Christina Coates

Papa

He envied the world –

the world and the eternal earth .

I carried a pebble
in my pocket –
a keepsake for you.

My word, a small grain,
a granule in my hand.
Language and rhymes were
a way to sustain you.

It was a long voyage –
my breath the tides
looking for you
down a dead-end street.
I look – a mere eye
just eyes looking past.

I thought I heard
a quiet laugh
but it was just an echo
of emptiness.

You never found us –
the place
or the moment
like a wave.

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Jean Green

Always the eyes that look
back from the earth.
One becomes a dead-end street
That’s all.
Love fades.
Leave behind the photographs
and look away from the past
for it is of nought.
God loafs so much
yet it is He who made
And speaks for the world

Yvonne Romano

Looking
(a re-cycled word poem)

looking’s a way of breathing in the present
a moment when  earth’s long voyage is almost done

forgetting, recording, the eyes dig and burrow
keyholes through bones to the statue’s stone heart

my eyes are soft arms holding you in their lap
around you and your world they whisper their language

looking takes a new way of seeing the invisible
I look . . . and my eyes touch the echoes sometimes

Ruth Mattison

Look

The eyes look, eye out
Nothing is visible, present
Can’t breathe
That’s bought a dead end street

I look
My breath earth blue
A wave of being
My death a moment
That’s not only collapse
But time and You.

God looks
at my soul
We touch and speak
That’s the garden where She is

Ruth Mattison 2009

Ruth Carneson

Killer Cop

Killer cop
Cape Argus
May 29 2009
Allowed to Visit
Kids Graves

Two daughters in a mist
His son, rainbow streaked
His wife, a prisoner of war
His marriage, cracked
But heavy enough

Several factors
Over ripe
Granted him
A fire stick

Three counts
5 years old
21 months old
16 years old
Spirit water
Shot dead

His actions
The saddest requiem

Karen Brooks

Feathered into Space

Screams from the womb
feathered into space
my breath, away from its place,
the earth, piles sand in a dead end street

walking around by the thousands
the eyes, two slits, sometimes small arrows
the brain and the heart looking through
the sight that builds, the sun that shines

my heart, the statue with a door.
hucksters selling, writers digging
walking and looking. the animals
bite, come down, but mostly
I look at the baby that sustains looking.

Penelope van Maasdyk

Peddling Severed Parts

Looking takes everything
Fits their souls
Sometimes
A baby sniffing soft arms
The pebble rolled of sand
The eternal
Small grains assemble
Eye out cliff’s fissure
Little suns
Can’t breathe
When the moment spits them to you
Little sun
Leave behind hucksters selling god
But at last yourself be.

Beryl Eichenberger

Pebbles of words

I own my words.
Like a pebble
rolled in my hand,
round and proclaiming
is my word, digging
into the hill, planting
its smooth time,
a fragment of the earth.
Little world they whisper,
sleepy caves own nothing
even the grain of sand
sifting, owns nothing.

Looking, walking, being
takes back the soul.
You were island, country,
it was from you always.

In my hand,
I roll my pebble
to a small grain of sand.
My words a granule
I own.

Maire Fisher

Through the  blue

He craves this tomb,
a granule of being around heaven
where nothing is – no body
But looking still
takes an earth-blue shape

And
always the birds by thousands
the world holding its place.
Their music comes down
and round and into the sleepy caves
planting little grains of gold.

Shutting away from breathing now
the air moves back.
The eyes, looking through the blue
speak silence – that’s all.
The heart opening and shutting
unlooses the centre and collapses.

In this time after visible present,
he stands in the nought and  owns nothing.
All soul now, walking,
walking the eternal eternal.
Eyes opening – and look.
The past, the world –
everything fits in it and  fades away.

Nada Lagerstrom

I

like eels
eyes walking

the skull
the birds
the tides

but He
takes one
to sustain
the Earth
and collapse
its brains

but He
visibly present
found us
proclaiming
other way

and never
even
sitting
to smoke

one becomes
world of being:
all soul

II

all soul
world of being
but He
found us sitting
eyes walking
the skull
the birds
the tides
like eels
but he
proclaiming its brains
to sustain
and collapse
the earth
even takes one
to smoke
one becomes
visibly present
and never other way
III
one becomes all soul
visibly present
world of being
and never other way

but He
takes one
even to smoke
the earth, the birds, the tides

but He
found us proclaiming the skull
its brains sitting

like eels eyes walking

Denise

Remembering

Disinfected, smelling like their bathroom, the surgery is hot, brightly lit.  Erin skips to the black leather chair, climbs up, wriggles on the slippery seat. The doctor smiles, her mother hovers next to her, a comforting presence. Instruments clink, a tap runs into the basin. Something hard is pressing against her head as the doctor tucks her hair behind her ear,
“OK Erin, let’s get this nasty wax out.”

A thin metal finger sliding into her ear, a whooshing sound like jumping into the swimming pool, but not nice, painful, pressing against the soreness in her ear.  Feeling giddy, wanting to be sick.  And then the whooshing again, really sore this time.

“Mummy it HURTS, please make him stop!”

But he doesn’t stop.

Silenced, her mother holds her shoulders down and it happens twice more. Water trickles down her neck, soaks into the top of her jumper. The room spins.

“All done – you can get down now.” As if nothing had happened.

Climbing down from the black chair, clutching on to the arms for support, looking at the dirty water in the comma-shaped silver bowl, black bits floating in it. Wobbling, trying to get her arms into the sleeves of her red coat, wrap the woollen scarf with rabbits on round her head.

“Everything will be much better now.” The doctor’s voice coming from far away…

Bowled over by the giddiness and being sick over her shoes, the new ones with the silver buckles. Sobbing while her mother bends and clears up the mess with a white cloth the doctor hands to her. Still not able to hear properly, as though she has cotton wool in her ears.

Looking at her mother, no longer her protector.  Stepping out into the freezing night, taking the smell of Dettol and sick home with her. Holding her mother’s hand but seeing her with new eyes.

Forced to go back there.

Several times.

Gillian Barton

My daughter beside me grabs my hand. Her warm body I body.
His, cold hard body – like mine small, dark, hazel eyed, we body
Swallows in the eaves dart in
flit off
I bring them to my feet, the flagstone floor, solid present
Two black crows called Doves open the coffin window open
My brother’s yellow face
My daughter and I body his dead body
From a Kalahari camping trip his karross under the cold stars the high desert
his bed
warm not dead
____________________________________________

We candle him in whispers. The women: mother, sister, old wife, wife to be, daughter, niece. The women who should chanting carry him through into the life of after life. We who should have washed him, uncurled his hands, covered with a clean linen cloth his legs, his feet, his body, arranged his genitals like fruit in a bowl, put pennies on his eyes, candled him out.

We who should have wreathed him around with stories of his life
eaten venison, drunken the good red wine
We stood
sat waxen
with the frozen few
faintly sang
faintly
the litany

I unwreathe the Gordian knot called our childhood and spin
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~out~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~the threads a fine red twine ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My heart flip-flops about in its cage his coffin
the earth of water, a shimmering unhinges in the cool chapel

Flags flutter and flutter away, water the air with colour.
Prayer rises unbidden in the marshy spaces after the funeral.
I thirst.
Paint a large cross on black paper.

Wet on wet runs away, drifts
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~off~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

______________________________________________

I seem to be standing here
Under the branches
In the wind
In water In water
without water
In a desert. In the wind.

… … … … Grains in my mouth … … … …

I say his name.
Tell it to the dogs.
______________________________________________

You were island country
pebble rolled around the tides
your hand grain of it’s corn knows at last the moment
But most
you stand
at a door in the centrehouse
with no break for the earth.
You speak silence in murder
Trees unloose this death, even its bone
Birds rest the world
After a wave, your pebble
life
breath
all soul
own heaven
________________________________________

To come to this country speak another language make up bloodstories of defeat and dust
To come to this country sing in sorrow the long lines of betrayal and silence
Learn to avert your eyes and speak of other things before the death of the brother
I cannot myself be a question. I cannot come to this country
and not be broken-hearted
I cannot be exiled to the far reaches of my skin
I am not from this country
I cannot myself be a question
_________________________________________

Mish Damstra

Something Fishy


I have found a stream.

I am following this stream brimming, swimming with fish, and I see an angel pulling a line, knee deep in the water. He murmurs to the hooked fish, returns it to the water and the fish fins away. The angel does this again and again.

These fish are strange fish. They shoot out the water and belly-flop into it again. Some have propelled themselves onto the bank and convulse in a fish-fit on the wet sand. As I throw them back as many return, throwing themselves into my deep footprints. I stop walking and sit on the bank, looking for the fish of my longing. I will watch the angel.

Before embarking on this journey I was attached to words and their meaning. I was looking for answers in books, turning pages, leaving moist prints on corners of words, longing for truth. Where do I go to be right? Here I sit on a stream bank, thoroughly booked. There are no words, no pages that lead me to paradise. No verbs, nouns, or adjectives that spare me a thought. I have booked my way out of living and into the lap of discontent.

I watch the angel hook fishes, murmur over fishes, for the longest time. I call to the angel when my watching is spent. I say: Angel, please tell me what you are doing?

Angel:    I’m angeling.
Me:    What is angeling?
Angel:    Angeling is like fishing. You cast your line and wait for a seeker to bite.
Me:    Why?
Angel:    Because I know and the yearning fish need to be told that which I know. So I am angeling.
Me:    What do you tell them?
Angel:    The truth.
Me:    The truth?
Angel:    Yes, I tell them the truth.
Me:    Tell me what you say.
Angel:    (Beckoning) Come here, yearning seeker, and you will hear from your own mouth what I say.

I splash through fish and water to stand before the angel. The angel tells me to put my hands in the stream, as if to receive something. I place my hands alongside one another, palms up, and lower them into the water. A fish floats onto my hands like a gift. I lift it from the water, and water pours from my hold. Fish gills gasp, fish eyes shine an unblinking stare, and the tailfin thrashes.

Me:    (Distressed) What do I say?
Angel:    Tell it the truth.
Me:    (Telling the truth) You are a fish and a fish you must be. Don’t think that breathing air will make you something more. Breathing air will make you less. You will die longing for what you always had – life. You are no more and no less for being a fish. You are what you are. Just be. If you long for nothing, you lack nothing. You are happy.

The fish flaps over the rim of my hands and plops into the stream and the angel says to the school of fish: Yes, cast not your aspirations higher, to the air above, but breathe what is yours. These are the waters of life.

The angel evaporates and I splash through fish and water back to the bank. I continue my journey with a lightness of tread and no fish throw themselves before or behind my feet; the water flows without ejecting its occupants heavenward.

I go forward, unhindered.

I have been angeled.

Nina Geraghty

I’m Not At Home

The winter rains have begun
in the drip-drip from the same old crack in the ceiling
Once pride kept disrepair at bay, deferred
now it’s the call to the Roof Man that’s endlessly postponed
for it’s only staunching the inevitable
These days even the rain defeats me
as it comes down brutal, hard, indifferent
washing away my home

The headlines slap me sideways
beating their message home regular as lamp posts
Rape. Murder. Dead Dumped Babies.
Over and over they deliver their blows
Banal abbreviations of yesterday’s lives
And the words follow me, chanting their grisly chorus
behind my back like tormenting schoolboy bullies
following me all the way home

And in the darkest hour of night
comes the sound of a breaking door
The splintering wood splicing me awake, I grope
and fumble in a drenched nightmare of slow
In the panic siren screams police arrive moving soundlessly,
blurred phantoms treading through the unplayed events
of what could have been rewinding in my brain
and wishing I hadn’t been at home

What is this? This fragile skin within
I long to call my home?
Evil has its foot in the door, edging in
the elements invade, the walls are crumbling stone.
Where is my refuge, where my escape
from this dark and hostile place?
I open the door to leave and unexpected, sunlight enters
standing at the threshold  – delivering this poem.

Cornelia Bullen-Smith

Why I didn’t make it to Venice

“Charles, darling, so good at making plans. A holiday! How wonderful.  What a treat!”
This is Belinda’s voice you hear fluting through the rooms of our castle.

A family outing is on the cards and Charles, generally accepted to be the offical leader of the pack, has been excited, bullish and clear for the last three months. ‘Venice for all of us. Three generations in one car. Culture, is what I want to show the child. I’ll drive. It will be a wonderful experience. Basta!’

Belinda, my kuschelig mama, over the years the recipient of innumerable bouquets of red and yellow tulips, dishwashing and other little helper services, hugs and poems, presented with a big smile, a big thank you and the ever rekindled hope that this padded image of myself might love me. It is this mother of mine who has, beneath the songs of traditional praise, kept her cards to her bosom.

‘Will this be safe?’ she asks. And: ‘Will you cope, dear Charles?’ all the while folding towels, counting underpants and shirts into his suitcase, muttering ‘I don’t want to go!’
Charles has been hard of hearing since he returned from the trenches. So she can mutter loud enough for me to hear. Sharp enough for me to remember. Often enough for me to make her wish my fight.

Of course he is the king of kings, a celebrity in our conventional industrial small town, the man who walks into any shop, any restaurant and greets to the left, to the right. Most know and respect him: Charles, the man who came back from the war with impaired hearing, an arm missing and an ego to build. Wrapped in teenage ugliness, I walk to heel, short sighted, anxious to please. He introduces me to his colleagues as if I’m his missus. You could think he’s proud of me, my father.
Belinda stays home quite often, is mother hen to the rest of the offspring, pats, pecks, cooks and washes. ‘I’ll always be on your side,’ she whispers when we’re alone, when I cry in despair and fear of him, ‘always.’

So we set out. A trip in two stages.

A family holiday is what we’re doing. Picture book stuff, first stop: Italian Alps. Grandparents, grandchild and daughter exploring a mountainous paradise, half-way to Venice. Staying in the farmhouse, dog-earing hand picked memories from thirty years back, sticky sweet, selected for primary colours of family unity and bliss.
The breakfast taken in a large room, includes carefully counted slices of cold meat, cheese, buckets of second grade coffee. Milk. This is a dairy farm.
We have the corner table with a bench along two walls and chairs on the other long side. Belinda and the grandchild sit on the wooden bench, cushioned by dark green and yellow flower patterns, Charles has the head space, overlooking the salon, ready to greet other guests coming in, ready to spot the left over cheese and wurst, ready to flirt with the waitress. Ready. The chair next to him is mine.

That’s where I let off the bomb that morning. ‘Papa, we, my child and I, don’t want to travel any further. Let’s stay here. Let’s have a lovely time, then go back home.’ Speechless, his face goes black, his eyes shoot daggers, Belinda sugar-creams her coffee, sighs motherly, winks at the child.
I become invisible.

There is sharp air drafting through the yellow door into their room.  He’s propped up by quilted cushions, the king holding court, Mr Justice himself. Belinda is moss on the velvet armchair in the corner.
I stand erect, holding my one hand with the other, secretly gasping for air.
Finally I kick the door closed, keep things more private, protect my child in the other room. My heart twins my stomach in a knot.

‘You!’ He slices the air. ‘You and your interference. Always your interference. I’ve planned this for months and you know it. You thief! Robbing me of the pleasure I want to give the child.’
My mouth is cottonwooled, my throat’s full of straw. My eyes flitter with sparks of neonlight. My ears are full of the kreisching of thousands of crickets.
No movement from the moss in the corner.
‘Papa, please, we like it here. Let’s just stay and have a nice time.’
No clucking from the mother hen. Not one cluck.

I give her another chance. ‘Look’ I bow to the king ‘I am so very grateful for the opportunity to be here with all of you. It will be so strenuous for you to drive us all the way to the coast. You’ve done so much, giving us this wonderful time, this splendid experience.’

I insert a pause. She could nod now, blink, she could just glimpse in my direction. Black silence snakes from her face onto her chair, around the room, into my beggar’s heart, strangles.
‘Out!’, taking his hand off his heaving chest, indicating PAIN, he’s pointing.  ‘You.are.a.disgrace!’
Even as I crawl towards fresh air, I listen for her breath. Without a whisper, she locks the door after me.