The words are talking to themselves


words graphic


Callistemon in Spring

From my room I could see the honeyeaters
Sapping every skerrick of spring juice
From the callistemon bright in its blood redness.
I watch that red again as it trickles down the tube
Into my arm. It is hard not to hearken to the giver,
Mystery and anonymity. Someone, who in small measure,
Now enters your life in an act of sharing,
Matching makes always for embrace and celebration,
And gratitude for the flow of ink in the pen,
The chance again to wander in the wordsworld,
To see another season of spring colours, birds winging,
And the cows bold with their burdens, calf-time
Udders and teats bulging and firming, expectation.
All part of the abundance which makes the blood warm.



It’s tide-time and all the shells are chattering,
It’s the crab cocktail hour, crepuscular rush
For prized property, competition is fierce, bidding brisk,
And the hermit-crab is desperate for a squat.
Mollusc miscellany is manifest, the architecture of choice.
For the scuttling angle-walker there is much to do
Before the next tide makes the diurnal turn.
Lines must be trawled across the sand, and they
Know, as we do, the water will never be the same.
Writing is precious. The stanza of crab-walk
Doesn’t survive long. It’s my shell-time today,
Trying to clutch the dandelion clocks that seem
To be fleeing so fast as they dance on the sunlight beams
Unaware that we, too, still have much to do.

The Parting of the Ways

The rabbits are running along the river today.
It’s all blue and green, the weeds are fresh.
And everywhere the words are talking to themselves
Deciding in generosity what the morning menu will be today.
It’s a day when all is steeped in beauty,
You hope a lot will stop and watch,
You can’t be sure, but you do know if they surrender
To the stars and to the sands, they will see a new light,
A saga of unborn stories strung across the days,
Dancing like dice on the plush of life.

Don’t be anxious, bury the ennui, praise the wonderful days
We have had, and now there are new ways,
But that’s only part of the glory, come compline
We, in the calm, fill out the story-line
With the words that will go on living, thriving,
And be fresh enough to heal the deep of wounds,
When the blood at the front has run out and silence is a bone.


As the poet never knows
Where words may lodge,
So the donor gives the blood,
But not in vain.

I ask the physician,
“Have I any of my own?”
“Good question,” she says with a smile.
And so I begin to trace – 
Dispossessed, but still in possession – 
The cast of tenants.

A huckleberry-picker perhaps,
A saint of sound in hairshirt,
Or, and so sweet and savoury,
An oyster-farmer
Who stands in his sea-stroked vineyard,
Pearls of irritation lapping in silence,
Those bi-valvular brine-tasters
That loosen the vowels,
Give the voice a saline source
To make plain and pure
The small acts of patient love
That make the pulse beat in the vein.

Peter Gebhardt headshotPeter Gebhardt is a retired school principal and former judge of the County Court of Victoria. His most recent book is Black and White Onyx: New and Selected Poems 1988–2011.

Topic tags: Peter Gebhardt, modern Australian poetry



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Existing comments

I wish to high Heaven that I could write like this.

john frawley | 08 July 2014  

Me too!

Trish taylor | 08 July 2014  

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