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The Running of the Bulls

My beating heart                                              
is no help to yours
held firm
by a cobbled street
where tobacco and wine bottles
gather dust in a shop window.

Dappled morning
ashen shadow
an angel on the medic’s back
waits for a breath
as each pound in your chest
shakes heaven’s gates.

Again the medic presses
and again,
I watch
your smooth skin
turn from olive
to the shade of twilight.

Your shoes, soft oiled leather
take steps into the air
to the right and left, again
with each pulmonary assault
that insists, old man
you will live.

Your wife will be waking
and the bulls turning sand
to clouds, for they will run
madly through the streets
- where you lived -
swept with dreams.

Another season
of flowers. Buds spill
from windowboxes,
paint peels from shutters.
I don’t know your name
Old man

Still the angel
holds his breath.
and I take one,
it trembles in my lungs
I turn the way
morning comes.

Against a tide
of pilgrims, resolute
walking by
I can feel again the tight grasp
of my father’s hand
before he died.

Day spills light
into my moving
breaks my memory.
I tie my shoelaces
and join the path again
to the wineshop on the corner.

Where bloodstained prints
Tread crimson flowers

In the Garden of Martyrs, Esfahan

She licks the knife clean
of cherry jam,
dabs her lips with a tissue,
leaves an etching of 
unmouthed words.

She lifts the hem
of her chador
and taps
a wooden leg. ‘Sadaam,’
she knocks again
and pinches her nostrils.

‘Poison bomb
bomb’ she says
‘I was three.’

for eighteen years
her mourning strung
between skeletal walls
hard as adobe

the clay scent of a whole
village bleached
from her mind

that chemical mist falling
into desert air
raining still in her sleep

The sound of dust when it settles.
She fills my cup.
Stirs.
Flakes of coconut sugar
dissolve in my tea.
She offers me cardamon sweets,
Iran Iraq Iran Iraq.

Down each row of chiselled prayer
the stare of young sepia eyes.
We wait with them
for the washing
of tombs;
the scent of rosewater.

I step between marble shrines
onto small stones
only small stones are left
to be swept by mothers,
sisters, daughters, wives.

I step into
the echo of a dome,
that pours an earthen light
into the hollow notes
of her limp
until she is gone.

Crumble and Tea

I sit opposite my mother
on her velvet couch   
watching
the way
her chin disappears
into her neck and her neck
into heaving breasts, for air
and more of me.
Out, through a hatch of sliding
screen I glimpse the last
of a late winter sun;
bulrushes turned to burnt sienna
and a wood duck to amber green.

The fluorescent lamp
stutters
then hums. 
Mum rubs cream
into her rheumatic fingers.
For the third time today.
In her kitchen I rub outdated
margarine into oats and sugar
to crumble over
the hard flesh
of Bosch pears
and over ripe
strawberries.

pink steam shouts out
from her fan forced oven.

We eat on our laps.
I wipe whipped cream
from the corner of my mouth
and watch the crumbs
that drop from hers.
From tannin
ringed cups we
sip tea tainted by long-life milk
she says
is as good as the real thing;
as mother's milk? I want to say
but instead, ‘Mum, careful
don't burn yourself.’

I burn my tongue instead
I burn from the inside out
watching her rise to take
my plate. Her knees shake
at the weight of a world
reduced to this.

and I cannot rescue
her falling knife

War Baby

Shape of a wedding
gift teapot,
a silver spout flared
indent in their wall.

My mother
sponges the roses of their carpet;
wrings dry the towel,
picks up the pot
she threw, coos
to him as she pours
a fresh cup,
dries her bone china cheeks.

He hears, beneath
the slide of her
satin slip,
a wailing at the wharf and
an offshore wind rattling the cracked
window pane of their second floor room

tomorrow my father will go to sea

Her quivered breath
and eyes, lids like tea leaves floating,
colliding with him in the dark.
And he is slightly stirred
by the touch of her skin,
her string of smooth white pearls.
A beauty queen left high and dry
with an embryo.

tomorrow my father goes to sea

I swim with strange webbed limbs
while she sleeps. A continual collision.  
Her sleepwalking through silent
shipwrecked men, spears
me with question marks; birthmarks
corrugate my skin, catapult
me in to a neon lit world spilled
from thrown things.

tomorrow my father comes home

His whiskey breath
his stubbled chin,
the clean starched pleats of his officer shorts
the stethoscope around his neck
- he knows everything
he knows heartbeats -

and she wears Chanel no 5.
For the first time she coos
in my ear, then calls to him
from her emptied womb
night at the bottom of the stairs,
like a siren
singing from an ocean floor.

8 Summer Haiku

rain pool
in a curl of ironbark
circling ant

camphor leaves dipping
into muddied water
Chinese whispering

little tortoise
swimming upstream
going backwards

rainsoaked riverbank
the sound of the wind
a pillow for my head

empty lead tethered to
to a moulting paperbark
he wags his tail

shadows of crimson grass
falling on sandhills
black ants scurry home

oyster shells at low tide
on the river bank
seed pods burst open

blue sky ripples
in a rock pool
one star fish inches in

Evening Shift

When you were coastguard
I would visit you
with scones and tea

as the gates closed
and the beacon
poured out to sea
in slow circles

we would wind
our way
up the cool iron stairs
to first landing

dropping the anchors
of our day
we’d turn warm
upon the marble floor

we’d cast a net
of soft murmuring
out to the indigo deep
and catch the milk of stars

still and white
stood the lighthouse
as tall ships sailed
by the compass of our embrace

Belongil's Mouth

Shy birds come
to drink,
where I float
in the shade of tea trees.
Taste of salt

crystals dry translucent
in the tracks
little terns make
between the fence, my body
and a tidal world.