- CHILDHOOD POEMS
- FAMILY AND FRIENDS
- MORETON BAY
- THE WEATHER
- LOVE AND ROMANCE
COMING HOME FROM QUILPIE
Beneath the hot dry desert sun
Bare bones lie parched and white.
Red dust swirls. Magpies dance
Beneath its glaring light.
The wind whips up the tumbleweed
To roll across cracked ground,
And cockatoos scream in the sky.
An eagle-hawk soars round.
Emus feed beside the track
On the flat red dusty plain.
As the engine hurtles past
They chase the Quilpie train.
Blackboys with their grass skirts stand
On flat and treeless earth.
Tall anthills dotted here and there
Are of tremendous girth.
Railwaymen shout as we pass.
“Paper!” The fettlers cry.
We throw papers from the windows
As the steam train rattles by.
On through the night we hurtle;
Stop at Roma in the morning
For breakfast, rush on board
At the guardsman’s warning.
It’s getting greener now.
There’s no more swirling sand.
Tufts of blue-green stunted scrub
Replace the dry red land.
Kangaroos are grazing
Where the green is growing most.
Sometimes there’s a creek or pond.
We’re getting closer to the coast.
Now the track winds round the hillsides,
And through the forests growing.
The train’s whistle rends the air
As through villages we’re going.
Now it’s farmland we’re traversing,
And I’m getting excited.
It’s when we reach this area
I know soon we’ll be united
With Grandma and our cousins
By the sea. My brother’s sighted
The houses of the city
That spread so far and wide,
And crowd against each other
On every steep hillside.
The train’s whistle pierces shrilly.
For a moment my heart leaps
Wild with anticipation,
Then its quickened beats
Slow down as I remember
Why we’ve come back here.
We’ve come home for the last time.
This time Grandma isn’t there.
The sun glares red through smoky haze.
Flames lick up through blackened trees.
Leaves curl and float upon the breeze.
With their embers fire carries.
Over forest gums there hovers
A cloud of smoke that chokes and covers
Everything that it drifts over.
Deadened logs and blackened bark
Give off crackle, give off spark
Through the smoke haze dense and dark.
Exploding logs are all around.
The grass is bare and blackened ground.
Of forest birds there is no sound.
Animals have fled the plight
Of being burned by scorching might
Of orange flame. Their flight
Has left the forest silent, still,
Where nothing lives, and nothing will
Grow restored and green, until
The rain comes once again to bless
The forest with its soft caress.
(Written about vacation at the Gold Coast at the end of high school; the rite of passage now known as “schoolies.”)
O to be on Kirra Beach
Bathing in the surf,
Basking in the golden sun,
Or scruffing on the turf.
O to walk along the sand,
To see his flashing smile,
Or to run up Kirra Hill
With him beside me all the while.
O to skate around the rink
Holding tight his hand,
Or just to sit and watch him skate.
His skating was so grand.
O to climb up Razorback
To watch the setting sun,
And feel his first kiss on my lips.
Who’d ever be a nun?
CREATURES OF THE NIGHT
(Written 1961, at the age of 16, describing the “beatniks” of the time.)
They sit in the gloom in corners poky,
In clubs and in pubs and in dens all smoky.
They dress in black, and they drink and they swear,
And they never laugh, and they say that they care
For the state of the world, that it’s so unfair.
But they sit and look bored and tired and depressed,
And drift like the smoke from one den to the next.
And they don’t want to work. They want to be free.
Is it a grievance, or apathy?
AT GRANDMA ANNIE’S
Long snow-white hair pinned in a bun,
Dear face lined and wrinkled,
Slight and slim, and yet she seemed
So tall; blue eyes whose corners crinkled
When she smiled; visage that beamed
Warm greeting when she saw us,
And there was nothing for us
More looked forward to
Than for us to be
On the road to Grandma’s in the summer.
Our days were filled with love and laughter.
The Christmas puddings on the rafter
Were a sign of things to come
When all her kin would gather
Packed into Grandma’s home.
We children played all day
In the yard and by the bay.
Twelve we were together,
The kinder of Grandmother.
She was busy all day long,
And her voice in song
Would carry as she baked,
Or in the garden raked
Up leaves in early morning.
I rejoiced when I would waken
To hear the sound of raking
Up of mulberry leaves, and Grandma’s voice
Singing softly some sweet verse.
Joy would fill my heart,
For I’d know it was the start
Of another golden day
With my cousins by the bay,
Wrapped in Grandma’s precious care.
Every waking hour would seem
Like a love-filled golden dream
In Paradise with Grandma Annie,
Underneath the frangipani,
Outdoors when we were able.
We’d sit around the table,
Or on the deck, when it was wet,
Playing cards, or even yet
Monopoly for days on end
Grandma would send
Out food to keep us going,
Knowing we would all be so intent
On the game that we spent
All our time at it and we forgot
Even to eat, ‘cept on the spot
Of what Grandma would bake,
Biscuits, scones and cake,
Or sometimes she would make
Sandwiches to take us through the day
While we would play.
Fortunes were won and lost
At little cost,
As the rain came pouring down,
But at last it would pass,
And the sun would come out,
And so would we.
We played fiddlesticks and rummy of an evening,
Or Grandma would tell a story.
With us gathered round in wonder
She was in her greatest glory.
But Grandma could be stern
If one of us did something wrong.
It was from her that I learned too
To be honest, loyal and strong.
I learned love and devotion
Are boundless, free as ocean,
To love my sister and my brothers,
My kin, with depth and passion,
To love freely, love all others,
To love without possession.
I learnt independence,
To live life as I chose,
Taking in stride all obstacles
And joys through life’s ebbs and flows.
She taught me to take chances,
To risk all for a dream,
To chase my rainbow to the end,
However hard the journey seemed,
And that the end of journey,
With love both lost and won,
Is the happiest part of living,
For which our life began.
The frangipanni is to me
The most fragrant of flowers.
Its aroma wafted on the breeze
Holds memories of precious hours
Spent in a frangipanni’s shade,
Or climbing on its boughs.
It was a ship that sailed the seas,
And we were buccaneers bold
Who searched for ships which plied their trade,
And robbed them of their gold.
We could see the sea beyond,
From the branches of our tree,
And it was easy to pretend
That we were sailing on the sea.
We’d shake its boughs to mimic wind
Tossing wild and free.
My girl cousins and I would make
Garlands of the fallen flowers
That lay upon the ground beneath,
That fell in fragrant showers.
Sometimes we sat beneath the tree,
The young ones crouched by Grandma’s knee,
As she told us tales from home
Of England, far across the foam.
Grandma also loved to tell
How her two daughters married –
A double wedding, what a day –
My mother and Aunt Nell,
And how the bouquets that they carried
Were white and yellow blossoms picked
From Grandma’s frangipani,
Huge bouquets that reached the floor,
There were so many,
Threaded through with loving care;
And the brides wore garlands, too,
Wound around their hair.
Romantic dreams it wove for me,
The scent of frangipanni.
The dear gnarled tree still proudly stands
On Grandma’s hill for all to see.
Its scent calls to my memory
Those golden childhood hours
When we climbed among its branches,
And played amongst its flowers.
ODE TO A FIRST-BORN SON
(Written for my son John, born 21.7.1968.)
A son! A son! I have a son!
Surely I never loved before.
Oh, joy! My life has just begun.
No bliss has ever touched me more.
His eyes are like his father’s,
His brow is high like mine,
And yet this tiny baby
Is a person on his own.
He’s been put into my keeping,
A charge that’s so profound
It sometimes terrifies me,
Although I’ve been around.
I’ve nursed others’ babies,
But his crying tears my heart.
His suckling sets me trembling.
Each movement makes me start.
His hands so tiny grip my thumb
As though they won’t let go.
Each time I walk into his room
My infant seems to know.
He knows that I’m his mother
And love him heart and soul,
That I would live or die for him,
That he’s made my life more whole.
I have loved my brothers,
And I have loved my friends,
And I have loved my husband,
But from beginning until end,
One doesn’t know the depth of love
A person’s soul can plumb,
Until one loves a baby born
A daughter or a son.
THOUGHTS ON A NEW-BORN SON
(Written for my son Terry, born 18.7.1970.)
Life is a new-born child
Placed for the first time in one’s arms.
Joy is the infant realized
As flesh and blood from one’s own womb
Love is the life-milk nourishing,
As from mother’s breast he suckles,
The thrill of his contentment
As against her heart he nestles.
Hope is a whirl of happiness,
The kind that poets sing of.
But poets sing of maids and men.
They don’t know a mother’s love,
A love that reaches down the years
And sees this infant grown,
A man who’s honest, proud and strong,
With a baby of his own.
I dream each step along the way,
Though yet he doesn’t smile.
I see his first step, dread each fall,
Will walk with him each mile.
Hush, my baby, don’t you cry.
You’re in your mother’s arms.
Flesh of my flesh, blood of my veins,
Life-milk flowing from my breast,
My love is still all round you
As in my womb it was, so rest.
(Written in 1969, with my husband and brother in Vietnam.)
Love is a weary mother, hushing a crying son.
Love is a weeping widow whose grief has just begun.
Love may be a soldier, fighting for his
Love is a paediatrician, healing and saving the young.
Love is a star-struck virgin, with song as yet
Love is a moon-struck poet, with sweetheart still un-won.
Love is sometimes a bullet fired from a best
Love is parents and siblings. Love is kith and
Love is the friends one relies on, depends on
through thick and thin.
Love is the one who quarrels with you, then
makes it up again.
Love is the dove who tends its nest. Love is the sweet song sung
By a male magpie to court its mate and rear with her its young.
Love is an untouched bride going on honeymoon.
Love is the love of a mate, who pats one on the shoulder
And says not a word, but sympathises. Love is growing older
And loving the lines on the face of the one one loved when bolder.
Love’s a devoted dog, following after its master.
Love is emergency rescue teams, on call after every disaster.
Love is the congregation of an understanding pastor.
Love is a husband and father who never strays from home.
Love is a Casanova who’s vowed no more to
Love is the sea to a sailor, the white spray and the foam.
Love is a skilful surgeon, suturing sinew and
Love is a tender-hearted nurse tending those in pain.
Love is a social worker, making society sane.
I wish love was a politician, but I think I wish in vain.
(In honour of my elder brother John (Jack), who died 22nd May, 2003.)
“Jack’s dead”, Jenny said.
“Died at 8 am.”
For a moment I am numb,
Then I remember Jen.
“I’m so sorry,” I say with passion.
Without comment, in her fashion,
Jen hangs up the phone,
And I am left alone.
Angrily I ask God why
Jack had to die,
Leave a widow to grieve,
Sons, sisters and brothers,
Friends and others,
And the answer came:
He’d been in pain
So long it was gain.
At night Gerry screams
As the death-train in his dreams
On Joe’s cheek there’s a tear
At some times of the year
When Jack’s memory flashes anew.
But Jack’s face on the wall,
Weather-beaten and all,
Smiles crookedly down at me.
I’m not bereft.
Jack hasn’t left.
His spirit is running free.
Jack’s on the wind of every storm
That blows in from the sea.
Jack’s in the sun and in the tide.
Jack talks in the sea-swell to me.
Where we scraped oysters from rocks by the bay,
Or ate fish and chips along the cay,
Where we climbed Grandma’s hill or walked the pier,
By the pool, or under the gnarled frangipanni tree,
Jack’s still there.
OSIRIS, MY BROTHER
(For my younger brother Gerry, whose courage in face of cancer is inspirational)
Osiris, brother, guardian of denial,
Lover of all virtue and of fun,
My greatest joy is when with you a while
I tarry when the morn has just begun.
With bacon, eggs and toast we greet the day,
Drink coffee and review the world’s affairs,
Or grill a barbecue beside the bay,
Forgetting for an hour or more life’s cares.
You joke and laugh and wryly sum men’s follies.
You tell me that my company’s a joy.
Yours is, too, dear brother. All my worries
Fly when you are with me, dearest boy.
What will I do, Osiris, if you leave me?
As Isis grieved, your leaving too would grieve me.
(For my sons, John and Terry)
Soft-tinted hues of sunset; an air of melancholy;
Velvet hues of pink and purple – twilight shades;
Phoebus rising pales the sky around her,
And flecks with gold the ocean’s rippling waves.
I yearn to see you when the day is dying.
Some joy dies in my soul at end of day,
Remembering as I do that each day dying
Is one day less for me to hope I may.
A friend is a woman who understands
Your dreams and hopes they’ll come true,
But more than that, she does all she can
To help you achieve them, too.
But if they’re all wrong, the dreams that you
She patiently sees you through,
Then picks up each part of your broken heart,
And helps you start over anew.
I’d like to thank my good friends,
And make them amends
For all that I’ve put those girls through.
I’ve depended on Patricia and Dawn.
Beth and Mar-Jo stood by me, too.
Til understood when no-one else could,
And last of all there’s been Sue.
A WEDDING WISH
You’ve weathered many storms, my dearest friends,
And I have watched how your affection’s grown
From when the first sweet seeds of love were sown,
To where light-hearted joy of courtship ends,
And you have chosen to take vows for life,
To share the years remaining to you both,
And take before your friends this solemn oath
To journey to the end as man and wife.
May this glad day be omen for the morrows,
As gathered here with us with carefree pleasure,
You pledge your vows, make memories to treasure,
And forget for just today the past months’ sorrows.
May the strength with which you bore them stand good stead
For any further trials which lie ahead.
THE JOYS OF COOKING
O the fulfilling feeling of chopping up each herb,
Of shaking on the spices, to make a meal superb.
The perfume aromatic of garlic and of spices,
Of onions and of ginger, rosemary and thyme!
When left to my devices I dream up meals sublime.
Throw in a bit of this and that. The recipe’s all mine.
Some people like to garden,
But I prefer to cook a meal.
Getting dirt upon my hands
And under nails, is not for me.
I’d rather play with pots and pans,
Than weed or plant a tree.
The pleasure that a gardener finds
In gathering flowers or mowing lawns,
I find in meeting with like minds,
For lawns have prickles, roses thorns.
I’ll let others plant the flowers
To make my center-pieces.
The preparation and the cleaning hours
Before guests come, and after conversation ceases,
Are part of the enjoyment.
Let others find employment
Out of doors.
Are meat and wine to me,
And they will always be.
Tillers live lives solitary,
But I live for company that’s merry.
Expectant knocks upon the door
Are the pleasure I live for.
Friends of friends are welcome too,
To see the evening through.
Once the guests digest
The main meal we digress,
Discussing over wine and cheese
Whatever we may please.
How can pruning shrubs compare
With the ideas that we share?
But not just philosophy holds sway.
Fanatic gardeners have their say.
(I do gardeners a favour
By letting them all savour
Each others’ company at tea.)
But thank you for each herb
You grew to help it taste superb.
Without your skill mine would be less,
Plain food, unsauced, undressed,
So I own yours the needed skill.
Mine is just pleasure – as you will.
MORETON BAY: SUNRISE
The sun is a golden orb above the line of the horizon
That beams a stream of molten fire to the shore, where the blue ocean
Laps against concrete walls and grey-white sand.
The tide is turning, day is dawning, and the beach-front stirring
With bird-life, and with early-morning walkers on the strand.
The sky hangs cloudless overhead, pale blue blazed with gold.
In the city in the west, grey wisps of fog unfold.
All else is still. The city sleeps beyond, its metal bridges
Rising from among its buildings in grave grandeur.
The bay is first to waken, pristine until it loses
Its serenity, as traffic wakes the city from its slumber.
ON MORETON BAY
White sails on the ocean; white sand in the bay;
Lovers on the esplanade; young children at play;
Sunlight on the islands; glassy, clear green sea;
Seagulls circling overhead, white, graceful and free.
Pelicans a-gliding; a shag upon the pier;
Fishermen cast lines to catch the fish a-swarming there.
Children walking dogs; an old man sails a boat;
Mothers pushing strollers; a tin dinghy afloat;
Families lighting barbecues; the smell of onions frying;
Laugher, singing, shouting, and a baby crying.
Red sails in the sunset as the shadows lengthen.
Folks packing up and leaving as the daylight’s fading.
Moonlight on the water; alone with thoughts of you,
I wander home and wonder if you’re thinking of me, too.
The trees sway in the wind like waves upon the ocean.
The gale comes roaring through them like the tide.
Wild white horses out to sea, in rapid motion
Scud wind-surfers dancing shoreward as they ride.
The yachts are turning homeward from the treacherous, heaving bar.
The birds have sought a haven from the dark, impending storm.
The black on the horizon, and the flashes from afar,
And the thunder in the distance, and the fresh, damp air all warn
That it’s time that I sought shelter from the lightning and the rain.
Boats are struggling homeward with all their might and main.
The first drops fall and splatter over land and over sea.
The world has left the scene to darkness and to me.
WATERLOO BAY: DUSK
White sails are turning homeward as the dusk is falling.
Children loiter in the park, don’t heed their mothers calling.
In the west the sun sinks in an orange-golden blaze,
While in the east isles disappear in pink and purple haze.
The evening Angelus is tolling from the church upon the hill.
Lovers hand in hand upon the strand are strolling still.
Scraped oyster shells upon the rocks lie empty, white and stark.
Light is fading fast. Above high water mark
Black mud and green sea-weed desecrate the beach.
Water laps against the pier and ebbs beyond shore’s reach.
Out to sea the day’s blue water turns to grey,
The sombre hue of melancholy ending of the day.
Darkness falls, and silence. I am here alone,
Gazing out at islands disappearing in the gloom.
I see the pale moon rising over line of sea and sky.
Ships, folk, birds, have gone to roost, and so must I.
LINES WRITTEN ON SIBLEY ROAD
In the foothills in the haze suburbs are lying dreaming.
In the foreground city towers in morning sun are gleaming.
From Sibley Road I see the snake-like path the Brisbane River runs,
Which the majestic arch of the metallic Gateway spans.
The spires on Mt. Coot-tha reach up to the sky,
Half-hidden in the early morning mist that is drifting by.
The purple ranges form a back-drop to a city fast asleep.
Like sentinels the mountains their dawn vigilant watch keep.
To the eastern side of Sibley Road the blue-grey ocean lies
Beneath the morning sun and pink and purple skies,
Birds stir and early morning walkers stride the strand.
I see them in the distance, small dots against the land.
The air is crisp and clean with early autumn cool.
There’s not a ripple on the bayside wading pool.
No waves disturb the surface of the tranquil blue-grey tide
The Norfolk Pines stand tall on the still sea’s side.
CHRISTMAS IN MY RETIREMENT VILLAGE
(Written Christmas 2003, when most of the grand-children of Palm Springs Village were still young.)
December is here with its Christmas cheer.
Heat waves shimmer and dance
In the still, hot trance of noon.
Lights glimmer on branches of Christmas trees,
In front yards, and on homes. In the evening breeze
We sit in the cool ‘neath the moon.
In the dining hall there’s a tree ornate,
And the tables are festive and merry.
There are streamers and balls and kids decorate
Hall doors with garlands of holly.
There’s planning and hiding and wrapping.
Gifts under the tree pile high,
With grand-parents conspiring and swapping,
As they hunt and select and buy.
There’s the sound of the organ piping
“Silent Night” down the halls in the evening.
There’s sweet voices of children singing
Carols in Christmas greeting.
Yuletide lasts for a week at the Village.
Excitement builds with the heat.
Kids can’t wait wrapped gifts to pillage.
There’s the sound of light, eager feet
In the halls, and shrieks of delight,
All building to Santa’s arrival
On Eve-of-Christmas night.
Santa’s been and bestowed each gift.
The thrill of waiting is past.
We need a moment to lift
Our spirits. It’s Christmas at last -
The day the world shares with us-
But my rejoicing is done.
Christmas Day and the children have gone.
It’s the end of my fun.
In the summer heat I mean to retreat
To the cool of my flat, and that’s that.
Loud, vibrant music, dancing, laughter, jokes,
Conversing with my girlfriends and flirting with the blokes.
The occasional strong drink – it’s not something that I crave.
I don’t need alcohol to help me misbehave.
I’m a rebel and I’ll dance on any table top.
It’s with sobriety I strip my jacket off,
Do a twirl to music, wave the garment, tease.
I like tasteful boldness – classy, if you please.
Swing around my skirt, show my assets off;
My legs are my best feature, and that’s quite enough.
Spectators clap and cheer. I love an audience.
It’s just the fun that I enjoy. My ego’s not immense.
The music’s swinging, rocking, and I’m swaying in time.
Others get into the mood and onto chairs they climb.
It’s quite a party ‘til the bouncers call a halt.
Management’s annoyed and the stir is all my fault.
As usual I’m escorted from the club, disgraced.
The complaint is that the table and the chairs have been defaced.
Party poopers! Darn them! I’ll find another club,
But I’ve been evicted from them all. Ah, that’s the rub.
(Written in memory of the bushfires of Victoria in February 2009.)
Country of terror, country of fire and rain,
You tear our souls apart, destroy our dreams,
And wantonly you give them back again.
While in the south almost two hundred dead
Lay in ashes of an inferno’s wrath,
Up north we watched the rains with dread,
As cyclone after cyclone cut its path.
In Ingham and in Cairns we watched the waters
Rise as king tides and flooding rivers ran,
While Kinglake raged with flame like Hellyon’s daughters.
That corner of the world had gone insane.
‘Twas hell on earth that fateful Saturday,
When those who fled and lost their homes were lucky,
For orange terror still caught up with many.
Burnt-out cars and homes in ashes told their story.
Some lay beside the road where they had fled.
Towns were destroyed by bushfire’s wanton fury.
We had to wait till smoke gave up the dead.
We grieved, and yet capricious nature
Poured deluge after deluge on the north,
And drowned the hopes of many and their future,
Took lives and robbed farms of their worth.
And this when money’s flowing at a trickle,
When unemployment’s rising ever higher.
Dame Fortune couldn’t ever be more fickle.
Who’d think that worse could come than fate so dire?
Oh, you whose souls are bruised and aching
From loss of loved ones, loss of dreams, of things,
The rest of us may give instead of taking.
It’s a blessing if that’s all this lesson brings.
For souls can mend, and dreams exchange for others.
The dead stay with us, if but in our memories.
Australians more than ever now are brothers.
We reach out to help you build your future.
We reach out to give you solace in your pain.
We learn again to protect and to give nurture.
May misfortune bind us all again.
The leveler razes lives of rich and poor,
Sweeping down the rivers and the creeks.
The currents swirl, the muddy ooze slow creeps.
The stink of sewage reeks through every door.
Rivers surge and rooftops are but islands.
Animals are floating drowned along the flow.
Dreams are washed away and townships go
Under-water, leaving only highlands.
Time’s relentless hourglass
Has thrust us all among the weak.
As relentless floodwaters creep,
Against their currents we are powerless.
Now we turn to one another.
Now our neighbour is our friend.
Now until this maelstrom’s end
Every Queenslander’s our brother.
We won’t forget once re-established
What destitution means.
Though we now are cold and famished,
We will restore our dreams.
As you whose possessions are but scanty
Reach out to those with less,
May we all in future bless
Those with little and with plenty.
IN HONOUR OF FIREMEN
(Written January 2020)
Knowing that they come,
These women and these men,
To save our homes and livelihoods,
And some bravely gave their lives,
We will raise our hands in praise
They do not fail, and we all hail
The courage and the strength
Throughout the length
And breadth of our scorched nation.
There has been no hesitation.
We farmers and we graziers,
As Australians praise us
For how we battle
To save crops and cattle,
Have no doubt that as the drought
Brought fire and ashen mire,
It was the women and the men
Who fought the fires again
And yet again, who bore
As we weep for losses deep,
Let us be grateful that the hateful
Fires took no greater toll,
Though each soul lost
Was far too great a cost.
But let us hail the heroes.
Throughout Australia autumn shadows creep,
While round us mankind dies or seems asleep.
On our island, with borders ringed by waters
We are safe, still safer in our quarters,
Locked down against a foe we cannot see,
Cannot fight. Our recourse is to flee –
Flee from the world, hold even friends at bay,
At home, abroad, keep distance, in case we or they
Nurse the dread disease and pass it on.
All conviviality and partying are gone.
Our nation finds a new beginning forced on it, the show-down
Between our powers political, now united in a cause
Which makes them work together, forces them to pause
To think of those they govern instead of just themselves
And their petty disagreements. This perspective delves
Into a new regime, a new democracy –
Consensus – rather than opposing sides
Warring with each other. Our nation’s future rides
On changing of our ways. While the world is self-destructing,
Crumbling into ruin, we can make a new beginning.
Like Phoenix from the ashes may we eventually spring.
With very few to mourn, may the ending finally bring
Sweeping changes: clean air, clean industry, - our very own –
Less waste, more sharing. May the future tone
Of our lucky nation be of mateship and of equity.
May the heart of our nation become united family.
May our youth who by some strange blessing have been spared
This cursed virus, through their travails be prepared
To map out a future in which we lead the world
From the other danger hanging like a threaded sword.
May there be a brighter future beyond this threatened doom.
May Australia lead us onward, guide us through this wintry gloom.
Five o’clock this morning.
The sound of April rain.
On the ground and on the tiles
It comes cascading down.
In the darkness I can hear it
In the hush outside,
Where no birds sing, no joggers talk,
Or morning cyclers ride.
The early morning traffic’s noise
Hasn’t yet begun.
Even early morning risers here
Have decided to sleep in.
In the hush of falling rain,
In dark and solitude,
I meditate in April showers
In tranquil gratitude.
The air is effervescent, crisp and clean,
And earth is washed. The grass is green again.
It is the morning after blessed rain,
And sun comes up to kiss with gold the scene.
Magpies warble; kookaburras laugh;
A willy wagtail twitters in the gums.
There is the freshness and the green that comes
These times, rain’s sparkling aftermath.
Raindrops drip from glistening leaves on trees.
Spring water burbles by the path that winds
Among the gums downhill till it finds
The creek that once more flows towards the seas.
Raindrops, the mercies that from heaven fall
On just and unjust, spread hope over all.
I hear the rainbird singing as I hear the soft rain fall,
And my heart is singing too as I listen to its call,
For it’s months, and maybe years ago, the last time that I heard
That sweet sound. Crows had frightened every other bird.
Then, when rain came back again, first the magpies came.
Then the rainbow lorikeets flew in with the rain.
Up under my gutter water flooded a dove’s nest.
Now surely the drought’s over. Rain falls on green grass,
Flowers are blooming brightly, and the rainbird’s back at last.
The sun shines through the misty rain
And radiates its light,
Refracts an arch across the sky
That makes a radiant sight,
A bow of many colours
Arched across the cloud,
Midst sun and rain together,
An arch of peace avowed,
A promise arched across the sky
As ancient as the earth,
A promise for the future,
A promise of new birth.
The first corsage I ever had
When still a tender teen-aged maid,
Was made of orchids , white and purple,
Leopard spots, and gold inlaid.
My swain with pride pinned the corsage
To the shoulder of my dress.
He was proud of having chosen
The very best and nothing less.
I thought it was of me he spoke,
And beamed delighted as I heard,
But his pride was in his choice of flower.
He thought my blush absurd.
Ah, vanity! Thy name is boys. They all aspire
To hold a woman on their arms
Who is elegant, good-looking.
They don’t care for subtle charms.
And if she isn’t beautiful,
Why, dress her with an orchid.
At least she will look wealthy,
E’en if she’s plain and awkward.
Betrayed! It’s like a knife-wound in my heart.
It burns like acid in my brain,
And tears my soul apart.
Betrayed! My entrails feel ripped out,
My hopes and dreams are dashed,
Ideals torn asunder.
I face black truth at last.
Betrayed! The anguish runs too deep
For scars to ever heal.
At night the nightmares haunt my sleep,
And still the wound I feel.
Betrayed! Love didn’t count the cost
‘Til treason reared its ugly head,
But once love’s thrown back in one’s face,
Love watches where it’s led.
Betrayed, and there is no more trust,
No faith in love denied.
When love is mocked one mocks love back.
One scorns to care, will just deride.
TO LOVE, HONOUR AND CHERISH
Why is it that two hundred years from when
Coy maidens never dared to flirt with men,
And lovers hesitated to avow
Their feelings, we evade the issue now?
We hesitate, prevaricate, and try to read our lovers’ minds,
Instead of being honest, for fear that being honest finds
Us in a disadvantage in the stakes of love.
We will not declare our love, but ask our loves to prove
Their love. Men play games and won’t commit,
While women want perfection and demand the suitor fit.
We all have dreams of what we want our love to be,
But what the one we choose is like starts as a mystery.
We fall in love on sight, and sight is sometimes blind
To imperfections of the character and of the mind.
But, ah, the thrill that surges when we find
The one we have been looking for, and he or she loves us in kind.
The boffins say it’s just a surge of drugs within the brain,
Chemicals which make us “high”, just a bit insane,
But when the feeling’s not returned,
When the dose of dopamine
Doesn’t flood into his brain, or hers, we set the scene
For seduction or pursuit, or evasion, being mean.
What chemicals are at work then, wryly may I ask,
When the game of love is played like a game of chess or draughts,
And heartache often follows, or love can turn to hate?
Better far the days when a woman had to wait
To be asked for her hand by some love-sick swain
Who would manfully declare his love and then accept the pain
Of her rejection, should she reject his suit,
Then marry in his agony some girl of good repute
Who might make as good a wife, whom he might come to love.
Better far when women were exempt to make a move
Except to flutter eyelids from the cover of a fan,
And hope for the attentions of a particular man.
But even when love’s troth was pledged, then, even as now,
There was always the risk that a love would break his vow,
Or hers. What guarantee was there
That love would last forever, that forever one would care,
Would love, respect, and cherish, whatever might occur,
Accept one’s faults and failings, no matter what they were?
It all goes back to honour, a virtue not now found
A lot, but in a character who’s sound
It weathers any storm, loves through any tragedy,
Through good fortune and betrayal, and in peaceful harmony.
YOUTH VERSUS AGE
Faithless man, my age was my undoing.
These grey hairs and wrinkles could not charm.
When youth with its fresh face came wooing
You jilted wilted age without a qualm.
I thought that wisdom would accrue with age,
And yet men over fifty act like boys
When youth and beauty boldly strut the stage,
Although to youth you ancients are but toys.
She laughs behind your back, you foolish man,
And flirts to feed your greedy vanity,
Planning to take all your wealth she can,
And leave you in emotional poverty.
At heart she fancies youth and beauty too.
Your money’s all she really sees in you.
(Written in 1969, with my twin brother a conscript and my husband a regular soldier, both serving in Vietnam.)
My brother and my husband have gone off to war.
What is it for?
Why do men die and children cry
And women wait in dread?
It’s a terrible war. It’s for justice, they say,
For democracy,…but then,
My brother says most of the people
Want Charlie to win.
They can’t be trusted. Traitors are everywhere.
The worst are the Yanks over there.
There is more chance, the Anzacs sneer,
Of death from “friendly fire”
From a bullet shot by a gun
Of a rookie G.I. than by the Viet Cong.
I share the views of the other Army wives here.
We’re loyal to our men, but then
We hate the war, wonder what it’s for.
The Vietnamese don’t want us there.
Why should we care?
I’m filled with dread
When I hear a chopper overhead.
My brother’s riding shotgun
On the choppers from My Lai.
I cry when A.P.C.s rumble by.
My husband says he’s safe inside a tank,
But I’m afraid some silly Yank
Will drop a bomb in error. That’s the terror.
Or a shell will explode on the road
And the hell will trap him and his men
Inside as they ride.
I have a son. I want his father home.
In one piece would be fine.
Some men have come home,
Intact in body but not in mind,
And have left their wives behind,
To wander like lost souls, with no goals.
I hope that won’t happen to mine.
(Written after Expo ’88, when the refurbishment of Southbank was taking place.)
Fancy restaurants with food to make one drool.
Boardwalks and sidewalk coffee shops galore.
River walks, a man-made beachside pool.
Real estate with river at the door.
Car park, sky needle, gigantic ferris wheel.
Barbecues, a concert stage, taverns, inns and bars.
Train to the door, and buses. A festive feel.
A recreation playground for commoners and stars.
Who’d think it all spells homelessness and wretchedness for some,
Displacement from their stamping ground. from cheap housing and cheap food,
For those who struggle daily on West End’s bottom rung?
To most the lauded Expo and Southbank spell only good,
But they are drifting homeless, vagrants in Musgrave Park,
Or living wretched lives in to-be-demolished slums,
Moved on by heartless “cops”, and hiding after dark,
Waiting cold and hungry until morning’s warm sun comes,
Drinking metho to keep warm and eating from the bins,
Or counting on cold charity or on a generous few
To fill their empty stomachs (for stealing is a sin)
Though there’s bread a-plenty wasting daily, fresh and new.
Dwellings, too, are empty – here a penthouse, there a unit –
But if a fellow squats in some luxury address
Instead of in a run-down slum, then soon it
Will come to pass the law’s unfair redress
Will be to put him in the watch-house with other fated wretches,
Indigenous or down-at-out, looked on as a disgrace,
Put in prison for scant reason, for unreasonable stretches,
Blighted, dispossessed, a sorry drunken race,
Rejects, powerless and poor and denigrated,
Without a vote, without a hope, although the Powers-That-Be
Have solemnly declared their rights are reinstated.
(The “Powers” get their power through the votes of you and me).
We wealthy and we middle-class at Southbank, having carefree fun,
Let’s spare a thought for blacks and tramps we thrust aside without a prayer,
Greedy for the good times, for playing in the sun.
We forget an entire people, the poor who once lived there.
The arts should pay their way or take
Grants donated by the wealthy,
For governments will tend to pay
To stay in power and plenty.
The compromise of government grants
Limits art’s expression,
For no poet ever rants
To bite the hand that feeds him.
Philanthropists may also pay
To have ideas of theirs repeated,
But ideas of artists are diverse,
And if by diverse patrons greeted
And allowed to propagate
Can render governments unseated.
Through history the laws of mankind have evolved
As vexatious problems rose and needed to be solved.
The caveman and his partner first survived alone,
Fending for themselves and offspring ‘til they were full-grown.
To help co-operation family rules came into play.
Consanguinity evolved a tribe as centuries went by,
And further rules were made so all would live in harmony.
Strength to some extent determined seniority.
Each tribe fended for itself and fought against the rest
For territorial hunting grounds. The strongest took the best.
Then tribes grew in dimension and nation states came into being.
The chieftain of a nation then became a king.
The monarch had to have supporters, for uneasy rests the crown.
Lust for prestige and power brought many monarchs down.
Stern rules were put in place and subjects regimented
By rulers anxious for their crowns, though subjects oft objected.
Down through the years perforce through strength of underlings oppressed,
Laws of ownership and slavery and torture were redressed.
Slowly democracy developed – evolution taking place,
Slow unequal evolution of the entire human race.
Still some nation states are backward. Some are tribal.
Some see each other nation as an enemy and rival.
Slowly time will take its toll and men will civilize,
Learn to co-operate, learn to universalize.
Even the most advanced of us still are primitive,
Under our laws of government still compelled to live
In constant war; and we insist on party politics,
One side ranged against another, throwing mud and sticks,
Instead of compromising, of learning to accept
That others’ ideas may have virtue. We have kept
Our tribe mentality in parliament, fighting off opponents,
Not seeing there is wisdom and there’s folly, both components
Of any ideology, When will we evolve and use discernment
Instead of rivalry to decide our rules of government?
The pressure of the people’s vote surely indicates
That it’s time we changed its form once more in our nation states,
And made democracy harmonious, made our representatives agree
On what is best for all of us, not contending endlessly
To have the final say, to insist that they are right.
Hung parliament surely demonstrates evolutionary stalemate.
ON OCCUPYING FORCES
We’re fighting in the Middle East, let’s face it, for the oil,
But we’ve lost the oil already. We’re occupying foreign soil.
Remember when the Yanks in World War 11 were over here
Our troops despised the “occupiers”, though they were allies and the greater fear
Of Japanese invaders was also ever there.
Just imagine how the Arabs must despise the Europeans.
Racism is a cold, hard fact with which we all have dealings,
However we deny. Let’s respect such feelings,
Primitive though they may be. Acknowledge rather than repress
And then pre-judge in others what we ourselves possess.
ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Three hundred years ago Europeans were sadistic,
Tortured and enslaved their fellow-men,
Not to mention women-folk. Let’s be realistic.
Some Arab countries may take quite as long again
History takes eons to evolve in different places,
Different situations, different mores, different races.
We can’t teach them to be civilized by killing and by torture,
Only by example.They’re not invading, Our whole future
Isn’t threatened by the occasional act of terror.
Take precautions, but don’t antagonize, don’t retaliate.
If we do it’s inevitable the feud will escalate.
Play it down as you do with bullies in the playground.
Use the web as a weapon. Use the internet to mould.
Snare with honey, not with vinegar, till democracy takes hold.
MUSINGS ON THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN
When, with a stroke of politician’s pen,
Young men go warring against other men,
Spoiling for a fight, not questioning
That the cause they fight for might be vain,
Or that the enemy are men like them,
It’s politicians and C.O.s should take the blame.
Professional soldiers’ passion is to kill
Or to be killed at politicians’ will,
Caring not the cause, but fighting still
To dare to do or die for good or ill.
Grieve not for them if they are slain,
They chose their fate and they would die again.
Grieve for their wives and mothers, not for them.
But while the war goes on the soldiers struggle.
“Bring up more men,” they cry, “to save the battle,
And a thousand more to win the war.” The sabre rattle
Stirs us all. Never mind the blood that’s spilled
Of foe or friend by “friendly fire”.
The innocents thus slain by the desire
To raise them from their tribal state to something higher
Raise in some erstwhile allies only ire.
Once peaceful, passive men wreak vengeance for the sin.
Warring against terror breeds nothing but hate.
Let’s not multiply our forces. Let’s not wait.
Let’s bring home our forces. Terror won’t abate
While Aussie troops wreak damage in a foreign state,
While they slay one woman or one child,
Or cause collateral damage in the wild
Heat of battle, making foes
Of friends, increasing woes
Of those they claim to fight for.
We suppose the war is just,
But those we claim to fight for also must
Have passion for what we and politicians think ideals.
History reveals it’s only from within a nation heals.
Democracy and freedom do not come
By way of sword or cannon or the barrel of a gun.
The pen is mightier than the sword; a blog deflects a bomb.
The web is the most effective weapon.
Pollies, bring our soldiers home.
Wage bloodless war on terror by the internet.
The world-wide web wins minds and hearts,
Will conquer yet.
Each instant is infinity
As treading gingerly across terrains
That harbor foes with grim intent
Australian soldiers fight the fears that climb
Unbidden, pounding in their veins,
Each nerve alert, trained to pre-empt danger,
And yet with-hold their fire, training running counter
To every instinct when accosted by a stranger.
Each foot planted with great caution
They prowl inch by inch,
Watching the ground for signs of hidden peril,
Advancing into jeopardy, stifling dread immense,
The measure of each man the courage shown
When facing greatest odds and greatest evil.
Did they know when they enlisted what they faced,
These young men thirsting for adventure,
Idealistically dreaming of a hero’s valour,
Thinking patriotic thoughts, with hearts that raced
With youthful vigour?
No question of their bravery,
But it is as much of folly
That they question not the cause,
Convinced by propaganda that
The enemy is bad and they are good.
Occupying NATO forces mean the best
When risking life and limb,
But the politicians and the military brass
Who send them forth at risk of death or worse
Don’t have to face the test.
Their front-line task is in placating them,
In telling them the war they fight is right.
Lies, lies, you politicians. Lies.
You warmongers besides. Each man who dies
Dies but to strengthen diplomatic ties
And keep in their careers defence C.O.s.
Sticky red on desert sands
Crimson pulses blood from wounded’s veins.
There are blasts and screams and curses
Of insurgent and Australian forces,
And men lie dying in bright scarlet stains.
Pungent red, the blood of Aussie soldiers flowing
Vainly across the desert sand,
Pooling in a foreign land, Afghanistan,
And why? You lie. We know you lie.
The anger’s growing
For our brave young men, a generation
Of fool-hardy but courageous boys
Who are needed to defend in their own nation,
Not on some foreign soil
Where they’re unwelcome,
Making enemies of friends,
Pretending that we serve them.
Stones of Stockholm, wake and cry revenge.
Hurl yourselves against the tarnished law.
Cry out for justice for the man Assange.
Tell the world at large WE ARE AT WAR.
No secrets hide in crevices of rocks.
The stones unturned can now reveal the truth.
The veiled hypocricy that Julian mocks
Will be the target of crusading youth.
Justice denied for diplomatic gains
Will be avenged by all of Julian’s friends.
We know the truth of Sweden’s secret aims,
Mendacious means to gain corrupted ends.
For warmongers and others of their ilk
Was undertaken this most treacherous of missions
To silence Julian, and conceal the guilt
Of Yank militiamen and politicians.
Tarred with the brush they have tarred erring Russia,
The Yanks are guilty of justice that fails.
Like Khordorkovsky Jules is held unjustly
Like so many innocents in U.S. jails.
Demand, protest, for freedom of information.
I call on all the free world’s valiant youth
Of every country, every democratic nation:
FREE ASSANGE. Take to the streets for truth.
March and cry out justice for our champion.
Storm parliament, storm courts and storm the streets.
Don’t let justice be denied intrepid Julian.
Don’t let the humbugs silence Wikileaks.
We’ll shed no drop of blood nor yet be violent
In our non-co-operation with the law.
We’ll keep our revolution peaceful as a covenant
With the values of the man we protest for.
But march, march, march, and shout for justice,
For victory of right, for truth, for Jules.
Stampede the streets whatever it may cost us.
Demand that honesty and right and fairness rules.
(Written 2020, after the suicide of a returned soldier friend of mine.)
The streets and the gutters and the pavements have spawned
Those returned from the wars that the public have scorned,
The invisible army that no-one has mourned.
Some of them die by their very own hand,
Unhonoured. They did not defend their own land.
Weep for the undead, unbloodied, bowed band.
They sprawl in the dust, dishonoured, unsung.
Heed their sad plight. These warriors belong
With the Anzacs. They have done nothing wrong.
Give them hope, give them help, heal their wounds unseen.
They have fought in cruel wars in nightmares obscene,
In battles with strangers where they shouldn’t have been.
They obeyed the rash orders of Powers-that-be
Who didn’t consult with you and with me,
And who now evade responsibility.
Forget bright ribbons and badges of brass.
Save parades and emblems and wreaths that won’t last.
Give our men what they need: reprieve from the past,
A roof over their heads, an income that’s stable,
And a job to perform once they’re feeling able.
Take them out of their cars and off the cold street.
Give them hope, give them honour, instead of defeat.
Let no more of them die in despair at their fate.
In Queensland where wild rivers run, dichotomy holds sway,
Some locals say the wilderness and streams should stay that way,
That men should go on living lives they’ve lived for ages past,
A dreamtime life of hunting by the streams and rivers vast.
The Greens and other dreamers from the towns are in agreement.
It seems romantic. The conservationists are vehement
That the wilderness must be protected and our carbon footprint be contained,
And the life of first inhabitants needs to be maintained –
Idyllic life of fishing beside tranquil lagoons,
Sleeping rough inside bark humpies beneath frosty white moons.
The dream is lovely but let’s say idealistic,
And pragmatic locals are demanding that they be more realistic.
Lives are short and brutish lived under open skies.
Eyes are blinded to the beauty by disease from swarming flies.
Ears are deafened to the birdsong by the germs bred from the squalor.
Folk live in filth and waste, escape their fate by drinking liquor.
That’s the real dream-time of their lives, a drunken stupor,
Or petrol sniffing heaven, and they contract diabetes,
Or die of spread diseases breeding in their food and faeces,
For they don’t have any sewerage, and they don’t have refrigeration.
They’ve condemned themselves and families to the worst conditions in the nation.
The other half of the debate is for developing resources,
For the making of a profit from the wild and water courses,
Profit that will pay for better lives by education,
Buy homes and cars and health care, raise them from humiliation,
Raise them from their lethargy, give them hope and trust
In the future for their children.
Don’t you think it’s just?
Let’s ignore the hopeless and leave them to their fate,
Work with ambitious locals. The welfare of the state
Won’t be any worse for a little less of greenery.
Let’s give the willing work. Let’s bring in the machinery.
We can still preserve some of the wild rivers’ beauty,
But bettering conditions of our fellow-man is our first duty.
My hand, my pen, write to condemn.
In ink, not blood, my words accuse.
You plunder us of dignity.
You take away our right to choose.
With promises you bought our spirits,
You bought our dreamtime with your beads,
With guns and bullets stole our country,
Ravished us and watched us bleed.
We did not possess the country.
It owned us; it owned us whole.
When you stole our country from us,
You stole our dead and living souls.
Now in captivity they languish,
Locked in chains of petrol fumes,
Trapped in squalor mid your plenty,
Lost to hope and lost to dreams.
We have lost our ancient dreamtime,
Lost our pride in what we were.
The past is lost, but grant us history.
Return it to us as our lore.
Give us back our just inheritance.
Give us back our right to choose.
The future cannot be as past was,
But give us what its promise holds.
Our ancestors cry out for ransom.
Our children need a hope, a future,
Need respect that we can’t give them
While we languish in despair.
Raise us from this dead existence.
Hold out a brother’s loving hand –
Not a hand-out, but a hand-up.
Give us back our souls, our land.
We disagree among ourselves.
We argue over what is wise,
But you do, too. You disagree.
Eventually you compromise.
Allow us equal right to choose.
Allow us democratic right
To debate, decide among us.
Don’t interfere. Might is not right.
Do not decide what things are best for us.
Don’t dictate what we should do.
Give back our pride. Let us decide
How to marry old with new.
Let US plan and work our future
In the ways we want to go.
Give us back our souls, our dignity.
What is best for us, WE know.
Slowly, slowly, we’ll adapt,
Learn the things we must discard,
And the things we must adapt to
To survive this modern world.
But we need our souls, our dignity,
Need to honour our own past.
We need you, too, to honour it,
To honour truth ere truth is lost.
This land of broken dreams,
Of plains and deserts wide,
Before mankind knew time
Was rising through the tide.
An ancient people found it,
Crossing over ocean,
Trekking over land-mass
With resolute devotion.
Through eons tribes dispersed
Throughout the ancient earth,
With love of country in their veins,
A bond nourished from birth
They did not conquer country,
Barren or fertile regions.
They learned the lore of living with it.
Then came the British legions.
Let’s live now for the present,
And forgive the brutal past.
Live for fairness, live for justice.
That is all we ask.
Saying sorry doesn’t cut it
When justice is denied.
It’s posturing, pretence, hypocrisy.
Right is on our side.
Others came and had fair dealing.
Let us have fair dealing, too.
Australia is a land of plenty
For the many, me and you.
Let us have a voice that’s heard
On equal terms with white.
You can’t restore our ancient lands,
Or put past wrongs to right,
But you can restore our people’s pride,
Save our despairing young.
Hear the story from our side
Of how this land was won.
Give this land a single emblem,
Not two flags that will divide us.
We are many in our one-ness.
Give us The Southern Cross for justice.
Help us carve our children’s future
With dirt on hands and sweat on brow.
Help with jobs and health and schooling.
These are the things we need right now.
(Written January 2020)
Sons of Anzacs, heed the cry
As bushfires rage and embers fly,
As bodies weary, hearts are broken,
As homesteads burn and kinfolk die.
Sons of Anzacs, fight with glory.
Work together side by side.
We will rebuild our burnt-out country,
Restore our dreams with hope and pride.
Let us change our nation’s story,
Build a new and different face,
Change the very course of history,
Learning from our Ancients’ race.
Let us all pool our resources,
Australians old, Australians new,
Elect a government whose course is
To listen, think and act on cue.
We have the power to change our story,
Change our votes and change behavior,
Introduce a new economy
That will be our nation’s savior.
A marketplace of giving freely
Of service, and for needs to fill
Is what we want, and voting duly
To gain a government that will.
Let us put an end to waste,
Use only items we have need of.
Let’s feed the hungry in some haste.
There are needs that go unheeded.
There are folk who need to shelter.
There are children on the streets.
Why is this so, with mansions plethora
And children with surfeit of treats?
Let us give in service ample,
And donate cash if we do have it.
Let’s give from surfeit, or be grateful
That the wealthy give from habit.
The old is banished, burned to ashes.
From it strength and purpose rise.
Mate by mate each shoulder brushes
As when heroes fought the fires.
Underneath The Southern Cross
In towns and suburbs through the nation
Let’s hold a steady, honest course
Helping farm and cattle station.
Let’s heal the wounds and stick together,
Voting Party politicians out.
May Independents rule forever,
It will be a rout.
Let the leader be the Speaker,
Voted for by all the members.
Let all members vote by conscience,
Order rising from the embers.
Let us have a Head of State
Named and voted for by us,
Aussie no matter what his past was,
One who won’t demand a fuss.
Let us build a strong defence force
Of sons of Anzacs of today,
Men of courage, men of resource,
Men who’ll hold all threats at bay.
Let us pledge to be as one
No matter what our land of birth.
Make us under Aussie sun
The strongest nation on the earth.
Dreamtime is the now,
And the now goes on forever,
Stretches into bygone past
And reaches to the future.
Black and white and Asian too.
We all belong to Country,
And to Dreamtime - me and you.
Feel it beating in the forest
And under desert sun.
Feel it beating in the mountains,
And where western rivers run.
We all breathe in the Dreamtime
Into our souls, into our minds.
Dreamtime is our thoughts, our spirits.
Dreamtime is and was all time.
Dreamtime holds us all together
Through the eras of the past,
Through the time which will be history
When the present is the past.
The stars that span the deep of heaven,
The white foam of the pounding surf,
Every rock and every mountain,
Sea and forest, sand and turf,
Wake or sleep in Dreamtime sun
Along with us; we are as one.
Atonement means at-one-ment.
Please listen, white men. Understand.
Unite with us now, I beg you,
Come together hand in hand.
You ravished Dreamtime.
Don’t just say you’re sorry.
Be as one with us in Dreamtime.
Admit that you belong to Dreaming,
That Country is a living thing,
Not a possession for exploiting
But the Spirit of this land -
Part of Dreaming, as are black men.
White men are part of Dreaming too.
White men, heed the call of Country.
Come and join your Dreaming brothers.
Do not divide us. Be as one.
Bring all our children home.
What is power? It can be good if used
For good, with love, judgment and restraint,
But what man does not have the slightest taint?
Total evil is full power abused.
Full power has destroyed the lives of men,
Destroyed whole nations in the course of history,
But even tyrants die and leave a legacy
Of hate against oppression after them.
This hate of vice brings zeal for change for good,
And stirs once apathetic souls to give
Their best to see themselves and others live
In peace and harmony as brothers should,
And thus are born new leaders who will fight
To remedy injustices to right.
THE ETERNAL QUESTION
Good and evil; will they ever be
More or less than measured equally?
Will all our striving ever conquer all
That settles over humankind a pall
Of suffering which we ourselves produce?
Can love of virtue combine to reduce
The combined strength of evil on this earth,
Or will our time end as it was at birth,
With fifty percent evil, fifty good,
In mankind’s hearts, no matter what we would?
Mountains rise and fall, and oceans freeze,
And countries sink and rise upon the seas.
Rain falls, deserts bloom, and forests die,
As eras of mortality fly by.
We argue over who should rule and how,
Obsessed with what is happening here and now.
Should we just hope and love and cease to strive,
Believing naught will change while we’re alive;
Or should we believe that for evil’s growth
Decent men and women must be loth
To try to change the world for all mankind?
Is it that if we try we’ll simply find
Good conquers bit by bit, but evil will
If we are apathetic? Time will tell.
Why take the chance? Why think of self,
When it’s much more joyous to disperse the wealth
Of love and fortune, friendship, trust, and care,
And health, and hope, for all mankind to share?
Why seek a god and treasures laid in heaven?
Why not seek contentment in achieving
An Eden of our making on this planet?
Reach out and love and give until we win it.
SURELY PURE REASON. . . .
Surely pure reason dictates that we live
To help each other and to do no harm.
Though our lives may pass through storm and calm,
And selfish men may take more than they give,
To rise above it is a mark of virtue.
Fortitude, resilience, strength, combine
With ethics in a Truth that’s beauty fine:
Protect yourself but harm not those who hurt you,
Forgiving evil, giving goodness out.
But is loving all humanity should do,
Or should we be in search of answers, too,
Finding out what Truth is all about?
Is god but reason in a vacuum in space,
Reason that produced the human race?
What is the power that sometimes flows
Between two minds, that makes it seem one knows
The other is in danger or in pain,
Or even dead? Researchers try in vain
To find it. Sceptics say
Coincidence is all that is in play.
I am sure that love
Is a power that can move –
A quantum force like quarks,
Like waves of light or sound –
That waves of love or thoughts
May travel ‘til they’ve found
The right recipient, like signals from a radio.
That is how some know
The fate loved ones are in, but yet again,
I believe the power of thought lives after men.
I believe a sub-subconscious sea
Of thought, common to all, may be
Where all our inspiration comes from.
“Communication with the dead”,
And the ideas which have led
The mystics and the prophets, sometimes to their doom,
Their conviction is so strong,
Come from this sea of thought, of love.
It is no power of God above,
But quantum energy that we may one day see. It may be
Proved by Hadron Collider or microscopic lens,
Or transmitted wave that sends
A beam that reaches some specific mind.
Science may some day find
THE RIDDLE OF CREATION
Wonders of the Universe by dark night perceived,
Who made you? Are gods and men deceived?
Was Eros born from Chaos, or was Jesus born from God;
Was Krishna born from Vishnu, or the Universe from Love?
The worlds that spin above us in the purple firmament
Could hold secrets of new Edens to be found,
Where angels tread, and Odin walks,
And Selene guards her sweet Endymion
Sleeping on the ground.
Can we inhabit other worlds?
Do we live once dead?
So many faiths and lacks of faith
Believe in a here-after,
Does Heaven program our ideas?
Is some Higher Power our master?
I believe that in the firmament
Swirl forces that are Love –
Cupid, if you must, or Venus, up above.
Our lives are formed from Chaos
Regulated by sweet Love,
As is the whole of known creation,
And all we know nothing of.
There may be other Universes
Beyond the realms of space.
Perhaps one day we’ll find
Another human race.
Zeus, Brahma, Mir, Jehova –
Are they not all one?
Have not men wished for Heaven
Since the moment life began?
ON THE OPENING OF SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE AND THE PURCHASE OF ‘BLUE POLES’
(Begun 1971 in praise of Bjorn Utzon’s dream; finished 1973, in disgust at the loss of Utzon’s dream and the purchase of “Blue Poles”.)
Where have all the artists gone?
There was a time when art was art,
A thing of beauty and of joy,
Not jut a toy for arrant intellectuals to play with,
A time when poetry was passion,
But now passion’s out of fashion,
And the word itself means only lust.
There was a time when eyes could read
The tale told by the brush,
When paint reflected images,
And stone the likeness of a bust -
Before the times of change.
But now the times of change are changing.
You old men of the wartime,
Fathers of destruction,
Who burst apart the heart of life,
And poisoned life with fission,
You fathered and you fostered
A doubting generation,
Cynics with out soul to feel
The lure of beauty’s call,
Whose hearts are barren as their hopes,
Poseurs and scoffers all.
You who make a paradox of life and love and living,
Ironically you make of art
The same mocking contradiction.
What else when you know naught else,
But paint despair on canvas?
What else but sculpt in tortured steel
When twisting steel surrounds us?
What else but twist and jar the flow of words and scoff at rhyme,
When soothing cadence was no part of music in your time?
Artists can only trace the doubts
That turn and twist and wind,
Searching, groping blindly
In each distracted mind,
And poets search their minds to tell
Disordered thoughts that cascade through them,
For they have never learnt to grasp at dreams
And to express them.
But I have walked the barrenness
Of my own lonely mind,
And would not share that wretchedness
With any of mankind.
And I have gazed into the eyes of hope
Born of despair.
I have nursed a child I love,
And seen the beauty there.
Watch, you fathers,
You men who tear at dreams with your despair,
Who plague with doubt, distort,
And make of ugliness a work of art,
But I cannot teach my elders
As I learn from my child.
Watch, old men, the way he watches.
Watch him flinging doubt aside.
I shall not show him ‘art’
Nor teach him to respect the twisted things
Your generation brings,
The products of your own sick minds.
This child’s eyes shall wander with the
And gaze in wonder at the skies.
This child shall find true beauty on his own,
As any child left to himself will seek the Truth.
This child and others like him
Will teach what they have seen
Through eyes of love.
Then will be no need
For the hypocrisy and greed
That let men feed
On others’ blindness.
You doubt me?
You say that dreams are dead,
And hope is gone, and beauty lost forever?
There is a shell.
Pressed to an ear
It tells of beauty.
Can you hear?
Within this shell
There swells the sound of music
Bursting wide across a magic harbour,
Echoing through sails,
A sound that hails a nation waking,
To woo a wanton world.
Hold this shell up to your ear
And listen to a music that is thunder.
And as it rends the skies
The quick and dead might rise
To judge each hypocrite who lies
When he cries “Beauty!”
And they might grasp
At monstrous ‘works of art’
And tear them down
Around the ears of every clown
Who dares pretend he creates beauty.
And those who know true beauty
Might put their words to music
That would stir men’s very souls,
Until our souls are free
To sing and soar and fly,
And burst the sky with music,
‘Til voices ring like angels singing
Resounding round the world,
And the world would stop to listen.
Then hold the world up to your ear
You will hear
The sounds of hope and love and laughter.
Despair will cry in vain
And fade into a whimper,
And men might dream again.
God has no identity.
How can Powers that permeate,
Points without volume haunting space,
Be likened to the human race?
God is only energy,
The entity of protons and neutrons.
The poetry of atoms is
The glory of infinity.
God has no morality.
God is WHAT IS.
Men have listened and believed in
Hitler, Christ, and Freud.
Mankind it is who judges
Integrity, hypocrisy or greed.
Love one another, and you will need
No other creed.
But if you need a hope,
A dream of life beyond the grave,
Then listen: science is compatible
With things indestructible –
A wave of light, a wave of sound;
Why not, then, waves of thought,
Waves of power that permeate,
Points without volume haunting space,
Godlike? The answer men have sought
To God’s existence may yet come
With deepened knowledge.
Jung spoke of a sea,
A depth of unplumbed thought
Of sub-subconsciousness outside ourselves
Where on our bodies’ death
Our thoughts return to dwell,
An ocean of free thought
Common to all.
What if this sea were ‘Heaven’?
What if our thoughts were ‘part of God’? -
Part only, for the forces death defying,
Non-space-occupying, eternal, everchanging,
Are life-forces that are God immortal
As much as God is thought.
But now I speak of heaven.
If this sea be ‘heaven’,
This sub-subconscious sea of thought
Swimming in a vast infinity,
Then hell must be but breaths of thought,
And each man’s mind his own Gethsemane.
Thus, each man’s mind, destined for immortality
Must learn to be completely unencumbered,
Free of psychosis or neurosis.
Hell may only be
Insanity beyond the grave.
Speak not of salvation
By some Power from above.
Humanity’s salvation will come
Only through love.
Mankind wreaks his own destruction.
Doom rides on a mushroom cloud.
Hell’s definition is not damnation of the proud,
But the sorrow of the meek,
Whose spirits have been bowed
With guilt, or sick humility, subservience or fear,
Or inadequate resources to strengthen their own minds.
Help each man know and like himself,
And men will save mankind.
Forget your vague religions.
They bring discrimination, wars,
For each religion loves its own,
And scorns the others’ cause.
Why should men suffer, even die,
True to obscure reason for their birth?
Will such pain ensure eternal life,
Or even happiness on earth?
Will mankind never understand
That heaven lies around us?
That sea of thought beyond the grave
Is with us now.
It seethes with psyches like our own,
Yet psyches unrestricted.
Unencumbered with mortality,
They see what we can’t see,
And they would tell us truths that we
Might never comprehend,
Of love, an energy, a power,
Without beginning, without end,
A power of which we are a part,
Small finite breaths, that by our deaths,
May pass into infinity,
Into this sea of energy,
And know that we are God.
What if some spirit messenger
Rose from Jung’s sea of thought,
Who said he brought
A message from beyond the grave?
There was a man said something such.
He said he was the Son of Man.
He toppled age-old values,
Shook social concepts down.
Now he would trample Washington,
And shake the stones of Rome.
This man scorned pomp and power and wealth.
He spoke only of love,
And gave his life, and rose again –
Or so they say – to save us all.
Perhaps he simply said in parable,
That love is indestructible,
That love, like thought, like light, like sound,
Is energy that lives and grows through all eternity,
Though love has entity –its own –
Though we can create love.
If God is love, then man is God.
Hear this, and bear the burden,
And cry not ‘Blasphemy’.
Your destiny is yours, each of you, to fulfil.
Understand, if God was man,
Mankind is not like God.
We create eternity.
Mankind is his own God.
ODE TO THE EMPERORS
I scorn to write verse that’s elite and obscure.
I write verse quite plainly so it will ensure
The man in the street understands every word,
Even though the patricians pretend it’s absurd.
Their’s is the verse that’s absurd, I declare.
What is the point in writing to share
When half of the populace can’t comprehend
The words that one’s writing? I don’t condescend,
But to write poems in riddles and then to pretend
It’s a brain exercise for the clever to play
Is not, I insist, the Shakespearean way.
Shakespeare wrote, tried, tempered and true
For the man in the street, for me and for you.
He feigned no guile, but in lines that were plain
Described all our joys, our pleasures and pain.
But perhaps the learned feel differently,
Don’t have the sorrows of you and of me,
Don’t feel our joys, our passion and pain.
The way that they think sure isn’t the same.
They do win much money and adulation
Circumventing the battlers who live in the nation.
I write for the battlers. I fight for your cause:
For the homeless and hopeless, the lowly with chores
Mundane and essential, and done without glory.
If ever I’m famous it will be through your story.
MacKellar and Lawson, and Patterson too,
Wrote for us all, for the learned folk too.
Academics today write just for themselves,
Pretending they live in their own private hells,
Pretending ennui while counting the cash,
Writing more and more of their eloquent trash,
Caring not for the real world, disdaining the masses
Who politely accept as brilliant, what trash is.
I’m smart and know that they think they deceive you,
But you never read them. That settles the issue.
Modern verse only sells to the deans and the scholars
Because it is riddled with straws and with hollows.
Love is oftentimes a curse.
It can break hearts and destroy hope
And there is nothing worse.
War is for the brave
To do and dare and conquer all
And for mankind to save.
Autumn leaves do gently fall
Like soft hued petals on the ground,
And birds give farewell call.
Gently breathing in his sleep
My love is stirring by my side,
Dreaming dreams that softly creep.
The fleecy clouds float overhead
In sky that’s clear and deeply blue.
God’s in Heaven. Nothing dread.