Monthly Archives: August 2011

Women and Black Saturday

Women and Environmental Justice BEATING THE FLAMES Escaping Surviving Black Saturday.

I am honoured that Women’s Health Goulburn Valley have used a line from my poem ‘Gossamer skin’ as the title of their report into relationships and domestic violence after Black Saturday.  The e-book Beating the Flames documents women’s stories of the fires, demonstrating that women played an active role in protecting their families, property and community – often alone. I await the report ‘The landscape of my soul: Relationships after Black Saturday’ with interest.They are inviting submissions of stories, art and poetry for inclusion on their website.

Bringing in the net

Accompanying the rhythm of the small wavelets lapping at the shore, the strange ozone scent of seaweed enters my nostrils. The weed, visible under the water’s surface, is tangled in the net we are hauling aboard. My father’s dinghy sits just metres from shore and we are bringing in the net he has set overnight. So far, this flirtation with illegality has yielded no reward. The net is empty but for long olive green strands that make untangling the filigree cumbersome and a chore. Still, it is pleasing to be sitting there. Precious time alone with my father. We are relaxed, engaged in the activity. For once as one, the light breeze and the sun on our backs conspiring to improve our moods.

The ruffled sand of the riverbed can be seen beneath the boat. A silvery glint, a flicker of action captures our attention.  A salmon, fiercely alive, gasping for breath, its scales iridescent in that special afternoon light of the deep South. It has jumped into the boat – a suicidal gesture. Distracted by this unexpected gift, we are startled when a dorsal fin breaks the surface a few seconds later. I tense my body, fearful. But then, muscles relax and breathing returns and my fear melts into intense joy. For this is no shark but the first of three dolphins. They have been swimming close to shore, no doubt chasing the poor salmon now destined for our dinner.

The first dolphin swims directly beneath the boat. Had I been quicker I could have caressed its silky head. Its two companions swim past the prow and appear to be looking for their erstwhile prey as they circle the dinghy. Perhaps realising we are not going to share the river’s bounty, the pod move off towards the small headland to the South. Despite the loss of their prey, the dolphins appear to take delight in the late summer afternoon. Soon, one leaps from the water, its grey flanks glinting in the low golden light. After a time they move off around the headland, out of view. But the image of them dancing and the joy in my heart will never disappear.

A thoughtful exploration of the body in poetry

Among the Regulars | Andy Jackson’s blog. Or, poetry from a body shaped like a question mark..


This blog has some very thoughtful writing. I thoroughly recommend it for your perusal.

The price of charity

Here it is…. please read this poem in conjunction with yesterday’s post ‘Angry writing’ and the accompanying comment.


What is the price?
The price of your charity
Must I recount?
Tell for the umpteenth time
My story
Is the price of your charity
That vicarious thrill?
That frisson?
While your pupils dilate
As I relate my tale


What must I pay?
For your castaway goods
Stowaways from the depths of your drawers
Thrown into plastic bags for me to sort
Must I show you my scars?
My photos? My relics?
Let you touch my belly
With child inside
Have you tell me
How lucky I am


What is the cost?
Of gaining your sympathy
My identity lost
As I wear your clothes
My sense of self, my pride
Thrown away, with all those items I couldn’t use
Aching guilt
Trembling rage
That you exact such a price
The price of your charity

Angry writing

Tonight I wrote a poem that I’m not sure if I will, or indeed, should, post. The writing is about one aspect of charity after the bushfire. It is a subject that I thought I felt mildly annoyed about. However, as I wrote I realised that what I thought mere annoyance was unabashed rage. As I sat in a  suburban cafe genteelly drinking my latte I found venomous words pouring onto the page, written by my trembling hand.  I was shocked by the depth of my feeling. By my fury. And this rage is directed at people who were, no doubt, well intended. Who meant only to help me and others like me. I’m sure they have no idea how much pain their charity gave me.  They don’t deserve the lambasting they receive in my three stanzas of rage. Yet, I cannot look away from this anger. I cannot pretend it isn’t there. And if I have experienced these feelings, then it is almost certain that other recipients of charity after disasters have felt this way. It is one of those ugly truths that we would prefer to shun. To disown. To ignore and hope it will go away. And ‘proper’ social behaviour dictates that we should be grateful. To passively smile and accept all that is given, recognising how lucky we are.

Having written my piece I now have to decide what to do with it. Should I post it for all to see and risk alienating or offending potential readers? Should I file it away and hope that the writing has served to relieve the burden of the anger, even by a fraction? But, by hiding it from sight does that indicate that some feelings are to be ashamed of? That we cannot be emotionally true? By not publishing this poem do I continue the disenfranchisement of other disaster-affected people? Should I allow them the chance to recognise their own feelings, their anger? What are the ethics of this decision? How do I balance non-maleficence with the possibility of benefit for others? And, quite apart from the ethical and social considerations there is the underlying merit of the poem as a piece of writing. It is undoubtedly technically raw and I’m sure I could polish it, give it better meter, be more inventive. My concern is that, by editing it, I may lose the power of the invective and, thus, its emotional truth.

So, I will sleep on these issues and let you all know what I have decided tomorrow.

Once upon a time…

A time there once was
The moon hung low
Each blade of grass
Intimate silver
We joined in the night air


A time there once was
Hands clasped
Our invincible selves
Paraded avenues of
Unfettered promise


A time there once was
We danced, whirled and sang
Encased in a homely cocoon
Fire glowing warmly
Reflecting sunny faces


A time there once was
We buried our noses
In soft warm fuzz
Inhaling the scent of
New life


A time there once was
The tart taste of bitterness
Crept into each day
Resentment the vernacular
Poison to contentment


A time there once was
A line of flames
Crackling and consuming
Scorched the earth
Between us


A time there once was
We spat venomous barbs
Disrespect coloured all
Anger became fury and
Uncertain fear


Once upon a time…


There was us
Now there is



Separate entities
A promise of moons hung low

Gossamer skin

Triumphant orange glows the Sun
Rays burn straight, intense
Warming that below
In the landscape of my soul


Flurries of disconsolate blue ice
Swirl chaotically, random
Freezing dark recesses
In the landscape of my soul


Raging red fire consumes
Angry flames rape, destroy
Growing forest
In the landscape of my soul


Despondent black air suffocates
Stagnant, dank, foetid
Fills deep caves
In the landscape of my soul


Nascent green shoots
Shout encouragement
Stretch out for light
In the landscape of my soul


And what of this soul?
This churning calamity
Prey to dichotomous forces
How is it contained? Concealed?


For fury, torment, despair
Even exultant joy, evolution
Prove to threaten the equilibrium of observers
Of the landscape of my soul


Gossamer skin
Translucent membrane
Flimsy separation from an
Uncomprehending world


Would that I had
Hardened integument
Impervious exoskeleton
Protection from hurt


But if I had a toughened hide
I hope I may shed it from time to time
Allow a knowing mortal to gaze inside
At the landscape of my soul

Comfort cup

Lost in a torrent of pain
My hands
Placed around a paper cup
Palms register warmth
Mind settles, finds focus
An island of comfort in
Oceanic grief


Jumbled inside are vegetables, broth
Earth brown lentils
Tangled colours, delicious odours
A cook’s care
Dip my spoon
A tentative smile


I am nourished


A serene moment
In a cup of soup
An island of comfort in
Oceanic grief

Domestic ephemera

A line of clothes pegs triangulate
Blackened earth
Domestic ephemera
They have withstood
Whereas I?