Suggestions regarding space and time



Selected poems



It seems my muse

is holding her breath

until I get the book out.

She keeps muttering about closure.

So while I spent the last year

feeling reticent about the forward,

there have been no new poems.


It is time to make a start.

While trees burst fireworks

and lessons shelter spring

the group from Bermuda is growing under my feet;

it is time to let it go.


Here is my book:

a portion of my portion,

a chip off my uncarved block,

The gospel according to me.

Here it is, America,

Read it and cheer.



A few suggestions regarding space and time 

Have it curved; yes,

Curve it like a boomerang,

a bow or a frisbee descending

to be caught in the air by a friend.


Let it shimmer in space

let it shake up baby

let it twist and shout

with expectation and joy.


Let it stumble before breakfast,

let it mist at sunrise and

let it run with the purpose

of a runner in mid-afternoon.


Curve it the way

neck curves to shoulders,

like the inside of an elbow,

like a valley in spring.


And send it out like glorious orphan;

hovering in the style of infinite

with no immediate purpose in mind

in the unsubtle audacity of now.



On retreat

a horse on a hillside

shifts away from side to side

intrusion without excessive contemplation:

let that be my mode today, dear Lord.


May I wave in the wind

like these wild oats here with

neither preference nor opinion

but simplicity and ease.


Let me be  a poem going nowhere,

an open ticket without stated definite destination,

a vacant bingo card, not

waiting for my number to be called.


May I be a small kite in the clear sky,

a morning without a clock,

a corner of unnamed blue flowers,

a geography of praise.


The first healing in the synagogue


I waited in the shadow of the law,

the place between text and page end,

like a wheezing breath at the end of a sentence;

others did not know if I were a message or a curse.


So that nothing was spoken of me,

I stayed like dried spit in

the crevice of an aged woman’s mouth,

loitering in a darkened corner.


The newcomer on me like a searchlight,

lasering all interstices so the light was known

under the blackest ink of the law. And suddenly

we were all blinded by the scene.


Our silence rang like a bell, striking

our infirmities like fireworks. Then I saw

my sickness was not different than the others,

and a new community of longing sent me out

to speak my incomplete message in a kind of greeting.


He met my broken sentence with new words,

huddled us all together into silence,

wet like childbirth, breathing like recreation,

our everyday Scripture torn apart like dead leaves


Now we wait in newborn want, washed

by what we cannot understand,

increasingly hungry for real food.



The House in Carmel

The house in Carmel,

Harris treats, silk ties,

John the button-down batiste,

the way the Mercedes-Benz.


Buffet breakfast, tea at four,

cocktails, tournedos and torts,

just a little bit of heaven

on the 18th green.


Such as the vision,

the bourgeoisie bower beckons,

calling me to the goal,

of a three car garage.


If so, so be it,

far be it for me

to decline enlightenment

on the American plan.



Robert WhalleyRobert Whalley worked for many years in lay ministry and university chaplaincy in Berkeley, San Francisco and Melbourne, and recently retired as an Anglican priest in Wangaratta. More writing at

Topic tags: Robert Whalley, Poetry



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Existing comments

I was in a bookshop in a large shopping centre in Melbourne last week. There was a shelf titled "Classics and Poetry" or something similar. Shelves of books by Jane Austen, the Brontes, Hardy ... But not one poetry book - no Tennyson or Keats, Auden or Betjeman. We all know why, don't we. Anyway, who were those poets you just mentioned. Never heard of them. Sad, sad, sad

Frank | 12 December 2018  

Perhaps Frank you could tell us why there is not one poetry book on the shelves? I know plenty of shops in Melbourne with loads of poetry. It's also not clear who these poets are that have never been heard of. Do you mean Auden & Co.?

Philip Harvey | 12 December 2018  

Because no one buys poetry books any more. They used to buy Lawson and Paterson and John O'Brien because they wrote rhyme and metre. What we have now is just clever prose broken into lines of random length. Why would you pay for that? The academics have ruined poetry. Meanwhile, Keats and the others are just names from a forgotten past. Imagine if music was allowed to forget Mozart and Bach - that is what is happening to poetry.

Frank | 12 December 2018  

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