[Poems I wrote when I was 20]

Mother’s Side

Behind us lie those fragments…

The figure sat,

camped in a red chair he waited it out

and scared us with his six feet.

Then the red, white and blue flag blanketed him,

we breathed the scent of dyed carnations;

the wreaths at our feet.

The name that tastes of white bread

conceals his own.

The war that made those pieces unutterable,

we’re glad he never saw it.

The news reflects his ruins,

spider cracks that chasm,

it’s impossible to remain intact.

Bracing the walls of the club

that bellowed with men in grey pants,

never seen again.

I only know who he is dead.


In your life I remember:

slurped Borsch, Kutya;

the bowl of painted eggs.

Ladled by day the hospital food

the proved their culinary expertise

easy to mimic.

The five-year-old interpreter who understood

for friends that had roasts and farms to get to.

You tried to make me fat,

as stories of princesses wove gold across

the landscape you could not speak.

This Europe had an underbelly that dragged in the mud,

its remnants turned to kitsch, our translation lined your walls.

The painted doors that gave birth to each other to Tchaikovsky,

ornaments marched through the rooms

on embroidered lace I unpacked as I ate.

Anoushka who came to unfurl your neatly folded

yellow and blue; a skin that still feels

when you recall generations.

But you are more concealed than he,

with our wreaths or stone, I bear no name.


The problem with the sea

On the mantle piece is a shell

which contains the sea –

at my ear salty gusts of wind.

I miss this as I pick my way over brown weed,

deposited by gradual sliding towards the sand.

The sea is fast as a tack; I watch seagulls fly at my feet.

Reminded why my father chose this as his destination,

word of our sun culture spreading,

more surfing could be done.

A mix up must have occurred, I wonder why

instructions were not given to deposit him on the West Coast

or Queensland.

Instead he takes pleasure in skimming stones,

his ripples creating excitement for the teenagers trying to boogie board

in a luke-warm pond.


The kids in his classes ponder the best way to give textual difference

to landscapes of gulf-water scenes.

Finding the only way to define

the identical sky and sea

are two strips of blue, one high, one low.

A final yellow stripe completing

the embellishment of pin-up boards.

And some imagine that the waves are there,

filling the sea with mermaids and sharks.


In the initial year brows furrow,

one of these is not like the others

of the lake, ocean and river; one must flow,

and one is, perhaps, more salty than the others.


The problem with the sea

is that it is not, nor ever,

as the sea should be.



Pink grizzle:

chewy jelly gums.

Peep weeping,

stretched praying mantis

sumo limbs.


And all the arms folded in ruling

“I know bests’,

now warble


enfolded in a


belly-rubbing love.

For baby –

who breathes her future

suddenly becoming ours.



(for Minki)

Puff chested and feral,

eyes glint over generations

raised as humans, ducks and pups

nestled beneath tricoloured fluff.


As children we leapt over rocks,

riding skateboards pulled by claws,

tended by a kindly eye.


Moved by a blue haze she enters

with a ball saying: ‘this is what

has become of me.

I am barrel-bodied and old,

going grey,

my temples flecked and teeth blunt,

banished like a forgotten sock.

I chew those days and remember

youth encouraging play as a friend and pet

I cared. Age surpassing you

retreating towards an arthritic end’.



You keep putting on that face,

why do you amble

turning space into the tiniest place

as though weighed by some burden?

The cream is in your mind – think like an athlete

and you’ll be one.


This is the grudgingly accepted sculpture,

someone’s carved me from your bones.

And I dread to think of my future;


or cheerful jitter.


‘Try putting your feet together

don’t rest them apart

if you turn them out like that

you’ll look like a pigeon

and it is because you don’t have wings

that you can’t escape

you have a ring around your leg

that says this is your life.’


The thin thing that peers in retro,

carving waves and patches for us.

Caught pretending love

and ease of living

clinging to the arms of

fellow creators longing to keep.


But somehow in all of this,

still young and odd,

we’ve ended up keeping you.

[These poems were written prior to my twentieth birthday and have been published here, 18 years later, unedited and in full]

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