After an evening of distant lightning
a soft rain began to fall.
Our people have moved far from the earth.
I lie on the cool grass.
Above me are the mysterious lights of a far-off plane.
When I became a Christian the initial insight
came to me on the bed of my parents –
that I came from them, and they from their parents,
and so back to God.
Tonight I realised something else –
I was conceived in love
so love is my beginning.
Beyond the blanket of rain
I dived in the ocean, warm and still,
with fishing boats asleep on its surface
and high on the bay, the white empty houses
facing the distant sea.
I am here, as ocean swells
and air rests
and there, as sky is suspended
and holding, as night in
expanse shelters and warms
and cherishing, as heartbeat
and bodies united
and freedom, as gazelles
and wind’s fury
and love, as the womb
and I am beyond, as the sea.
The tears of heaven falling on the roof
of our family home as my wife
of slender darkness looked out beyond the
ghost trees, her gaze caught just
above the northern horizon, where the fishing boats
return in the grey still seas of morning.
I loved her, but the curtain rain upon
the window and the silence brought sleep,
our entwining legs formed a cross,
the swell of gentle sails upon my back,
the turning of the night.
Around our bodies the pure air of the room
and the unheard ringing of eternity.
Watchman, what of the night?
Passing squalls of dog barks
ruffle the distant evening.
Further to the heads the low roar
of traffic on the highway to the sea.
Within our cabin of yellow light
we rock to the rhythm of eternity.
“A six foot swell tonight.
It will get stronger as we pass the heads.”
But we will be asleep by then.
Perhaps in nightmares the sea
shall torment our sleep
or sweep us towards the rock faced
ocean of dark magnificence.
We sit together in the globe lit room.
A radio plays softly in the background.
A blue sentinel buoy passes near
rocking in the swell and our wake.
We retire to bed, the waves of night
by our window.
The distant sounds of the city, the new
moon behind the clouds.
High the new born crescent moon
Isaac walks through evening fields
his spirit stretches to the winds.
As the infinite beholds
a camel train nears its goal
and travellers sight a lonely man.
“Who is this, walking to meet us?”
“My master” replies the servant
Rebekah veiled her eyes.
The stars shone bright as Isaac learnt
the source of new found splendour.
A river of birth was halted
Rebekah unveiled his eyes.
Her womb was barren
The seed enclosed
The bark was thick as snow.
Yahweh held the place of beginning
Her husband asked the infinite
to open the spring of birth.
So the two entwined in love
conceived the one who brought the
delta’d water to the sea.
Love expanding as a breath fills breeze
that touches face and limbs.
Love descending as a seed
to ants and little stones.
Love as iron drips in fire,
congealing as pearls.
Love ascending as oil
soaks ground in black,
as summer fire, wind blown in terror,
abandons trees in wild night.
Love as dawn breaking, dew falling,
and tranquil, a pool in the east.
Gentle pure sky
soft blue sheet
night winds blow
your blanket deep
Sleep my child
as waters sing
and drifting clouds
pass by my feet
A strong wind blows on the day of rest.
Across the spaces the morning birds
Call with more urgency, the air their bleak perch.
The lake lies marred by grey clouds and trees,
Beneath its surface fish swim rapidly,
Their breath enlivened by the troubled waves.
Within man’s homes curtains bustle, a door slams,
But stillness pervades.
Thoughts of Sunday dinners, children watching TV,
Old men sitting backs far from the window.
I shall go outside this holyday
Across at the park the black children play
Hair blown, clothes torn, barefoot.
of living power
the ancient trees
the devil’s keys
the sails of man
of the vine
of the wine
Candle of still light
Cool flame of longing
Drips of yellow
Fall from your blade
To your feet
Planted in dew
Water holds fire
In its surface
The flame seed
The dark standing trees
shimmering in the wind
sentinels in tunnels of cloud
and radiant light
The Hebrew characters, inscribed in gold on the bookbinding,
shone in the afternoon light.
The soft light of the leaves and pale clouds through the window
was reflected on their surface. Gentle bird calls and breeze in the leaves.
Their law was imbedded in the green buds and breeze.
The rounded rocks
The rounded rocks once whales
and ships which carried me
over grass seas
and headlands from which I jumped
to my nana’s arms;
still they point southwards to their polar home
travelling nobly through glacial time.
Trees unfolding time
light of the west in their sides
the wind, fierce, surrounds them.
Dawn stalks the day
behind darkening skies.
Morning branches holding light
and arcs of bird calls poised
between the leaves and ground.
The blades of life clear as
the cold air sharpened dew
on the silver roof.
Over running water the blood flows
which cleanses lepers wounds
and sends his sickness far downstream
In open fields the living bird
dipped in his partner’s life
carries our freedom in the air
A hot afternoon light yellow air,
a single cricket and bird call in terraces,
separated by silence and human living.
In the grass were bees and small butterflies
hopping from clover to clover, and above
the other world of the sky, linked to this earth,
its soft clouds floating in endless streams.
Green, yellow, blue – these colours were all
our poor vision of the rainbow.
My little boy stood framed in a window,
a dog chased the bees,
from the join of the worlds the wind blew,
The authority of heaven
The authority of heaven doesn’t rest
in the rod but in the flower.
Like an almond tree it blossoms
early after winter’s ice and fruits
in tear shaped nuts with brittle shells.
In the spring its pink blossoms
flutter in the sky and dew drips
mirror lightening shafts of sunlight.
Across the sea to a barren land,
ten years an exile.
When we visited her home I saw
that part of me was there.
The Poles, the Irish, a deserted wife,
all familiar with rejection, were
among her forbears.
When I returned to my country
I hated it. But one year on
I could stand and watch the rocks and trees
and love its first people.
“If I went home things might be no different.”
“In the same way men ought to love their wives,
as they love their own bodies. In loving
his wife a man loves himself.”
“Where you go, I shall go, and where you
stay, I shall stay. Your people will be
my people, and your God my God. Where
you die, I shall die, and there be buried.”
Grey blue to violet and sea
brown lights in the trees
the sky leaves us
The face moved through seasons
as she sat there by the glass
and summer light diffused
in her room.
The entrance of her womb
now open the seed within
the vista of the years
now stretching as the fields
beyond her window.
As night came
the evening draw across her face
and life expanded
A baby playing on the concrete
whose eyes are like the autumn sky
A bird sweep past
the western sky is dark with cloud
When we first met
When we first met she had left
her land of faith.
When we married I had found it
and she soon followed.
I found through her and she through me.
But she still has not come home.
We can look into the past
in Scotland, Ireland, Poland, New Zealand
or ahead to Jerusalem.
But faith and love are tender things
which are damaged by being grasped.
We hold out our hands to the butterfly
from our homeland.
A sheet of sea
A sheet of sea,
glimmering fire on its surface
turning to ashes in its blue depths,
the hills overlook, rounded against the sky,
sloping its heart into the burning waves.
like gentle rain
life is drinking
Through the fields of wheat
the light of three shooting stars
left their trails like water.
The insects buzzed as evening
grew towards morning.
The sheaves grew full,
the clouds sparkled.
Late morning – Summer
Wilting light and the shadow of a bird.
The trees rest on their upward journey.
At their peaks are crowns of leaves and cloud.
The sky is a blue kilm, fired by the sun.
Like a crystal arc it takes the light
and changes it to water.
A streak of cloud
A streak of cloud passed over the trees
the eye looked on solitude
I call on your name
be with me through the night
Still the liquid form of terror
in your name. Hold my
frail frame and belly
and break the roots of darkness
rising in my soul like
a haunted ancestral house
O break the roots that
pour the sap of fear
within my bones
and free me from
the hand of night which lifts me
as a floating cloud
Join my flesh and bones
and soul and spirit
to the vine
Tie me with your mighty
chords to the rock
A field of fallen sleeping snow
and snowflakes, tiny ice jewels,
spiralling, touching the ground
with child’s feet,
suspended on twigs,
catching light in their eyes,
so I wait the season of dying.
grass stalks with droplets
branches of a fig tree patterned with wet
bird calls in trees
dog steps in the shed
traffic further off
at times wind
a darkening feeling
Like many afternoons
Like many afternoons the garden lay beneath grey clouds,
its surface gently slopping towards one side and in the higher corner
a tree, bent from birth, outstretched branches bowing towards the north.
Death had many monuments in this garden – the brown sticks strewn among the green,
pale curled leaves in flocks, blood let trunks, and trees, hard and vacant.
Beyond the border of grey fence, a line of bushes, their leaves
scarcely green, preparing for the dry of summer.
Through the garden the wind blew, for the most unhindered
by these pillars of mortality. In some corners the cloud was broken
by a pale blue mirror like spring ice.
A tree sunk and lost in
a well, its roots descending
in the back waters
a blowing leaf,
a pierced heart,
a shining spear,
a dark one,
a joy unrestrained
by the earth
The new moon
The new moon wakes in
It shines upon the clover
Children climb on the fence
Pale black trees stand by
The stars watch from their home
The cool night breathes
We leave to take shelter
Fever pitched, his ears stood high as he ran
past grasses, concrete and smells of the night.
The lead was taught as I followed, breathless.
The ancient, foreign sounds of his species –
the trail of scent and quickly learned familiarity,
a narrow passage to safety.
Near the house he stopped, suddenly distracted.
His eyes were lit by the call of his wildness.
Sheets of cloud in majesty passed the moon,
the black sky a sea of space unknown and vast,
the moon a torch head, cold, filtering the sweeping
veils of cloud in blue-green light.
Airborne hosts moving towards their distant
war, the high clouds still, beyond the wind,
the marble earth cold with fallen rain.
Advancing trees frozen on the hillside
Drizzle as far as my window
Night’s overhanging burden
Soil wet with life
For a long time
For a long time I have been uncomfortable with creating.
Since becoming a Christian I have feared God’s law.
It has been easier to read or think than to make.
I’ve been like the Jews who had for thousands of years
kept within the circle of their knowledge.
God created the world and it was good.
We are each conceived in an act of love.
The boy Jesus listened and asked questions
and saw the world freshly.
The afternoon grows tired.
Sunlight revives things in the morning.
The breeze touched the trees
the flowers and my flesh
reminding us of evening.
Like petals the light fell
and was blown away
past grass and road and wall.
In the park the shroud took its
place among the silent trees.
Insects swarmed in clouds.
That night I watched my son sleeping.
The hall light lit the room.
Near his head the window was
blanketed by a blue curtain.
The sky lay distant outside.
I thought of my childhood room
and of my fathers.
I am the Lord, the God of Abraham,
your father, and the God of Isaac,
the land on which you lie I will
give to you and to your descendants.
I walk on the earth
I walk on the earth
through the spring grass
and the red soil of summer,
the breeze on my back,
high above the marble sun,
throwing its light on the grasslands,
forests and hills.
Forty leaves fell from a tree
as Jesus fought for victory
Forty ships left their coast
as Israel perished in the waste
Forty tears upon a wall
that saved a city from its fall.
Forty suns passed silently
as Noah sheltered in the sea
Forty steps in solitude
before the exile heard his Lord
Forty, less one, were the stripes
that chastened evil from my life
Forty clouds foretelling rain
before the wind from heaven came
Four hundred stones in Egypt’s land
show where sin in power stands
Four warm nights in Israel’s home
before the Lamb removed the stone.
The plain grey road
The plain grey road was lit by the sun,
a mirror, shading in parts by trees.
The morning was still and bright,
on its climb to heat.
A bird swooped over the grass, fluttering
young needles in the hovering air.
The cat wandered towards the fence
and out of view.
She took the wind’s wings
She took the wind’s wings
to a silent land.
The night bells rang
and the lilies let loose
their tendrils from the lake’s floor.
Like a gull she flew,
the dark sea below her.
Drifting across the sky
Drifting across the sky
the stars in their courses
and forward motion
like a great armada,
each long seperate
from its sister,
and our earth a circle
of water, moving too in
A swirling girl
A swirling girl in a blue dress
each step new
the flutes and harps are airy as the breeze
when I look into her eyes they are ocean blue
The chair in yellow light,
bending for ease,
yet still as the land,
worn, but gleaming
in the evening.
Palm of light
A palm of light on the hill,
the tree spires turned honey,
sand softer than air
spilled on the grass.
The stars, clouds, rain,
a dark mirror.
Birds in a dead tree
Birds in a dead tree –
Two, eight there at the same time yesterday.
Mostly still, but adjusting their tail feathers to the breeze.
Swivelling their heads sometimes.
A grey sky, with blue and dirty white.
Tiny rain flecks.
A plain of sun on the ground.
Faint rainbow colours in clouds.
The grey wind blows change in the trees,
quickening time, fading light,
banking cloud and cold.
As the limbs shake the grass turns pale,
the sun now lost,
the day trapped in white.
The morning was made dark by rain
The morning was made dark by rain,
waterfalls of ice and blackness,
pounding the concrete shelters and shrouding trees.
The afternoon light was pale, washed and tired,
the buildings were stained with brown,
the birds restless for light.
On the wall was a picture of China,
a dark blue lake walled by mountains, snow capped,
foreground, houses among the pines and rocks.
Distant arcs of space and time.
Dust, iron, sky,
the serpent biting,
red limbs whitening to bone.
We set our eyes
on a pole of bronze
turning poison to honey.
Golden light on a balcony,
thick trunk and leaves
silhouetted before it,
a boundary of darkness.
In the wilderness you gave your love.
In land not sown you followed me.
Now I search for you.
Your face is pale but beauty rests
as mist upon a field.
Your heart a pearl encased in gold.
Your hair a sunlit shield.
My hair a stream of flowing tears.
My heart a wounded side.
My face a swan that bends in sleep
to seek his distant bride.
Wider than the sea,
deeper than your eyes,
my promised love for you
is broader than the skies.
Below the sky
A gum tree with hanging bark,
feathery leaf cushions
and blue sky, becoming lighter towards its base.
A grass field moving towards it,
pale green and yellow.
Shadows against the fence.
The blinding sun above distant trees –
colourless, flat, already black
in its glare.
Twi-owwut twut twow
Two objects – an oval pebble,
patterned by grass shadows and sunlight –
a down feather, swivelling like
Two red bars across the sky
enclosed within trees,
leaving glowing yellows by their trunks.
Patrick’s mother is in hospital.
I’d spent some time showing how to play something on the KB.
He showed me some rap ‘walking’ – jerky but graceful.
‘Let’s see you do that walk again!’ he said later after my
not so successful attempt at it.
‘Do you want a fight?’ – standing in front of me, arms folded,
with an expression somewhere between straight and smiling.
Fish swam under the pier
where the boys hung their lines.
A cool morning with sunshine.
(for my father)
Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?
It was neither, but for the glory of God.
Hanging from the tree are green spiked seed pods.
Further away, clusters of gum nuts.
There is a gentle swaying.
Shadows move in patterns on the ground.
Blades of uncut grass flutter.
A warmth in my blood presses against my skin.
The stars departed
The stars departed like flocks
as the morning birds sang.
By the shore the sand warmed.
Far out the dark sea.
On Sunday morning
I woke up to see on Sunday morning
a day made bright and pure.
I held my daughter in my arms
and softly walked up the hill.
We saw a poor patch of bush
which sunlight and shade had drawn.
We listened to the birds which called
in songs of joy and sorrow.
As silver clouds out sung the sun
and brought darkness to the earth.
We stood there silently to wait
the yellow warmth’s return.
A dog barked and my child
and time woke up again.
The sun shone clear blue in the sky
and a little bird cleaned his wings.
An afternoon – early Summer
Birds called as the rain began to fall.
A glowing cloud floated towards the trees
until the rising wind pierced its light
and curtains of rain silenced the magpie’s call.
After a time the sun returned and saw
a landscape lit from within, the grey clouds
covering their jewel of light and summer trees
holding dense flowers in orchards of red.
The bird sang again too, released from water.
Dry calls now, foreshadowing the coming days
of heat, the thick shadows dividing the ground,
the wind lifting the heavy veil of the earth
and showering the sky with reflections of solid glory,
the inheritance of rain, the conquerer of airborne kingdoms.
Shawn grass blades between concrete slabs
Pear shaped leaves
A wandering ant
A turquoise sky
old planks by a tree
The vine fruits in summer air
and languid days of heat.
The starry nights dip its leaf
in pools of eternity.
White light strikes the rocky path
leading to the press.
And stinging heels release the dye
that stains the sky and earth.
Through a crack in the window
the morning sun on the leaves
reminded me of joy.
The harbour looked out
into the dark sea. The lights
of distant ships were speckled
across the ocean, single lonely
fires of human life. The bay
was filled with the roar
of unheard blackness. Nearby, the
lapping of water against the pier.
We lay our head on the ground
above us the night sky
the air was light and warm.
Trees of sickness
in the night
Let me see
From your branches
let me take
leaves of healing
Black bird flee
your wretched nest
bird of dawn
Like the spring clover his life came,
one among many, a brother.
The sun and new moon and dancing
bees all glimmered on his flowering.
Some days the rain fell, awakening
the grass in rich green, and feeding
the hidden tentacles of weeds.
And when in the heat the clover turned brown
he shared in their suffering, and daily
as more of the field darkened,
his tears lay fresh on the ground.
Cold autumn day
It was one of the first cold autumn days.
A wind had sprung up around noon
and smoke was in the air from bushfires.
In the late afternoon the sky had
a clear, distant look – with shades
of pink in the east.
The trees were cold and delicate
against the horizon.
A cold summer wind
A cold summer wind on the fields before night.
On the farm track the puddles were speckled with rain.
Mist rose and floated over the hills.
Jacob saw a ladder
rising to the sky
At its base was dust
at its peak were stars
Upon the man of sorrows
sprung a tree of grace
Stars would be his home
but dust his resting place
At the junction
They fought at the junction
of rivers flowing from exile
Brother against sister
To sense the voice of the wind
and trace the borer’s path
in the leaves
The sun sent her leprous
the spit of her father
Alone, the sand dried
her wounds and blew
in the well of her weeping
Dark walls carved in the heart,
binding the light outside, love’s compass
pointing towards north, avoiding shipwreck,
figures of history laid on the walls.
The garden stretching westwards from the hilltops,
the lake reflecting the sky.
God is my friend
In shifting light
of a windy day
I write this
I am outside
sitting among ferns
To my left is
a corner of bay
Ants walk on rocks
The wind disguises the sounds
of cicadas and birds
This is were I
spent my childhood
I can hear a dog’s bark
on the hill behind
When I touched
a sunlit fern leaf
it was blown from me
When I close my eyes
I see disturbed sand
sinking to the bottom
The low clouds
I find sleep,
awakened by birds and ants
From the branches
From the branches the bark hung in strips,
still in the faint breeze.
The trunk was brown as far as the first branches,
above them, the light new bark.
The leaves gently moved against the background
of clouds and pale sky.
Twelve tears from the sky
whose face was shrouded by
cloud and night
and the tenuous web of joy
drunk in its sorrow
the leaf and earth greened
in invisible night
the towering womb
loosened the day spring
A tree sunk and lost in a well,
its roots descending in the black waters.
The ocean is thicker than water or blood,
darker as starlight and night.
The tree drinks eternity,
fine leaves envelop its trunk,
shooting life to its outstretched branches.
An hour or two before the evening
the sun’s rays touched the tree,
dead, its last leaves pale on some branches,
a handful now, some little emblems
of light against the sky.
When I returned the orange light
was gone, clottered blood was
on its side, and sticks like
fingers pointing and
bark, like cast off clothes.
Blank night sky. No stars because of thin cloud cover.
Ahead the clouds are streaked. Pinky grey and black.
Behind the sky is more uniformly dark with a misty quality.
A gum tree looks delicate.
Another is a black silhouette, contained, but as if full of wind.
Walking across a field surrounded
A sunny path between houses.
Across the road a line of trees,
each glittering with sunshine.
The long straight path to my church,
grey light, the noises of afternoon.
The western light
Twelve fingers pointing southwards from the gum,
the western light on their leaves as they shake,
the gums brown certainty partly veiled in shade,
a wandering cloud caught in its high branches,
it waits, a compass point, steady
through day and night, seasons, and winds,
till its time of withering, worked from within.
The Border of Edom
A red, hairy man, his forefather’s brother,
had lived in these mountains.
It’s granite hills claimed him
now before the land of gold.
His cast off clothes were passed to his third
son, over the gulf of fire.
He rested his head in the earth
and shoots of iron sprang like nettles.
The summer is hateful
and cruel to us
who left grey shores
in ancestral memory.
Leeching our cool blood
and making us burn
within, the bards
of sunlight strike
our backs, chastening
us beyond the sea
cliffs, or branding
our foreheads with death.
In the park among the bird calls
In the park among the bird calls
and sunlight and silent trees
a body lay in the grass.
One morning on the way to school
some children found him.
The dew was on his clothes
and his rivers still.
In the night he’d chosen
a road of oblivion.
Present troubles had risen like a tide.
His outstretched hands