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Prayer at the scarred tree



Selected poems


Prayer at the scarred tree

Ever have those moments

When you wish there was someone with you

And there's not?

Nothing but your cold lonely self

Which you re-enter like a reluctant astronaut.

I want to cry out,

Fill me however you will,

Just fill me.

This hunger that gnaws endlessly in my guts

Will be the death of me

But is the life of me,

Because in braving yourself to the emptiness

Something is born

Something happens.

Watch and observe,

Tell the story well,

Make it an expression of your sanity,

Which is otherwise at risk

From waves generated by the outside world

And past regrets.

Again and again, only pen and paper between me

And  an awful emptiness.

And so I must stand and wait for the words to appear,

And, when they do, receive them

Like a grateful fisherman receives the gifts of the sea.

I must believe what I say:

That is the greatest test.

Give me wisdom,

Give me strength.

— Martin Flanagan



A place I've never been

'Each moment is a place

you've never been.' — Mark Strand


So I find myself

always in the throes of arrival


and of departure,

dragonfly hovering,


always in the known

and the unknown,


always waking

and falling asleep,


always clothed and naked,

always holding on to


and letting go,

comforting myself


with the presence of body,

with the illusion of familiarity.


Again, the snow is falling

and the magnolia's petals


will turn brown and fall.

Our home of three years


is emptying, returning to

the shell of itself,


effacing us from every

room, our voices, our


noise, our clutter,

and we, all five of us,


are in the throes of departure

and of arrival,


where we are,

where we've never been.

— David Adès



Hearing the call

I heard the call from a great distance,

puncturing silence, puncturing restraint,

felt it as knowledge, a psychic cry


bouncing off the ether with pinpoint accuracy,

reaching me in a hotel in Konya at breakfast,

breaching thought like a whirling dervish,


the sonic vibration of a tether between us,

umbilical, a call borne of extremity,

a call heard neither before or since.


I heard the call and answered

from a great distance, but didn't heed it,

didn't change direction,


and though in all the years left us

we never spoke of it,

you never said a word,


my astonishment grew and grew,

that you called out like this,

that you found me, that I heard you.

— David Adès


Martin FlanaganMartin Flanagan is a journalist and author who writes on sport, Australian culture and the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia.

David AdesDavid Adès is the author of Mapping the World and the chapbook Only the Questions Are EternalHis latest book, Afloat in Light, is forthcoming in May 2017 from UWA Publishing. His poems have been widely published.

Topic tags: Martin Flanagan, David Ades, Poetry



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Existing comments

Momentous, both of you.

Pam | 21 March 2017  

Martin - Just a short thankyou - your poem in Eureka street today hit me. I have much that I want to say and struggle in many ways to say it – this is a deep frustration but I will keep praying for the grace and courage to have it said. With every good wish for you, Luke

Luke | 21 March 2017  

Martin , I read your column in the Age and look forward to it. Your writing has a spirituality that evokes memories and action. (I particularly liked the story of the Melbourne woman on the train who invited a person new to Australia to spend time at her holiday house) .Today your poem in Eureka Street ,(another place for stimulating writings ) the reminder that "braving yourself to the emptiness, something else is born" was much appreciated . And then David you wrote how "we are always in the throes of arrival" Two hopeful reflections for today. Thanks. Hope to read more.

Celia | 21 March 2017  

I enjoyed these poems for their eloquent intensity, and their implicit invitation to further reflection. Thank you both!

Jena Woodhouse | 22 March 2017  

Flanagan's poem gives words to the song we all sing at some time in our lives -- that place of emptiness and grace, of being, and of becoming. Flanagan, you nailed it!

Michele Gierck | 22 March 2017  

Thank you all for taking the time to post comments. It's nice to hear back from some of the places where the poems go!

David Adès | 06 April 2017  

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