maldon... (the homecoming)

Up wallaby tracks
On hillsides of granite tors
Welcomed by rice flowers

I ascend hillsides
Tripping over my own ghost 
Calling long dead dogs 

The caladenia 
That unfurls each delicate 
blue finger; waving

Across open plains from
lichen covered stone, I look
to Mount Kooyoora 

The casuarina 
On mountain-side, have gathered
Whispering observations

A long forgotten 
familiar tongue, all but me
Are in their place

Bright Inflorescence
The acacias dance warms
The cool breeze at dusk 

My children are here 
Unfolding their love into
This expanse... open

Their eyes bright and keen
Embracing, laughing and free
Our homes are many 


farewell (Saint) Patrick ...

farewell (Saint) Patrick          

Alice springs airport, July 2002; 
the last time that I saw you,
smiling and waving.
Then came the moment that held all time
your eyes met mine; 
and I knew that this would be the last time that I saw you, (alive)
and your eyes knew this too.

My teary gaze followed your slow ascent 
into the blue skies, that carried you away.
I lost you that day
in the glint of a lingering midday star.

In the stroke-filled months that followed 
I cried for you,
and for the choices adults face; 
Do I fly to hold your hand at your bedside,
or my mother’s, at your funeral?

The choice made, 
we spoke through faint telephone lines
that could not hide the growing delirium. 
That last call, you could not speak, 
and dropped the phone by pillow side.
I heard the babble of nurses in the (too far) distance
as your breath was rasping.
And I kept on talking anyway, believing 
you could hear me
(because I needed to).

Twelve weeks before 
we sat hand in hand
feet deep in red sand,
beneath a Bloodwood’s shade at Kata Juta.
We talked of your island,
of Mataranka in the war; you were a paramedic.
In that sea of subtle greens and massive reds
we sometimes talked voraciously, 
sometimes we sat in silence, and the desert spoke in turn. 
You had so long yearned, for this moment; to return.
And I shall hold it always.

So withered and small in your coffin, 
skin stretched so tightly over bone.
You seemed not a man, but Mulga wood.
Gnarled and weathered, petrified flesh.
Your hands bore purple stigma, 
from each failed attempt to find fresh veins.
Eyes sunken so deeply into sockets, and they tamed 
your larrikin Irish brows; you were surely dead;

and I was robbed of my favourite feature.

The foundation and blush only enhanced 
the sallow skin beneath; you?
How to find you, though this pretence and artifice
that is a western death, (denial).

The Cape Barron Geese farewelled you
beneath blue skies on a perfect island day.
You lay, facing out to sea

your beloved southern ocean.


tirra lirra by the river ...

"I think the kind of landscape that you grew up in, it lives with you. I don't think it's true of people who've grown up in cities so much; you may love a building, but I don't think that you can love it in the way that you love a tree or a river or the colour of the earth; it's a different kind of love." 

[Arundhati Roy]

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, 
for it's not the same river 
and he's not the same man." 


I check in each time I arrive at the river.  Which birds are calling out today? The Olive-backed Oriole, the Spangled Drongo. Which trees are in flower or fruit? The fig.  Is the water level higher or lower than last visit?  Where do the currents pull today and how strongly?  What gifts has the water washed in for the eye to admire?

I check myself each time I arrive at the river.  What was happening in my life when last I stood here, in this place? What has changed in the time that has passed since?  The longer I live in Far North Queensland, the more I become attuned to the teachings of its rivers.  They are the place where I am reminded so perfectly of impermanence, of the folly of trying to own and hold onto moments.  Of the inevitability and beauty in letting things go;  f l o w ... 


eventually even the largest rock shall be weathered away, with water, wind and time
boulders dislodge and shift downstream;
this too shall pass... 

In recent weeks, creek explorations have bought new delights with wet season rains clearing out branches and leaves and bringing forth new delights.  On my most recent visit, these took the form of numerous pink sedimentary shales, released through pounding rains upstream and washed down to rest in the calmer waters of the valley below.  Along with these shales was a ready supply of flat smooth granite pebbles, warmed by the rays of the sun and the perfect size to be cupped in one's palm. 

Gathering these shales and nine of these pebbles together, I spent the morning moving them into numerous configurations, to the sounds of children playing and water coursing over rocks. 

“A river seems a magic thing. 
A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.” 

[Laura Gilpin]


Rise [a poem for your fifth birthday] ...

                                                       Who is this boy-child
                                                       so deftly climbing 
                                                       across driftwood bridges
                                                       that cross between boulders?
                                                       At dawn and dusk
                                                       with the tide's ebb and flow,
                                                       you go.  You grow.

                                                       My shining son,
                                                       among the rocks your shadow 
                                                       plays.  Brilliant.  Bright.  Oh, 
                                                       that I could hold
                                                       this sweet moment.  Lost,
                                                       in a flickering of light.  Alas,

                                                       my hands cannot keep you.
                                                       They can only guide, 
                                                       you, barefoot and smiling wide
                                                       with wonder, at the world.  And I, 

                                                       who have born this life;
                                                       now, bear witness
                                                       to this crossing over. 
                                                       From me, into You

                                                       Rise, son.  Rise...