In the bottom of a cardboard box,
a photograph of a girl.

She’s fixed in that one-hundredth of a second
– a sketch, a pencil of lines and light
on the cusp of adolescence.

I want to reverse engineer her,
pull her apart piece by piece,
see what made her tick,
discover if imitation is possible.

Because decades on,
I can look in any mirror and see her face
dressed in the contours and constraints
of adulthood, and not find her.

crossing the road

Today, I’m back at my desk pulling together threads of notes I’ve made and not had the time, of late, to develop. This small piece, grafted and no doubt in need of more work, is an imitation of the form and shape of a poem by William Carlos Williams which appears below. Whatever it takes to get words on the page. Whatever it takes.

Crossing the Road

The mobility scooter stops

at the crossing.

Its rider wears sunglasses,

sleeves billow.

A wide-brimmed hat covers

thinning hair.

In the front basket, stocks of

toilet paper glint white.

She grips a cigarette between

her lips and waits

for the signal to go.


Proletarian Portrait by William Carlos Williams

A big young bareheaded woman

in an apron

Her hair slicked back standing

on the street

One stockinged foot toeing

the sidewalk.

Her shoe in her hand. Looking

intently into it

She pulls out the paper insole

to find the nail

That has been hurting her

two women in Lisbon

Two women in Lisbon-1

Each morning

they appear on the balcony.

In matching white robes,

and with similar stance,

they lean on the railing and watch

as the street stirs to its daily dance.

I observe

this conversational ritual,

this picture of intimacy,

and marvel at the worth of things familiar.

poets I’m reading: Mark Strand


Keeping Things Whole – Mark Strand

In a field

I am the absence

of field.

This is

always the case.

Wherever I am

I am what is missing.


When I walk

I part the air

and always

the air moves in

to fill the spaces

where my body’s been.


We all have reasons

for moving.

I move

to keep things whole.

sounding the coal: Lambton, 1889

sounding the coal

Lambton, 1889

Each day in flannel shirts and moleskin pants,

they ride down in an iron cage

to hew and harvest carbon crops laid down

in the late Permian age.

Along the face, incessant dark encloses these Cimmerians.

They raise their picks and chance their fate

to sound the coal for signs of vacant space.

This is where the prayers take place,

in this Stygian chapel of the working class.

Lamps illuminate wet walls and streaks

of vitrinite light up like ink-stained glass.

Still fills the room.

The heading weeps.

Walls glisten.

Flames flicker.


poets I’m reading: Linda Pastan


Why are your poems so dark? – Linda Pastan

Isn’t the moon dark too,

most of the time?


And doesn’t the white page

seem unfinished


without the dark stain

of alphabets?


When God demanded light,

he didn’t banish darkness.


Instead he invented

ebony and crows


and that small mole

on your left cheekbone.


Or did you mean to ask

“Why are you sad so often?”


Ask the moon.

Ask what it has witnessed.


from: Queen of a Rainy Country by Linda Pastan, W W Norton & Company. 2006.

poets I’m listening to: Enda Wyley

Dedalus Press - Enda Wyley - Borrowed SpaceThis interview on Radio National’s Books and Arts program yesterday, in recognition of Bloomsday, has resulted in me placing another poetry book on my wishlist.

Have a listen for 11 or so minutes and hear Enda Wyley read two of her poems – Notebook Shop and Poems for Breakfast. Just lovely.

Image from Dedalus Press.



poets I’m reading: A D Hope


Card Game – A D Hope

Club, diamond, heart and spade,

Under these the game is played.

Warfare, wealth, love and death

Dominate our every breath.


Players are not free to choose

Suit assigned or hand refuse

Dealt them, careless of their skill

Shuffled blindly, well or ill.


Wealth I had no talent for;

Lacked all aptitude for war;

Death at most might set me free;

Hearts were always trumps to me.


From Orpheus. Angus and Robertson, 1991



We stop at the edge of the reef

just short of the ledge that drops

deep and steep off the continental shelf.

As the boat’s motor cuts out,

waves of doubt carry away

any skerrick of bravado lurking inside me.

The others are stripping down to bathers

and enthusiastically donning rented masks and snorkels.

(Is there anything less hygienic?)

Before long, they are all in the sea

bobbing like corks,

eyes down on the colonies of coral,

backs exposed to the equatorial sun.

The swell rocks the vessel, up, then down.


Now, being in the ocean, rather than on it,

seems like a viable option.


Beneath the surface, snapper and wrasse.

Yellows, blues, greens, anemones,

sweetlips and parrot fish, unicorn noses.

It’s a feast for the eyes

of those who pass the bravery test,

even if what it takes is a buoyancy vest.


Sri Lankan inspired haiku


along Galle Face Walk

umbrellas shelter couples

snuggling in the heat.


woman crosses road,

hand raised to oncoming bus,

– Colombo traffic.


men walk slowly in

a funeral procession

from the Galle Fort Mosque


preparing Koththu,

cutting up vegetables,

chopping roti strips.


Sri Lankan road rules.

vehicles take up road space

in pincer movements.


signs on the rail line

– lack of metal, weak sleepers –

reduce engine speed