Thursday, April 21, 2016

I've done my part




You ask me how I can justify calling my words poetry
I say I don’t, I have neither the will nor the expertise

You ask me how then can I accept others labelling it so
I reply that my freedom is to write how I will, theirs to decide what it means to them

Then you ask but what of form
I tell you that each product of my pen is structured by my life, follows the form of each experience, shaped by the life it describes, the mind that receives its message

You ask me then but what of rhyme
I respond that every word of every line echoes the call of my soul’s response to the moment they capture

Ah but what, you ask, of rhythm
I explain that each written offering follows the rhythm of my heartbeat, of the song of the universe as it falls on the ears of my soul

And you ask me then to tell you what I think poetry is
And I ask you to tell me what you think it is not



Thursday, December 10, 2015

Moving on


Another train
Another journey
Yet again moving towards.....or was it away
I can never remember
Am I moving towards a new life
Or away from an old one best forgotten
I don’t know
The memory of why I left already fades
I look at my ticket to see where this ride ends
Back at the station I had put all the money in my pocket on the counter and asked
“How far?”
The old man in the cage handed me enough change to coax dishwater coffee from a
beat-up old vending machine
And a ticket bearing the name of a town I don’t recognise
As good a start as any
I turn to the window as a train bound in the opposite direction goes past
And watch the world pass by through a succession of windows
A staccato, strobe-like vision reminiscent of ancient movie projectors
Played at the wrong speed
The observation appeals to me
As a metaphor for my own life, if nothing else
The train stops and I see a sign matching the name on my ticket
Hoisting my pack, I step out onto the platform
I breathe deeply, inhaling the scent of this new town
and wonder what awaits me this time

Monday, November 2, 2015

Subtle weaver

oh subtle weaver
daydream deceiver
perfidious purveyor of pejorative verse
your images are confusing
due to words of your own choosing
your able erudition is a curse

a life that tends to sublimation
‘oh woe is me’ yr proclamation
you profess to hardships as if aphoristic
an artist’s life though problematic
is for you epigrammatic
but truth is all yr woes are masochistic

you may say that this is repetitious
but like you I too am capricious
and my point methinks you can now plainly see
you lay claim to some sagacity
but I question yr veracity
so please pause and listen to my final plea

desist now all prevarication
do please eschew obfuscation

Saturday, August 15, 2015

That poem (2007)

It wasn’t that he was a bad poet
He was actually quite good
Most audiences listened and he’d even had the occasional request
But as he found new audiences that he had never before thought open to him
He started to feel the need to outdo himself each time
This was when he started to work on the great poem
The one that would stamp his mark on this world he’d found
At the back of bars and in cafés
He wanted it to have everything
All the great hallmarks of the heroes of the literary world
Imagery both great and accessible to the layperson
A poem that would bring poetry back into the public eye
He wanted to transform the audience
He had felt their applause before
He had felt their cheers before
But now he wanted to feel their silence
To cause them to pause
To think
To ponder
To experience the worlds that he would create for them

He worked hard at his great work in the silences between events in his life
Gave no hints as to what he was doing
Hidden even from those closest to him
He read great tomes
Dedicated to the study of the various schools of thought
Of poetry
Of literature
Poured all that he had into this one growing piece of his soul
And eventually it was finished

He wasn’t sure
So he held on to it for a while
Hid it from everyone until it hurt to look at
Then one day he did it
One day he held the audience in his hand
And caressed them
He held them up to the light
Carried them with him on a journey they never forgot
He showed them worlds beyond common imagination
He taught them how to dream
He taught them how to love
He taught them how to fly
He pulled down the stars and juggled them
Throwing in a comet or two for good measure
He captured the bard and all of his muses
Their ghosts almost visible on the stage behind him
And when he finished the landing was gentle
He cradled them in his arms
Crouched low in a whisper
Gently laid them down upon the earth
And then he was done

And was met with a silence that was palpable

Almost silence
He could hear their breathing
Could see a tear in more than one eye
Saw joy on faces that held only him in their sight
Stepping down from the stage to return to his seat he was greeted with handshakes
Pats on the back
And hugs
Some even kissed his cheek in their exuberance

Things changed a bit after that
At readings he attended he was asked to read ‘that’ poem
Some had heard it and remembered
Others had been told about it
He read it in pubs
He read it in cafés
He read it on television
He read it on stages all across the country
He was approached by publishers to print his book
Any book
As long as it had ‘that’ poem

One day someone noticed that they hadn’t seen him for a while
That he no longer came to gigs
And what a shame that was because they remembered the first time they heard ‘that’ poem
But he couldn’t read it any more
Couldn’t stand there and be dissected by audiences
By critics
By experts
Listening to the motions of his great work and illuminating each other with their ideas of what made it so
The secrets of its effect
He couldn’t listen to the cheers and remember what ‘that’ poem used to mean to him
What reading and writing used to mean to him
He couldn’t go back to the stage with ‘that’ poem
The one that was so much a part of him
The one whose words he knew like the beating of his heart
And read it again
And he could never hope to exceed it
Or be allowed to do less

So he changed his appearance a little
Dropped his last name
Wrote for himself
Frequented smaller stages where nobody recognised him
And the audiences were polite
They applauded when it was time
Cheered sometimes, and laughed
Said kind things to him
But they did not welcome him in the way that he had been welcomed before he wrote ‘that’ poem
They watched him on stage
Smiling inwardly to himself
A modest talent who seemed happy to stay that way
Never pushing himself much
Leaving the stage and the venue as quietly and as alone as he had entered
They did not reach out to him like others had before
It wasn’t that he was a bad poet
He was actually quite good
They just knew he’d never be great

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Selah


I

In my 1979 grade 5 playground
10 year old Lebanese boy
Haysam M_____
Stands unmoving
Facing a large crowd of kids
Shouting abuse and racial slurs
His face unreadable

The crowd of kids facing Haysam
Are all Anglo of
One sort or another
We attend Christian
Religious studies together
Their parents take most of them to the
Church next door on Sundays

Haysam’s younger sisters
One in grade three
The other grade one
Cower behind him seeking
Shelter from the abuse
The youngest holds the
Tail of his shirt
And cries


II

In the intervening years between the
First incursion in 1990 and the
Second in 2003
America continue to bombard Iraq
Including depleted nuclear material
In their armaments
Cancer, once an infrequent anomaly
Now diagnosed in thousands of
Children per year

In an act of terrorism
Attributed to an Islamic extremist group
Two buildings are brought down in
New York on 11 September 2001
Causing outcry and hysteria
Around the western World


III

10 year old Haysam M_____ stands
Immobile and resolute
Shielding his sisters facing a crowd
Shouting vilifications
The implications of which
They are too young to understand
The only sign of tension
In his young body his arms
Held straight at his sides
Fists clenched

Outcast myself
In my 1979 grade 5 playground
I do not stand with the abusers
But fearing further ostracism
And violence
Neither do I stand at the side
Of Haysam M_____


Selah

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fouling the nest


Mother I float in you
Immersed in life's source
I feel cradled, welcomed
Loved
My body is
Rocked ever so
Slightly by your
Gentle waves
On this near still day
The cries of nearby birds are
Muffled by the
Water lapping past my ears
I breathe in deeply inhaling your
Salt tang
As I open my eyes to
Stare into your sky
I am
Home

My outstretched hand is
Touched then
Fingers enveloped by
Something passing by
And I do not need to look to
Recognise it
I crumple the chip packet into the
Pocket of my shorts for
Later disposal as the
Wind changes and my calm is
Assaulted by the smell of
Outflow pipe not too far away
I am sorry
Mother
For what we are doing to you
I will go now

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lament

he is dead, she is dead, they are gone

the time for eulogy and reflection has begun

and i ask if you remember

if you remember how they could satirise with such wit and precision that the subject of their barbs would have no choice but to concede and laugh along

and i ask if you remember

if you remember how with a sweeping stroke of the same pen they could capture a mountain range with such clarity that you could hear eagles cry soaring far above in the clouds

and i ask if you remember

if you remember how they could transcribe their feelings and senses to the page with such accuracy and attention to detail that you could feel their lover’s caress, smell their hair

and now they are gone

and i ask if you remember

if you remember where you were when you heard

if you remember what you were doing when you were told

if you remember the pain deep inside

the sudden emptiness within

as the realisation took hold

if you remember whose hand you held for comfort

as the tears began to fall

i ask if you remember



and i know that you do not



for this is the lament for the unknown artist

the lament for the ones for whom there are no accolades for the writers of their eulogies

for the ones for whom recognition was not central to the creative urge

for the ones whose creativity did not extend to the creation of a name for themselves

this is the lament for the ones who painted, and sculpted, and wrote, and drew, and sang, and played, and danced, and created beauty with their very lives because to do otherwise would be to deny the burning in the centre of their souls

this is the lament for the loss of those for whom the full realisation of what has passed will never be known

this is the selfish lament

the lament that in our ignorance of their existence we have been spared the pain of knowing what has gone from this world

the lament for that pain

the pain that would have marked just how enriched our lives could have been