Monthly Archives: July 2011

Object memory









It sits on the mantelpiece now
That molten mass of memory
Glowing with luminous force
To a casual observer it would seem
An odd thing
To display for all to see
Fused irregularity
Shaped by inferno
It is what remains

Murano glass, once a necklace
In chunky Sixties style
Olive green, gold interior
It would have looked fabulous
With what I wear today

My mother’s necklace

Golden clasp and beads
Embedded within silken lava
Curved metal emerges like
Strange antennae
Closer inspection reveals
Bra underwires that
Shared the drawer that is no more

Great tits! My father’s friend said
Defiling my precious object
Vessel of memory
Connection to past, to home

A mother’s love

Express Yourself writers’ workshop

My thanks to the City of Whittlesea Bushfire Recovery Committee for arranging a series of workshops covering a wide variety of creative arts. Today I was lucky enough to attend a five-hour workshop run by Arnold Zable  (, a Melbourne author and creative writing teacher. He must have a prodigious memory for he can recite large pieces of text from previous workshop and class members without referring to notes. I was touched that he remembered me from a previous workshop and could recall the poem I had written about anger.  We performed three writing exercises exploring – a moment in time, an object and a character. Most challenging was the character piece, in which I attempted to describe my five year-old son in prose. I wrote about a magical moment fishing with my father and a pod of dolphins for the first exercise and it was the first time I had written creative prose for many years. Indeed I suspect the last time I wrote creative prose was in my Year 12 exam – and that is quite some time ago now! I may work on it some more and post it for your reading pleasure (I hope). The object exercise I completed in verse and will tidy up and publish on the blog, perhaps as early as tonight. The women attending the group (where are you men?) were wonderfully supportive of each other and had interesting stories to tell. Our styles were varied, but themes of pain, trauma and loss predominated as one would expect from such a gathering (and thankfully a box of tissues was located). The only problem with attending such a workshop – now I have even more passion to write.

Some thoughts about therapeutic writing and blogging

When I started writing I thought it would provide me with means to record my feelings (and the events) for posterity and that it might also allow me to process some of the grief and emotions. I had no idea that there is a body of evidence surrounding the value of therapeutic writing. Indeed, my blog subtitle was written in complete ignorance of this fact. So, what has the process been like for me so far? And how has having a blog affected this? The first five poems I wrote were written in one day and seemed to emerge almost fully formed without conscious thought. Some others have also arrived in this fashion but others have taken considerably more work. I have been writing for about six weeks now and I must say that I feel somewhat emotionally spent although I know there are many more subjects with which I could (and probably will) deal. I suspect that the benefits may take some time to manifest (and I confess I have not read the literature). I am trying to write some more positive, self-affirming works in order to counteract the onslaught of negativity.  Some very tangible benefits have been the positive feedback I have received from those  who have read the poems (though they are telling me in person or emailing me instead of commenting here). Several people have cried and one friend told me last night that reading ‘Suburban haven’ was just like being taken for a walk through my new home, which is exactly what I intended (we’ll see how accurate a picture I created this weekend when she visits).  The blog has been helpful in that it has encouraged me to write more – I need to feel as though I have a (potential) audience – perhaps I am an exhibitionist? The pressure to publish has thus made me more productive but also means that I am likely to post pieces that really require more work and, for that, I apologize. I am also trying to be less conscious of any literary merit the poems might have and to concentrate of getting the feelings and thoughts onto the page – once again, I’m sorry but I guess you will all stop reading if it becomes too self-indulgent. So, thanks again for reading. If anyone has any ideas or themes about which I could write I’d love to hear them. (I’m not running out though).


Calmly she regards her face in the bathroom mirror
Today her large almond eyes are green
Other days her eyes are grey or hazel but she is always
When they are green
A friend has told her that her eyes are like that of a
Famous movie star
She is not so sure
But, today, at least, her eyes are pleasing


Her short brown hair, once auburn, now
Streaked with silver
Provides a frame for a round face
Cheekbones high above a
Today, her eyes are smiling too
She can overlook the flaws she too often finds
In her visage and body


Within her core she knows her worth
Her physical attributes may sing today but
The being within her is where
Her essence lies
Distilled by experience
Of pain, trauma, joy and love


And what of this essence?
What makes her so?
Stoic resilience and fragile vulnerability
Her capacity to love
Her empathy and warmth
Fierce intelligence
A sense of fun, of playfulness
Wicked black humour
And equally black moods
Uncompromising honesty
A search for perfection


Even though she can be highly strung
Pedantic and verbose
I watch this woman calmly regarding her mien
Admire her strength
Forgive her foibles
And tell her how much I love her
For she is me
And she needs to know

Suburban haven

An acacia yellow house sits
On a tree-lined street
Snug behind a fence of a similar hue
Posts the blue of school uniforms
Matching the windows and eaves


Winter, and so the trees are bare
Earlier they had shed their plate-like leaves
A few still litter the ground
Look to the Southwest and glimpse
City spires, with lights that glimmer all night


Despite the chill the garden is
Fragranced, a bounty of colour
Honey-like scent of frothy cream alyssum
Luculia flowers of palest pink emit
A heady perfume, lingering like spice


Wattlebirds chuck chuck in the Silver Princess
Her pendulous branches, silvery filigree
Red flowers laced with gold
A charcoal-stained terracotta birdbath on a
Carpet of Wedgwood-blue daisies


Walk to the door now
Up the brick path
Passing between plums now budding for Spring
Cast your eyes over to luminous orange
Tangelos and mandarins hanging sweetly


Open the primrose door gently
For the deco glass is fragile
Enter the wide hall of broad pine boards
Flooded with light
Warm with promise


Vibrant paintings hang on
Walls of creamed butter
While vases of blooms and riotous foliage
Jostle for space on every surface
Lavender and orange fill the air


Around you the evidence of
Rich family life
Garish plastic toys jumbled on the floor
Between car-bedecked beds
Of two small boys


Rich timber fills the kitchen
Above a slate floor
Cooking accoutrements litter the benches
Familiar jumbled mess
Perpetually recurring


Perhaps you’ll collect a cup of tea
On your way to the lounge
To sit upon the tired brown couch
Windows face east, north and south
Bringing light and warmth


And through those windows you can view
Kaleidoscopic sunrises
The birth of the moon
Expansive sky uncluttered
Over a verdant park


Looking over the productive yard
You can also watch
Joyous children run all day
Dogs tumble and wrestle and the
Soccer teams practice and play


Lunch at the weathered red gum table
Eat fruit from the trees
Regard the fish in the pond
Chase dogs on the grass
Lean on the deck, review the day


For here is a haven
Unexpectedly so
A suburban haven
A place to rest, to heal
To grow new roots

A most difficult poem

‘Return’ has been a challenging poem for me to write. I have started it several times over the past few weeks. Tonight I felt impelled to finish it. I changed the structure to stanzas with four short lines and a ‘hanging’ word (incidentally I have almost no knowledge of correct poetic terminology). The ‘hanging’ words are, by and large, those that I wish to have the most impact. I feel exhausted but satisfied that the thoughts and memories have been spoken now. I can barely manage to read it again at the moment so I hope there are no typos that I have missed in posting it so quickly. My thanks to you for reading, as always.


Sweaty hands are on the wheel
Gripping tightly
And yet they seem
Not a part of


A red band circles my wrist
My passport home, it identifies me
Allows my return
Where others are


A restricted place
Crime scene
A place of destroyed


Past the roadblock
Solemn faces, pursed lips
Flashing lights
Harbingers of


Black tarmac winds up the hill
And appears, at first
Familiar, reassuring
I am going


And then as I round a bend
A black line
Path of the


Past smoldering trees
Blackened men
Wielding chainsaws
Clearing the road for safe


First of the cars, burnt wrecks
Where I had earlier driven
Some with ribbons
There had been no


Climbing further
Moving ever so slowly
Ghostly forest
Blackened poles standing in


And then it was green
A verdant oasis
An island
Normality surrounded by


Impossible to comprehend
My own home
I knew destroyed
Yet so many


Almost insulting
A derelict house
Fallen down shed
Still standing


Out of the oasis
Another world
Complete destruction
Amongst it my


A last right turn
A country lane
So altered
That I almost drive


A neighbour’s pony
Lies on the road
Charred hooves
Mouth in a deathly


Heart hammering
Breath shallow
Thoughts whirling
I approach the


All of them


Before me
Mud brick walls, strangely intact
Roof lying
Where the floor used to


Among the debris
Twisted birdcages
Evaporated by the intense


Familiar objects now
Ghostly apparitions
Melted windows
Car wheels now modern


Piles of acrid ash
Charred wood
Blanket the ground
Obscuring all that could be of


And then
Unable to withstand
Any more
I cross the road to say


Climbing the drive
Trees still smoking
On either side
I can hardly see for my


Our neighbour’s home
Still proudly standing
Testament to the fight
Of three brave


And one of those men
Greets me now
And calls my dogs
To welcome me


He tells me of
Those things
That I must hear
But would rather


Together we cook
Pasta, tuna sauce
And eat all together
As though we are


Sooty dogs are in the car
Farewells have been said
The engine is running
But I don’t want to



In a shabby laboratory
A dog sits
At the sound of a bell
Awaiting its reward

But I am no dog
And yet, Pavlov’s bell rings for me

Poor old dog
Sitting in its laboratory
At the sound of a bell
But now the rewards are intermittent

But I am no dog
And yet, Pavlov’s bell rings for me

Those rewards so fleeting and erratic
So seemingly arbitrary
Conspire to produce

But I am no dog
Rather an autonomous rational human
And yet, Pavlov’s bell rings for me

What is the reward of which I speak?
Not drugs, alcohol or a thrilling win

A smile, a kind word
A few moments of time

I am no dog
But I am still waiting for my reward

I haven’t met you yet

I haven’t met you yet
But when I do
You’ll smile a wry smile and
Tell a witty joke


I haven’t met you yet
But when I do
You’ll listen to my opinion and
Offer one of your own


I haven’t met you yet
But when I do
You’ll ask me how I feel and
Want to hear the answer


I haven’t met you yet
But when I do
You’ll encircle me in your arms and
Hold me when I cry


I haven’t met you yet
But when I do
You’ll cherish me for who I am and
Not for who you want me to be


I haven’t met you yet
But when I do
You won’t be threatened by me and
Your own intelligence will shine


I haven’t met you yet
But when I do
You’ll enjoy playing word games but
Not games with my heart


I haven’t met you yet
But when I do
You’ll stroke my hair and
Kiss my forehead


I haven’t met you yet
But when I do
You’ll take me to bed and
Love me with passionate honesty


I haven’t met you yet
But when I do
You’ll wake beside me and
Whisper you love me


I haven’t met you yet
But when I do
I hope I can
Recognise you

My identity crisis

I really did hit the question mark key by accident and it spawned one angry little poem. I wanted to write something metaphysical but, instead, wrote three far more prosaic pieces. Oh well. Next time. And there’s always room for editing – in the case of these three I suspect lots! Identity is something that I have struggled with post-fire and I know that I am not alone.