where he isn’t

There’s a space
where he isn’t.
It’s enormous and keeps
following me around
now here, now here.

The space used to be
full of laughter
and fun, compassion
and encouragement.

With him I could
be my self.
When I lost him
I lost a true friend

Ervin Janek Mother and Son

The photo is by my husband Ervin Janek. It is called ‘Mother and Son’. I find it very touching, especially in the context of this poem. It was done a long time before our son died, but it seems perfect.

The poem reminds me of some of the old Chinese poets, Li Po etc. What do you think?

If you want to see more of Ervin’s images here is his shop and here is his amazing changing facebook collection.

More than one grief


I collect my griefs like medals,
wear them bravely and with madness,
bear their regular unclasping,
bear the blood they draw.

Autumn has finally come.
It tears at the plum tree,
strews leaves across the ground.
Soon rain will come and beat them into compost.

Small birds ruffle their feathers
and pull their heads down into their coats.
Me too. My shoulders are rounded
from all these autumns.

There is an old man in what is left of a country town
making a wreath for Anzac Day.
Alone, he will carry it to the memorial
wearing the medals of his grief.

making friends with the weather

The earth is exposed and vulnerable,
open to the sky.
Clouds gather, soft and productive.
Already the soil is filtering water to the roots of trees.
Many branches have fallen.
Kindness and recognition make me cry as if
I was lonely or neglected,
as if I were a droughted tree sapping with moisture
that I cannot hold.
My branches fall away.
Soon I’ll be an old gnarled thing
on a ridge top against the sky.
People will say, ‘How beautiful’,
and snap me with their cameras.
They will file me away in memories and albums.
I’ll stand there, decaying to the earth.
Particles of my slow death will fulfil something—
continue something: bugs perhaps, or birds.
May birds nest in me.
May I make friends with the weather.


Along the shore, kids tousle, dogs leap.
Seagulls gather and scatter.
Waves course shoreward slapping themselves
and then stretching out, long and slow on the sand
and then another, and then another.

The tide of the sea is inching shoreward,
claiming footprints, washing sand.
Each movement of water, each flick of wave,
each deposit of sand is a different moment.
But your grief is a constant like the sound of the sea.

There will be sunshine and beautiful days.
There will be seagulls and sand castles.
You will carry the stone of your grief
tumbling it in the pulse of your heart
and with time it will get less sharp.

But now is the time to carry it like treasure,
hard and crystalline and precious and pure.
Now is the time for storms.


I wrote this poem (or an early draft of it ) some years ago when friends lost a baby at birth. It reminds me of a favourite poem by Michael Leunig. He did it with an exquisite cartoon. It is number 193 of 198 (six from the bottom) here :

When the heart  
(by Michael Leunig)

When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken,
Do not clutch it;
Let the wound lie open.
Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt,
And let it sting.
Let a stray dog lick it,
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell,
And let it ring.

how fragile

kapok-bush-1bnwhow fragile
the wings of a dragonfly

seed heads
as light
as my heart

botanic garden
I open my palms
as I walk

my forehead
against the huge bole
of a bottle tree
we collect the detritus
of seasons