The Last Goodbye
She said his eulogy -
Said it, like an elegy
For a dying swan
Her face wan
As she grew louder,
Her voice rising to scream out
Her sad goodbyes.
The pigeons in the rafters
Fluttered their downy wings
The church quiet, damp
Small flames twinkling, lighting the way
Light the last candle and leave -
Leave him to sleep.
Fare thee well, and sleep.
Of Stolid Unease
Beneath a corner of everchanging sky
Where the walls are lined
With gold and leaves
Cast strange shapes with hanging fronds
Cool in the shade of a summer's ease
Or in winter's wane.
Of goldfishless goldfish ponds
And buildings of grey cement untouched
Under imposing monoliths
Bricks of terracotta newness
Contrast green glass and skyline views.
Sway in the midday sun
Shadeless palms for a misplaced island
This place is alive
This place is a-hum
With the noise of a thousand people.
When the fading light
Creeps past the closing threshold
Breaches into hiding corners
Swallowed by the growing dark
Outside, displaced souls
Wait for time to be returned
Wait to shake off the dreamlike fugue -
This present wakefulness
Let me walk in the -
As shadows fall
Across the park.
Atrophied muscles, grey
clammy skin caked with relentless mud,
Cold, and alone.
Bodies fly as bursts of light raise
Sparks, above lowered heads.
Deep in the trenches rats nibble
At half dead soldiers
Too weary to stop this early ravage
Of skin and flesh
Vulnerable to attack.
Guns, a neverending sound
In the air, in ears,
In their dreams.
The waking state only a reflex
Of men still asleep in endless night.
Above the trenches
Lies land nurtured in the blood
Of those they cannot save
And those who die attempting.
Write your letters home, boys
For who know where you will be tomorrow?
For those who will never know,
Will never come home.
If I put my head back
And close my eyes
I can feel the earth turning
If I put my head back
And open my eyes
I can see the earth turning,
As the clouds continue
their leisurely walk across the skies
I like watching that procession
Against the curved dome,
Clear and blue, of
Sky bending to meet horizon
in ground or skyline -
Tall buildings and springtime trees.
How nice this day is!
Sun shine and green leaves,
Cool breeze rushed against soft skin
Thank you for this pleasure Lord
And bless the creation you made!
Life As An Abalone
I'm not really oval, I'm not really round
My belly it's always close to the ground
I'm nothing to look at, squishy and hairy
You'd think of me most would be wary.
You're most likely to see me in a tank
That you're not me your lucky stars to thank
For though I'm primitive, my body under a shell
I'm living in a permanent hell -
I wish I had a taste that people would hate
For somehow I'm destined to be on a plate.
I'm tough and chewy, and not at all cheap
But still you come to eat me, and now I weep -
Humans! How can you leave me to such plight?
You say in return, "Hmm...flavour improves with each bite!"
If I could spare you my love over again
If I could see out of this haze of pain
If I could lift this sorrow from your heart
But sorrow remains in mine.
If I could leave this war behind
If I could find solace in your arms
If I could shut out the noise of the living
But it is the noise of the dying I hear
And it's all around me
And it keeps closing in
I would fight forever just to remain on the outside.
Just to come home tonight
I would -
(untitled thought poem)
big black ball of things I keep hidden inside
snap my notebook out of his hand
again and again, like a game
but I'm not laughing.
[Private. It's not written,
but my thoughts are private,
they are me.]
I don't want to reveal them to this boy
this boy who doesn't know me
but thinks he has the right to.
For a moment I am not myself,
I see my hostile face
my hostile attitude
And I approve.
What is he, who is he, boy that he is,
that assumes the right to see me?
I close this book,
that covers my dark soul
and I smile at last.
What Cost, But Life?
There is fighting on the streets.
The boy, in his rough cloth trousers,
carries a gun fearlessly in the old town.
He has a duty to his country
His heart swells with national pride
And hatred of those who would steal it.
He is a good soldier,
Small and quick - it has kept him safe so far.
He knows the danger; he may be young
but war has hardened him.
On his first day he saw older
more experienced men die before his eyes
Twitching with bullets and bullet holes
cut down before anything could be done for them.
He knew instinctively to slide
flattened along narrow alley-way walls
Away from helicopters overhead,
Where tanks cannot reach him.
Once in a while, he comes across other men
And they exchange quick waves,
acknowledgement of comrades in arms.
It doesn't pay to get distracted though
There are snipers on rooftops,
and enemy soldiers on patrol.
The town is surrounded,
All the houses are empty or ruined.
Too many hiding places
for nasty surprises.
Sometimes fool hardy journalists,
And war photographers,
flinch behind them on tight corners,
capturing a fight that is not theirs
for the world to see.
The boy doesn't care about them,
but he wonders how they manage to stay alive, in
indiscriminate shooting and bombing
when others with guns,
armour, and other weapons of destruction
die by sheer back luck.
He aims at a glint on one roof
And doesn't look back as the man falls
Doesn't need to see death behind him
Because it is everywhere he goes.
A man runs past him, ducking and weaving,
Dragging the dead by one arm
Broken bodies over broken rubble.
He is just a child. He went to school once,
but it was another time, another life.
All he knows now is this conflict.
He has never heard that 'only the dead
have seen the end of war'
but he probably knows that truth
much more than we,
at home watching tv,
will ever understand.
One day his life will end.
We could cling to the hope
that he is lucky
- as so many of us are -
that it will happen at home with loved ones around.
Or, less fortunately
but still in the semblance of real life,
in some accident
the worst of our comfortable fears.
But the chances are it will happen,
sooner rather than later,
on the streets,
fighting a war that never ends,
that brings no peace or resolution.
She leans so her hair
dangles neatly over her ear, over your shoulder;
her face turned coquette.
You, not looking,
search diligently for her dropped
pen. Perfect gentleman that you are.
With small wire glasses,
intelligent eyes, and cheeky grin
You break hearts without knowing.
She sits next to you and exposes her heart,
But you just gently smile.
I hear you, and your laugh,
Your forceful arguments from a generous mouth.
You call my name and I turn
And you are still laughing.
The jolly giant. It'd be hard not to like you,
but I wouldn't trust you.
The archetypal Aussie boy,
your honesty would be painful
if it weren't for that grin
and those open eyes.
Very pretty, your eyes,
but vacant blue.
Botticelli curls all brown and gold,
but those eyes - they look,
but don't see;
and I look
with nothing looking back at me.
they are gentle around you
they cover for your lack of presence,
but your eyes give you away.
Something that strikes me:
and we dance
like drunks around each other
weaving and wobbling -
and once upon a time
we did this for fun;
you would chase me around
until you caught me, your prize -
me me me glittering me
pushing the hair stuck to my face with sweat,
and watching you laugh
all slick and shine.)
and we called this a game -
and both of us won,
and it will fade to eggplant brown,
jaundiced me and you.
something that strkes me,
again and again:
and that I stay.
Is this one poetry?
Is this one where I try to be really smart,
work in a pun or two?
Heck, you might as well say
Judith, you're just writing nonsense
with line breaks.
Or you could call it literature
and say I'm great,
or say I'm confusing
And I won't believe any of you anyway.
This is one where the 'I' refers to 'me'
except where it doesn't,
Yeah, I didn't get that either. But you
don't know that
for sure. Are you afraid
that I'm laughing at you?
Trust me; my poetry
is not me, and I'd trust you were all smart enough
to know that a page of words for others to see
would never reveal that much of me. I mean,
how much do I tell you face to face? Subtract
that by nine, add two incomprehensible syllables
four lines of physicalities and SEX and Oh no!
I have a test. This is such a waste of time.
I bet you're all mad at me now.
I have to.
And they lived happily ever after -
They had made a vow to,
in front of many friends and family
some long gone now.
But it had been said
"Through riches and poverty,
in sickness, and in health."
She had kept it. Was keeping it,
as they stumbled towards the end.
Three children and a house in the suburbs,
his nine-to-five job and she playing housewife,
except it was hard work
with unforgiving hours at that.
But he would come home, and their faces
lit up to see each other;
he would tell her that she brightened up his days,
that he hoped it was the same with her.
he doesn't remember much of what he used to say,
of the promises he once made.
Sometimes, he stares
as if he's never met her before,
as if he's never been close enough
to marry this creatrue before him.
When they venture out together,
she puts on her favourite dress
with its matching hat,
even though it's old, forty years -
she wore it first when he was courting her.
at the pink veil, the pink flowers;
but she can feel memories on her skin,
her husband's hand tight in hers.
On one trip, he held up a train for ten minutes.
A stranger frantically hailing the guard,
keeping him from closing the doors.
Inside, he stood stubborn and clinging,
refusing to recognise their stop.
In the end, she put out her hand
- age speckled paper wrinkles -
closed around his thin wrist and tugged;
tugged with hope and bands across her heart.
She pulled him forward,
and saw it clear;
guiding him on,
gently holding on to what was left,
of the man she had married
- once upon a time.
metal on metal on rock
slow rumble under feet
swirled and trapped between noisy dragons,
whirling dust past.
heavy jerk machine slide
hiss as door roll closed
rat-a-tat over thin walls,
pulls against concrete berth.
static behind voice as voice a mumble
flick of paper rustle on rustle
girlish chatter murmurs content
groans as people alight footfalls on steps.
heads droop on chest and bob
rhythm is yours in time
- faster and fasterandfaster -
rocked and lulled in afternoon heat.
shrieks of almost smooth glide
whistled as you go
a carrying sound, a-carrying
all the way safely home.
I always loved
my friends who wrote poetry
more than those who did not -
swirling their words through my mouth,
in my mind,
as if I could devour
the part of them that gave them voice,
their creative mind to shine
moth to a flame,
To those I couldn't befriend
I gave up envy:
sotto voce comments always critical
sorting through piles of prose and poem with
my half-formed mind,
my insecurities showing; but I didn't know.
Once written seems set,
kept as testament to what I thought then,
kept as proof of my shrinking heart to a broadening horizon
- and all that I want to say
hidden malice, heavy guilt
the driving urge to confess dark deeds -
once written once shown
not mine any longer to own
and too raw it's out there
have to be careful what slips
when writing tired and frustrated,
dangerous yet so tempting.
But streams and burbles,
words and phrases and ideas and song;
conversations overheard, or heard in my head
sing to me a story dying to be read
written now in snatches of near-sleep,
gone by morn.
Soup of song,
mixed pot of sounds and rhyme
made up make believe a maybe reality,
mind overtime on a dreamer's dreams
too soft or loud for human scribble
on cheap store bought lined paper -
but I'll try all the same,
try and try again;
Tiny wings sizzling to ash,
a talentless hack.
At three, I was too small for the barre.
The compromise was an ugly plastic stool,
and hope to one day reach the horizontal rod -
there, they stretched upwards with one leg
five fingers delicately curled inwards,
cupping invisible lotus blossoms.
I had less than ten lessons,
and one magical afternoon in the dark
watching my teacher dance onstage.
Maybe there's grace still within me,
long lost in eyes of wonder,
noisy cymbal clash of a Chinese opera song.
urn (it saves space)
I would cry
if I knew how to,
I don't remember what it's like.
There isn't enough grief in a world like mine
to try again.
We have buried my grandmother in a small urn
under a porcelain horse, under dirt;
somwhere in our quiet hearts.
I dig up her memory whenever I mourn -
no longer for her after this time,
but she is there when I mourn all the same.
There isn't anyone else, as alive
as she; and we never say her name,
though we talk of things past.