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Not even with time travel

  • 03 December 2018


Selected poems


Family idyll

As I squeeze socks washed in a motel basin,

I remember my mother prodding with a long stick

the sheets boiling in the copper, while my father fixes

the car, one sister helping him, the others at play.


Mum jokes about fingers getting caught,

as we squeeze one corner of each leaden sheet

into the glistening join of the white rollers

that swing back and forth above the steam

and the concrete troughs. She lets me strain

against the handle with both my hands.


At the clothesline I clasp one set of corners

as she stretches each sheet across the wire

and pins it with pegs I give her. The line full,

I return to homework and chores and she returns

to the kitchen, to watch her family from the window

as she washes dishes and prepares the next meal.


Hours later she shows me more: take one end,

shake, pull tight, fold, turn over, fold again,

again, move together, give her my end, slide

my hands down the sun-drenched cloth

to the new end, move apart, shake, stretch,

move together, again — and my father again

yelling at me to weed the vegie garden:

'Your job, so get back to it. Or else.'

She shakes her head when I start to protest,

calls the girls to help. Lets me go.



If time travel existed

You would do the usual:

relish the best times — first glance

of lover, first thumb-grip by babe,

the glee in each achievement,

the dance of glistening motes.


Repair those blunders — the slap,

havoc words, the moral lack

of insight into others.


And peek around those corners

hiding reasons for our worst —

rage of parents, self-abuse

of lovers, seeds of disease,

why you swear you know what's right.


But you never will know all, not even

with time travel. You'd have to be

everywhere at once, be behind

and in every word and act,

flow with the charged breath

Of mote and light. To sum up:


You'd have to be God. Poor Thing.

For the one fact denied God

is the unforeseen. And you,

deep in the heart, thrive on awe

and laughter. Each new blossom.



The more things change

My grandfather's barometer rises ten points.

The cat annoys me for more diet food. Our ancestors

lived in Europe for at least 1.57 million years. My wife

kisses me as she leaves for work. I wash three days

of dishes and worry about a sore groin. The cat squashes

Double Pink Marguerite Daisies as she suns herself

in the flower box on the front porch. I recycle

unfranked stamps and read comics and poetry.

Trees stammer in the wind. Children laugh

in the jumping castle next door. I file bills,

newspaper clippings and