this is no rehearsal

away to safety in your mother’s wake

child’s gas mask

malevolent in its dun bag

to the neighbour’s cellar

two doors down

on the sounding of the alarm

coat over pyjamas

as planned     in total darkness

and sullen silence

there to sit out the night

listening     1945

your father out on duty

as an air raid warden


this war senseless as the last

too young to join your brother in the fight

a target under the flightpath

to the steel works along the coast


someone incants

don’t fear the one you hear

it’s the one you don’t will kill you


the silence is unnerving     the world shifts

time stops     the flash

the juddering crash

then darkness     dust     a form of silence

punctuated by screams and the broken

wail of a broken siren

the ringing in your ears

climbing into the cold night

clothes shredded

as you are delivered from the remains

of the house

time resumes

with the sudden realisation

your mother is no longer there


the ringing in your ears

a lifelong tinnitus of grief


the ringing always there

like cicadas in summer

sound that hurts

you sit in the shade

of a Sydney summer

wheeled there in your hospital issue chair

delivered from the antiseptic smell

of bodies bumping up against their use by dates


our conversation avoids the fact

you are dying

concentrates on the mechanics of what passes

for your life these days

the insects     the flies that flower

that sound     reinforces

this is your last experience of this


the ringing the ringing is always there like pain


your faithful wife

attends to your every need

a sip of water and a wipe

her life has no meaning beyond you

such love on show

embarrasses me


then you conspire

to send her home to collect

some vital thing


she goes with a kiss

you kiss her back like Judas

as you close your eyes

intent on dying alone


shedding a tear for your mother

one last time


snow blossoms obscenely on bare branches
fills the forks with remnant bodies
wedged and wrapped in parachute white

winter silence haunts


only the rich could love coal

this spat from deep within

a dark armchair

the grate of the Victorian fireplace

mocks with its sterile echo


hands like birds

accompany the voice

of this small old man in Wales

coal tattoos on the back of his hands

mark him as one of the tribe

arms swamped by his sleeves


broken by spending too long in the pits

or starting too soon or both

anger still there

fuelled by futility

the pits closed

bosses moved on


the last of his breed

counting each breath

all his young gang gone

taken too early by blacklung

or rock fall or gas


now they bloody go and plonk

a bleeding park at the pit head

civic mindedness absolving guilt

he won’t forgive

curses every long day

of his dying


(For CHL)


elusive as the illusion of you

if I wake and find you gone

or find you were never here

I would not be surprised

elusive like some exercise of the mind


I wind down slowly

like a loose wound clock

in my fifty eighth year


am I to find or do I expect

you will simply take fright

or flight

a bird chases the cat tattoo on your back


too late for you to really go





out on the weathered pier

thrusting into the stillness of the lake

the timber grey weathered

split and splintering

the effect shambolic

like Bill’s homemade crab traps

lying around in disrepair


the lake before us

boats as water insects in the distance

fishermen returning

pelicans sweeping

for the guts and cast offs

the water grey yet slick and shiny

you lying down beside me


we watch the figure watching us

solitary black owning the place

a tree stump surely

shame swamps us

like the first couple

as the boat moves towards us

and the sentinel disapproves

your breast in my mouth

my cock hardening


he watches and disappears

the boat zig zags

we return to the house to fuck




both of you

a generation apart

bounce on the trampoline

shrieking and grinning ear to ear

like conspirators

clutching at your skirts

to stop showing your knickers

to her father and your lover




and the moment you misheard

my “Hello you” as “I love you”

your alarmed interrogation

punctuating the intimacy of our bodies

entwined and naked on the floor

“What did you just say”

as if to love you too soon

was the gravest sin




as elusive as the best sex

my cock fully inside you

that small exquisite shuddering

breath held gasping

that small gag the stifled giggle

forcing you onto your back

sweating looking at the ceiling vacantly

completely somewhere else

returning slowly smiling

that embarrassed smile before you kiss me

and say “That…that was very special”


your direct way of speaking

exactly what you think when thought

the economy of your words

betrayed by the expanse of your smile


even when you leave me

you don’t go far and not for long


through the strict upright trunks

of the forest

a wallaby snug in its fur

wrapped in its fear

waits rotates its ears

longs to reach down

for the morning wet grass


I watch from my bed

the turning of a page

alerts it to my presence

alarms it sufficiently it flees

silent slow motion bounds


the view returns

a sentinel forest

the page I’d just read


and the rigmarole

of its morning     tai chi

each part      accessible

or not     cleaned

self-contained and ship-shape

what does it say of you



it laps

its way to the edge

of the table     clutches

claws and falls

only     to land     embarrassed


on four stunned paws


because I see this view

I catalogue it as mine


because I am alone

no-one else can see


the sky at dusk

dusted pink

the soft vermillion

of the faded corrugated iron roof

below the blank peach

of the terraced walls

slabs of muted colour

the great chunks of paint

punctuated by the window

otherwise ignored


the flat canvas

smeared with paint

what the view became

or always was


I watch the window


as dust settles

on the surface of the glass

of water set on the table

near the window

why the taut surface

trembles with fear

from the hand which set it there


the unfolding lips of the pool

dampness glistening on the lush

flanks liquid oozing from the pulse

of frogspawn shuddering

the season gathers these urges

funnels the stream to a gush

dropping a sheet of water

over the edge like glass


then you surface in a mirror held

struggle against the water

changing it as it changes you

and for a moment bliss

lights your perfect face lost

I’ll never capture that in this


salmon flop onto the pool’s slick rim

urged through the air this alien medium

echoes with a flaccid disappointed slap

as another adds more polish to the rock

you’ve seen them launch themselves

at the white jet from the pool above

dancing up the water as it tumbles down

as easy for them as walking is for us


two pools separated by the dry

the first time this stream has stopped

opaque like treacle just like that

we swim with the stranded salmon your father

and his twin heads bobbing in the black water

your very own two headed loch monster


(an ode)

True to form I wait

on the outside     in sight

of the clock tower     on time

fixing to see you first

and measure my approach


Our daughter is with me

waiting packed expectant

at her interstate return

itching to see you and tell

but not letting me know

I’m onto the fidgety shuffle

of both her feet


I’m sure you said 5.30

and your teenage daughter agrees

But it’s 5.37 dad she     says

precise in all things


Yes     I know     the train’s not

in yet we’ve got till six

What if I miss the train

Extended holidays     the best

I can explain


(This cannot be     how could

you deliberately miss the train)

5.50 dad     can’t we check

the platform     Better not

Oh come on


We move off searching

She sees you straight away

and darts to your arms

burying herself there

I notice for the first time

she’s taller than her mum

And then our greeting

mutually tense     You grab

your child     her bags and dart

for the urgent train

— You’re always late

(I wonder when I’ll see her again)

Then you point upwards and I see

the giant face of the suspended clock

pointing impatiently towards six

But     I thought     I thought you meant

forget it     just hurry


And I turn slowly to join

a queue formed for no reason

I keep walking     pause outside

under my other clock

thrust     on top the tower

erect at six o’clock