Out on the burnt land, soil is being made

Out on the burnt land, soil is being made

Roots delve into the earth and draw up moisture
creating alchemy with sunlight, to grow leaves and flowers
that drop back onto the earth where
worms and beetles eat, create energy, and shit.

This fertile world created by sunshine and water and shit.
Also in the secretive earth, fungi
make connections and break things
into smaller and more useful particles.

They, in their season, send their weird fruit above ground
where humans with eyes can wonder or eat,
creating good clean human shit that flows into byways
where other forms of life feed and are nourished.

It’s full of marvels, this world,
and we humans in the burnt lands,
whose minds are damaged by trauma,
could do well to remember that soil is being made.

Perhaps in the secretive unconscious
some fungi of change is transforming the trauma.
Perhaps we just need to wait, like the earth,
for fertile soil to form, and for its fruiting.

Echidnas Don’t Live Here Any More

Here is my new book. It contains most of the poems I wrote between 20th December 2019 (when my husband and I lost almost everything to the Cudlee Creek bush fires) and March of 2022.

It has been wonderful to put this book out. Apart from it being somewhat cathartic, and getting the poems out from my files where, for me, they would have aged, I feel that the book has done some good in the world. Other fire victims tell me that they feel heard, that it is like some of the poems have given them voice. Of course fire victims’ stories are different, as is how we respond to things, but one of the things in common is that the recovery is tough, filled with complications, and bewildering. You start off feeling like you can do everything (adrenalin) and end up depleted. We all carry trauma in some form or other. I am blessed that I never felt unsafe, never had embers falling around me, but even so the constant grind of recovery takes it out of one.

But not all the poems are grim. They chart my recovery and the things that helped, nature and community, for example, and the seeking of beauty. And towards the end I am actively seeking joy, and it shows.

Anyhow, it appears that people think the book is good, and that is pleasing.

Recommended retail is $25 AUD retail and you can get it from me (plus postage, within Australia, $5.00 at time of writing), from Ginninderra Press, or from online sellers. Shop around if buying online as some sellers seem to think it is a collectors item!

Contact me on this form.

Ginninderra Press

It’s official, I’m not a city person

On the other hand:

Near where we are staying in Frankston, Victoria, at the McLelland Sculpture Park. This is called Primitive Soul and is by Michael Nicholls
Annulus by Ken Unsworth
Rex Australis by Dean Colls. Huge!

And we are on the train to see Picasso Century. So, yeah. Has good points. But our quiet country sensibilities are a tad overcome! Worst for me is public transport full of chemical perfume. I didn’t realise I was such a wuss.

We’re here so that I can present a poem for an exhibition I have work in. Haven’t seen it yet. Tomorrow I’ll meet lots of the artists and the artist/curator, Bridget Nicholson. It’s the last day of the show and there will be artist talks and etc . The exhibition is called Solastalgia & the future.

Pity I had no brain-space to spruik this earlier. But I’m exhausted by this year and life. Even so, I’m here!

In the Shining

The counsel says,
go find a tree.
Address it as Guardian and ask it for teachings 
on how to grow and be strong 
and to serve a life greater than one’s own. 
I think of my burnt trees and weep. 
But then I think of the few recovering ones 
of how their roots delve in the earth, 
how they stand strongly in their foundations, 
how they have survived their challenges
are damaged but growing still, 
how their seeds sprout and flourish in the millions,
how they could re-Eden the earth if we let them.

Oh Tree, my heart aches for your pain 
and for mine. May I be as steadfast 
as you. May I, too, find fertility in the char.
May I, every day, breathe 
of the air and the sunshine
and be nurtured.
May I, again, grow strong and cheerful, 
living in the shining, living in the shining 
with my roots in the good earth.

New book coming!

Mock up cover, my artwork, my daughter Hana’s clever design.

The book contains most of my poems since the fires that razed our place. Moving, apparently; important, some said; but I don’t think it’s miserable. To be published by Ginninderra Press

I am working on an exhibition to go up in Tillbrook Estate’s new and beautiful eco cellar door. Annabelle Tilbrook is organising it. Last SALA, on the walls there, she showed her instagram record of the winery’s ‘recovery’ from the fires. ‘Recovery’ is in inverted commas because it sounds like past tense to me, whereas recovery is still very much a struggle for most, including them and me.

Anyhow, Annabelle was encouraged by how people stood to read the stories, and asked me to put poetry on the wall. She was hoping for some more lighthearted work, encouraging and community oriented, a little less one dimensional than most of us, who went through this fire, have become.

It is time for this, in many ways, certainly for me. But to go anywhere near that, I had to clear myself. Thus this book. The visual work, (which does, indeed include poetry)also contains some cathartic work. Well, how could it not?

Time Ago, 2022, ink on paper

The book will be called ‘Echidnas Don’t Live Here Any More’ and the exhibition will be called, ‘Echidnas, Any Minute Now’. It will show for SALA, opening on 7th August at 2.00 PM. Put that in your diaries, Dear Folk. I will also give an artist talk and a poetry presentation on 21st August. Here’s a link for booking for either of these. Free, of course! They would really appreciate booking for catering purposes, especially for the opening/launch. The book will launched at the same time by the wonderful Rachael Mead, who also did the blurb.

Why Choose to Dance, Grandma?

Why Choose to Dance, Grandma?

My child, there is nothing else
to be done about the world
and its horrors.
There is war here, drought there,
There’s flood and fire and famine

and there’s not a lot that you and I
can do about it. But when
there is something we can do,
we had better be ready.

How can we stay ready when
each day the plight of others
and ourselves
settles in our gut like stones.
We can suffer it, let it weaken us,
bind us, eat us whole.
Or we can dance.

We can dance and we can sing
and we can draw the good
energy of the earth and the wide sky
into ourselves, fill ourselves
with joy and love
and that’s how
we can stay ready.

My Drum with Swallows

Almost everyone to whom I read this poem, gets it. I consider it a gift, to me and to others. If it is useful to you, take it. If you feel it is useful to others, fell free to share it. I would prefer for it to be attributed to me, but if that gets lost on the way, I won’t have a conniption. I think we all need to find our joy wherever we can. We need to stay healthy, especially given the levels of trauma we witness everyday.

The idea isn’t new. I have heard various versions of the need to find joy in order to stay whole in the face of trauma. One is attributed to Native American people who continued to dance and find joy even through the atrocities they suffered.

For me, personally, still recovering from the trauma of the fires two years ago, it is important. I’m trying my hardest to find joy. I’m very serious about it! I’m even working towards a solo show on the subject. How is that going? Well, there appears to be a lot of black ink. Any minute now I’ll lighten up.

metamorphosis —
what is lighter
than a butterfly

Mind you that Lesser Wanderer is sitting on our house that burnt. Dark and light, dark and light.

(My drum was made by the master drum maker Tamaryn at spiritdrum.com.au
The exhibition, which will include my poetry and performance, will be in the cellar door at Tilbrook Estate winery, for SALA, in July/August. Whether this butterfly image makes the cut, who knows.)

A Garden Begins with Violence

A garden begins with violence:
fire or the hoe, a cleaning out, a smothering,
a clean break from the past.
But after the violence, intimacy.

Hands that spread seed, tiny packages of hope,
or that cradle a rootball as gently as
a parent washes the head of a newborn,
tucking the roots into the soil and crooning.

Most days, lately, I work over the brassicas
(cabbage and broccoli) wiping off the eggs
of the Cabbage White Butterfly or squishing
the caterpillars with my loving hands.

Violence and love. Yesterday I found
the empty chrysalis of a parasitic wasp. They flit
through the garden right now, drinking nectar
and laying eggs into the bodies of caterpillars.

They will feed from those bodies until they cut their way out
and settle to spin their own chrysalises.
Meanwhile the caterpillar is so changed by tending them
that it spins extra protection and guards them until it dies.

Today I watched the mating dance
of two Cabbage Whites. She settled on a leaf
and spread her wings flat, her black dots like a beacon,
while he flittered and fussed.

She will lay eggs of a dubious fate.
The butterflies are plentiful, the caterpillars are plentiful,
the wasps are plentiful, the host plants are plentiful.
Everywhere violence, everywhere love.

yet another fire poem and more exciting news

To Fire.

You came to me one December morning.
You taught me how to live with nothing,
you old nothing-maker.

You are all consumption and digestion.
You are heat, wind and embers,
but I didn’t get that close.

When I left home that day, my life
was as buoyant as a fish in water.
When I returned there was no normal.

I don’t know how to
finish this story. Maybe
I never will.

We can’t live together but I can’t live apart.
I rely on you, being, as I am,
made of plants that are made of you.

And I like to warm my bones in winter.
But sometimes
you’re a little close for comfort.

Stick to the sky, please Friend,
or in the hearth behind closed doors.
I want to love you from a distance.

. . . . . .

Perhaps this is my Christmas tree?

The middle paragraph of this poem is the crux. It seems I am stuck with this subject, for now at least. Probably there are unresolved issues in my psyche. (Really? You think so? says my psyche, who is often sarcastic.)

Oh well. Dear Reader, forgive me for being boring. It is the nature of trauma, apparently, to rehash the thing again and again. My sweet husband has answers to trauma: living in the moment, quietening the thinking, etc. He tries to encourage me to be light hearted. Perhaps in time.

In the meantime Christmas is doing its number. I have been busy, writing poems. On the 11th, Illuminart will launch a light show on the buildings of Mill Square. It is called Flocking Together. The animation (which will be delightful) includes a long poem that I wrote for it. (16 minutes, recorded!) I haven’t seen what they have done with the animation since before the words were finalised but when I did see it it was sumptuous, colourful, a feast for the eyes. Local kids were invited to do pictures of birds and these hop in and out being just gorgeous. Exciting!

It will show in a loop every evening from 11th till 23rd December, sunset till midnight. Three of those nights you would need to book, even though they are free, because of music on the 11th (details and booking link) and Christmas market, (details and booking link)

And then the 12th, I will give a poem that I wrote for the official turning on of the lights at the Oval in Lobethal. I wrote this poem for the hearts of people. Just a hint, there will be no fireworks that night. That’s good, in this town, at this time. There will be other spectacular instead. UPDATE! The first night of the lights’ concert on Sunday 12th is ‘postponed’ due to ‘covid uncertainty’. Everything else is still on, including the lights in the town and the Illuminart ‘Flocking Together’ wall spectacular (with my 16 minute poem) is still on 11th-23rd as stated above. Details about what else is on here: Lights of Lobethal Festival. ‘Postponed’ means it won’t be on until December 2022, apparently! Personally, I would call that ‘cancelled’. That choice of word is funny! I only just got a surprise resolution to an internal problem in the poem that no one else would have noticed, about an hour before finding out. I’m glad it got resolved before I found out. I can happily put it to bed now.

Here’s an aside. Some years ago, before the fires that so changed the lives of people in this district, when the fireworks for the beginning of the festival started (we could see them from our place), the cattle in the next paddock began rushing down the hill towards the road. As usual when there are fireworks, all around me birds were making alarm calls. I thought, ‘Those cows are going to rush right down onto the road.’ A stampede, I thought. But when they got to the corner of the fence, they rushed up the rise towards the fireworks and stopped on the crest of the ridge. They were rushing to get a better view!