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No stranger now

  • 24 February 2020


Selected poems


On First Viewing 2001: A Space Odyssey


Unlike my siblings and cousins

who stand outside a Melbourne cinema

in May 1968 complaining about confusion,

I am silent.


The psychedelic racing, sliding, tilting

kaleidoscopic shafts of light, blossoming,

melding galaxies, auroras, filaments, globules,

many-coloured landscapes, frozen

screams and blinking eyes

all makes sense.


The stargate journey ending in a hotel suite

of French architecture and austere lighting,

the alien zoo-laboratory where Dave Bowman

puzzles perspective from age to advancing age

as he settles into solitary luxury

all makes sense.


The fourth appearance of the monolith, a dying

Bowman stretching out his hand towards it,

the birth of the Starchild, its enigmatic gaze

as it floats vast above our Earth

all makes sense.


I know nothing of Michelangelo’s Adam and God,

of Homer’s Odyssey, and this doesn’t matter.

The film opens me to origins, purpose, mystery,

a gaping monolith teeming with stars,

a silence I can plunge into,

no stranger now.


A Shadow Less


Each day towards death

I try to discard at least

one cage of thought:


books hoarded to help

riddle knowledge, time,

the trap of mastery


knickknacks and clothing

that no longer quicken

the face I always hide


how I carry the past

like a shield, a cross,

an accusation


how ageing aches and flaws

of mind and body rage

against themselves


how I plunge the future

into a deepening light

or a searing dark


why each day can’t blossom

without gain or loss

why each day can’t blossom


Stone Appeal

Clochmabenstane, Scotland, 17 October 2016


I circle the huge granite standing stone sunwise

three times, as my ancestors did long before

the designs of cranes and coins, of theory.


‘Tell me how and what they thought.’

No answer but the wheeling murmuration

of a thousand starlings. A stubble field.


‘Tell me what their gods showed them.’

The western wind eddies and shivers.

Sun sheen on distant water.


‘Tell me what to do next.’

Yellow moss creeps across three sides.

Rock warms to my embrace. A new vow.


Losing Weight

Most had eaten less, and healthier, food and exercised regularly

Jane Fritsch


Ten per cent of people who try

to lose weight succeed, usually

after multiple attempts,


the threat of stroke, heart attack,

degenerative diseases and the lure

of quality of life doing their thing


But now, and in the future,

bigger health threats: extreme weather,

crop failures, water greed, plagues


Assuming 100 per cent of us even try

to lose our weight of car fumes,

air conditioners, plastics,


comfort food and goods,

will a success rate of 10 per cent

be enough for future quality of life:


our grandchildren breathing clean air,

drinking fresh water, living long enough

to provide for their grandchildren?


Earth thrives on multiple attempts

yet cares less for success or failure:

dinosaurs, Neanderthals, now us…


Spelling the Piper


There are no pied pipers in this city

To lead us to our promised land