Poetry

All poems are mine unless otherwise attributed.

Response to War and Remembrance – Centenary of ANZAC Event at Wollongong Art Gallery

War and the craft of art.

 

Some art will point to things beyond plain words

to deeper places, where we must spend time.

From that deep place I feel a gratitude

both to the art and to the one who made it.

 

My family never served. No photographs

of brave young men with eyes like mine; no

stories that bring old ghosts gathering in.

It’s art that helps me understand a thing

I hope that I will never truly know.

 

Art stands not only as itself, a vehicle

for mysterious human things. There is

a second story there, a shadow statement

that may go unheard. The art stands as the maker’s

daily dues; their faithful working at the craft.

 

This is what art demands, and where there is

that giving,  there comes an alertness in things,

as though if nothing else, the very air

has noticed: the universe unfolding as it should.

 

Through art I can reflect on poppy petals

grown from bodies of poor boys. Our human

tangle: futility wherein such courage lies.

With thanks to those I never knew who fought

and died, and also thanks to those who paint

and write and act and sing when words won’t do.

 

April 2015

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TANKA – Wildlife in the suburbs

(Tanka is a Japanese poetic form, similar to Haiku. 1200 years old!  It is 5 lines and the syllable count is: 5-7-5-7-7. I first did these as part of an exercise at my wonderful Poetry Workshop Group through South Coast Writers’ Centre. Since that helpful critique I’ve improved on them, and offer them here.)

SPIDER

Quiet kitchen night.

Eight delicately bent sticks

do ceiling tip-toe.

She’s my friend in high places,

eating cockroaches for tea.

**********

 

LEECH

Sinuous, striped, she

builds momentary arches

gropes persistently.

Though her blood-lust appals, still

I marvel: elastic line.

********

February 2015

 

 

The young missionary’s mother

 

You’ve been called. You go. I know

I must allow but still things tear; bruises bloom.

 

I gobble your news. I’m standing there with you with

some foothold; but here the ground  just falls and falls.

 

You’ve found a favourite café; a giant gecko is

a houseguest; you watch mist holding the mountains.

 

I feared all colour would drain, but worse, flame trees

insist on scarlet. Day follows perfect day.

 

I know. I know. That place is your heart-place;

you must tell your strange truths there. My pride in you

is a bright scrap of fabric I find myself holding.

 

January 2015

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LIVE; LEARN

(An ekphrastic poem, responding to Greer Taylor’s book ephemeral)

 

Flowers: confident, with no good reason. Sweet the swift arc

of flower and fruit! I’ve watched it:  the fall; the loss.

 

Stone, though; stone takes a long, long view.

The heart’s slow lub-dub; the slide-show of empires, nations.

 

My whole life spent before stone takes a breath:

does stone see me, and think about death?

 

January 2015

 

Fallen boronia flowers arranged in hollow rock

Greer Taylor, Fallen boronia flowers arranged in hollow on rock, photograph, 2014

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TO THE OCEAN: OUR MENAGE A TROIS

 

Mystery sister, we’re distant kin:

my tears a microscopic  sea. Cool counsellor,

you reduce all fevers; put my dramas in their little place.

 

Wild things bear no grudge. You’re ruined

on rock ledge; withdraw, gracious.

Such ease: no holding on.

 

Reckless spender! The land’s big lover:

involved, extravagant you rant and plead;

bleed onto sand; no sense, no heed.

 

Clean-curled, sober morning sees my surf-god

game on that  green dance floor. Kiss, lick,

enchanted he rolls home, salt skin.

 

What liberties you take: I can’t tell where he ends and you begin.

 

Feb 2014; revised Jan 2015

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GIFT

 

Midnight, Christmas Eve: mother received

daughter, just flown in. It’d been so long!

 

There was wine; stories sad and funny

gently rocked  the dreaming house.

Some stray  tinsel:  talking,

daughter wound it around her wrist. Loved

the gold against  her brown skin;

her lapis bracelet. Wind. Unwind.

 

Treasure! Treasure added to a full, full heart.

Mothers know a gift when they see one.

MAY 2014
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OF THINGS HELD TO BE HOLY

 

Our pilgrimage together, bending low;

the bright and beautiful upon the sand.

He’s arbiter of what will stay or go;

glass smooth and weathered, warming in his hand.

 

The purpled shelf of shale, the black coal’s stream

and hiss as water pulls away. Wormed wood

wears braids from careless girls, all glisten-green;

shells bear some message now not understood.

 

We work through wrack to find a piece we love;

a child-like pleasure, searching for the one.

Companionship’s a treasure rare enough;

bent together, backs warmed in the sun.

 

Our feet are bare; this place is holy ground;

where earth and water meet, the Gods are found.

 

November 2013

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TO THE ARTIST: YOUR PRESENCE IS REQUIRED

 

 As water, yielding

may I find my level.

Inevitable;

this unfolding.

 

May I find my level;

may the current thrill through.

This unfolding:

this human instrument.

 

May the current thrill through.

Bear witness, silent:

this human instrument.

See, a colour greets her sisters!

 

Bear witness, silent:

things find their order.

See, a colour greets her sisters;

a painting quietly disrobes.

Things find their order.

Unasked; radiant

a painting quietly disrobes

as water, yielding.

 

Sept 2013

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Remembering you (daughter to mother.)

 

Your cancer was quite the quiet violator.

I was edgy: always urgent to do; leave; bathe.

My life began thinning out; pulled apart like mist

as I met your need’s dark rock.

 

Frail, you had the power to horrify:

your animal suffering; the wretched stink of your pelt.

I was drowning. I lashed out, blind, frantic;

I could’ve killed you on instinct:

naked and ashamed.

 

In the end though, we stood like kidnapped sisters,

lashed together through that long, last storm.

Slack-jawed through the sleet, your face

was strange to me; possessed by your task.

I recognised myself in you then; but you’d gone.

 

May 2013

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In Ancient Roman times, the Genius was like a kind of personal guardian spirit. It could be seen as an force for inspiring creative work, and is imagined as such in the following two poems. In Moto, the artist is speaker, invoking or casting a spell for inspiration.  One could imagine this poem chanted; danced.

 

MOTO

Start me up; untuck,

 

drive mad to sweet spot.

War-smoke; wild – eyed

convince me I’m alive.

 

I’m foreign to your dark heart;

can’t see where foot falls

but old graffito indicates

some way; some gate.

 

Thunder up, rain down;

All dive and drink deep.

Earth me soft; cradle clean,

grow me, grow me green.

 

Jan 2013

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In this second poem, the Genius is the speaker.

 

Genius to Artist: you will be moved.

 

I’ll niggle.

Throat-tickle, tap drip;

ants under the skin.

 

I’ll pile up.

Soft as snowdrift,

the weight will frighten

easing onto your chest.

 

I’ll collar you.

I’ll give you vivid. I’ll embellish,

rub you like a lamp.

Pure gold.

 

January 2013

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CHRISTMAS CINQUAIN (follows form of 2 – 4 – 6 – 8 – 2 syllables.)

Our bro

so far away!

We gamely splice time-zones

with hop-a-long hilarity;

joyful.

 

*****************************

Jan 2013

 

 

 

All in a Day’s Script (Poem to mark World AIDS Day 2012)

 

SCENE 1:

Not static.

Not bolt nor brittle.

Not your pigeon for holes, nests, grids.

Rakish over orthogonal;

rectitude? No skerrick.

 

We’re moister, messier than any theory.

We’re water, wave-like, weep and bleed;

mood and menses moon-ruled; tidal.  We transgress.

Our skin has salty slick; we breathe out warm fog.

Blind, glorious we grope and open each to other,

live an exquisite instant, the relief

of being  nothing

or else perhaps a god.

 

 

 

 

SCENE 2:

 

Needles are straight.

Hard, dry, they enter

before I’m ready.

Meds crawl down my throat

like spiders with missing legs.

 

Numbers have soured.

They were innocent once, counting

days till Christmas.

 

Now they taste like vomit;

my Cell Count is my falconer.

 

SCENE 3:

 

You are love-child of my hunger. Oh,

for one to hear my  pulse toll;

love the shape of my skull.

Mutant, you are my intimate;

know my going out and my coming in.

 

In love with yourself, you replicate,

legion. I am colonised land.

And yet I live! I live and

somehow am living.

Each morning’s a precious lover now;

none of us virgins.

***********************************************

 

 

Theatre of the Quotidian

 

(A poem responding to Noel McKenna’s House in Wollongong, 2000)

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dusk is deliberate. Shapes have intentions.

A house sits like a great quiet animal;

the garden feature a statement. A flag.

 


 

This box with its eloquent shadow stands in;

do not confuse it with a house,

rather, it’s a sign of what a house may mean.

These signs in the dusk form the story.

 

 

 

It all pulls down come daylight;

collapsible panels; catches with quick-release.

You couldn’t prove it was ever there.

Just – your world tilted.

************************************************

October 2012

 

 

 

 

 


IF by Rudyard Kipling

 

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!


 

 

Oh, Richard this takes me back….

MANGOES

mangoes are not cigarettes
mangoes are fleshy skinful passionate fruits
mangoes are hungry to be sucked
mangoes are glad to be stuck in the teeth
mangoes like slush & kissing

mangoes are not filter tipped
mangoes are indiosyncratic seasonal seducers
mangoes are worse than adams apple
mangoes are what parents & parliaments warn against
mangoes like making rude noises

mangoes are not extra mild
mangoes are greedy delicious tongueteasers
mangoes are violently soft
mangoes are fibrous intestinal lovebites
mangoes like beginning once again

mangoes are not cigarettes
mangoes are tangible sensual intelligence
mangoes are debauched antisocialites
mangoes are a positive good in the world
mangoes like poetry

Richard Kelly Tipping 1972
Published in Domestic Hardcore (1975) by University of Queensland Press

…and to enjoy Richard reading his own poem:

Mangoes poem by Richard Tipping.

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PASSING

Our mother was dying: things fell away.

Wagons besieged, we stood facing outwards,

took up new weapons. Turned fierce.

 

I was an empty room; I echoed and clattered.

Chilled, I sought out childhood charms,

sucked on them like some great fat baby.

Brittle. Heroic. Flayed.

 

No wonder people talk of angels.

I’d swear to wing-beats; kindness like a mist.

She went then, gentle, flowers on her pillow

and the sounds of us singing were the last sounds.

___________________________________________

Dec 2011

 

IN A STATION OF THE METRO ( Ezra Pound, 1926)

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet, black bough.

______________________________________________

 

 

I, mortal.

Time passing seems as ordinary as dust

until we notice clocks. Innocent

but cold as clinics, they told you so:

dawdling moments, sweet short hours

are all marked off. Marked off as you go.

 

Such cool accounting turns me savage.

I want to spend myself: vivid; deep.

I thirst. I’m molten; elemental.

I will blaze and blaze, extravagant.

———————————————–

November 2011

 

 

A TOURIST IN SURREY

 

My clothes are too bright for February.

I board the village bus; fumble with currency.

Pairs of matrons, united in effrontery, advise me with their gaze toward the rear of the vehicle.

A blueberry pie, startled, wobbles on an ample lap.

The bus driver is charming, (humorous asides to all his regulars),

deposits each like an overblown posy just so outside her house then

with me the last passenger,

slips like an old eel down sinuous roads.

 

Bright-eyed, I read histories into street names.

Village houses are stiff-necked elders,

the drizzle revealing mossy roofs to be silver after all.

An old hedge is a witch; tortuous limbs and dry brown leaves:

she’d burn well.

 

My stop is the cemetery: dark trees and stone histories.

I’m shocked by the cold of the air; the ancient earth.

I am warm flesh: I feel younger than I’ve ever been.

 

The driver glimpses a shard of light from Tropics never visited:

calling after me, he asks me home for the night.

——————————————————

June 2011