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!

The Cruel Girls

            After Mothers and Daughters by David Campbell

The cruel girls I hated 
are over sixty
Their brash beauty 

by time and daughters and demons. 
Grief has tainted their coffee 
and love 
has softened their eyes.

Barbie in the process of becoming a fertility goddess. There are always sacrifices.
Here she is scrying in my own dead mother’s face mirror.

For David Campbell’s poem

Turn off your sound before you go there because Poem Hunter has automatic recordings of the poems read by a computer, and that is a fine way to RUIN a poem. Horrible. But the poem is one of my very favourites.

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.





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.

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.

Gardens of the heart

everywhere, the flowers of grief

in the darkness of eyelids

an unfurling leaf

the pale day-time moon

a newborn on the old man’s chest

a sapling in a pool of light

on the ancient earth under stars

the slow deep song of stone

a half-forgotten lightness of being

dreaming of ancient footprints

it’s not as if the sun or moon mentioned you

every footstep mutes a cricket

autumn wind disentangling thoughts

dry reeds shuffle moonlight

dark trees toss the cold end of day

this moment, this moment

Looking to create a single line of poetry, (or find one of my existing ones) to be the last line of a three line poem, the first two lines of which will be written by other people who also don’t know what the other lines will be.

These are some of the possibilities that I’m contemplating. But don’t they look great as a group? I keep rearranging them. If I’m not careful, they will become an actual fee verse poem. Just now they feel like a number of small poems, but I really only need one line.

I am preparing to produce an embroidery of the line as part of a collaborative exhibition, called Gardens of the Heart, a brainchild of India Flint. I’m not sure how many people are involved but lots and from all around the world.

The participants have been allocated a line (one, two or three) and are asked to embroider dots at the beginning of their line to denote that. Once they have all arrived they will be sewn together into three lines and each poem will be hung in  space on clothes lines or some such (in March 2019, at the Lobethal Mill). Flowers will also be hung in the space.

Here is a link to the Facebook page. India is contemplating closing it soon, as the embroideries have to be posted by 22 December, but at the moment it’s still open to join in. And here is India’s website. Her work is wonderful in the full meaning of the word.

(The embroidery above is by my mum. At least that’s what she told me. My older sister said, ‘Surely not! She never showed the slightest interest in embroidery.’ I told her how I was forced to hand-stitch a pair of underpants (read bloomers) when I was at school while the boys did woodwork, something I am still sore about to this day. Perhaps this beautiful thing cured my mum of the desire to ever embroider again?)

I’d better decide on a line and get onto it! If you had to choose one of my lines above, which would it be?


Notebook pages – drawings with words

Lines from a poem by Margaret Atwood. I love her poetry.

Having a little grumble in a coffee shop.

These next two are from when we were stuck up the creek without a paddle. No, we were stuck up the river without a car, in Berri, to be precise, having run into a kangaroo, waiting for a radiator to come from Melbourne. The monument in the second one was designed by Stephen Fox and Bluey Roberts and crafted by Silvio Apponyi. It commemorates the life of  Jimmy James who was an aboriginal tracker. He is shown in the tracking pose. I find that fascinating because he is ‘reading’ the ground with his hand. I had always thought it was only visual, bent sticks, etc.

I hope the quality allows for reading.



My new book!

Louise Nicholas will launch my new book, A Slip of the Tongue, on the 1st of July, at the Box Factory, 59 Regent Street, Adelaide. Exciting!

Here’s what Rob Walker has to say about it (from the back cover)




Cry Hungary

(on a photograph in Cry Hungary
by Reg Gadney)

What a shock
finding yourself in that book
I bought by chance at the op shop.

You with your James Dean hair
and your perfect mouth
part of a reverent audience
as flames engulf a poster of Stalin.

Only one man looks at the camera
and he’s afraid.
These photos convicted
a lot of people later.

But you’d left by then
with the weight
of your seventeen years
with your broken mouth
your kicked in teeth
and no way back.

You snuck through
streets and sewers
past the roadblocks
past the guards
the treacherous people
and the helpful people.

Two weeks running
to Austria
and freedom
and exile.

I really did find this book in an op shop. And my husband, Ervin, really is in a photo in it. He is working on some autobiographical photographs at the moment and has photographed the photograph to use in a double exposure that he is planing, but when he emailed it to me (for use in this), the file got trashed. I like it so I’m adding it anyway. He is second from the right.