Mary births Him

Mary is pregnant,
her fist in the small of her back.

Somehow she manages
to heave herself onto the donkey
who lumbers under the weight.

We must remember it’s midwinter and the journey
seems endless. It feels as if the world may end like this,
the long nights, clear, and  filled with stars.

What a blessing is straw,
the scent of summer when one lies back
in the short reprieve between cramps.

Even today there’s not much talk
of Mary’s body, consumed
as it was by tides of pain,

the incredible female power
of her labouring, the bearing down,
that Christ’s first crown

was her taut membrane.
It is agony that pushed
his small face into the world

blue and white and bloody,
neck deep in his mother’s body,
the eyes of bewilderment blinking light.

Soon his shoulders,
and slippery body, all fingers and toes,
his first breath.

And then the sacred act
of severance,
the cutting of connection.

The afterbirth, that vehicle of carriage,
just so much meat.

So here we are in a barn
in the quietness after the storm
held in the eternity of a newborn’s eyes.

He latches onto her breast.
He latches onto his life.
He latches onto his death.





Talking about small beauties with Sharon Olds

“I am doing something I learned early to do, I am
paying attention to small beauties,
whatever I have — as if it were our duty to
find things to love, to bind ourselves to this world.”
                       (from Little Things by Sharon Olds)

Perhaps, Sharon, it’s not so much a duty as
a desperation, a clinging to the life raft.
I am alive today because of beauty, because of
learning to notice and to love
everyday things: the movement
of wind in grass, voices of my dark companion crows,
the flit and flutter of honeyeaters and moths.

My mother once said that the movement
of palm leaves was enough beauty to live for.
I don’t know what’s enough to live for
but something’s been driving this sack of flesh.

There’s a dreadful melancholy behind my poem.
It needs some music or some light
an early evening star perhaps, on a cool night after heat
or light from underneath a loved one’s door
or, can you hear it? a magpie singing into winter moonlight.
Perhaps it is washing hands after nestling seedlings into soft earth
or a warm tomato from a bush that smells of summer.
Perhaps it is clean sheets on the bed.

Is that too much now, Sharon? Too many things
to love? Has this poem become corny?
How feels your heart?

Always Cockroaches

That someday I will
give my body to the earth
to the myriad creatures,
that my particles will become
earth and sap and air.
It seems apt.
I can delight in solitude,
knowing I am not alone.
I can delight in the knowledge
of the teeming biome in my gut
or even that there are, apparently,
tiny creatures that live in my skin.
They come out at night
and feed on my face.

Well, I am a biosphere.
I am an ecosystem.
I am diversity and interconnectedness,
a habitat.
I am a homo sapien,
a small upright animal standing
on an earth in crisis,
a tiny creature feeding on its face.

What will the earth do
with this weird domineering creature
that seems hell-bent on destruction?
She will allow it of course,
knowing it will purge itself.
And will humans destroy every last thing?
Hardly. There’s always cockroaches
and whatever it is
that lives on their faces.


I’m working towards an exhibition next year, here in Lobethal at our new and vibrant arts and heritage hub, FabriK. The Exhibition is the third iteration of a travelling show called Solastalgia. Wikipedia describes Solistalgia as ‘a neologism that describes a form of mental or existential distress caused by environmental change.’ I was invited in my capacity of poet and I nearly declined because I am worried about the psyches of people (including myself) when there is so much emphasis on doom and such a feeling of hopelessness.

Anyhow the woman whose brainchild this is, Jo Wilmot, and Evette Sunset who is assisting and participating, have named this iteration, Solistalgia – an antidote – Tall Trees and Under Stories, and assure me that it is about hope. So I have been working away, including preparing a manuscript of poems and illustrating it. (I’ll share more of that later) but here am I in this poem being hopeful! Hmmm…

Probably it won’t make the cut.

The words in the image are from a poem by Charles Simic.


This was a few years ago now. He’s probably forgotten what ‘me-me’ is by now. I wonder if there is a deep longing, the source of which he’s forgotten.

I’ve got one of those unexplained longings. It’s strongest after sun down. I doubt it has anything to do with my mother, but who knows? What I want, what we all want, is a deep abiding connection. To each other. To the world. Maybe the last time we felt a connection like that was at our mother’s breast.

Barbie and the male gaze

Some of the words:

wow you’re beautiful; hi Sexy Legs; nice breasts; hey, wriggle that arse; where’d you get those shoes; pretty beautiful, stacked; great arse, blond bombshell, wanna root?; eyeliner, eyeshadow, nail polish, lipstick, foundation; wow! wow! wow! …; cock sucking lips; pretty, pretty, pretty, … ; such a sexy smile; you’re much better looking than your sister; beautiful boobs

Poor Barbie. And through it all, smiling like a maniac.

how poems magic themselves onto the paper

I was asked about how I go about writing a poem. I gave some glib answer about bum-on-chair. But it is an interesting question. I think one stalks a poem, feels the first stirrings as interest in a subject, seeks related content, researches, sits with it. All done with no real eye on the prize. I often don’t even know that I am stalking a poem.

Then one day, one sits down and the pen almost goes off on its own. Some of the things one researched come onto the paper with other, seemingly unrelated things and create juxtapositions and take on some strange logic. Odd words appear that one doesn’t realise one knows. (I often get Latin phrases, despite never having learned Latin.) The result is usually a big mess but the raw materials of the poem are there on the paper, and what remains is to give them form, discard dross, pull more from the ether where needed, shift a word here, a phrase there, leave it some time, come back, do more fine surgery, repeat until finished.

Definition of finished: doesn’t make you squirm.