Monday, May 31, 2010

Wh is for wheel

(n. 1. a circular frame or solid disc arranged to turn on an axis,
as in vehicles, machinery etc  2. any instrument, machine, apparatus
etc shaped like this, or having such a frame or disc as an essential
feature  3, anything resembling or suggesting a wheel  4. [pl] moving,
propelling or animating agencies  5. [pl] colloq. a motor vehicle
6. a wheeling or circular movement  7. colloq. a person of considerable
importance or influence  vb. 8. to cause to turn, rotate or revolve, as
on an axis  9. to move, roll or convey on wheels, castors etc  10. to
turn on or as on an axis or about a centre; rotate, revolve  11. to move
in a circular or curving course  12. to turn or change in procedure or
opinion [often followed by about or round]  13. to roll along on or as
on wheels; to travel along smoothly)

Selected Distinctions

1.   There are slow vehicles whose wheels
       are higher than my car. There are trucks
       with up to thirty wheels that charge past
       leaving me with zero visibility after rain.
       I am not afraid of those wheels, but wary.

3.   Mandalas, beds of herbs, ponds, the eyes
      of possums caught in a high beam like refugees.
      Plates and saucers, how many thousands
      has my mother stacked? The circular saws
      whose screaming filled my childhood with
      dead trees, amputated limbs, an appreciation
      of the thin quiet singing stings of mosquitoes.

6.   The bullroarer, a vortex, homing pigeons.
      My mind, fluttering around questions I don't
      want to answer, coming back again and again
      to excuses, reasons, defendants' pleas.

9.   She even uses the walker to collect a stamp
      from the bedroom so I can post the birthday card
      to her dear friend. The stamp is borne up to me
      sitting primly on its vast vinyl cushion. Therefore
      I place it with dignity and reverence on the envelope.
     What a long journey for this little bright piece
      of paper, messenger of authentic Australiana.

12.  As a young mother, I liked the idea of a red wheelbarrow.
       In my first bought home, we didn't have a garden.
       Now, in my second mortgaged paradise, I make do
       with a classic silver one, and envy neighbours
       pushing heritage-green plastic barrows made for elderly arms.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Th is for threshold

(1. the entrance to a house or building  
2. any place or point of entering or beginning
3. [Psych./Physiol.] the point at which
a stimulus becomes perceptible or is of
sufficient intensity to produce an effect)

Our doorways

The porch encourages
button-pushing. The glass panel
through which I can spy on you
is covered with a purple curtain.
South-westerlies make it
no shelter from winter's wet.

Narrow, our exit to garage.
And stubbornly dysfunctional
the previously lockable sliding flywire
companion to glass. We have given up
on it, thus must bring the rolling door
down every time we drive out.

Our pride, the back door section
with which we replaced windows.
The garden and clothes hoist accessible,
the covered patio of cream bricks dry
radiating warm remembrance of our new
lifestyle Christmasses with barbecue.

The laundry door leads  to a deck
recently saved from overgrowth
too slippery this wet season to walk on.
Its roofing not waterproof, it is useful only
for bucketed water storage. However
the ferns do love their refuge, grow huge.

Every window (and all are large) lights upon
a garden, mostly grown wild. Outside my
workroom window, fronds clap at each wind squall
tap at the glass as if to say, Come on out! It's fresh here!
Warm indoors I reply:  What's a little glass
between friends? Who needs a door?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sh is for shine

(vb. 1. to give forth, or glow with, light;
shed or cast light  2. to be bright with
reflected light; glisten; sparkle  3. to excel;
be conspicuous 4. to cause to shine 
n. 5. radiance; light  6. lustre; polish  
7. sunshine; fair weather  8. {colloq} 
a liking; fancy)

Saturday Lunch

Over plates of fish and chips
we discuss my memoirs, yet
to be written. Out comes
the album which should be
titled "All About Africa".
Mum, you have to write it down!

He wishes he could remember
the trip we made to Great Britain
via Zambia and Zimbabwe
when he was two. Only the photos
tell his story, and this will become
the only story, unless I write

the rest. Even then, not his.
But one thing has not changed.
The shining-eyed boy has become
a man of keen and radiant vision
loving family history, lover of
a good book, written or not.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ph is for pharmacy

(the art or practice of preparing
and dispensing drugs and medicines;
a dispensary; chemist's shop)

Clinically tested
says the blurb.
Your cold or flu
symptoms will vanish
in half the time.
Our study group
got well after three
days; the placebo users
took six days. Proof!

By day three I'm
a downpour not
waiting to happen.
I'm a torrent, a rapids
I'm a spasm of sneezes.
I burn. I chill. A-choo!!!
The eyes run like rivers
the nose gets raw.
I'll let you know
how many days I
would have been suffering.
When I stop running.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ch is also for chablis and chutney

Enjoy the thought, if not the fact,
of chips with chutney and a cold glass
of chablis (in my dictionary, one is
the first ch word, the other is the last)

And tomorrow:
Ph is for pharmacy

Ch is for chip

Over thirty meanings
in Macquarie's authoritative dictionaries
the one unexpected:
chip (2) (Wrestling)
a tricky or special method
by which an opponent
can be thrown.

While most chips
are small things they can
be evidence for
destruction, harmful action
as: old forest logging
or destruction of property
leaving chipped crockery
for archeologists to reassemble.

However, many are benign -
pieces of food esp. potato;
counters of bone or ivory
used as tokens in card games;
those minute squares forming
the integrated circuit
running this computer.

But what is this tricky or special
method by which an opponent
can be thrown? A large move?
A jangle of arms and legs
like Laocoon and the beasts?
Or something so subtle, so small
the opponent cries out and falls
his chip on the shoulder afterwards
the only evidence for foul play?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I have a head cold.
That accounts for the delay
of yesterday's.
Tomorrow: Ch is for chip.

Z is for zephyr

(a soft mild breeze) Budget
(Poetic: the west wind personified.
Also: any of various things of fine,
light quality, as a fabric, yarn etc)

Incendiary winds blow
across the continent.
Or gales which freeze.

Things of fine light quality
such as blouses, veils,
radical thoughts,

are short-lived. Sand
scours, the crop shrivels.
What is one to believe?

Try this: exposure to light
is a fine quality; a seed
can grow unnoticed.

Y is for y?

Trying the other Lune form, in a

(the 25th letter of the alphabet; a suffix.
Why? a sound made by the letter y
meaning: for what? for what reason, 
cause or purpose?)

My friend E
is being told to pull
her head in.

She dares to
stand up and speak out
challenge violent threats.

I tell her
she is inspiring, courageous, tough
and wish afterwards

I had added
please be careful, the evil
ones are many.

She has blazed
trails for women all over
Africa through thickets

of misogyny which
she attacks with  the same
sharp tools she

learned to use
as a child, growing food
in the village.

May the harvest
feed an army of peacemakers
and outspoken women.

Monday, May 24, 2010

X is for X-Files

(x: the unknown factor; the multiplication 
factor; a kiss at the end of a letter.
x-files: multiplication of the unknown; a
TV program in which investigators
examine ultra-terrestrial incidents and
manifestations) none of these found in
my dictionaries except the kiss.

The Garden

Unstitching couch grass from the white pebbles
it clings to, I wonder how far it will go to survive
and why it doesn't climb to a vantage point.

I also query the pebbles' motivations: is it safer
to be the medium for a runner which strangles
than to keep yourself open to sun and rain?

I hear the sharp stones crack in reply. I wind
grass and discuss weaving mats with it. My friend,
unfettered by questions, clears more weeds than I.

Barmah Forest

Leigh is half as tall as this spiked bunch of roots
long stripped of root-duty. In fact, when he was
a boy, he fished here with his dad and the water -
the floods - would have covered his head.

'We useta hang our tucker box here, 'n' the fish.
We'd go lookin' for more. Yer never needed
much money in those days. The floods - they
were deep.'  I review the low dark marks

of recent flood on the endless sea of trunks.
Mary and I stand on a fallen log; see, we are
as tall as it is thick. Leigh shows us canoe trees
(he shouldn't). Where we are walking, the ghosts

paddle where there's no upstream or downstream
just a brown lake of trunk-blackening, root-softening
snake-patterned water. As we walk, we crackle
and crunch and laugh too much. A spirit stalks us.


But where do the ideas come from?
Let me never have to sit on a panel
attempting to address this question.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

W is for whisper

(1. to speak with soft low sounds using 
the breath, lips etc without vibration of
the vocal cords 2. [of trees, water,
breezes etc] to make a soft rustling


Each crinkly kale leaf
iced. I cut each small
leaf, largely uneaten
and it is brittle. None
of the garden's plants
move. They are frozen
in time, glaciated. Not
one of them whispers
my name. Not one.
I am silent as I cut.

How tasty the soup
this evening!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

V is for valley

(an elongated depression, usually with an outlet,
between uplands, hills or mountains, especially 
one following the course of a stream) Budget
(a low stretch of land between hills, esp. one
that has a river flowing through it) Cobuild

Water has made us.
For eons, for millions of years, 
water dripped, gushed,
surged, swept and gouged.

In our short span, we are left
with a double cupped hand
Werribee and Lerderderg naming
the two arteries through it.

"When we came across it, there was only
a wet land; good hunting but no good
for sheep's feet. We grazed above this boggy
tract, unsuitable for human occupation."
(imaginary diary entry)

A bog on the way to Ballarat, that's
where we were at. You can still see
the track, tracing escarpment's boundary line.
Other roads exist as remnants.

Once the marsh was drained (euphemism
for 'once the two rivers were put in their place,
in deep ditches') it was under attack.
Birds, fish, monotremes and macropods
found refuge in the forests, wetter waters.

Captain Bacchus built a manor house
with a gate house, just like he never had
back home in the Highlands. The crops spread.
Now those crops spring up like immigrants
dazzling with their survival skills. Our gardens
battle their fecundity.

We've had dairy cattle, vegetables, fruit.
We've tracked down the ancient
carbon matter become coal.
We build a town now, above the valley floor
up the escarpments, onto the western
grasslands, the land depraved
by ignorance and being ignored.

We are proud to be not-Melbourne.
The Council will close walking tracks
where once water gouged, swept, surged,
gushed and dripped.
Our twin rivers are clogged with reeds
and shopping trolleys.
We have a cholesterol valley.
We have food but no hunting.
They say platypus can be seen at 4am.

Coming in by train, the valley
offers life in an oasis, with elms not palms,
and the fragrance of water lingers in the air.

Friday, May 21, 2010

U is for uniform

(1. having always the same form or character;
unvarying  2. agreeing with one another in form,
character, appearance; alike; of the same form,
character etc with another or others)

Walking Group at Eynesbury

Ed says, Bacchus Marsh is back to normal.
He's looking at the water lying next to the road.
He's talking about the drizzle on his windscreen.
I'm not even gonna turn on the wipers, he says.

Ron worries we'll get drenched and lost.
I tell him about the centenarian learning
to fly a helicopter. Nic says to Ron, You've
got years to go yet. Well, sixteen, says Ron.

Caleb smiles all around the track, joining us
as a walker for the first time. He's almost three
after all. When the housing construction zone 
shows up, he's mesmerised, and suddenly serious.

Jo's had a rotten week, causing two kids to be
suspended from school. One for disobedience
the other for showing off his nipples. His school
is Brethren. Jo says, Will they want me back?

Nic has had a torrid time dealing with complaint.
The complainant's integrity's out, that's obvious.
But that woman could destroy all we've built
if left to blame others, spread discontent, gossip.

Dawn pushes the stroller through sticky mud
with Caleb laid back, munching sandwiches.
When Caleb walks, Jo gets the stroller, empty.
Oh, says Dawn, Jo's mother, Look at her!!!

Karen says, These groves of gum are gorgeous.
What a clever idea, to make the walking paths
among them. She wants to visit family back in
the Netherlands, but so much money! Can she?

We walk together, talk as we walk, empty
the brain of this week's issues, wind our ways
between what were originally windbreak trees
forget to look for kangaroos and birds as we

establish our common humanity
air our differences.

T is for technology

(technology: the branch of knowledge that deals with 
science and engineering or its practice as 
applied to industry; applied science)

[engineer: to arrange, manage or carry through
by skilful or artful contrivance]
[industry: a particular branch of trade or
manufacture; assiduous activity at any work
or task]

Since the definitions above apply, and poetry is
built from form, even blank verse, I am experimenting
with a form I just learned about - the lune.

Gulf of Mexico
Oily threads will net
naive fish
make seaweed plastic.

Metro Trip
Heavy metal train
rock concert -
alight onto stage.

View From A Train
Layers of city
sequinned lights -
beyond reflection.

Powerboard holds up
arms: both printers on.

To and From Work
Car-train-tram-tram and
walk quickly.
Walk-train-train-car and
key in door.
(that wasn't the tercet a lune
is meant to be; I said I was

Melbourne Town Hall 
Basalt blocks - sandstone
massive front
declares war on One.
Our Town
Three approaches are
Trees guard heritage.

The New Footpath
Which art in heaven
New footpaths
May you come to us.

My Kitchen
Juicer sits idle.
Toaster's HOT.
Jug boils over and over.
(I told you I was experimenting!!)

This Life
Emails through ether -
news travels -
heard on the grapevine ...

Acknowledgement Is The New Buzz-Word
(another diversion)
make do for thanks.

Applied Science
Assiduous task
Carry through by skill.

A lune has 5 syllables in Line 1
                 3 syllables in Line 2
                 5 syllables in Line 3.
Check it out!! It's the American version of  haiku.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

S is for spot

 I think I've had enough of spots

I'm doing a spot of gardening
This is my favourite spot
I spotted a honeyeater earlier
Not a spotted pardalote

The daughter has spots she scratches
When we spot her, we tell her to stop
At work I've got a good spot to park
On the spot, it's a step-jump-and hop

I'm generally spotless
In a spotlight I thrive
I've been put on the spot
In a tight spot I'm alive!

And I do have a soft spot
For spot checks without warning
And spots of rain on the deck
Spot-cleaning a spring morning.

(You don't need the dictionary definitions)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

R is for runner

Late Night Traffic Jam

A surrogate mother outlines
the legal intricacies of surrogacy
and a Middle Eastern oud wheedles
on the FM station. It matters
tonight, what's offered to entertain.

The flashing sign did not say
we would spend thirty-five
minutes virtually stationary
on a stretch of road usually
traversed in five minutes.

But there we were, five lanes
converging to the one I was
idling in, heavy trucks urging
themselves into small spaces.
What we were lacking were


Plants spreading by stems
which throw out roots at
nodes could have carpeted
the freeway by the time

we broke free, and sped
off at the Western Ring Road
as reaction turbines, a
rotating system of blades
driven by fired-up blood

 doing a runner!

(1. one who or that which runs  2. a competitor in a race
3. a messenger  4. a messenger of a bank, broker etc
5. one acting as a collector, agent, or the like for a bank,
broker etc  6. one whose business it is to solicit trade
or patronage  7. something in or on which something else
runs or moves, as the strips of wood that guide a drawer,
the rails supporting the sliding seat of a rowing boat etc
8. either of the long pieces of wood or metal on which a
sledge or the like slides  9. the blade of a skate  10. a sharp
curved blade used to open a furrow for placing seed
11. the rotating system of blades driven by the fluid passing
through a reaction turbine  12. a roller on which something
moves along  13. an operator or manager, as of a machine
14. a long narrow rug, suitable for a hall or staircase  15. a
long narrow strip of linen, embroidery, lace or the like, for
placing across a table  16. [Bot.] a slender prostrate stem
which throws out roots at its nodes or end, thus producing
new plants; a plant that spreads by such stems)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Q is for quell

(vb. 1. to suppress [disorder, mutiny etc]; 
put an end to; extinguish. 2. to quiet or
allay [feelings etc])  Budget Macquarie
(1. To quell opposition or violent behaviour
means to put an end to it using persuasion
or force. Troops eventually quelled the
unrest. 2. If you quell unpleasant feelings,
you stop yourself or other people having
these feelings. The Information Minister
is trying to quell fears of a looming oil crisis.)
Collins Cobuild Learners
(and:  to vanquish, subdue [ME; OE cwellan kill
causative cwelan die]) Macquarie

I came to this word
my tongue on tiptoe
swallowing on the downward
inflection: quell - it sounds like
a sadness, like water
cold, fresh, the kind
you roll on the tongue when
really thirsty, a relief.

Here are ten contradictions:
quell:                 shrill
fontanelle           impel
goodwill             repel
free will             infidel
well                     k ill
shall                pell-mell
dwell                 expel
villanelle           tumbril
vigil                  roadkill
quill               toll & knell

this vocabulary plays a trick -
lulls and trills and tendrils play
where bombshell expel and chill
hold sway: hello! farewell!
Stand still!

Whatever dies, it's all
God's will.
Quell the rebel!
They said before they
too, fell. Every domination
the road to hell.

Second thoughts on pince-nez

For a start, what
gender are they?
Masculine, eh?

Then think seriously,
ladies, about the days
of pinchy pince-nez.

Cast your eyes to the ground
focus in: through the petticoats
get present to skin

buried in layers of cloth
light and heavy
you sit with a similar bevy

of beauties in bustle and bone
all devoid of healthy
muscle tone

the whales were chopped up
for this: you can't run away
from the unwanted kiss

barely breathing, you sit upright
as a chair, wooden-faced
dreaming of wind in your hair

embroidering linens and silks
for the home: reinforcing belief
how dangerous to roam!

Above all, your nose
in pain in a spring - your sights
in the grip of this man-made thing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

P is for pince-nez

(n. a pair of spectacles
kept in place by a spring
which pinches the nose)

In reading this poem you need to imagine
the acute accents on the ends of words.

A French Invention 

It's time to retire the pince-nez
old-fashioned and for those who are au fait
with the fashions in spectacles, say
it's not worth being engage.
Much less popular now than cafe au lait
once something after which the nobs chasse.
Whilst I still enjoy crudites
I can't say I favour pince-nez.
The pinched nose is so declasse
and I'd rather be short-sighted than releve
and enjoy a serve of creme brulee.
In Marseilles, without doubt, jeunesse is doree
but the thought of those painful pince-nez
is enough to make me flee to Whangerei.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

O is for oblivion and oblivious

(oblivion  n. the state of being forgotten, 
as by the world eg five minutes of oblivion
oblivious  adj. unmindful; unconscious
[followed by of or to])
see also 'obvious'

As in the world
(a few millenia of oblivion) 

What are the names of those birds
who used to make my ears ring fifty
years ago with their announcement
that the sun had risen again? Which
lizards are now becoming extinct?
Have I ever seen them? The photo in
today's tabloid shows an orange-
headed specimen. Researcher
Barry Sinervo of the University
of California's Department of Ecology
and Evolutionary Biology is quoted
as referring to 'the tip of the iceberg'.
Don't our modern-day (that is to say
evolved) icebergs come in chunks
with flat tops on which polar bears
steer by the Southern Cross to return
home and die trying? The whales
can teach us re-population is possible.
Do we really need that information
as a species? - we're doing quite well.
In the fight. The competition. The
losing battle. I am cheered when
one honeyeater taste-tests my garden.
Then I try to photograph silver princesses'
beautiful pink dresses, their globular
gumnuts, against a sky pasted white
a pall blocking out sun, and later -
moon, all stars. The flowers are black.
The birds flee, hearing the sliding door
warning of my entrance to sanctuary.
A worm in my earth is rare. Individual
new insects make brief appearances.
What are their names? Have they tried
out this garden, this district, this climate
zone, this planet, and found it wanting?
Was it a wasted trip into existence?
As our own existence is momentary
in comparison with the Earth's*, so
is all life. I look at crocodiles, turtles
and cycads, who have proven track records
and wish them a fruitful inheritance.

* The website has a feature on climate change
from the introduction of which this is a tiny extract.

Friday, May 14, 2010

N is for number

(n. 1. the sum, total, count or aggregate of a collection of units
or any generalisation of this concept  2. the particular numeral
assigned to anything in order to fix its place in a series  3. a word
or symbol, or a combination of words or symbols, used in counting
or to denote a total  4. a quantity [large or small] of individuals  
vb.  - to ascertain the number of; to mark with or distinguish by
a number; to amount to ...)

Well-known numbers
six million Jews
nine eleven
two thousand and ten

Less well-known numbers
twenty-four million more boys
than girls in India due to gendercide
(imagine the population
of Australia being all male)

Well respected numbers
two is company
one hundred dollars
x amount of profit

Numbers incomprehensible
six billion people
uncountable millions of stars
how many birds constitute
a flock?

Numbers not respected
"Roadworks Ahead"

You can only add numbers
of the same things.
Subtraction is good as long as
it isn't yours
or you didn't want it.
A tumour for example.
Multiply yourself (but if
you're a woman, don't
make more women)
Divide to conquer? More often
divide to maintain what you think
you have that is better.

how many birds
do constitute a flock?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

M is for millet

Another botanical topic!
(n. a cereal grass)
(from The Macquarie Dictionary:
1. a cereal grass, Setaria italica, extensively 
cultivated in Asia and in southern Europe for 
its small seed or grain (used as a food for man
and fowls) but in the US grown chiefly for fodder.)

You drought-resistant grasses
the multiracial members of your clan
have fed the exponential growth
of humankind for centuries with elan.

Ten thousand years ago, the gatherers
left their hints on grinding stone and bowl
In modern times for the wheat-intolerant
you play a critical role.

In India you're making flat bread
In East Africa, you ferment for beer
You're in juggling balls with birdseed
You're so adaptable my dear!

I used to eat your puffed up grain
as a substitute for wheat
but no! say the experts, you're not for us
who have thyroid disease to beat.

So there we have your yin and yang
the dark and light of millet -
selective benefit for man, fowl, beast
& misplaced enthusiasm - chill it!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

L is for laurel

(1. a small evergreen tree 
2. [usu. pl.] honour won,
as by achievement)

An achievement

How little we learn
reading a dictionary
budget edition I must
not forget - what can
we expect? This 3rd
edition 2002, pages
yellowing already -
a tired little tome
hardly worthy of
the word 'laurel'.

Go to Wikipedia, my
friends, go find that
bay laurel has been
preferred choice to
honour poets, hence
'poet laureate'. Along
with sports. "I say,
how sporting you are
your rhymes racy
rhythm of tennis
parsing like cricket
returning the ball
to its bowler, a realm
of sunhats and points
scored. How poetic
your loss, my dear!"

In our local remnant
of a Catholic cemetery
without its ghost town,
a committee planted
the Bay Laurel for
memory. We use it
to flavour our mince
and taties. The leaves
are preferred fare
for the Eastern
tiger swallowtail.
There are twelve
other trees & shrubs
in its family & friends.

Oh happy laurel!
Revered by the ancients
turned into legend
contemporary symbol
of victory, transition.
Heart or shield shaped
circular emblem -we
rest on them. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

K is for Kilt

(any short, pleated skirt, especially one worn
by men in the Scottish Highlands)

Visiting Scotland we did crave knowledge
of our clan, our tartan, our heroic deeds.
All we got was Rothesay and the Serpentine
winding down a decent hill and washed
with drizzle. A pink umbrella drew attention
against the grey.

We Lowland Scots, Glaswegians, islanders
crossed the waters out of Ireland with
our bairns of unknown lords and men,
and not much else. There we stumbled
fell upon a sense of decency, home.

My grandmother at the age of eight knew
Australia was the next big crossing to make
found a man who agreed, packed her
woollen suits, good reasons, post-war gung-ho
to work in Savoy Hotel's Laundry.

The man would walk Carnegie to the City
at times, for work. You couldn't always afford
the train then. She bought the land in Rye
with water-wrinkled hands, and had him use
his carpentry trade to build a house.

Retired, he lost heart and died. She drank
port at night, refused to budge, watched
Christian TV Sundays, dispatched regret
but not her loyalty to a Soviet otherworld
a paradise lost.

She got out of here the year the Berlin Wall
fell, tolled a bell she couldn't bear to hear.
She left a tartan shortbread tin of odds and
bobs, but not a hint of kilt. Yet we watch
the Tattoo every New Year.

Monday, May 10, 2010

J is for jetty

(jetty: n. a small wharf.)
[wharf: a structure built on the shore of, or projecting
out into, a harbour, stream etc so that vessels may be
moored alongside to load or unload or to lie at rest; a
{quay: an artificial landing place for vessels
loading or unloading cargo}
(pier: a structure built out into the water
to serve as a landing place for ships)

We are there, we two sisters and a brother
in our jumpers in the boat you'd need to row.
The landing place is the flood-hollowed
river bank, below what's now called
the Terry Tinkler Reserve. In the 1950's
it was the place for stilt-legged water tanks
(every household owned one) and fishing.

We are perched on the boat's rims; it's
a plain boat, for rowing and catching redfin.
We are wearing jumpers so it is winter, but
the water is low, the carved banks not wet.
Where were the floods that year, in the cold
season? And whose boat is it, so clearly
a rowing boat, high and dry, in a riverbend

without a jetty? I must ask my mother.
Who now bumps around the house
as if she's in a coracle of pain. The legs,
she says, when they go ... We jolly her
along. It's the mind that matters, Mum,
we say: just keep doing your crosswords.
When we venture weekly to the shops

I create safe harbours for her, legs planted
firmly, elbow offered like a solid bollard.
(Naut. a vertical post on which hawsers
are made fast) The next memorable photo
is of Mum, thirty-six years old, the terylene
suit, hair a dark helmet, striding towards us
on the new Barmah Bridge, the punt retired.

All this before speed boats and fundraising
canoeists disturbed the waters. They flowed
as waters love to flow, gathering around
snags and sand bars, washing exposed roots
clean, transporting fish from mudbanks to
heaven or the hell of hooked betrayal. Now
those waters travel turgid, cautiously.

I'm on the pier with my son, and he's singing.
He sings to the rhythm of waves; he sings
into the wind, chooses notes from an unlikely
score. Ankles crossed fatly, eyelids half-closed
he is a seaside Pan, oblivious to audience. This
is my son's first known world; already he grows
like melaleuca: ragged, short covert bloomings

head raised to welcome the waves and wind.
I am thirty-five here. A decade later, photograph
the ribs and bones of  French Island pier, blue
on blue, light beyond shade, frames for dappled
seagrass-bedded Westernport. It seems there is
no safe anchorage; I have moved, migrated, set
feet on many wharves, been cargo, packed and

lifted above the waters, left high and dry along
the courses of water, set down where landscape
is foreign, changed by flood or tsunami, driven
to lie at rest. I have sat with friends, legs dangling
on the ends of our tolerance, I have strolled to take
the measure of these artificial walkways. The timber
comes from deep within old growth forests, holds.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I is for initiative

(n. 1. an introductory act or step; leading action
2. readiness and ability in initiating action; enterprise)

A Mother's Recipe

I buy steak.
I buy potatoes.
I buy broccoli.

I sear the steak
sprinkle thyme.
I dice and boil
potatoes, strain.
I cut and steam
broccoli al dente.

I add to the potatoes:
onion, greek yogurt
parsley, coriander,
basil, nothing more.

My son adds lemon juice
and olive oil to broccoli
just as his girlfriend's
family do. It is a meal!

But where did it begin?
In watching my mother?
In abetting my father?
In using recipe books
abandoning them?
In becoming interested
in gardening? In buying
a house with vegetable
beds already boxed?
In planting, netting, weeding,
carefully distributing water?

This morning I woke
with a commitment
to steak, potato salad,
greens. Steak is for
strength, potato salad
for posterity, greens
for guardianship

On Mother's Day 2010
let it be said: I created
yet another meal from
possibility; my children
even as adults, are well-fed.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

H is for heat

(noun: 1. the quality or condition of being hot
2. the sensation of hotness  3. hot weather
4. warmth or intensity of feeling
5. a single course in or division of a race
or other contest  Zool. sexual excitement
in animals, especially females
verb: to make or become hot or warm)

Hot Topics

Is it different in any way
from clitorodectomy or
binding the feet of girls?

The plane trip was going
smoothly, all calm, when
suddenly this young woman

is standing down the back
screaming her head off
all covered in blood, there's

blood on other passengers.
No gun shot, maybe a knife?
Initially, yes. At that altitude

the lower air pressure caused
her silicon implants to explode.
My sister and I splutter

into our flat whites before
staring at each other with
disbelief, disgust.

Parents in America are giving
labial reconstruction to daughters
becoming "women", I whisper.

The knives glint with greed.
One doctor rarely sees unshaved
pubes on youthful (female) patients.

My sister says, It's all about
turning women into hairless
newborn animals! Needing

another animal's warmth to
survive. Joeys! she says.
Babies! Dolls! I add.

At this point we pack up, leave
the cafe, our heated exchange no
protection against the chill wind.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Phew! After 7 self-made prompts, I'm feeling
extremely challenged. The writings are much longer
than the ones I wrote for strangers and friends
15 to 22 years ago. However, the random topics
are exciting and not the kind of theme I'd focus on normally
(motherhood, travel, Zambia/Africa, deaths, childhood,
etc - that's my normal source of writing). Tomorrow:
H is for heat. A HOT topic! lol.

G is for gentility

(1. superior refinement or elegance, possessed or
affected  2. gentle or noble birth) Macquarie

(refers to people of high social status, and their 
typical way of life) Collins Cobuild

In Van Demon's Land

Very little experience of this
type of existence.
India: we ate in the streets
allowed one hotel, one salad.
Dar es Salaam: that old
pukka faded gracious terrace
Out of Copenhagen, empty
black and white tiled halls

In Melbourne, you can
persuade your children to
romp on Como's lawns, or
drift through the fernery
at Ripponlea, forget the nearby
railway, main road, workers
cottages, car parks, car yard.
I think of Sarah,caught

in London streets
with cloth
sent to Van
Diemen's Land
to service
landed gentry.

Who did they think they were
those early adventurers? Making
slaves, the servile, stacking the odds
with penal servitude. You venture
into their old homes, so young
still, two centuries of scramble
self-justification, stories about
natural order, cream at the top

the 'bread and circuses' mobs
decent folk and special, the nobs.
"Stuck up!" we chanted
at school. And still there are those
for whom embroidery and piano
performance are the measure
the signal that the family, or
the one person, is born to rule.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

F is for frisk

(to dance, leap, skip, or gambol, as in frolic;
colloquial: to search [a person] for concealed
weapons etc by feeling their clothing)

Where do I start?
At the top I suppose
where collars begin
and jackets and those
items of coverage
where guns, scissors, knives
wait until time comes
to threaten trapped lives.

I wouldn't dare skip
let alone dance
it's worth more than I'm paid
to miss my big chance
to avert a disaster
to catch before crime -
why's this woman complaining
she's frisked every time?

Some people just offer
a savvy mien
I do my job,
apprehending again.
Although we are random
in friskees we choose
I've selected a target
who I know won't refuse.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

E is for embryo

 I am doing this one early as I'm leaving for work early tomorrow.

(an organism in the earlier stages of its development,
as an animal still in its mother's body)

Whenever she hurts herself
no matter where she hurts
I get spikes of pain in my
stomach and legs. She is
eighteen now, no longer
the passenger of my bole
my trunk and I, the inmate
of your soul, a hunk, a solid
rock you hurtle slowly in ...

She fainted, for me, the day
she first inserted earrings
after piercing. I could not
hold her, could only cry
thinly: my daughter! darling!
I am plump fruit
fold-out princess
a wondering ...

Our adulthood together fragile
not yet mature on either side
slowly we accumulate
differences, the pain acute
less frequent, more disturbing.

* lines in italics are quotes from a poem in
my collection the very new self

D is for deficient

 This poem owes much to the Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes!

(adj. 1. lacking some element or characteristic; defective
2. insufficient; inadequate)

Right now my mind is deficient.
In the face of this word
I'm a blank.

If I were to be more efficient
I'd have a mind that's like
a full tank.

I'd turn on my mind's ignition
with a smart wrist
and plenty of verve.

And without too much wasteful emission
I'd speed into every

But I'm not a car, I'm a person
and plenty of faults
lie therein

So in case my defects worsen
I'll keep these ideas

Monday, May 3, 2010

C is for Close

(vb) to stop or obstruct entrances, apertures, gaps;
to refuse access to or passage across; to bring together
the parts of; join; unite
(Stock Exchange) to be worth at the end of a trading period
(adj) shut; shut tight; not open; enclosed; confined, narrow;
lacking fresh or freely circulating air; practising secrecy, 
reticent; near, together in space, time or relation; not deviating 
from a model or original
(n) the end or conclusion; a cul-de-sac

Prelude: "All these earthquakes,
disasters: is it really end days?"

On Location: For some
those end days have
already come.

Whole cities staggering
like drunks, rusted war machines
like giant chunks of sculpture
you wish it was
it isn't, it's an aftermath
these wars are biblical
in proportion, all out of
proportion. Is anyone, ever,
going to stop the action, ask:
hey guys, what are we doing
this dirty work for?

Other Questions:
How many people occupy
The Underground?
How many are buried alive?
If you teach a six-year-old
to shoot and hate, is it
your intention he kill
his mother, his humanity?

"As a woman I have no country."
Virginia Woolf

There's no country where
home is holy, unquestioned, as is prison
the sight of a woman sickens
guns are turned casually like a camera
your shoes can make too much noise
and you are beaten
the men are highly-strung, hysterical,
cold, closed, wild and crazed
there are no doctors on the streets
to cure them

have no country
no place
no home
It's worse than that

Women are traded
across borders
as commodity
It's worse than that

Women don't exist
because girls
are aborted
It's worse than that

Women have no place
when what you say
must be whispered underground
you wear clothes to hide identity
in the streets where the dead lie
and your throat is closed
against terror's blade.

After the Event
A lovely large darkness.
Driving home one hundred
kilometres, fast, a woman
alone. Driving between
walls of healthy trees, tall
and glorious, painted
on the black sky. Beyond,
pastures I know to be green
by day. I face the night
without fear

remember Wajia the refugee
returning to Kabul, hopeful
in the mini bus, and the view
we all get of pristine white
mountains, a low crumble
of clay, a desert. "But,"
she cries, "Where are the trees?
This parkland was full
of trees, beautiful flowers."

She returns to Pakistan
to the camp where young children
push over mud walls of
unoccupied houses.

I'm driving and listening
to new Polish Jewish music
modern, youthful, discordant
exuberant. The long-limbed
trees usher me home.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

B is for Blubber

(1. [zool.] the fat found between the skin and muscle 
of whales and other cetaceans, from which oil is made 
2. [vb]to weep, usually noisily and with contorted face)

It's that phrase 'from which oil is made'
that most annoys. I'm sure the whale
finds better use for fat in ocean's
intolerant depths. Enabled in speeding
through a medium we can't assimilate
it's plain the idea of the oil  is all ours.
And what we've done to get it!

Russell, once 'the hellhole of the Pacific'
is unaware or refuses to allow the irony.
In Portland, the trappings attract tourists.
It's up to Greenpeace to chase the chasers
while we're content to admire the past
as 'exploits' 'heroic effort' 'incredible
brutality' the latter meaning man to man.

I blubber standing where the fat
was rendered, hand on harpoons
larger and more dangerous than life.
In the face of such incredible brutality
- man to whale - I hear myself
mourn with squeaks and moans,
bubbles of grief, spouting heavenward.

2 May 2010

A is for Aggregate

(formed by the conjunction or collection of particulars 
into a whole mass or sum; any hard material added 
to cement to make concrete; to bring together, 
collect into one sum, mass or body)

So far the pieces don't match.
Diary entries leave out the dramas.
Letters carefully tailor those same
life-altering events. There is often
much ado about nothing. All
we need is love.
Most of the poems are angry.

The drawings are of another world
even the sketches of frangipani trees,
women with babies on backs.
They're all about women, they are
not about women, the head-shrinks
would say they're about me.
I study them now for hints.

They clearly demanded intense
pressure on the coloured pencils
- the Derwents - the pressure
of living and working in foreign
community, needing a new
language. I put the humour
into brief stories, short fiction.

I laid out the beauty in acid-free
photo albums from Creative Memories.
All memory being creative, I search
and research what's gone,  the sum
of parts assembled, the hard stuff
added to delete, repair, review
make whole a phase of life anew.

One Challenge Ends, Another Begins

I can't imagine going a day without writing something poetic, so I'm going to set up the prompts for May like this: each day, I find a word at random in my Budget Macquarie Dictionary under a different letter of the alphabet and use that word as a starting point. I will start with A and my word is "aggregate" and also today will do B - the word is "blubber". I notice immediately that I may not like the words I'm given, but that's always been the challenge for us on-the-spotters/off-the-cuffers :-)  Join me if you wish; otherwise, just enjoy.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Off the Cuff 30: Meditations on Letting Go & Gratitude

APAD 30    prompt: "letting go"

Meditations on Letting Go

Low weak sun insists
we let go of summer
let winter squeeze through
curtain gaps.

Last night, driving,
my father's hands reaching
through time's curtain; I still
regret not being there
to hold them.

And where is my daughter
going? Come back, my hands
implore, stay young, stay
home, stay smiling.
She massages my head
and hands. She smiles.
And yet, she is going.

My worst nightmare
involved being on high dry land

hundreds of feet above ground
all around me the drop:

I would stop the fall through
sheer will. Why not let go?

Why not let go?
Regret makes you
slow. To be fast
don't fasten, hasten
just let go
of the past.
Good advice to self
so often shelved.

My mother tells me
the newspaper reports
at least one hundred and seventy
people, mostly women, of course
aged over the century are
alive in our state, Victoria.
My mother, almost eighty-four
aims to reach the dizzy heights
not let go of life, be
one of the select
to reach her centenary, and like
Agave americana, bloom again.

Ferns and herbs renew.
Birth, maturity, death
for the rest of us.


you, plump
artefact of desire
you over-ripe melon
you soft sac:
so happy I didn't
lose you to
surgeon's cuts
happy to feel you
floppy survivor
feel your painful
reminders yet
feel the lack of
weight, absence
which makes my heart
grow fonder
feel free to take you
to bed, free
of the fear
cancer bred.

 NaPoWriMo  30