Day 25 — make love not war (3 for the price of 1 today)

For once, I don’t feel conflicted about writing an Anzac Day Poem. And as happened 2 days ago with Bill Shakey Day, (& last year for both days) having a superimposed theme (“love” this year, “climate change” last) made me look at the day in a whole new way — which in turn has generated not 1, not 2, but 3 poems of which I am exceedingly pleased. 

Looking at love in war time is a wonderful way to get around the whole uncertainty I have about A25. 

It’s also a lovely way (pun intended) to honour, commemorate, call what you will my grandparents in poetical form.

*****

Anzac Triptych
1. Atherton Tablelands 
2. Goodbye Will Moon
3. TIL


*

1.
Atherton Tablelands

In April 1943 following three weeks leave after seeing action at Tobruk, Mersa Matruh and El Alamein Gunner RL JONES of the 2/7th Field Regiment arrived at Kairi in the Atherton Tablelands.

It was love at first sight.

Even though he was from 
a notoriously lush part
of the Adelaide hills the green 
in Far North Queensland 
is several degrees greater 
than most mortal eyes 
are used to — or able to endure.

Gunner RL Jones remained 
on the Tablelands with his unit
for almost two years — training
and playing upon the rich red 
loam born in ancient volcanoes.
Before being sent to Tarrakan 
that began the Allies’ Borneo 
Campaign. He survived those jungles 
by thinking often of the equally 
lush Atherton tablelands — 
until the Americans blew up 
the world and the war ended.

Gunner RL Jones eventually 
made his way home & made
Florence his fiancé.

Rueben told Florence. 
Of the green.
Of the red soil. 
Of his desire to move there.

Florence said no. 

He never saw the Tablelands again 


*

2.
Goodbye Will Moon

In late 1944 Corporal BI Burgan of RAAF 1 Squadron was likewise on leave when he visited his parents in Port Wakefield.

Quiet Sunday evening.
Parents off praying.
It’s been a long journey 
and I’ve only a few precious
day’s leave. But I know
dad will be disappointed
if I don’t attend. So 
although I don’t feel like it
reluctantly walk across town.

Only one seat remains 
in the very back pew.
Slide into that space next 
to a beautiful young woman
who smiles as I sit down.
Can’t concentrate. On 
what the pastor is saying.
Nor the service itself.
Nothing but —
that sublime smile.

Afterwards, I offer to walk 
her home and am bemused 
and delighted to discover 
she’s boarding with our next 
door neighbour.

We stand talking for ages
til I brazenly lean in
and kiss her over the garden gate.
I’d best go in now, she says.

The best night of my life.

During my leave we spend 
as much time as possible
together but it ends
all too quickly. Before I 
deploy to New Guinea 
I must tell her. I confess
undying love. The hammer 
blow. She’s engaged to another!
I didn’t know I say 
and chivalrously
offer to step aside. 

Leave it with me.
She says.
I’ll deal with it.

And. She. Did.


*

3.

TIL

today i learnt 
that unlike my
gran and grandad
nana and papa 
weren’t engaged
or even dating 
while he was away 
during the war
they only started 
seeing each other
after he got home 

her first  love 
     died     flying   bombers
over    germany 
   she       was                s h a t t e r e d
when   Will    was  
                                     killed 


suddenly saw my frail
ninety nine year old nana
       with  newer 
    sadder  eyes

Day 17 — Day 2 of the Festival of Grief

Today really is symbolic of more than just one loss: it’s a conglomeration of three anniversaries in one. The other two (one in June, one in July) grieve me too — but as they do not fall within Glo/NaPoWriMo they don’t usually get poems written about them. (Though the days of the FoG aren’t the only times poems get written or thoughts get thought about this topic). 

Given this month’s theme is love I’ve decided to deliberately include all three griefs in one poem. On the plus side, there are a multiplicity of loves on display within the poem, so it works on many levels.

Today’s poem is paired with one I wrote 28 years ago. It is included as bonus: an Easter egg if you like, not that you have to look too hard to find it.

advice from a fish

although today
commemorates
the first loss

you’re in countless 
poems, plays, story ideas
all three of you

for endless sorrowfilled years 
i wore your rings
round my neck

till they got 
too heavy to endure
& i was told 

by the fish 
for my own sanity 
take them off 

you knew too well
without the self-flagellation
of my despair

*****

BONUS POEM:

3 silver rings

around her neck
she wears three silver rings
on a gold chain
   & crucifix
one, a rose
one, a gallic cross
& one, all stars & moons

one each
for every child
which never was

Day 15 —  Day 1 of the Festival of Grief

My two wallowversaries are quite close together this year — Good Friday & Easter Sunday. GF being Day 1 of the Festival of Grief, ES Day 2. Each year I don’t know whether I’ll write about my grief on the date it happened or the day. Some years it’s both. The interesting thing about choosing a theme for the month is it makes me approach topics I’ve written about countless times with fresh eyes. Such as this …

to pin a wish

my only-ever astral child 
my first star girl
my free spirit
my whispered wish

only briefly tethered 
postmarked but never delivered 
addressed but never sent
never faded 
never dimmed
always present
in my heart 

would’ve loved you 
with my whole soul
every ether of being
guided you from child 
to woman as best i

cradled you
comforted you
held eggshell close
gifted free range
love love loved 

walked you down 
any aisle — assuming 
i could see given 
my eyes are waterfalls 
simply imagining 
such moments

the first wish i’d make
if any benevolent genie
ever give me a chance

my beautiful wondrous 
astral-only child 
my heart was torn away 
the day you ran red
down your mother’s legs

Day 13 – my favourite myth about love

During NaPoWriMo there are a plethora of sites & groups publishing writing prompts to help poets overcome the terrifying prospect of the blank screen or page day after day for 30 straight days. I rarely have a problem finding a topic but I usually check out what the prompts are in the groups I’m part of, just to see if there’s anything that interests me. 

An Australian-run group called The Dirty Thirty’s chosen topic today was myth. The number 13 is lucky and scary and shrouded in myth. So today, let’s talk myths. In your poem, find creative ways to include the actual story your myth was based on. 

This is manna from heaven for me & I immediately thought of one of my go to topics: the myth of Orpheus & Eurydice. I love this topic so much that I have several books devoted to the subject & I’ve written at least a dozen poems around the theme; the best of which I one day hope to publish as a chapbook or suite of poems (as part of a bigger volume) called songs of under earth. 

The Death of Orpheus

after many years : wandering : ever-mourning : his lost Eurydice : Orpheus worshipped : only the Apollo-sun

one morning : at the Dionysian oracle : on Mount Pangaion : while greeting dawn’s rosy fingers : with his peerless lyre-playing : as part of his : daily sun god salute : the Maenads : resenting Orpheus’ refusal : to honour : his previous patron : sought to harm him : threw sticks & stones : yet the lilt : of his music : was so sublime : & so strong : the rocks & branches : refused to strike 

enraged : they threw themselves : instead : in a furioso frenzy : ripping : rending : wrenching : his mortal body : to shreds : blood lust madness : engulfing them all

when the women : who tore him apart : tried to cleanse : their gore-covered hands : the river sank : below ground 

as did : Orpheus’ shade : finally : to be reunited

Day 02 – lessons from Constellations 

My housemate & I saw the play Constellations tonight. It was his choice because as the program states: Payne’s script presents a series of vignettes centring on two characters across various parallel universes — the same setting & conversation, but different outcomes each time. This unconventional love story set in the quantum multiverse has us asking: What if there are infinite versions of you & I?  And what if there are multiple universes pulling our lives in a myriad of different directions? — & he has been toying with similar themes in a play he said he wants to call the final last night of our lives. (I think it’s a great title & might even pinch it if he doesn’t produce something soon. Fair warning given!)

Tonight’s play was interesting without being awe-inspiring. But given it explored themes of love in occasionally unusual ways, there was some useful material that had me both thinking during the play & on the drive home. With that in mind here’s a pome-in-progress; structural inspired by the play — ie, in vignette form & using rhythm, repetition & some images from the play.

lessons from Constellations 
(vignettes about love)

i. 
love is knife edge sharp
love is knife edge hard
love is a knife
i am knifed
Et tu

ii. 
the dangerous act
of loving someone 
leaves you alone
with your fragility 

iib. 
perhaps even frail, guilty
for there is always 
one other who comes 
between us & our egos

iii. 
we remain perpetually 
lost among the great 
mechanical quantumness 
of love forevers

we blithely step through
those ever sliding doors 
some into happy afters
some into miseries unending
some into sunlight
some into death
supernova bright 

we still try

iv. 
night ships
titanic dinghies
missing their chance
thieving time
as they crash 
into everything 
but the ice

v. 
always peeking 
doors of death 
despite the possible multiplicities
& symmetry of circles 

there is no formula for love 
all we have are 
our imperfect hearts
& fireflies brief lives

Day 29 – silence (& smiles)

29 cancerous_by_psion005_dc2hbl.jpg

Worked on a poem about the multiple Goldilocks zones that our world occupies, a long conceived concept, but it’s more complicated than anticipated, so this is a Plan B pome.

*****

Scans

Spent several hours sitting
next to a subdued stranger
often in stilted silence

Trying not to talk about
the hot topic of the day
even though it’s all
that occupies us

Trying extremely hard
not to compare contexts:
lives alone, never married
only an aged mother
in rapid decline
also living alone nearby
father mercifully taken
down swiftly by two
strokes in succession

Trying not to project
forward into my
unfriendly future

& failing miserable

 


 

BONUS POEM: April 29, 2018

A quiet moment of cross-cultural communication.

*****

 

Homemade

many things
have thrilled me
this past month
but perhaps
nothing so much
as this breakfast
when I pointed
at the apricot jam
& said in my best
Australian German
“hausgemacht?
sehr gut”

the “ja” & brief
blossom of a smile
to the otherwise
surly waiter’s face
was like a bee
abseiling my spine

29b german jam.jpg

Day 22 – thrones (& fame)

22 game-of-thrones NED.jpg

Working on a poem that I knew wouldn’t be finished till very close to midnight when I realised I hadn’t watched episode 2 of GOT yet!!! So abandoned other poem for now & played a quick found poem with GOT episode titles. Several versions made.

Of course, I had to make it harder by choosing only one title per season AND keeping them in the order they aired. This is the best of the bunch. It almost makes sense. No extra words added. Made by trying to choose the most memorable phrase from each season’s options.

*****

Game of Poems, iv

Winter Is Coming
What Is Dead May Never Die
And Now His Watch Is Ended
First of His Name
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken
Blood of My Blood
Beyond the Wall
Winterfell


BONUS POEM: April 22, 2018

The past isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
NOTE: edits made in 2019 to tighten a few phrases & tweak enjambment.

*****

Bunhill Fields Cemetery, London: another anticlimax

Bunyan gets a sepulchre, Defoe an obelisk.
yet your single flaking stone
isn’t even tickled by lush
London grass but choked
by drab pavers. not even here
the engraving says, your remains lie nearby.

the long imagined session
of cross-century communion
one bucolic spring afternoon
in a quaint ancient graveyard
turns out to be a rain splattered
overcoat complete with two hobos
drinking cheap wine   & spitting.

why keep gazing back to these
inconsequential prisons over
looked by tawdry two bedroom
apartments & cheap office blocks;
containing IT startups
here yesterday, gone later today;
surrounded by tiny tidy lives
daily gazing dispassionately
over a non-eternal resting place;

neither caring, nor knowing,
the wonderful Will you were 

22b blake grass.jpg

Day 16 – fire (& stone)

flames.jpg

Spent a large chunk of my writing time today trying to craft a pome comparing & contrasting the fire at Notre Dame with the fire in our climate. While many parts worked, a few did not & I realised longer would be needed to resolve the kinks.

However, while researching the idea I came across another, far less known story, which led to this …

*****

holy houses

in less widely covered news, the revered
al-asqa mosque in east jerusalem
was also struck by (a far less dramatic)
blaze at the same time as notre dame’s
inferno in france — damaging solomon’s
stables beneath a corner of temple mount

here’s a thought:
perhaps god is trying to tell us something

.


.

BONUS POEM: April 16, 2018

The theme persists.

*****

immemorial

stone is worn
moss softens
lichen gathers
chiselled lines
flatten
it rains hard
the sun shines
& pretty soon
everything
is forgotten

14b cornish grave

Day 12 – hares (& old stones)

12 hares in snow lino prints

Been playing round with some hare-inspired poems. This is my reconstruction of a West Country legend of a witch who takes the form of a white hare.

*****

white hare

while hunting : in the afterbones : of night : her siren warning : sways over the valley : a white hare warms me : goldeneyes gleaming light : look away look away : must not stare : into her eyes : or my soul : she’ll steal : a swift shadow approaches : white haired woman : wooing me : face of ashen grey : begging me to stay : look away look away : white belly : dancing bare : on the heather : from dusk till dawn : hounds bray

look away look away

 


 

BONUS POEM: April 12, 2018

Part of the holiday experience is visiting places my ancestors left a century or more ago. This is one of them.  EDIT: formatted lines the way I wanted them to look last year, but couldn’t owing to facebook.

*****

wandering round the churchyard at St Winnow

good Cornish stone sprouting
                                                 grey
among green dandelions
                                        & wild cowslips
long ago some single
still yet-to-be great
  great    great     great    grandparents
left what they thought a harsh life
for one with more
                               hope
in the far off dust
                              of Australia

a short prayer away the Fowey
flows south
                    like silver slate

I walk over lusciousness
wanting to make amends
for a hiccup of snow amongst
stones so weatherworn
 & lichenloved
                        they’re illegible
we vow we’ll remember
                                       forever
when a generation
or two is the most
                              most of us get

so though I might be
                                treading on
ancient ancestors
given the perfection
of their forgetting
                             place
I don’t believe
                         they’ll mind

12b St Winnow

Day 29 – poem about mines

cornish_mining_heritage___st_agnes CROP

Good one gareth, mining the same old topics. Sheesh! Maybe next year’s NaPoWriMo you could try something different …

emotion mining

sometimes the people who enter our lives are of our own choosing
while others are introduced by loved ones who should know better

i.
i’ve spent the past 2 months with several
of my mother’s dearest most beloved friends
who have suckered me into their whirlwind
unconventional romance, their aching love,
heartbreak, their failed business ventures,
smuggling, revolution, trials, jealously, the death
of their firstborn & the wild beauty of life
on an old coast, & a few days ago, Francis
drowning alone in a dark place

ii.
only moments have passed since Ross began
the affair he’s been threatening for years. now
it’s been so brutally consummated i cannot
contain my shock & as a consequence Demelza
has determined to go unattended to a ball
where who knows what calamity will befall.
i’m too afraid to turn, begin the next chapter
of course i will, after zapping this cold coffee

iii.
but the greatest betrayal of all is my mother’s
for she knew these calamities occur, yet still
blithely offered me the first in the series leaving
me to experience the emotional rollercoaster
…………………………………………………………………….alone