Thursday, May 31, 2012


The blanket is heavy.
I unfold it around you
pull at edges, carefully cover a stray leg.
A good night kiss. Lights off.


Medusa Sea Star
braids already-there
hair.  She weaves more.

Swallowtail knits
a stomach to eat
the self it forgets.

It's not how you build it, so long as you build it.

For Sasha (revised)

He struck off into the park
but at ten to 3 was himself struck
by the rotting branch of an old maple tree.
He was crowned mid-stride.

He might've sat beneath that tree,
lifted his eyes to the cold city skies
to script a new constellation of designs. 
But he was knocked out mid-stride.

He might've been killed outright.
But he was laid flat mid-stride.
His mind will never be what it might have been.
He was benighted mid-stride.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Right To Life

Right to Life

Last night I dreamt I flew 
all the way to the moon
to pick up a tiny square
of cardboard and a paperclip.

Today I watched the corner
of an envelope float down
from a shelf and land
on my stapler.

I thought about the dream
and my dead child and finally,
decades later, I realize it is time
to piece the scraps of me together.

Suspended moments

It was almost twelve, daddy, and we hurried through gallery 11,
wavering but a moment at the raja, vajir, haathi, oonth, ghoda and pyaade,*
all suspended in ivory: a battle, set up, but forever awaiting the conch.
We ran down the corridor --Sunday afternoons slipped by
when you'd taught us to build forts on pieces from your childhood
--and arrived, breathless, to the musical clock in the lobby.
But that little watchman, time, had already chimed the hour.

*Piece names in Hindi for the king, queen, rook, bishop, knight, and pawns.
Something like this:

Yummy Flashback

Out of nowhere
working on my laptop
years later, I taste 
the flour butter
sugar oatmeal dough
of Mum's cookies

A full pinch 
out of the bowl
and I hear her scold


For Sasha

He struck off into the park
but at ten to 3 was himself struck
by the rotting branch of an old maple tree.
He was sat weeping mid-stride.

He might've sat beneath that tree,
lifted his eyes to the cold city skies
to script a new constellation of designs.
But he was sat weeping mid-stride.

He might've been killed outright.
But he was sat weeping mid-stride.
His mind will never be what it might have been.
He was sat weeping mid-stride.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Singularity (revision)

Stuart glued electrodes to his scalp
in preparation for the Great Upload.
He crammed his hard drive
full of blueprints for a cyborg city:
turbines, turrets, turbo tanks.

When the slime moulds took over,
they soaked his laptop in digestive goo.
You’re being emotional!
he shrieked at a plasmoid,
which slithered up his torso
and into his ear.
He tried to scream again in Esperanto
but the fruiting bodies had occluded his airway,
and it was becoming difficult to think.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mother's Day

After a quiet meal, I nudged my mother,
and on my plate, traced out two stick figures
holding hands.

Recommended, No Star

Silent aroma reminiscent of Brahms
A bicycle taste, greener than red

Off key in nutmeg, deaf to the touch
Don't fascinate it. Smoke will fix

your eyes bluer on its dog-fur sound
Best before after. Try mixed with Tuesday.


Also That Week

The week Barbara Jordan dies, January 18, 1996,
the universe brightens in apparent magnitudes of eloquence:

the Hubble sights 40-billion more galaxies,
scholars agree a 1612 elegy is Shakespeare's,

and Cupid, lost in the shadows of a Fifth Avenue rotunda,
is rediscovered: "Good light made all the difference."

Also that week Rushdie emerges from fatwa solitude
to read at the New York City Public Library,

where, among the literati, a certain film star sits in perfect view:
An almost cinematographic silver light graces the ballroom.

It's been a tragic, magnificent week. I want to stare
but a glance as I bask in Rushdie's prose will have to do.

Slight changes to rules

1)  I've made the requests for critique/fluff options into tags, thus saving you all the effort of typing out requests every time.  Just click the "critique" tag or the "fluff" tag, as the spirit moves you.  I have retrofitted old posts with these tags.

2)  I've introduced a "no fluff" option, in case anybody wants it.  (It was an empty corner of logical space just begging to be filled.)  So if you only want hard-hitting critique, use that.

3)  I've changed the "say one positive thing" rule to a slightly vaguer "be helpful" rule, since Bill Moss has demonstrated that it is possible to be helpful by providing a bunch of line edits in a neutral tone.  I will assume that saying one positive thing is sufficient, but not necessary, for maintaining a helpful tone.  I neither want nor expect to micromanage critiques based on tone; just be reasonably courteous to each other, please.

OK, dull housekeeping stuff is over.  I now return you to your regularly scheduled poetry.

How to Look After Yourself

New message.  Is it you?  I wish.  It's spam
from my mother: Rape Prevention Tips.

I check the news: Transgender Woman Murdered.
Twenty-two, and shot outside a party.

I worry.  Wish you'd come back from D.C.
If I were Mom, I'd send you Pointers for
Avoiding Murder: Guaranteed to Work.

1. Don't date men.
                                2. Don't let people know.
3. Get a German shepherd.  Get an uzi.
4. Dress in kevlar.
                              5. Invent a ray gun.
6. Dream big. Become a constellation.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Hey babe
head bob
ruff puff
wing fluff
shimmer shimmy

Friday, May 11, 2012


Everything is possible in this most possibleof worlds.  Roll enough dice, and miracles look probable.

The miracle of winter fruit: although you miss
the strawberries, the custard apples fruit in May.

The fridge has fizzled out.  Is this a bolt of fortune?
We'll throw a potluck, drink condensed milk from the can.

Cleaning out the attic, under old Reader's Digests,
you find a diary, half-eaten by the must.

You strain your arms until the screw-top jar flies straight
into the wall, and stand blinking at your own might.

Really, Rachael? You expect to twist a cloud
into cotton candy?
Hell, who knows?  I could.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I hope it's okay to post a NaPo poem. I'd really like to work on this one so critiques are welcome.


My mom is on the floor again,
one leg caught in the bed rail,
the other tangled in her blanket.
She is screaming, “something is wrong
with the moon”.

I don't know what to do, so I look
for answers in the shape of the clouds,
the tea leaves at the bottom of my cup,
in the flecks of gold in her eyes.

But deep down I know
she is a seed on a maple tree
spinning away
from me.  

Still life

Some things do not take kindly to photographs.
They are entirely too un-still, to be stilled
on film, or in code of ones and zeros.
Take the flight of swallows:
in one click, capricious turns and banks
are reduced to a flash
of feathers, wings and forked tail in blue sky.
You're like that, I think. One might, perhaps,
capture the laughter about the crinkles of your eyes,
but it is far easier to catch the warmth
of sun glint on rivers
than that something in those precious eyes
that hints at knowing secrets to life itself.

In Case of Fire

(crit, please)

In case of fire, what to do for books:
Look first to mice and sneaky mites that must,
like fire, feed on paper; to ash, dust.
Do not let books pile up in foreign nooks
and crannies, bone-dry. Back up your e-books,
Kindled, Googled, Nooked. Press save a lot. Lust
for literature serves the household trust.
Love books, and feel how books love back, for books
both embrace and cradle. Beware despots.
Memorize. Read aloud walking around.
To flout censors and other dumbass clots,
whence obscurity, build way underground
an archive, fire-proofed, humidified,
and stock the prize of tyranny defied.


Unanswered Correspondence (AS)

Although in his methods of thought he was the neatest and most methodical
of mankind... [he] keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end
of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife
into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece...

Dr Watson on Sherlock Holmes in "The Musgrave Ritual"

Unpaid bills next to the small TV: I never get letters these days.


Breathing Lessons

It's like riding a bike or swimmingup from your own green throat.
Remember to say ahem.
People will think you're serious.

Nobody chokes to death
on cough drops and sweet green tea,
smothers from too much doona,
gags over menthol steaminess.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Blood returns to the empty ghost

I sang so sweet the gods returned him,snatched the corpse and dropped my brother
blinking in the stunning sunlight.

My tears ran dry. I'd sobbed and sung and
beat my voicebox, banged my lyre
so loudly that the gods returned him,

tugged their tangled plaything, bent him
back to human shape, tossed back their
captive frog, unhooked their sunfish.

Chop the line and throw the sinker
deep into the river. Never
hook his heart again. Return him

tall and whole. Unchoke, undrown him;
bind him to his breath forever;
fill the year with Easter Sundays.

Pluto, stop. I hear you stringing
fishing line onto your spinner.
You cannot, having once returned him,
haul him from the gasping sunlight.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Australia's Big Things (revision)

Paul Bunyip whipped in on a whistling hurricane,cut through the sweat of our Brisbane December,
rained on our dumplings and sent us all hurrying
back from the yard where we steam them in summer.

We were panting in hammocks behind the verandah,
wringing hot water drops out of the air.
We'd battered the passionfruit back from the windows,
whacked the white ants with a fizzling whirr.

Then Bunyip whooped in on his whinnying hurricane.
Raindrops and hailstones blew straight through the cockatoos,
nailed them to gumtrees.  They shrieked something horrible,
screech upon scream til the airwaves were chockers.

The rain stopped, and up sprouted apples and pineapples,
mangoes, bananas as tall as the sky
in Batlow and Berri, in Bowen and Yerrinbool,
Gympie, Bulimba, Coff's Harbour, Mackay.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Things I'm afraid to tell you.

(Just fluff, please)

I do not have, today,
sparkling stories or warm memories,
or glossed-up descriptions of grief.
And I thought, today, I'd be brave.

Write of that that isn't beautiful,
isn't perfect.

Fingers quiver. Type. 

Delete. In the silence,
that fan beats out its relentless rhythm:
it's hot, it's hot, it's hot...

One day, love, I will not be afraid
of judgement and rejection.
I will be brave enough 
to write of the things I'm afraid to tell you.

Rules for Poetry Thursdays (refined)

Sorella, our champion fluffer, has raised an issue about critique in the comments.  She finds it scary and inhibiting.  I suspect she is not alone in this.  Now, this exercise is modeled partly after Sevens, where the idea is to get poetry out there by lowering one's inhibitions and removing the expectation that everything be perfect.  So cheering each other on and maintaining a positive attitude are important here.  It's a marathon!

At the same time, I value giving and getting critical commentary, and I want to open up space for that.  Therefore, I propose the following rules.

Leave a note at the top of your poem saying whether you want fluff and critique, or just fluff.  If somebody requests just fluff, and you critique, I will delete your comment.  I am not going to delete fluff, however.   Fluff away!

In critiques, you must say at least one positive thing about the poem.  Entirely negative comments will be deleted.  Honestly, I think this is good for the critter as well as the poet.

Comments on others' comments are permitted.  Here, a similar guideline applies: find one positive, worthwhile thing to take away from the other person's comment, or don't respond.  I reserve the right to cut off conversations that get nasty or personal.  (That's a bit nebulous and subjective, so I will warn people before closing comment threads.)

Anything I missed?  Tell me in the comments!

Pizza Delivery Girl's Dream

I could be in pink: Love Blooms
on the van and on my T-shirt
Make clients happy with after
quarrel bouquets, hand over 
pot-plants to old parents
with a hand-written card

Instead this brown car, brown cap
Ringing bells of old bachelors
or dysfunctional families
with Pepperoni &  Mozzarella
plus Giant Diet Coke, watch them
hunger for more 


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Australia's Big Things

On the miserable February afternoon
when Paul Bunyip galloped in on a hurricane,
we were reaching above our heads, squeezing the air,
letting the warm water drip onto our foreheads.
The squall drove raindrops through the lorikeets,
nailed them to trees and fenceposts, and ruined the dumplings
we'd left outside to steam.

By the time Paul clapped the hurricane on the flank
and sent it whinnying back to the wild Pacific,
the only thing you could see above the mud
was the tip of Stephan's Needle.
Paul tied sponges to the feet of his blue heeler Babe,
threw a stick til the whole mess was mopped up.
He offloaded three of the sponges in Katoomba
and threw one in the desert.

“I'm thirsty,” said Paul,
pulling a ten-thousand gallon stubbie out of his pocket.
“And hungry.”  After cleaning out our flapjacks
and fruit salad, Paul sprinkled around some seeds
he'd bought from a young man with a cow.
Up sprouted bananas, oranges, mangos, apples
bigger than Babe's head.  He ate most, but left a few
in Berri, Bowen and Yerrinbool, Carnavon and Coff's Harbour
Tenterfield and Thulimbah, and Mundubbera and Mackay.

Dawn & Barbie

They're not mine but I want them to be free
to be bankers, soldiers, lawyers, bakers,
the architects of their own destiny.

They are nine and ten, contradictory
at every turn, flowering heartbreakers.
They're not mine, but I want them to be free,

like Rose Red and Snow White on their fairy
tale quest but without hags or conjurers.
The architects of their own destiny,

they'll happily attend school, acid-free,
and be safe as larkspurs and cockleburrs.
They're not mine but I want them to be free:

Armed with poison leaf, like Dawn & Barbie
accessorized with spiky heels and furs,
the architects of their own destiny.

If they were mine, ballet for karate,
spurs for purrs; for fairy wands, rapiers.
They're not mine but I want them to be free,
the architects of their own destiny.

Announcing Poetry Thursdays

(Thanks to Dave Wiseman for the inspiration!)

The challenge: post one poem every Thursday for 52 weeks in a row.  Critique others' poems.  (Weekly poems leave more time for substantial crits than daily poems, and critiques should be correspondingly more in-depth.  I don't really feel like policing people for fluffing, though.  Feel free to fluff on this blog if the spirit moves you.)

How to do it:  Each poem gets a new post.  (Don't forget to tag the post with your name.)  Critique others' poems in the comments.