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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Most Human of Things

I float, horizontal, on the heaving night-

tip my head back and feel the night beneath me and around,

buoying me gently but unthinkingly

on its ballooning troughs and swells.

Languorous, I sink my hot neck into its chilling lick of gloss.

The night air fills my nostrils, it fattens my lungs,

but there is no drowning.

I am in my element.


A queer music wakes me from my drifting.

It is an oriental trilling that, minutes later,

turns into the fading throttle of a Postie bike

along the rim of the bay.

At this hour, all kinds of events make music,

and the marsupials speak like people in the ceiling,

chasing each other in a passion of patriarchy.


The animals wake me, and other times,

I hear my name spoken, or the threatening breath of a stranger

that turns out to be my own.

In the night, my own skin, my own flesh, comfort me.

I love the weight and the heat of myself when I wake,

not knowing the time, my mouth dry as the Sneffels Volcano

where you can find your way to the centre of the earth.


Oh, you must know what I mean.

It must be the most human of things to wake and wonder at the night…

the most human of things to bow down to the horizon,

to put one’s cheek to the ground and to wait out the darkness

pretending sophistication, pretending science,

while the ghoulies and ghosties are abroad.


That’s why I sleep in a tent of muslin, like a big cotton conch.

At night, I am the germ of human.  I am a soft creature,

I am a mollusc. The hawking and slagging of the waves

shuffles me on the shale.


De Compostela

I’ve become more physical with the years.

When I was a child, I started off meditating on clouds.

The wistful smell of freesias taught me breath;

the mufflings inside the willow taught me listening.

I drank the mercury raindrops from my mother’s velvet roses

to discover pretence, and tore apple leaves

to make tiny clothes for fairies that I knew to be false.

At the top of the willow, further than my brothers could climb,

I learnt inevitability.


The old are more physical than we are:

they squabble and gobble their meals with compulsion;

and they revel in their bowels.

The old insist on lotions rubbed into their fragile skins;

they long for hot water sprayed on their backs.


It is not true- the idea that approaching death

makes us spiritual.

We become less and less so, until, finally,

we are all physicality.

That’s when the spirit is so thin and transparent

that, once again, the body is reunited with the dirt.


*The compostela is a certificate of accomplishment given to pilgrims on completing the Way.

Frenchman's Cap

(The Frenchman’s Cap area is one of the most spectacular parts of Tasmania. It is wild, remote and quite inaccessible…)

Sometimes, an ordinary life is a kind of ecstasy.

Ordinariness is an art,

a sour wine-making,

a hive robbing,

a harvest of strangled sweet peas

tipped over by November gales.


My lover and I have never kissed.

Tonight I put new seed in the tiny trough for my birds,

and I laughed at the sweetest weight of their bodies

when they fluttered and perched on the side.

I love the hands of old people, though,

not so long ago, their fingers  frightened me.


Tonight, I ate mussels with crusty bread.

They look like inner labia, and the ocean taste reminds me

of oysters prised  off the rocks by a mother

 who always carried one sharp knife, and hid the others.


I suppose it’s ordinary to love a man the way I do.

People do it all the time, and, from the outside

it seems plain enough. But from inside, where I live,

it is the most extraordinary of accidents.

My love is like stepping backwards to take a photograph

and falling to your death.


Ordinary Ecstasy

Shadows of a cherry tree,

its leaves antique-laced by pear-slug,

glide on an eyelid,

and a small and gentle breeze pats at prayer flags

like a furled cat claw playing lazily;

the two birds, one green, one blue,

exclaim in rustic French.

Tiny spider on my belly

is left alone by an arrested swipe.

Its legs are transparent.  It is almost glass.

Today, I planted hydrangeas

the colour of raspberry juice

spat out with cream.

Yesterday, it was hibiscus

the oily saffron of a bald monk’s robes.

Colours are my drug of choice.

I can hardly bear them.

The good thing about ecstasy is that it passes.

I can hardly bear it.


I need not mention your neat buttocks,

your thin thighs.

Some people believe this is, likewise,  

just too much to bear-

and, anyway, you are far away,

and the liberation from you

is also a kind of ecstasy.

How would it be, to have you love me

as much in return?

Such a thing might be too ordinary

for me to endure.

Lisa Gerrard, Persian Love Song

My hand wants to write a poem...

My hand wants to write a poem:

it’s like a dog

waiting for its mistress

to throw a stick into the waves.

My hand is quivering with suspense.