed.

Kindness and ardour are desperate
but poorly equipped
to erase comparison.
All we can do is gather our tools
and try to decipher the manual,
and hope the ineffable, unbidden aura
that charges and warms whenever I’m with you
refines and exults each incipient stumble,
soothes and enlivens what’s known and uncharted
of our souls and skins and nerves.

 Glen Hunting

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 The priority seat

The umbrella
The keyring

The bus-stop
The priority seat

The “Yes, please”
The three dollars ninety
The teabag
The front page
The crossword

The plastic basket
The chops, potatoes, carrots, peas
The “Fine, thanks”

The bus-stop
The priority seat

The keyring
The umbrella

The light inside the fridge
The power point
The teabag
The armchair

The three rings
The “Not interested, thank you”

The window
The couple pushing the pram

The light inside the fridge
The exhaust fan
The chops, potatoes, carrots, peas
The foam of the detergent

The wine cask
The armchair
The remote control

Jackson

The Mammogram machine

In the women’s clinic
the mammogram machine
is shaped like an embryo in profile

Large awkward squarish head
Straight spine
Tucked-under pelvis

A leg bud (tray)
An arm bud (compressor plate)
Mouthparts where the beam comes out

Embossed in the plastic a plus-sign
where a proto-eye might be

Jackson

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Floreat, east of the Forum

 

windless morning just before Christmas
another stinking hot day, so many sprinklers
dousing the path my trail is diverted
by inverted pyramids of sparkling
eucalyptus scented champagne

a yellow house opposite, tall, elderly chap
busy with roses, greyness flowering
beneath a $10 Bunnings hat

shaven headed newcomer at house number five
red Porsche in the drive-
Union Heavy? Corrupt Detective?
Clean, Hardworking Guy?

no more futile guesses, just look!
our once glorious sugar gum
on the corner’s
been so roughly shorn
it looks as if its hip’s out of joint

return by next door’s landscape
of limecrete
and artificial turf
must accept a garden suburb changes
or learn to walk with eyes shut

Ross Jackson

 

 

Talking to the voice

 wherever I’m stationed
is never home
look at this map which barely
holds together, maybe homes’s
trapped within its folds?            Nup…!

you may think, crap
by now, with that map
I should know where I belong
but every where’s
easy to get lost, Man

and now, scoping from
a carriage window
as the sun comes out
I see it’s West Midland Station
the platform where I once threw up

I move my blood blisters
alongside rails a while
hoping I may be travelling
to where I’ll feel grounded

and finally, you are left behind

Ross Jackson

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Clowns of the Air

Birds of multi-coloured glory,
whose blustering vulgarity,
cock-eyed cheek
and pigeon-toed gait
make of them clowns.
Like shrieking children,
they carouse in tree-tops
attired in full motley.
Dangling precarious,
they ride the wind,
tumbling through air
into daubs of Fauve colour.
Seemingly idiotic,
these clowns are invaders
usurping nests,
multiplying tenfold.
Impudent, and irrepressible,
lorikeets have come to stay.

Veronica Lake

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 Poem Two

the caretaker is busy
tending to the plants
in this shared garden
belonging to a tapestry of people
who have given permission
for their lands to be lovingly nurtured
by her

but what of the small plot
which is mostly ignored
deemed unimportant and of low priority
by her and the tribe
where wild roses still grow
somewhere behind vines and bushes
deliberately placed
waiting to be found
seeking daylight

when does she find time to caretake
herself

Brett Looney

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Open Our Eyes

Open our eyes and let us see the
Phaenomena of the Gaia planet:
Each petal of the sculptured rose
A lifecycle metaphor of all that breathes –

Miracle of nature …

Uniquely created by pollinated seed
To bud, to grow, to fully bloom
To flush in shades of inherent colour,
Perfume mirroring incense of being

Slowly then to mortify …

Expose our sensitivities that we may hear
The harmony of the universe
Myriads of musicians on ground––in flight:
Explicit caution, but more enchant

And then …

Acknowledge ambience
The fresh sea air to stroke façade
The scallywag of the dawning dew
The touch of a devotee’s embrace

But then …

To savour, see the working bee
As water into wine transformed
Nectar is an allegory for sustenance
Provided for all earth’s living beings

Then, too …

Pervading fragrance portray
The unaltered to consume
And warn of vulnerability
From this environmental quixotic state

This day and age …

How can a poet’s daunting task
Paint word pictures on a page that’s blank
To appreciate the miracles of being
Inhabitants on this unique earth?

Eternity

Glad McGough

 

 

Taste

‘Can I have a taste?’ the child enquired.
‘You can lick the dish,’ his mum replied.
‘I love the taste of a chocolate cake,

It’s even better than when it’s baked.’

‘What a mess, my dear, you’re in,
It’s on your face, your cheeks, your chin.’
The boy replied with a cheeky grin,
‘You should see what it’s like within.’

 Glad McGough

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Ivy’s Way

Home from the bottle shop
no arthritic welcome at the door
no thump of Jock’s tail on the floor
she changes into house clothes
time to make Jock’s dinner
and her own    but not
tonight.

At her desk she takes five sheets
best bond paper    one page each
she yearns for words    but finds none
save bald facts    the usual endearments
chews the pen    finally writes
the same sentence to each son
takes the envelopes next door
for her neighbour to post
tomorrow.

From the side-board she selects
a crystal tumbler    from her best set
takes a bottle from the shopping bag
sits in her recliner    sips    sips
her left hand reaches
for Jock’s soft head    finds empty air
sips    sips.

Ivy wakes    whisky half drained
rises carefully    winces with pain
carrying bottle and glass
she pauses    at photos on the fridge
grandchildren grinning at the beach
in school photos    shy smiles
she sighs.

In each bedroom Ivy lingers
trophy best and fairest
posters    ford mustangs    reptiles
pop idols long forgotten
model planes    she turns away
locks her doors
lights off.

Framed on her dresser a bride a groom
Ivy recalls their joy    their pride
five grown sons pictured on the wall
she shuffles to the bed    opens
the bedside drawer    redeems
her insurance
stockpiled pills.

Diana Messervy

 

 

Learning my Father

It is not easy to extract the marrow
of a man who chose to take up
         so little space.
And yet long dead he reaches out – sometimes I stumble
upon a trait, recognise him in my DNA
         with gratitude or dismay.

From a childhood of unexplained absence and return,
my father, the constant parent, endures in senses and images
         sharp as his jaw.

Each morning when he lifted our hair to peck his farewell
on our foreheads my father’s hands smelled clean
         with chemical notes.

In his dispensary, encased in a starched white coat, he measured
elements in milligrams weighed portions into capsule cases
         counted pills into brown bottles,

blended ingredients on a large glass sheet, smells – eucalypt,
the stink of vitamin B. Once I asked to help, his answer
         quiet, firm, No Missy.

At home his workshop smelled of timber and turps, each tool in its place,
honed, ready, we dared not touch, his displeasure though nuanced
         scored like a scalpel.

Some fathers read stories, sat children on their knees,
dressed up as Santa, rough-housed, played cricket in the yard.
         He was not one.

We learned our father’s play: a riddle, an acronym, a pun,
watched for eyes to soften, corners of his mouth to lift
         apportioning affection in gentle micrograms.

He read philosophers, ethicists, avoided T.V., baffled
by sport, by games of any sort, never understood their purpose,
         their unpredictable components.

My father’s sole antagonist was Kikuyu grass.
In shorts, long socks, old pair of business shoes,
         never one to waste,

and his cloth hat, he sat on an upturned apple box,
head between his bony knees, grubbing out roots and runners
         our purring cat beside him.

Sometimes I sat with him in silence, till restlessness sent me cartwheeling
across the lawn, yearning for a glance, but he remained intent
         upon his nemesis.

Like an armadillo his body was slight, thin skinned
his shell protecting an honest heart, private underbelly:
         a solitary animal.

I stopped knocking on his shell when I realized
         he could never hear

Diana Messervy

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Friendship

 

I see
children hold out thumbs, whisper forever,
wince as steel slits skin in that strongest of vows.
It’s the jars of moon beams they hold on to longest.

I meet
an old man on a park bench who tells me:
friendships are like pets, the longer you have them,
the closer you grow. He nods down at his greying
retriever, strokes the smooth head, and grins.

I ask
a poet I know. He says that friendship is many things
to many people, which is no answer at all,
but I forgive him because we have never been close.

I think
myself, it’s a tinker’s collection
of knotting and knowing, clasped hands, strangers
at bus stops sharing recipes for tomato soup,
the team photo, oat cookies for a new neighbour.

I recall
my father, always wise, saying that every friendship
has its blueness, its sand paper moments.
At times he said, frost scalded seeds blacken and fail,

then there’s nothing to do but wipe a tear, plant more.

Jan Napier

 

 

Skull

The skull is its own premonition

sharking upwards under dermal layers
moodless grin explicit   complicit   licit.

It’s the joke we’re all born knowing,
a secret shared and told to no one.

Each babe born with The Phantom’s ring
built in. How now oh ghost who walks?

A skull is body sculpture from the inside,
but is this crucible of quantum

the best head space ever? Death who knows
the ending, throws back his cowl,

and laughs,

     and laughs

         and laughs.

Jan Napier

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Lambing Time

In a fall of mucous and blood
comes the new lamb
to be licked by the ewe
too white for the dirty world,
startled, amazed,
staggering under mother –
her belly a more intimate,
familiar sky.
Then a further shock;
other shaky legs and tails
in the fells and dells,
seeing himself multiplied,
becoming a flock.

Julian O’Dea

 

 

Quarantine

Curled like a comma beside me
the small dog knows he can
challenge any shadow,
but viruses cast no shadows
and pain breaks through any wall
and any skull.
In this season the mind breeds
its own viruses, as many as
stinging bees in a hollow tree.

Julian O’Dea

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and unto us the earth was given…

Day’s end, standing on the warm concrete drive while overhead
corellas fly home to roost along the road outside the pub.
Unlike ducks or swans they do not engage in neat formation
but such circus clowns of the wheatbelt sky, play at
I’ve got your back, duck ’n dive, last one home’s a rooster
and all the while they screech with joy and crow with laughter.
The air is warm like supper’s milk, washes your cheek
as the sprinklers sizzle and rush over the grass,
then earth gives up her perfume, breathe in. Ah   aah,
so rich, so thick I want to weep for pleasure at this day’s pass.
When colour fades in long twilight
Shells light up at the garage
where trucks roll in all through the night and
kids on bikes swoop by like darkened birds,
arms spreadeagled, whistling like kites riding down the lines,
their tyres whoosh, whoosh; owl- wide eyes hunting mischief.
Softly unobserved the Shells are replaced by streetlight, moonlight
and then the stars swinging high above the clothesline
spangle sheets and towels in ancient Greek; Pleiades,
Canopus and the Crux dangling away to the south
as boobook passes, oblivious.
Inside I sit at my computer and watch as a world implodes.

Virginia O’Keeffe
March 2020

 

 

Tell me crow

tell me crow how do you know when cinders
black as your wing begin to drift,
how do you know it’s time to fly?

tell me crow I have not learned the signs
your brown eye winkles out on far hills
how do you know it’s time to go?

and tell me crow when the air is slightly soft
is it haze or smoke that blows
how do you know which way to go?

I thought I smelled a fire in the sky
but when I looked could see no sign
yet on your branch you cawed and flew away.

the sky was crimson vermillion orange
it wasn’t dawn, and the world was wrong
when crow black night fell at noon.

You tumbled at my feet, glossy, parched,
your beak agape, your sharp eye dull,
we aren’t that different after all.

 Virginia O’Keeffe

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Despite It All

It was the shouting
that did your head in. Once, before the dawn
sauntered by your toothy grin
after a night of light burning holes in the sky and banging –
you whimpered for hours,
eyes pleading for the type of intervention
sought by others as their mind collapses
as a fear settles into the everyday
and release is as far off
as a switch that says in bold:

         press here for metamorphosis –
         become the butterfly you never were
.

 Oh, if only, if only. And then, another daytime cringing
with hard-edged masculine shouts falling like bitter hail
over the fence; with this, a cold chill
sets in, it takes you back, it takes you way
back, to when the sick of pharmaceuticals in his brain
made impostors inhabit most moments
of every waking day and tossing night,
driven close to mad by
what felt like psychic intervention
but was merely nature knocking – though dressed
for death in case the need arose. You gentle creature,
if only people knew the pain
that shouts arouse, your field of dreams would be
so much quieter, your daily life based more
on bliss, not remnant fear. It is a wonder you still smile
most often, more than just getting by. You shake your head,
bark out loud, wag your tail –
and just keep on being you, despite it all.

 Allan Padgett

 

 

i hate dandruff

it’s like a new south welshen dust
storm raging scratch & sleeplessness
on top where lived my previous hair
inside my brain is too much reflection
like a rear view mirror in a car
flying off a cliff face
it’s like shagging in the sand dunes
at ocean grove & fighting a losing battle
with the deeply disturbing penetrating sand grains
inside the foreskin i do not have
(i wish)
it’s waking five times in the night
being pulled by desperate cravings
as deeply malevolent
jurassic feral decapods
ransack my scalp & drive my mind
to shreds & tears as i rage & turn
with deepening regret
for the medical shampoo i chose to not have
last night i am a conscientious objector
to making life easier for myself
why go to bed in some fragmentary state
if instead, i could rub the foaming stuff
in the blue plastic bottle from coles
to restore peace to the pitted rutted terrain
of my lesser haired being what would i have
to complain about in the early morning air
if i didn’t have that serial mistake for comfort

 Allan Padgett

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Empire of the Inanimate

 The wing looks so rigid
but the forces impacting on it
make it impossible to imagine
that anything as frail as a human hand
rested on its slat, maybe for balance
as it lined the rivet gun along the seam;
what horror of whipping
tendon ripping death
would flick away that human
should he miraculate there now?

That’s exactly the kind of morbid
and idle thought that comes
in the comfort of compressed air
and soft seats, the vaguely apprehended
peril of a few centimetres of fuselage
separating you from the eternal
ballooning suction. The seconds
of the 24 hour flight plan
pass so sensibly you can set your watch
by the drinks trolleys; but out there
nucleated moments billow out
like lungs in too much air screaming
to purge thought; they empty of time
to merge with that gulf
of atmospheres and sunlight.
Perhaps the almost touching Death,
adjacent to your cup of in-flight coffee,
pricks your imagination with horror
should you relax to thinking
that the empire of the inanimate
can always be slipped past
at the price of a flight ticket?

Chris Palazzolo

 

 

Gardening and Semiotics

 Trying to capture in language
my hands grabbing clumps of sun-stiffened,
mulch-rotted, dusty-sheafs-
of-rib-cage-showing-sepulchral-smelling leaf-litter
under dappling tree shade
would exhaust an entire lexicon so infinitely variably
alike the forms the leaves have assumed
as inanimate things in the red loam;
they are singularly impossible to remark upon
except that one which clings briefly
to my forearm; glued by sweat
and streaked dirt, the sensation
makes me think of a spider and I brush it off in a panic.

If outer space is no space at all
then infinite variableness is not the kind of difference
that words need for grip. Only as a catalyst
for human action can a dead leaf
enter the language; so here it is,
pinned in syntax – a spider defending its patch
against a blundering human – the starring predicate
in my poem of raking and weeding
to reclaim the beds from nature. Meanwhile,
above my shoulders, a hundred million green hopefuls
rustle their hustle in a breeze.

Chris Palazzolo

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Aqua, Orange, Grey

 (In memory of Helen and Guy Grey-Smith)

A retrospective exhibition in Darlington
drew a canvas framing colours of contra-
diction and conviction in conversation

with kindreds and kin. Saw Always and
Never as neighbours on the wall of
endeavour, upholding canvasses carrying

strands of red, blue, green and yellow
gathering to have a drink with black
and white, all raising a glass to select

hues closest to the canvas of curiosity,
argument, magnanimity – leading to
strokes of contention and convention

on the easel of endurance. Remembering
WWII brought further layers of
concentration, and reading William

Golding’s Free Fall led to echoes
of investigation, leaving Helen and
Guy to visit Burma. The country’s rice

paddies, statues, gems and rivers of
grief beckoning historians and artists
to dwell on bridges and briefs.

Joyce Parkes

 

 

Lips, Jaws
In memory of my father     

 

Home to a thousand islands,
The Java Sea also carried
a hell ship holding

‘soldiers armed and disarmed,
and romusha’ (slave
labourers) ‘from Batavia to

Padang’in September
1944. In dormitories below
the water line the conquered

‘lay in coal dust and horse
manure, with little
water in an unimaginable

heat in their steel prison’,
until hell ship was torpedoed
by a submarine. When

lips met jaws. Was my father
alive when he hit the water,
was he eaten by a shark,

did my father drown before he
was consumed? In waves of
hope for swells of kindness,

this erstwhile orphan pleads,
do not forget to remember
a soldier’s fear, a family’s grief.

Joyce Parkes

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Reliquaries

a vacated house awaits a cuckoo’s claim
trespassers’ feet will tread the wooden floors
trampling memories of home

branches of a nearby elder holly tree grasp
a tiny gift of memories
tied in thread, blood red

stick figure drawings, a family picnic
a house with smoking chimneys
a yellow sun in cloudy skies
a child’s handwritten notes

a pyre of paper reliquaries

to be torched in scorching summer sun
and burnt to brittle shards

then laid to rest in winters’ icy sepulchres

until tears of winter-sculpted ice
fall slowly into spring, when

winter-purified rivulets cascade
in waterfalls between green holly leaves

and translucent water droplets
melt memories into the forest’s DNA

Yvonne G Patterson

 

 

Wishing lines

faces filmed in black and white hang
from clotheslines
floating over countries painted on the floor

young men’s eyes invite us in, draw our sight
faces enigmatic, suspended

eye to eye we viewers face these faces
walk beside these strangers’ pathways

inside a repurposed church in Syracuse
we find their stories

young men watch us watching them
faces etched with life outside our own experience

in this country we are tourists, sightseeing

are they tourists yet, temporarily regrouping
after journeying from shore to shore to shore?

lives pegged in wishing lines, hovering

mid-air between one shore
and one they seek as journey’s end

Yvonne G Patterson

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Bathing My Father
for Zhongxian

 

Blind he was by then with a white stick
to guide his sliding slippers. We thought
removing his cataracts might help
sustain the flickers of light in retina still.

At home with us he needed a shower
but might slip on wet tiles. My chore was
to repay the long ago baths he’d given
me in enamel basins or battered tubs.

Back then it was often once a week
that he or mother could spare our
precious rainwater for such use. We
stood obedient to be sponged and dried.

So this care was now mine to return,
prodigally perhaps. I held his arms
and proffered wet flannel while he turned
away in modesty. First, feet were washed.

“I shave by feel,” he explained. I eyed
age blotches dark on shoulder and thigh.
That was first and last time I bathed my dad.
But maybe undertakers did the final swab.

Glen Phillips

 

 

Social Distancing

 (or, Intimations of Urinality in Covert Times)

Need to get to the real bottom of this.
Women have always done it, you see,
with cubicles all in a row, while we
mere men stand at the long drain for a piss,
elbow to elbow, looming large to boys
nervously in between the big blokes. Glance
sideways in deep thought, as if to enhance
their half of the human race with such ploys.

Meanwhile, back at the seats of power,
politicians bicker, carpenters are stunned
when asked could they build more shower
rooms or toilet blocks with some new fund.

Envy shy poet in a leafy bower,
going back to the nature we all shunned.

Glen Phillips

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Once a Mosque

 A derelict mosque its dome festooned with poppies
peeping from crevices choked with dust.

Caked mud on a shattered floor,
made once a slurry with spittled mortar
for myriad nests now glued to the round corners
of this fractured vault.

Swifts squeal scythe, dive through a jagged portal
filling gaping mouths as if forever.

Laurie Smith

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self-appraisal
A poem about getting reacquainted with yourself as you self-isolate.

when did this heart
break?
I can see the chips and cracks
fractures like veins on an ancient,
misused planter.

when did this skin
change texture?
like snakeskin
shed and shed again
shed again,
and now it feels strange and papery
under my fingertips.

when did I grow ponds
lush with lotus
sparkling with koi
wild and thriving, inside these eyes?

when did my sound change?
like fragments of summer and sunflowers,
berry and dew
ripe but uneaten.

when did these roots outstretch,
and plant me down?
safely, firmly in the confines of my thoughts
my beliefs
my hopes and dreams.

and now, as I sway in a new light
uprooted, unplanted,
I touch new ground

finding myself all over again,
I unfurl. settle. grow accustomed.

SoulReserve

 

 

algal bloom

this green felt skin
of algal bloom
that stretches and wraps
on the body of
my lake,

this thin film
of emerald opacity
bobbing spores
that move in a colony
from neck and mouth,

deep down to the core
of my very being
until everything is
softly swathed in
viridescent effervescence,

from driftwood to rock, fluid
disturbed only slightly
adjusting cover and contour
in the wake of a stray
black swan

and for a minute
parting skin
reveals black mottled
innards, gleaming dark
gleaming dark with
smothered life and soul,

shy to the light
then lapping waves
conjoin, plates of green
smooth over what was visible –
the suspended life within
my lake’s pregnant belly.

SoulReserve

 

 

Sydney

 the pace of the self-involved city
that tilts on its own axis
that rises and falls like sun on the walls
of its skyscrapers and bottom dwellers alike,
until everyone is one
a single shade squinting in its bright tinsel lights
from harbour to shore
from the tufts of feathers
under each wing to where it flies away
to be an obscure city no one knows,
an exotic city;

but our city,
a collective voice for artists and poets
cafes and bistros that line the streets,
gay bars full of pride,
tourists who become residents for weeks, months, years
some stay on
find identity, meaning, hope, love
and workers who work deep into the night
nine to nine, sometimes more…

In the lanes that meander and curve
ride mountains,
trains and crowds jostling
deep into the throbbing veins of the city,
at once bold;
at once subdued;
here, somewhere while taking a breather
I met a man who called himself a Sydney boy
he shrugged when I asked what that was like;

And the womb of the city fills and spills
languages, accents and sounds
that burgeon like a cloud over its expanse
you can hear someone speak, but can’t always speak back
so, you nod – a brisk, curt nod
and move on…
where? Here somewhere, to stand under the shade
of a talling building
to get back to life from bus-train-bus-stop to office
or home or shops,
and then back again;

on another day I met an old lady by the fountain
in Hyde Park
she ducked when I clicked a picture
a stray shot in which she wasn’t meant to be
realising this she smiled
told me a story: of parting, of strangeness,
of swells of the sea that brought her here
of having felt welcome in a city that embraces everyone;
Sydney was her country, a home away from home
“take a picture now” she said as I took leave…

an old city lies dormant underneath the bustling exterior
underneath the new, shiny, glistening, bright layer
revealing herself to explorers who have a little more time
and patience,
then, she slows down and lets you catch her crumbling walls,
her little nooks and crannies
her dark alleys and age-old hideouts
then, she shows you her secrets
and little by little she grows on you.

SoulReserve

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Aftermath
for Bill

no insects fly from my boots
when I walk across this paddock
no green shoots visible
         only ash

a lone cow
searches for food    home
no fences left   in a land      lost
         just ash

in the haze a kangaroo
stills    hops away
to elsewhere
         through ash

a ravaged landscape
absence of shadows
mountains of bare rock
         and ash

no birdsong pierces
this desolation
this silent world
         an eeriness of ash

Amanda Spooner 

 

 

Past Tense 

I saw him last month.

it seemed an ordinary Saturday afternoon
we sat opposite each other
over a blue wooden picnic table

he talked about his mother, the clothes she wears
her struggle to feed him and his siblings
her fear for their lives and hope for their future,
her love for him. He called her “beloved.”

I was gripped by his mother’s anguish.
his body, a fine, fine sculpture
crumbling
his dark eyes unseeing. No tears fell

an unbearable gulf between us

the table of blue shadows
mirrored the bruises on his arms

I wanted to remove the hollows from his face
light a spark to warm him
he ran out of words
                          I had no answers

Yesterday
I heard
he
found
a jagged knife
cut into the fragile skin
across his wrist

bled
until
his colour
         ran out

Amanda Spooner

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Finale
Lake Como and Milan, late April 1945

Fleeing
with the Third Reich
he schemed new conquests.
Perhaps she dreamed
of innocent fugitives’* farewells
to mountains and lake –
their happy ending.

Captured
she refused escape
stood at the villa gate
waited
for the fusillade.

Hung
by the feet
above bowsers
in Piazzale Loreto
they still drew the crowd
who spat and shouted,
‘We should have crushed you
in your mothers’ wombs.’

Rita Tognini

*Renzo and Lucia, the young protagonists of Manzoni’s famous novel, The Betrothed.

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Case closed

…after every train
journey you are there
returned

case closed
then opened
bed spread

cards bought
notes you write
on the steps

of the cathedral
sketched domes
moments found

like letters
spent across
decades

silences
pushed inside
envelopes

flap licked
folded
then slipped

into the pocket
of my jacket
worn in all

weathers, the
seasons turned
winter

through summer
your memory
I carry

locked
notelets
of you

Rose van Son

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Reading Between My Lines

You are tracing my scars,
Drawing over the calligraphy on my body
with fingers and lips.
As if it mattered.
As if you’d like to clear the slate for me.
As if you’d like to overwrite it all
with better stories,
stories of your own.
And I smile up into your eyes.

Your touch is tender, tempting
but I know the script too well:
know these gentle imprints you are writing now
will lull me
so I won’t believe
the slash of graffiti that’s coming next
and even less
the inevitable
knife.

Should I be stone then,
turning, blunting every blade
that tries to make me bleed?

Or should I be water,
flowing on and leaving you (like all the rest)
the day we reach that point?

No: I will stay flesh and blood
And proudly so, Rorschaching my own blots
claiming my own past as the myth of me it is.

Only as strangers can we hope to know each other.

 Jessica Vivien

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