Poems

A continuing collection…

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sonnet

I think I am quite healthy
but at my age who can say
I am after all over eighty
and there are things I can’t downplay
like having to creep on hands and knees
rather than make a small jump
like having to sit to lace my shoes
like dreaming I’ll not wake up

does this mean I’m on the way out
it’s a thought that comes in the night
as discomforts assail the hip joint
no posture seems ever quite right
and memory makes us  meet again
many friends we’d almost forgotten

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68

song for a wanderer

from the rise in front of the homestead
where I was wont to stand
to see how the sheep were going
and check the lie of the land
to my amazement on the horizon
I saw a figure hurrying by
dressed I thought extraordinarily
in a bush hat coat-tails and bow tie

where the devil he was off to
I couldn’t even guess
there was bugger all behind him
and ahead of him even less
I’m afraid I never found out
why he was oddly dressed
did what he wanted require him
to be clothed in his Sunday best

was he hoping to find a lover
lying back among the grasses
one who would look on him kindly
and respond to his advances
if so he had a long way to go
such joys are not found on the plains
he’ll have to complete his journey
to a land where it sometimes rains

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67

a sort of joy

write about joy
for a change she said
what’s the point of always
brooding upon death

joys are hard to recall
I had a rapture when I was ten
joys have been more low key
ever since then

in truth those joys that persist
are shaded by regrets
perhaps joy partly comes
at someone else’s expense

I remember my mother singing
I remember making her cry
I hope I told her I loved her
before we said good bye

from her photo on the mantelpiece
she sees me growing old
dear me she says those silver threads
have crowded out the gold

no call to regret growing old she says
soon you’ll be with me
and we’ll sing our songs together
in the shade of the old apple tr

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66

heat

now is not the time
to write about heat
the cold rains of September
still glisten on the street

much of my own September
has been stuffed up by the flu
could have been fatal they say
at your age you’re lucky to pull through

pull through I did
perhaps for the last time
though surely the coming heat
will make our days more benign

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65

in paradisum

late in life my mother lost her mind
not for the first time but this time she would die
in her own world and as a result I like to think
she would surely find her way to paradise

madness magnified my mother’s innocence
although she dreaded the voices of evil
she defied them for she knew
the good in us could overcome them all

the good mad I believe deserve
to be rewarded in the next world
for what they lost in this one
where they strove to do good but failed

at sunrise I sometimes wonder
where Death will take us when the clouds open
I know the good mad will go to paradise
will we sane ones just fade into oblivion

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64

still life

cars queue ahead of me
waiting for the train to cross
the gates are down
red lights should be flashing
but are not
a few pedestrians
stand still as statues
it’s like a photo
except for the train rushing through
and passing back again
while all else is motionless

this stillness
I begin to realize
is not before me
but within me

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63

winter sunlight

sit with me in the sun  a while
this room is much too cold
and talk of the hopes we once had
in those days before you died

back then we believed that equality
would grow and spread and flower
from the seeds of  post-war reconstruction
nourished by Catholic action

that hasn’t worked out too well
in fact the world’s gone to pot
the rich have gotten richer
and socialism’s stuffed

why was that room we were in so cold
that’s the hall for newcomers
once you’ve joined the saints
the rooms are a fair bit warmer

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62

church temporal

on the hill above the main street
the Catholic church stands tall
the side door is open

within it’s as we remember
the altar faces the faithful few
the stations of the cross are still fourteen
saints glow in the sanctuary
as they did in my childhood
when the church was packed on Sundays
where I rang the bells
and perfumed the congregation

behind the church the school
has added multiple buildings
to accommodate the multiplying heathens
once upon a time the priests commanded us
to send Catholic children to Catholic schools
these days they preach choice
and pray for more public funding

saints preserve us

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61

roadsides

the gum trees watch over us
as we drive through the Wimmera
embracing each other at their crowns
making space underneath for us to pass

now and again a foreigner
dark green and geometric
provoked in the gums an attitude
of  hand-on-hip insouciance

among their own however
they compete to reach the sky
tall smooth and clean
like souls cleansed of  sorrows

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60

the great hall
in memory of Graeme Stuart 1932-2017

in the great hall the souls of militants gather
they relax with sandwiches wrapped in agendas
they draw lessons from old strikes and stopworks
and debate the relevance of direct action these days

they remember defeats more glorious than victory
the surge of hope that came with solidarity
raise once again their hands to vote for action
and hesitatingly vow it was all worth it

look at us now says Stewie well fed well off
agreeably housed in this magnificent great hall
ah what a space for a stopwork meeting
but who are the enemies and who the leaders

in 1891 the shearers had the squatters
in our heyday we had the government
but now that everything’s supposed to be private
where are the bosses to march against

those things we fought for are gone
there’s no such thing as job security
in the old days you just lost a bit of pay
these days they sack you at the drop of a leaflet

we have our houses our books and our Mozart
we sing requiems for the great days of struggle
we thought we could pass the baton to the young ones
but they idle by the track and keep out of trouble

they were beautiful days those days of action
now they’re just sidings on the back track of memory
so it’s goodbye to stopworks goodbye to action
hail and farewell to all that

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chats with the mighty dead: Malone 

Malone

Malone had a big red head
skinny shanks
and long fingers
whose knuckles he would  crack

to us he was an oracle
we hushed before his upraised hands
and a becalming look
that paved the way for pronouncements

when he steepled his hands
did he see God under them
he was too rational to enjoy belief
irrational enough to consider theology

I don’t know whether
he believed in an afterlife
now that he’s too early dead
I like to think of him there

sitting in his familiar pose
his halo glowing pink
being introduced by Peter
as an esteemed  arrival

we are fewer now says Peter
but quality is important
from what I’ve heard Malone
has valuable ideas for us

I’d like to say a few words
begins Malone
about  the declining numbers
of newcomers from the Western world

it’s time to change the message
heaven hell and immortality
all have serious problems
Heaven is vapid Hell unconscionable

and belief in immortality
has always been shaky
we have to think of new ways
to sell all three

some of you I sense
don’t like to see these as PR issues
but let’s not kid ourselves
it’s what they’ve always been

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57

old fart

in your eighty-sixth year
you often think in general
about the manner of your death
and who’ll come to your funeral

this then makes you ponder
which organ or body bit
might bring about your death
or make living seem not worth it

say if you’ve got diabetes
which I have in the lesser type 2
your continence becomes an issue
as threats to key organs accrue

the problem is in the treatment
pills attack the organs of waste
and you have to take more pills
so you won’t be disgraced

incontinence is worse of course
if you also lose mobility
worse than that is the chance
of mental instability

as yet there are merely dribbles
of such fearful possibilities
the worst that’s happened so far
is some appearance of senility

and so I tell myself
when all is done and said
better to be an old fart alive
than one of the saintly dead

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Easter 2017

sunlit days starlit nights
we needed an extra doona
and I wore socks to bed

Good Friday of course was fish
obligation lingering as habit
even for believers it seems 

Saturday I went to town
picked up a whole lamb
beautifully butchered
we cooked the rolls of flap that day
and the major joints on Sunday

as we feasted we talked about Easter
judiciously to accommodate believers
of course we got nowhere
on the fact or fairy tale question
just settled on a bit of each

when most had left on Monday
I played an old LP of Strauss
saw up in the blue sky
the opulent waltzers whirling
and heard from the other side
my sister singing along

it was a kind of resurrection

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53

sunrise in North Melbourne

across a dome of Virgin Mary blue
high clouds had turned to gold as the sun arose
standing on the oval we acclaimed this dawn
greeted by the magpies and  decried by the crows

was it in skies like this that we imagined gods
did we think they too would die like this sunrise
perhaps but for now we’ll sing the magpie’s song
and spurn the crow’s dark and desolate cries

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52
Betty
I

her grave

white as the pillow she rests on
she can no longer hear
but still we tell her how we regret
not ever saying that we loved her

soon she will be in the ground
in the grave she shares with our mother
a proper place for two who lived
so much of their lives together

it’s a grave that few will visit
a plaque set in a lawn
I look on it and understand
it’s our own lives that we mourn

1I
the big girls

Betty was one of the big girls
in the desks at the back of the room
side-of -mouthing to one another
in the dusty rays of the afternoon

arms folded they walked three abreast
with us lads a few steps behind
we angled to look up their skirts
knowing they really didn’t mind

she was basketball’s goal shooter
being tall robust and intimidating
as she balanced to shoot for goal
she could almost reach the ring

III
girl about town 

mother gave us what little she could
but Betty wanted money of her own
so she left school to work in an office
and shopped at the best spots in town

she was two years older than me
I always supposed she would marry
instead she stayed with our mother
and for our children became a golden aunty

for many years we holidayed together
camping or in rented seaside houses
and when those times drifted away
we’d take her on shorter outings 

 IV
her house

Betty lived with our mother
in a house close to ours
ageing we drew closer together
as grandchildren peopled the years 

when our mother died
Betty realized her desire
a modern house of her own
in which she could gracefully retire

the house mixed the new and the treasured
for she furnished it with mother’s things
sideboard dining table chairs and
the lounge suite with refurbished springs

we  have lately planted a garden
before the house that graced her days
we still call it Betty’s house
as though she’d never gone away

V
her death

as darkness spread over her world
we told her of times together
reported the world outside
touched her colding forehead

lay hands upon hers that were folded
ready to hold a last flower
we were glad she had so many visitors
glad she seemed not to suffer

we saw that she was loved
and  came to regret all the more
that for all our talk in those days
we hadn’t said we loved her

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51

it was on Patrick’s day 2017
that I saw crossing the street
an old couple
he bent and bespectacled
she short and plump
two steps behind him
not a happy pair I thought
he seemed a shirty sort
at odds with the future
she looked resigned
to a life in the rear

yet being the Saint’s day
I thought it right and just
to recall they once were lovers
she much praised as petite
snuggling in the comforts
of endearing young charms
when he sang to her
with that tenor style he had
upright and confident
he headed towards a bright future
she happily two steps behind

did they march in
the St Patrick’s processions
of our youths I wondered
did they march two steps apart
or side by side towards freedom
but then again
they probably were proddies

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50
the Croppy

they played the Lament for Limerick
on fiddle whistle and squeeze box
then finished the show with a song
and the song was The Croppy Boy

the Croppy boy longs for Old Ireland free
in days past when the conquered sang laments
while conquerors marched to sounding brass
and a longing for freedom made sense

we used to march for old Ireland free
on  Patrick’s day and wore the green
divided Ireland was our lament
a free and holy land our dream 

well holy Ireland’s dead and gone
with Daniel Mannix to the grave
and now that we are sort of free
there must be other loves to save

my candidate is equality
but I allow I have no idea
how to voice its lament
or who will be our Croppy

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49

loonfile

to begin with some background

in a file beside my desk
I have stuff about sovereign citizens
a loony far right mob
who believe among many conspiracies
that governments propagate grammar
in order to enslave their citizens

another page in the loonfile
features an Australian senator
who hides his identity from authorities
in the manner of sovereign citizens
with  elaborate punctuation around his name
thus “Malcolm-Ieuan: Roberts., the living soul”
these hyphens and colons it seems
identify a person as a matter of fact
existing in the “now-time-dimension”

top Citizen David Miller believes
that people don’t have to pay taxes
if they can prove that money is a verb
the reason for this being
that only nouns are real
only nouns have legal authority.
so his sentences are chockablock with nouns

and now to the point

six years ago I wrote
a hundred thousand words
without a full stop
after that I decided on no punctuation
and relied entirely on line breaks
to mark the rhythm of a piece

there’s no ideology here
I don’t fear state control
but I do like to write without sneaky intruders
without the delays of full stops
the hesitations of commas
the equivocations of colons
full and semi
the uncertainties of queries
the lack of control in exclamations
and the standoffishness of quotes

line breaks however
are companions to rhythm
do the work of the rest
and hence are acceptable

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48

the back track of memory

I

out on the back track of memory
the world is not as it seems
joys once forgotten come back
realities melt into dreams

I wish that memory would take me
to back tracks blue skies and wide plains
but the best it can find are dreams
from the days I played in back lanes
those back lanes where I floated
paper boats along the gutters
gleeful as they sailed down the drain
to their harbors in the sewers

I hear again my mother calling
come inside now for your dinner
make sure you wash your hands
after playing in that gutter
my father is home now from work
with a long back track of memories
of plains blue skies and fences
you can see them behind his eyes

but he doesn’t get everything right either
thinks he saw the legendary Welcome Stranger
but it was in ingots before he was born
probably made a good tale in the orphanage

II

let us hope  there will be no memories
of lives that will have vanished
among the dead in the land of the dead
they who will be with us the longest 

she whom I once courted then rejected
she is bound to be there
and how shall I contrive to face her
pretending I somehow cared
he to whom I vowed loyalty but forgot
they who relied on me but were abandoned
she who attended always to me
yet whom I left to die alone

all of them will be there
and how are they to be faced
better to live on with regrets
than enter unknown lands in disgrace

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47
last post

when I took him his meals this morning
he was already sitting with his instrument
I was wanting to play a Kerry slide he said
the Road to Lisdoonvarna it’s called
I remembered that much
but my fingers wouldn’t play it

he held up his left hand
fingers bent and shaking
you can’t get a tune without these
and now not with them either he rued

I didn’t know what to say
he’s played since he was a kid
now his music is ending
will his body outlive that end

he says he believes in paradise
but doesn’t think he’ll make it
would my tunes get me in
would it be better if I could sing
angels and saints must have sessions
be better than sitting round here

I asked him was he able
seeing how his hands were bad
to warm his meals in the microwave
it plays a sort of tune he said

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46
lament for a friend
who killed himself when young

if there must be a paradise
let it be for those who died young
we who are old will have our requiems
the young should not be left to die unsung

I want to sing a lament
for a dreamer and youthful companion
who one sunset waded into the bay
and swam and swam to oblivion

in the image I recall most often
he is the beautiful young man
laughing with us over dinner
a noble future at his command
I sensed no darkness inside him
as we chatted together that day
and saw no reason to worry when he said
that he was thinking of going away

why did he choose to die that day
did he know as he entered the water
that he would not come back
that our world would forever be altered

I remember that once I kept swimming
beyond where I could see the shore
drowning they say is kind of peaceful
but it felt very cold down there

was it a moment of madness
that took my friend down to the cold
when he first felt the chill of the water
did he mean to abandon his world
was he suddenly stunned by regret
about something that happened years ago
something he never wanted to talk about
something that was corroding his soul

we’ll never know why he did it
that’s the trouble with death
we want somehow to commemorate it
but we can’t when only sorrow is left

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45
a new year

the old year closed with fireworks blossoming
raining sparks into another new year
we remembered how as kids we waited for midnight
twice in one week what with  mass at Christmas
but we couldn’t remember what we did while we waited
my mother would have talked to no one in particular
no TV of course most likely a snakes and ladders game
otherwise just the pleasures of unaccustomed time

the first two weeks of the new year were peaceful
two friends died but neither end was unexpected
we went to the funeral of one who was said to have
cherished the socialist dream whatever that is
but the person’s death as I said had been foreseen
and I doubt anyone there dreamt the socialist dream

over the next two days madness overcame our calm new year
as the news forecast the death of democracy
a lunatic massacred five innocents in Bourke Street
unthinkable deaths that make our grand follies seem slight

of course such disasters might happen at any time
but coming at new year they were an unsettling  sign

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44
the song of the rose

my mother met my father
out where the saltbush grows
he asked her to be his lover
and she sang the song of the rose

the song of the rose is a sad song
of beauty alone on the plains
where the dry grasses bow and whisper
in the silence before the rains

they consumed their love that day
out where the saltbush grows
then left the plains for the city
but always remembered the rose

she sang of the last rose of summer
of endearing young charms growing old
did so much melancholy I wonder
betray sorrows unsung and untold

sometimes her soul went back alone
to the plains where the saltbush grows
where questions dissolved into dust
and darkened the glow of the rose

yet each time she would come back to us
up to her very last days
and she always marked her return
by planting  some favourite roses

I was with her as she lay dead
holding  a flower from the nurses
it seemed that she knew she was
back on the plains with her roses

to honour our golden wedding
we planted a yellow rose
thinking it would stand for
the fortune of love as it grows

and we thought of  that day long gone
out where the saltbush grows
when my parents vowed to be  lovers
and sang the song of the rose

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43
the rose of Kelving
rove 

I sang a song to her
the morning that she died
it seemed a common day
but she wanted me by her side

I know now she had seen
the darkness coming down
I suppose that’s why she asked me
not to leave her alone

she moved through the fair
was the song I sang to her
and it was the last song
I would sing for my dear

please put on my air she said
you know the one I love
I will I said and played
the Rose of Kelvingrove

pipers’ airs are sad airs
and the saddest is the Rose
as it played she went away
and sadly her eyes I closed

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42
my dead sister

I have a photo
of her dead in the hospital
with a flower
put there by the nurses
I wish she knew
that I miss her
but since she doesn’t
I’ve planted some golden roses
one she gave us
for our golden wedding
one called mother and daughter
and a third with no given name
I think I’ll call
you are my sunshine
if that’s not too banal

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41
a grave matter

when my time comes to join the shades
let me not be ashes on the water
see that I am buried in a grave
sharing the earth with my lover

there’ll be no news down there
nothing novel to talk about
but memories perhaps survive somewhere
and might pass between us somehow

then the mundane will become momentous
we’ll talk of what we have left above
cumquat jam computers grandmas’ tea sets
the house the garden the times we loved

and if our grave has a name
or even I suppose a number
for a short time some visitors will come
to dwell a while on what they remember

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40
perfumes of summer

summer is the season of barbecues
the perfumes of burning meat
the prickling of eyes in the smoke
the chatting round the brazier
the uncovering of the salads
are back to frame our evenings

being of advancing age
and preferring to be seated
I tend to become invisible
some people greet me
saying you are looking well
thinking  for your age

a bloke who’s nearly as old as me
talks about his imminent surgery
in unexpectedly cheerful terms
I remark on his insouciance
hadn’t his wife died under the knife
I trust these quacks he says

the wind freshens
I feel some drops of rain
if it gets any worse says Betty
we can move inside to the table
I agree but nonetheless am saddened
that our perfumed pleasure dome will be abandoned

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39
madness

the things I’ve done for you
this is all the thanks I get
she snarls she cries out she weeps
you hated mum and now me
we tell ourselves she doesn’t mean it
except maybe somewhere inside she does
perhaps a cup of tea
but she sobs
rocks about in her chair
and closes down

she is older than us
a kind of aunty
who looked after us as kids
gave us presents
took us for holidays

now she’s mad
I don’t know why
I can’t explain how it struck
we must just wait
let the hate pass
it’s not real it’s her madness

sometimes she switches to joy
to longing for a perfect world
embracing family and friends
seeing beyond now
to when we love one another
do good to our friends
bless our enemies
but it is a love
that adds to our sorrow
heartsick or elated
it’s still not her

when she comes back
we’ll keep this sorrow to ourselves
carry on as though
she never went away

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my father

my father dealt in dicta
I’m a Labor man he’d say
they fed a lot of canaries white bread
and they all died he’d announce
sausage wrapper he interjected
when the orator quoted The Herald

since he was a sheep man
who could tell the value of wool
by testing a fleece with his hand
I took him to a film about droving
but at the opening scene he snorted
crossbreds  and fell asleep

terse he was but he had a dream
I could see it in his eyes
as he narrowed them to scan
what lay beyond the horizon
a land where roses grew
and eucalypts prayed to lost gods

as old men are wont to do
he went to bed to die
he stayed there for a while
dreaming of the plains
he’s gone now past the horizon
and is camped where the roses grow

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roses

my mother met my father
out where the saltbush grows
he spoke to her of fleeces
and gave her a red red rose
his roses grew in the garden
he tended round the homestead
as the grasses on the plains turned grey
the roses bloomed white and red
although I prefer native flowers
for roses I make an exception
red to recall my father
yellow for joy and celebration
to honour our golden wedding
my sister gave us a rose
by day it numbers the years gone by
by night how many to go

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spring comes to the gully

in the city it is cold and wet
but I can dream of a place in the bush
where a time of plenty has arrived
the wattles are ending their goldrush
lilies and orchids crouch by the tracks
lizards wake up and dart away
we watch out for snakes
remembering the one I stepped over
before I saw it slide across the doorway
a kangaroo among the box and stringybark
is unconcerned about the joey
looking to jump out of her pouch
the dam is overflowing
from the year’s unseasonal rains
so the creek is running
for the first time in years
a consummation the frogs devoutly celebrate
as they watch frog-eyed
for newly arriving birds from the north
kingfishers egrets and later on woodducks
not to mention the ever-present
magpies squabbling with ravens
and kookaburras announcing the night
which has now come in my dream
so I stand in the cold evening
looking up at the wondrous glory
of The Banjo’s everlasting stars

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visitation

I opened the door to God
who was promising comfort in the bad times
I said the bad times hadn’t come yet
he thought it better to prepare
to which end he had a selection
of lines from his Book
all I had to do was believe
in the promiser and the promise
but once I do I thought
maybe bad times will come
to complete the circle
even so I took his pamphlet
which cheered God up and he left

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the end

Jack’s got diphtheria sister
he’s gone to hospital
Jack won’t be back my children
he’s gone to Mary and the angels

they are looking after Jack
he died in the arms of our saviour
be like Jack and die a good death
so you’ll go straight to heaven

in my youth I am still a believer
I sing souls to paradise in requiems
but I must be becoming a sceptic
I don’t see myself going with them

eventually I understand that death
offers nothing useful to think about
we don’t know the how or the when of it
and nothing at all will follow it

and now in my eighty-fifth year
I suppose I must be waiting
for my rendezvous with death
but how does one prepare to meet nothing

you could say we’re both in rehearsal
Lorna’s sight and my hearing are fading
yet timeless darkness and silence
are still not the same as nothing

since we know not the day nor the hour
it’s probably prudent to make lists
of those things that you now regret
and of the companions you will miss

I must make some time to do that

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mantelpiece photos

memories of this premiership
will be imprinted in our minds forever
until we turn the soil
and end up in the ground.

exceptional sentiments from a footy coach
I thought as I watched the tele
and surely  a witness to how
he’s lifted his battlers to the heights

next to the tele on the mantelpiece
stands a handful of family photos
intended of course to bring back the good times
supposing the past times forever remain good

that photo of little me and my sister
me leaning my curls on her shoulder
she in the best dress mother could buy
has become  a memory of lost times

the joy my mother had scraping
to afford a posh photographer
whispers behind the frame but now
my sister is dead and I have grown old

long dead too is my mother
photographed in mid-life looking solemn
I hear her sing as I remember her bouts of madness
and marvel at how she crafted our way through poverty

next to that sits our eldest daughter
with her first child taken two decades ago
looking more alike than they do now
reminders of the passing of generations

I wonder should I keep such potential for gloom
on the mantlepiece facing our television room

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growing the economy

inspired by talk of economic growth
and curious to know what an economy
might look like as it grew
indeed what it looks like anyway
I was heartened to hear the prime minister
talk about the seeds of growth
and to find moreover that the seeds
could be obtained by applying online
so I sent for some and planted them
in the backyard beside the rhubarb

they did not take long to sprout
insignificant shoots at first
developed into a kind of fruit tree
and for some odd reason I wondered
whether its fruit would be forbidden
was it I wondered a tree of knowledge
reserved only for those who knew already

as it grew I began to think about
whether it should be cut right back
as my sister used to say
the lower limbs did seem to be inferior
to the flourishing growth at the top
but I decided to leave it unequal
to see what it might become

the unevenness became more noticeable
so I thought I should perhaps feed it
I asked my neighbour Scottie
if he had a suitable fertilizer
he gave me some called Topfeed
available from trickledown.com
and emphasised I should apply it
as with water to the plant’s top
which I did and was soon rewarded
with buds and fruit on the top
though the low branches wilted and dropped

so from growing an economy I discovered
that you have to keep feeding the top

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at the Oracle

the bar of the Oracle in Droop Street
seethes through day into night
there’s no doubt the doggies will win it
Sydney won’t put up a fight
not the way we can
they can’t take us by surprise
whoever heard of a bulldog
being beaten by something that flies

the Oracle sits in a corner
and listens to the fans
she knows who’s going to win
she knows they’ll understand
who’s the best team she asks them
we are of course they reply
the best team will win she predicts
I’ll have another gin very dry

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what happened to

now is the season when magpies swoop
the experts say they remember our faces
so I guess I must be innocent
of whatever it is that irks them
they don’t swoop me
but they target Jack
who’s walking beside me
they must be he says
the conscience of the bush

as we stroll down the track he asks
what happened to Bernard
I haven’t seen him since he left us
to go into that monastery
was it Benedictine or Trappist
I know it was what they call enclosed
which is why we never saw him again

didn’t Tess go into an enclosed nunnery
somewhere in England or Ireland
she did but she came out
I had dinner with her once
did she talk about why she did it
she just remembers she wanted to
and can’t now work out why

but Bernard has stuck with it
have you ever speculated why
he left the world he enjoyed so much
for one we can’t imagine
year after year of prayer work and silence
yet we too believed all that once

Jack ducks as the magpie strikes

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backpacks

I see them in the morning
backpacks heavy behind them
hopes somewhere ahead

I was one of them once
in cap and blue serge suit
with school badge and kitbag
sometimes hoping to walk on forever
other times just hoping
that what we had to do
was worth doing
sometimes just walking
towards the end of the day

I remember a morning a few years ago
when I forced Jack to go to class
he could have done the work online
but the principle was the thing I thought
I still see him disappearing down the hall
and  relive my regret at having humbled him
I was right but it doesn’t help
the backpack is a kind of obligation

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