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This whole day is difficult
every burning breath-
so cold I expect to see steam from my breath
fire even, from my nostrils!
I don't care to be provoked-
I hold my breath,
"you are putting on
your quiet voice!"
I am not sure it would
be strategic to complain;
dragons must learn to bank
the fires within,
so that they burn
slow and steady
the whole night long.
I must endure to live another day
and speak my truth when
there are ears to hear
and wiser minds
My human form is unfamiliar
and I dislike the long drive home;
Most dragons do.
Why am I
in Chiang Mai, again?
This time I am back at the Silver Wat
The men's ordination hall,
where women are not allowed to go; it might be injurious to a woman's health, the notice, says, politely.
But I saw it first in the moonlight
silver glinting off silver
and softness all around.There were
no other visitors.
A monk approached me.
I thought they were not allowed to speak to women, but
this older man
greeted me quietly, and asked where I was from.
Without thinking I said, "Christchurch."
"Ah," he said, "such terrible earthquakes..
We have been praying for your people."
That Silver Wat
in the silver-smithing section
of the old Lanna town of Chiang Mai
called to me again.
I felt I needed to walk there,
so I did, for two hot hours
along busy roads, crossing traffic and the moat,
then a park and a local
street of businesses and
homes with flowering plants at the doors.
I bought needle and thread for a very small amount of money
from a very surprised woman
gossiping alongside her roadside stall;
then my feet found my way
through the lane ways.
I looked at all the stories cast in silver, this time by day.
I simply wanted to sit down.
I found a little side chapel.
The notice on the door
said, in English,
please come in.
It was a little shrine with a Buddah
set against a deep blue ground, metal
slightly over be-jewelled, but oddly moving.
There was a ruby at the third eye.
After ten minutes, the monk I had not seen, said,
I turned, bowed and said, "Oh, good afternoon."
"First tell me how you sit on the floor." he said.
"I like the floor." I said.
He blessed my ruby ring:
"Many things that now seem complex will become simple," he said.
"Meditate with your ring."
He reached inside his robe.
"See, I too have a ruby ring," he said.
"You and me both."
We laughed together.
There's a medieval poem
called Pearl: its about
a father's love
for his little girl.
She falls ill and dies at two years old.
and wonders angrily
why God would take her
so early from this world.
He crosses on the wings of angels and is shown
now grown into a maid. She stands
at the edge of a field
where the grain has been harvested
and poppies grow.
She wears a shining bridal gown.
Is it really you?
He knows it is; she grins.
He sees her dimples and her bright brown eyes.
The angel says she is a bride of Christ;
She is more beautiful even
than as a laughing babe.
'Can this be true? My child? A bride of Christ?'
She replies, 'Oh, yes, look
look.There are many of us here. And we live in you still."
There are many layers to a pearl and many pearls.
I went early
to have blood taken
at a new pathology lab close by.
I always think
of those crime shows
when I hear the word
as if some psychopath
in the empty car park
or down the hall
for the chance
to give those
in white coats
some work, before
they call in the news crews
or the TV special. But no
gave me token number one;
she was wearing a pink wool jersey,
while the morning news
showed a race riot in Louisiana,
crumpled car wrecks
and the latest endless count
in this long drawn out election.
and also wearing pink,
she was skillful, very deft
and very sweet.
Next the laundry cupboard-
surely this should not be hard?
six drop cloths
for doors needing yet another coat of paint,
a dozen tea-towels, mostly red,
light bulbs, batteries, three oven mitts, the iron and starch.
Loo paper, paper towels and tissues.
We'll use all those.
Christmas decorations, all mine except the lights.
Shoe polish, my father's really, but we can share,
but the first aid box, that takes an hour:
manuka cough drops, tiger balm, yes keep,
paracetamol, I guess,
gastro-stop, next trip to Bali,
arnica for shock, creams, safety pins
My flatmate's mother was a psychiatrist
out at the old hospital, now gone.
Once when she was away we took
some meat staining its brown paper wrapper
and some eggs
out to the old man who owned forty ragged acres in a pristine suburb;
The developers had offered him a fortune
and the council wanted him gone
but he continued to live in his two roomed shack.
He owned the land.
We walked up an overgrown path,
brown beer bottles gave the shack an extra layer of insulation.
"Come in, "he said, "I'll make tea."
The sofa was grimy, the cups were not clean;
we gazed around the room,
tackle, debris and the smell of stale beer-
He caught my eye.
"I live for my beauty," he said,
"come I will show you."
We went outside. The old man whistled:
a magnificent chestnut mare,
thoroughbred, coat gleaming,
galloped up and stood whinnying,
then bent to eat two apples.
He laid his head along her face and then caressed her.
"Come," he said to her.
The mare bent her head to me
brushing my cheek
and then greeted the other two.
She backed off then a distance
raised her forelegs and shook her
rich, wild, mane.
"Yes, go now my beauty,"
he said, and she galloped off
around the precious acres.
"When she goes, I go." he said.
"You are hurt because
someone who appealed to you
did not return your interest."
If only it were that simple
appeal has many resonances-
You called me before we even met
you called me to Australia
you called me to this work
and to this hearth within my heart:
I cut the ancestral peat, ours that is-
it is burning in my space
warming everyone who comes here,
I imagined we would tend this fire together,
but you went out in all weather to cut your own
you are warm, but sit alone.
I am not the only one I realise;
other fires were lit and some lie unattended.
Peat fires are burning
under the tundra
making the land unsafe.
You are interested, I think
it's just that we are used to fire
above ground here,
fire at the deeper layers
is maybe more
than human consciousness can bear.
It's easy at the start, you said
as we began to climb the hill-
The Ganesha had his trunk curled
to the side that smoothes the way-
Up we went: at the next little shrine
Ganesha had his trunk
curled the other way-
obstacles to help our spiritual growth.
Up we went in the moonlight, the path
you taking care I found my footing in the dusk.
Five more shrines, each with Ganesha offering
challenges, and then
the final one, more obstacles! but
a wonderful full moon
over the village and the valley.
The Ganesha that I most revere
has his trunk centered at the heart.
I have this deep peace falling
through me like rain,
it doesn't make sense, but it's there again.
I am tired but OK
glad for today.
A boy of twelve was killed close to here.
He raced up on his bike
straight onto a main road
and under the wheels of an articulated truck.
The burly driver stopped and knelt weeping,
a cop put his arms around him;
the child died today.
I wish that family, the truckie and the cop
peace falling through with the tears
peace falling through with the rain.
Tired but OK
Nothing takes such losses away
but I wish them, one day, peace
with the falling rain.
A stately lioness has
She now sits comfortably on the folded washing:
The embroidered rainbow of stitching
That pieces old garments together fans
out behind her
A glorious aurora, witness to the mature
woman who makes this possible
Through the singing of her hands
Margret Mahy found a lion in the meadow
at least one of her young characters did-
A seriously friendly lion
and came to live in the broom cupboard once the little boy stopped being scared
My children loved that story.
So did I, yet I thought it odd
the pictures were of a so English meadow
instead of the white onion flowers in the ditches, azaleas
and the yellow gorse on the hillsides where the writer lived
just up the bay from us.
I saw her once in the village shop
I was too shy to say hello.
I thought it might be annoying
to speak yet again of the friendly lion in the broom cupboard
when perhaps she had just gone to the shop for salt without iodine to make some pickles
or perhaps to satisfy a craving for wine gums or chocolate fish.
And also perhaps the lion had been annoying that day and knocked all the jars off the kitchen table with his tail
or torn a hole in her favourite cushion with all that exuberance.
Wake up, wake up.
Let's go and watch the sun rise over the bay -
so we throw on old trackies and race over the dunes
down to where the old square boathouse sits
at the end of three hundred wooden planks.
This morning it's shadowed indigo and lilac
against an apricot dawn, colour flooding from under its piles.
We are surprised to see two sea snakes slowly uncoil
and start to play on the pier
in the surrounding stillness.
A sea eagle flies overhead.
Now it is soaring high into the sky.
There is so much going on
So much to say it is unsayable
So much to feel I am stalled.
It's like when I would flood the carburettor
trying to get an old car to cough into movement on a cold morning.Are there still rules?
Killing children queing for ice-cream after the fireworks on Bastille Day is unthinkable.Against all rules, all human feeling. Bombing a hospital run by Medicin Sans Frontiers?
Unthinkable, but it was done and this time by our ally .And chlorine gas pellets on villages in Syria?. Everyone loves their children, or are these men changelings from another, imploded, Star?
And they are Winning
The right is on the rise.
Not just Liberals and Conservatives but
radically ignorant Ikons of the general malaise.There are four new senators here. He says he believes in freedom.
But not the freedom to do science and speak about your results If they go against those of climate sceptics
Then Imagine Trump if you will. Being insulted when one hand is close to the nuclear trigger..
Meantime. British bobbies can join a special forces group and pile Into Rubber dingies armed to the 💀! Teeth.
It is now time to call on the Goddess of the Teeth.
It's such an old fashioned word
It reminds me of the sweet
taste of black cherries
picked straight from the tree just before Christmas
Of your mother stitching pleats into petticoats
Not knowing that little girls
who scramble up gravel heaps, climb trees and make dams in the swift flowing creek have no use for petticoats.
It reminds me of you staying up all night to finish knitting a black polo neck jersey
for a school mufti day when I was fourteen.
It was important to be sophisticated then.
the last time I held your hand
You did not know me but
you too are cherished
You said I'm central to it all
Shyly I invited
You said it all started
from that night-
Perhaps you realised then
How deep and wide
The river runs:
How much gold
Lies in the seams of rock,
Easily flushed to the surface.
But do you know
How much work it takes
Panning for gold?
What sacrifice this life requires?
How risky it is taking gold
And what it takes to be a fine craftsman?
I must go there
I have to go. She holds the Stories-
it's not for a lifetime but
she gets me:
We are from the same part of the universe.
Something streams through her
as if through an open portal.
She is not yet conscious
of what visions arise in you or what fires-
But she knows that its IT, not she,
that holds you spellbound,
The luckiest man alive.
If this sounds like science fiction, it may be
stronger and stranger still:
Not all of us here
are earth born.
Some guard the paths between the worlds.
You say good night
using words in the language
you heard as a child.
My heart opens to this caress
and all you have said
for two more weeks,
opening up new channels
I dreamed once of taking you fresh chicken
and placing it on the countertop:
Not a good idea
Since you were not home,
A common occurence,
And anyway you don't like chicken.
No, no chicken.
I should bring you nothing
but the fiercest and gentlest truths
And perhaps some honeycake.
It was good to meet again
Isn't Skype amazing,
well, when it works that is -
I always miss the ones
who are not there, but
What is more difficult
Is the quality of the spaces in between.
We are always left guessing
Instead of knowing
Through immediate presence
What each one may be feeling. So when differences occur
It's hard to know if this person is hurt or merely thoughtful,
and if they do express disappointment
it's hard to check
exactly what this may be about.
I appreciate the effort,
The offering of time,
Co-ordination across time zones:
Imagine 100 years ago
We would never have known
of each others
I discovered a prayer
tucked in the lining of a cardboard box.
It was personal, private, in your handwriting:
now I don't know whether to return it to you
or to hold it to a candle flame
with a prayer of my own,
that all yours be granted.
The last time this box was used
it was high summer, my birthday,
the day and the year
my grand-daughter was born.
Joy, love and roses were blooming that day -
The little one, great one, was named Freya.
Yes, I will ask the great goddess of Love
to grant you all that your heart could desire.
I knelt to clear the bottom shelf
Hidden things are kept the TV
(Not to mention seldom seen dust.)
The shelf held toy soldiers ,
armoured tanks, trucks and war planes
or perhaps not, two rescue helicopters.
As I stretched
a searing pain spread across my chest
and I found myself breathless:
I wondered if this was a heart attack
And was taken to Emergency-
Eleven hours later they said there had been irregular electrical activity
Something like a thunderstorm I thought
But the heart was not damaged.
Something muscular, maybe triggered certainly accerbated, by stress.
Good luck with all that said the very capable cardiologist.
Perhaps it is luck one needs to survive in a war zone.
This is for you
If you have the courage to challenge yourself
To open up.
You will break free
Of the patterns
That constrain you:
What you get will depend
On your willingness
To step outside your comfort zone,
To make a break through.
The choices you make will always be up to you.
You were speaking of the clients you want to draw
The words speak of your power to witness, your presence
Though only by inference of your sustaining care.
Actually its a manifesto
Of the way you live your life
And an invitation
To join you.
a smooth oval stone
grey and quite heavy
in the palm of my hand:
I could skim it over the cold lake towards the mountains
and watch it skip
or I could hold it close to my body
until it becomes warm,
or I could lay it down on the foreshore again,
one stone among many.
I could throw it through the glass ceiling so that everyone runs
as the dagger shards fall,
I could sew it into the wolfs belly
so that he is too heavy
and in too much pain to move,
I could paint it with a symbol
so that it becomes more than it is by mere association,
I could let it rest in my hand
I am cheating.. Poem from Oct 2000
tumbling over themselves
like a stick in the eddies
of a swollen stream
lost in the flow
of water and debris
with melt in the snow.
Now I am getting to the part
where I have nowhere to go:
The sticks have long gone
jagged or smooth
muddy or clean
not rushing on
to look at in quietness,
Another few Sept 2007 revising old journals..
Who is it dreaming of iguana and jabaro?
Who is it dallying by the door
Hoping for the scent of quandong jelly
In the kalaidescope kitchen?
He sees her quilting a country's memory-
Up by the rabbit proof fence.
Open the casements
the wind's passed:
No faery lands forlorn
But jackfruit fallen in the red dust
Opal fire, diesel and dust
There was an old lady who swallowed a fly
I don't know why she swallowed a fly
perhaps she'll die-
Yesterday it was I
who swallowed a fly:
It just flew right in
and stuck in my throat.
The old lady and I
were in the same boat!
I gasped and I choked
But I don't think I'll die
out here in the west
Eythymic dysthymic up down
Labile fed up miserable hurt
Calling for care
Trauma PTSD ICD psychosis
Panicked anxious angry abused
CLINICAL depression! Ouch!
BLACK DOG DAY DAMN
too fat too thin too tired
too lost too crossed-
Acceptance discomfort perception
Separateness peace and completion
ANOTHER BLACK DOG DAY
Written Oct 2007
and many journey's later
it's much the same ..
If I do not go to the market it will be too late:
We have nothing left in the cupboard except Tahini
No I did not write Tahiti
as I was saying Tahini
onions, eggs, some fierce chilli jam
marmalade...yesterday's Turkish bread
Masadam curry paste, flour and a tin of organic Berlotti beans.
There IS some Parmesan infused olive oil-
Spinach and fresh salad in the garden. Lemons in the bowl..
Yes, homemade Pasta Verde it is
Perhaps a dip..
No need to move for another hour.
You are crying for your friend
You didn't go to his funeral today but you will talk about him tonight and you talk about him now..
He thought he was getting indigestion
But it was stomach cancer. He was told:
You are going to die mate. Quite soon.
He was respected and loved. A good man. A good life.
A good death. Still, naturally you are sad.
Your tears do him honour.
Yesterday I ran a workshop in a room not chosen by me.
It was long and narrow
Two rooms in an old character cottage had been made into a bland contemporary space
But it was possible to close the blinds against the noisy street and leave the door to the little courtyard open.
It was hot with all those people despite being winter.
This allowed the ravens, the glossy mafioso of the city to comment loudly and convincingly at the end of my introduction. They went on quite a bit. But when I acknowledged them and said "Quite So" they fell silent.
I was, however, aware of their presence.
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