Monthly Archives: February 2016

(inspired by Efi Hatzimanolis)


it takes no time at all

to aim the bicycle at the tree

it’s a cedar

my brother and I have

played Tarzan and Jane

at every level of this tree

you get the bicycle face on

pedal as fast as you can

heading straight for that branch

in the tree we have swung like apes

made loud Tarzan calls

leapt to the gravelly ground

at the branch you let go

raise your arms high and swing
watch the bike crash spraying dust

One day more – the sun
rose early as usual
and the dog demanded
her breakfast and a fresh bowl
of water. Nothing unusual
until my wife screamed
from the back study! I ran –
now that’s unusual – and found
her dazed and bleeding at the door
with a small  mountain
of books behind her.
The shelves had collapsed and all
the heavy weight of the Poetry Canon
had fallen on her hand and arm!
Oh, I did not think that poetry
could undo so many – holding
my wife, I sneaked a peak:
all was okay, no blood
on any pages. Phew.

a squall comes up

at night

narrative can start like that

but actually

it starts raining about 10 am

a quick shower

enough to humidify the air

some more

the mysterious medusa

propels itself horizontally

in the murky harbour

there are flashes of sunlight

across the oysters

submerged on the rocks

the images are

woven into our conversation

up ahead

photos are taken


the last beer


My father put off his heart surgery for a month

so he could attend Mildred’s funeral. There had

been an issue with his heart value for two decades

but it had recently become worse. The doctor

advised against delay while also saying  there was

no great risk. He drove up on the Wednesday.

I couldn’t get off work until Thursday, the day

of the funeral. An afternoon funeral I caught

the train that had once been called the Central

West Express but was now just called the Dubbo

train. It was running almost an hour late by the time

it got to Orange and I had to get a taxi straight to the

church. Dad was already in the front row looking tired.

I sat with him and talked quietly for ten minutes. He hadn’t

slept well – ate something that didn’t agree with him.

The funeral marked the last connection with his parents,

his mother’s sister, the farm that was his second home

growing up. I could sense his grief, silent but consuming.

Through the service he followed the process, familiar

as the drive over the mountains. Afterwards we went

to Carol’s for tea and cake. Dad and a few of the men

had a few scotches. I talked to Carol about how I remember

coming to their old orchard as a kid and watching the apples

being packed in the large old shed. There were always

fresh crisp apples back then – another time.


The next day we leave the motel early, after a big continental

breakfast. Dad drives the first leg down the Mitchell Highway

to Bathurst. We drive past the Lucknow Pub, no need to stop

these days. Out of habit I count the number of times we cross

Rocks Creek – the new road has cut the number by two.  We

don’t stop at Bathurst but Dad does turn right and does the obligatory

ap of the race trace. For the first time I remember he keeps

to the speed limit over the top of the mountain. We stop

at Lithgow for fuel and he keeps driving. Up Mount Victoria, the car

struggling, I begin thinking in metaphors – one mountain too many.

I suggest I take over the driving, soon he say, we’ll stop for a drink.

Finally he pulls into the car-park at the The New Ivanhoe Hotel.

Of all the pubs between Sydney and Orange this is probably

the only one I can’t remember stopping at with him. But today

he is out of the car and stretching and waiting for me so he can

lock up. Inside the bar is smoky and he orders a scotch for himself

and a beer for me. He asks for the water, measures a little

into glass and settles back on the stool. I sip my beer slowly,

he finishes his scotch and looks at my still almost full glass

and says he might might join me in a beer. We clink glasses,

to you health I toast and we finish our beer. I won’t be the same

now he says looking around as we turn to leave the pub. I get

in the driver’s seat and drive down the mountains into Sydney.


A month later he goes into hospital for his operation. I walk

next to the trolley as he is wheeled into theatre. The last words

I say to him when I am told I can go no further is that I will

buy the next round of beers. He does not regain consciousness

after the operation and dies two days later.

a rose petal drifts off a drooping stem

the footbridge sinks into muddy waters
a twig falling in between three ghost gums
a magpie dies with a worm in its mouth
a joey sags in his dead mother’s  pouch

a tea bag dumped in the compost heap

my smile drags down at the gaps in my teeth
a full stomach hanging over my belt

a raven’s feather falling on the road
another piece of cliff adrift in the sea

a chicken’s egg falling down off the nest
a wet piece of grass on the mouse’s fur
a blackberry squashed on the dry footpath
arms in a jumper sagging from shoulders
my long cotton socks around my ankles
the elastic gone from my underpants
a cigarette doused in the empty glass
my brother sinks further into his grave
my dead sister’s bones collapse in cancer
traffic lights dropping red onto the tar

a sheet with a stain flapping in the breeze
the doctor’s sudden  fall in demeanour
an ingrown toenail for summer’s last day

an air balloon deflating in the pool
tree fern in the garden craving water
a family reunion where no-one comes

the best friends I’ve had now drifting away
the tired sun lifts darkness off the sky

Four of us are jammed in in a plane
so old there are ashtrays on the armrests.
The one propeller sounds over-earnest in its labour,
and our pilot nods to the clouds on this airy
journey we have waited so long for.

Earth slides away below us in scrawls of sandy ridges,
old creek lines, green smudges, roads
to nowhere, bare peaks where the eagles
cling to their traditions.

I see two buildings down there
with no road going in, no road out,
and later a lake with two rocks beside it;
or are they cattle long ago half-sunk
in that pale-cream clay bed?

Burning red and slow in its stillness the land
Below us waits for us and then beyond us.
I cannot imagine what it must be thinking.

We fall, floating, the land skids beneath us
our wheels slap down on stones
and we are ourselves again.


Melting snow on the way to Nashdale and on a side
road Tom’s new HR becomes bogged when he moves
off the bitumen for a truck full of lambs. One back wheel
slides into a bog of melting snow and sandy soil

and the other back wheel slides into the mud
as the car slips to the left. The left wheel has sunk
to the axle. the right still has some grip but threatens
to spin the car around and further off the road.

The truck has long gone as we climb out of the car
and stand and look at it – listing to the left like a boat
taking on water. Tom gets back in and my father
and I stand in the mud behind the left wheel and push

while the wheels spin and throws mud at us. Mobile
phones are at least 20 years in the future so it is walk
for help or wait for help. Tom couldn’t make up his mind
and we were still standing around when a tractor

comes up behind us. Tom knows the driver Charlie vaguely but
it is enough. Ropes are pulled from the boot and secured
to the front of the cart then tied off on the back of the tractor.
Dad and I stand back as Tom starts the engine

and the tractor chugs back to life. The rope pulls tight
and the engines both roar. Dad moves back behind
the car and pushs and suddenly it is out . Tom pulls
in behind Charlie and that is it. Everyone back in the car.


my child
stepped on
your profits
and died
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