The day I scratch the mark that marks two years

a bird arrives to tug a weed that spreads

between my bars, for nesting. Lest it disappears

I offer it some tattered blanket threads.

Now threadbare, worn to nothing, five years hence

that blanket offers no warmth in the chill

but warmth comes daily when my bird descends

now to my bunk, our trust so that it will

exchange for strands such gifts as please me best.

It brings me shiny things. Some buttons bright,

some coins the guards are happy to accept,

some bottle tops that glisten in the light,

some nails, which I sharpen to a point,

some bullets from a lazy copper’s joint.


Realisation suite

At first I cannot stand the

acid on my lips, the sourness

beneath the sweet. Loretta biting down,

peeling back the rind, swallowing, smiling,

then taking another quarter. I know

I’ll end up savouring the taste.


Just before the first rockets hit

I listen, through the open bedroom

door, to Juan’s singing, strong, sweet

and vain. I know I couldn’t

care less about him, but not,

yet, that I couldn’t care more.


I will wait forever, not because

I’ve romanticised a future for us

but simply because desire holds me,

its hurtful desperation a small price

for stolen moments I might miss

if I let you slip away.


I have grown old enough already.

That approaching years mock those past,

yet in my time there’s much

I’ve avoided learning. The secrets of

my lover’s kiss. What to call

the colour of a Jacaranda flower.

Fatherly advice

(because the world doesn’t have enough nonsense sonnets…)


Fatherly advice

Fear not, dear boy, the vicious wombacat,

the drop bear nor the turgid cockenbull;

fear not, for you’ll disturb those horrors that

awaken to the acrid odour, dull

but sharp, of childish terror. Do not fear

the codger nor the turgid numbacrunch

the deadserts lying in their boggy drear

nor, close by them, the fickle justahunch.

The bloated blotto sloping down your street

can sniff the frightened out from half a mile,

avoid its wrath and likewise keep discreet

where betterarfs lurk armed with powd’ry guile

Your choice then; face the holshebbang front on or

fear fear, you’ll still be soon enough a gonner.

At first light

I wake you in the morning

when your sheets in swales lie

and in fens and glens of cotton

gathered, places long forgotten,

and your length the range untrodden

upon which, in rose red sky,

clings a cloud, the red sky warning

formed of curtain-filtered light,

as I wake you in the morning,

as you wake me in the night.



Ravaging seas, once navigated, are glimpsed

in distant memory, on horizon’s edge,

a mere patch above the abundance

of fortunate life’s fortunes. Greens shimmering

in an afternoon sunlight’s cast demand

those bitter winters past, finally, relinquished.





In the moments of our distant

star revealing, bright in its constellation,

a world forms, humanity within it,

anxious to outrun its destiny, then,

in the last frantic millimetres of

starlight rushing, you and I collide.




Three migrations



The herd gathers here, where the

river running broad, shallow and slow

allows the strongest to cross. Others,

the luckiest, are carried by the

surge. But the weakest flounder and

become easy pickings for hungry carnivores.




There is the place most recently

abandoned. Here where we have landed.

Between, only emptiness on the wing

and storms. We nest, raise chicks,

regather our strength to return, when

there will be here. Here there.




What good exists in warm currents

running counter, always pushing against and

away? Better perhaps to be carried.

I wonder about turning. Being whisked

north to luxuriant tropics. But my

destination is set by stronger imperatives.

The crash

(Sonnets might just be the thinking person’s limerick. Every now and then I feel compelled to write one)

The Crash

They planted peas the day the markets fell
in measured rows, each one spade’s-width apart
and watered them and covered them as well
in mesh to keep the hungry possums out.
No jitters to distract them as they dug,
while stopped for tea they talked of their new home,
the day was warm the baby sleeping snug
allowed rare time to share their time alone.
No queer vibration worth the slightest note
disturbed their day. The indexes’ dive south,
downtown, sent ripples through the Lightcorp float,
but no sign here. She traced his hard, sweet mouth
and breathed a little lighter for it seemed
she had not erred to dream what she had dreamed.
At five the baby cried out for a feed
her husband watched it suckle at her breast
If this was lust, he thought, then lust was need
and that enough. Where greed, not need, was best,
in city towers, broker’s screens flashed red
their urgency, as if the world might tip.
She wiped her breast, their happy daughter fed,
then, buttoning her shirt, saw his glance slip.
so flashed cream flesh and then a smile his way
and said, lest unsaid things be left to chance,
‘the silverbeet can wait another day.’
They kissed. A bank of monitors blipped once
the screens, refreshed, announced another loss.
They went inside. A shower passed across.
Wall Street opened lower to their snore.
In Asia anxious markets followed too.
She rose for feeds at one and then at four,
Lit only by the television blue
she let her daughter snuggle in and slurp.
‘…in crisis talks…’ a late-night newsbreak said.
She patted the girl’s back to make her burp
then laid her in her cot and kissed her head
and went to rest. He turned and nuzzled close.
‘Tired Love?’ he said. She barely heard,
but heard enough to know that words like those
meant every bit as much as any word.
For careless words in billions broadcast round
knew not of love nor peas in fresh-tilled ground.



I haven’t published much verse on this site. The following piece emerged somewhat unexpectedly today. Melbourne readers will recognise the context.




Not yet the hour

for downing sorrows,

nor time elapsed enough

for sweet regret.

The morning’s noisy magpies

haven’t settled,

the whistling postie’s whistle’s

not yet wet.

The sun is inching

timidly from slumber

as if it doesn’t really

have the will,

and on the bay

the sheets, all slack,

not clacking,

tell passing joggers

the air is breathless still.



something stirring minutely

on the river,

disturbs the fall,

of the first leaves

onto the waiting grass.


One hundred voices

in one hundred places



One thousand half-read Heralds

slowly shut

and all turns quiet.

And at that moment

spreading out like suburbs

the thoughts begin

to ripple

‘I never knew him but…’