Thursday, June 18, 2009

Poem for a Big Ape

Where to now?
You have not left a map – the compass is broken and the moon switched off,
And the car’s gone, and I am barefoot
Walking a road of thorns.

Where would you have me be?
The gate shut – the doors locked, the stars sold or bartered for stones that fall –
Small meteorites that bruise
When I speak your name.

There’s no forwarding address,
No hope. No promise.
You took your toothbrush and my heart
And ruined the fairytale ending – my Casablanca, my Hollywood. My One time love.

So where to now?
When I can’t sleep for want of you
When time calls on ghosts that spin the reels that tell the story of us a thousand times.
When the gaps become holes and then craters and then quarries,
That ache for stones or water or you to fill them up-
Make them new,
Make them do.

Since when did my world become so destructible?
And when did you become King Kong?


On his deathbed my uncle saw his long lost brother
Beyond the visible before our fading faces
Some collector from the underworld came with pennies to bribe the ferryman
Safe passage past faithful Cerberus
A calling
We did not question his visions although they seemed beyond what we deemed possible
Instead we prayed for light and love and mercy.
Against the pillows his face a pale visage of a former self
Laughter long since silenced by morphine and pain
We waited and watched for death
Ill-equipped and unprepared
There is no manual for the passing
Nor the living
No guide that says this is a job well done
Mortality and its cloying sick note hang on every door
The inevitable collector will come.
Beyond the hospital and it’s sterile walls
Clouds gather and the rain beats down
A smile lights his face – his hand growing cold,
Skin parchment thin
A gust of wind bristles the autumn leaves rattlesnake below
And he makes his exit
Softly and silently
Our hearts heavy with the letting go

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Dancing girls

The dancing girls have come undone Henry said
Upon the stage the unraveled knot of all their beauty
Wound itself around the auditorium and strangled the empty chairs
Glitter rained down like blood and clung to every thing
A choke of feather boas lay naked
The carnage of some ancient and extinct bird
Blowing about the theatre – ironic flight – phoenix rising
A forlorn shoe with a broken heel points to the light
And outside, the box office manager sweats and struts and demands the return of those wayward dancing girls
While patrons call for refunds
On tickets that were half price
Skirting the silent stairs the sound of footsteps out onto the street
Somehow the moon is kind and the streetlights dim
Their blistered feet take respite from the cold pavement and their stockings long since laddered are left behind
The dancing girls are plain – their sequined skins remain
Tonight a feast, perhaps some wine
The music will play
But the dance is done


This will be the death of us you said
100km out of the city
Riding in your car with the windows open
My cigarette lit
I’d kill for a whiskey round about now
But I am dry as the desert
The countryside is a postcard from a tourist counter
Green hills that roll on and on to the skyline
Clouds that throb the whitest white
If it wasn’t so perfect I could live here
I count the stripes on the road
As the black tar slips beneath us
Every metre takes me further away from what I know
And the day is a mystery
Locked in my head
I think of things I’ve lost
A million miles away I float above the world
A missing satellite
A broken star
These silent thoughts like swallowing glass
You squeeze my hand
I wish I was an electrical cable
Able to transfer this knowledge straight to your heart
Like a phone line or an x ray
They would serve me better now than silence
Then my ability to talk
You are without doubt the best thing that ever came into my life
My sadness is not yours
You did not bring it
It lived before you
It lives without you
It’s a beautiful day I say
The clouds roll away and I squint in the sunlight
This will be the death of me.

Friday, June 12, 2009

For K

We will not always be this
Things will change
The moving parts, the tap root heart
Time will cement or tear apart
This will be the you I think of
Young and free
When stepping back through age
I recall that you, that me
Sitting on those cold stone steps
Smoking menthol's and drinking tea
These times will be the best of times
The things we wish for when we’re old
The cuts and bruises of our youth will be
tempered by the gradual loss of time
We’ll forget the angst and lovesick tears
And the boys who hurt us we’ll remember with smiles
And wonder ‘what if’ and ‘where’
Those words that smack of regret
I will recall your red hair
And the way you drank your coffee black
It will always be that girl I see
When I travel back
We will not always be this
We’ll change and grow and learn and be
But I think looking back through time
This is how I will remember you
To feel more like me.

For the Girls

For the girls born upside down
Fair of face, regal, yet without a crown
For those girls who just don’t care
Who wear sweet lilacs in their hair
For girls who bury secrets deep
Closer still their hearts do keep
Who knit their foreheads and limbs in knots
Who worship spring and forget-me-nots
For girls who dance to silly songs
And lie awake wondering what went wrong
Who stitch the silence to their skirts
Who fall and rise from the dirt
For the girls I never met
The ones the world will forget
For their voices soft and light
For their prayers that go unanswered through the night
For the girls I hoped to be
For the demons they set free
For their aching, gaping wounds
For the wishes that did come true
For the girls who wash the floor
Feed the babies and lock their doors
For the violation of their skin
For the hope that lives with in
For girls like me who come undone
Who worship shadows – avoid the sun
For girls who think they have no worth
The girls we raise to give birth
For the girls born upside down
Alone and wondering about town
I raise a toast and put it down
You girls
You bright inspired queens
I wish for you at night in dreams
I hope that life beyond the veil
Is a boat that will set sail
And take you where you want to be
The place that sets your sorrows free
For girls like me born upside down
Who never get to wear a crown
Who pierce the shadows of their fears
Who cry those dark and silent tears
I know you well though we haven’t met
You’re not alone, I won’t forget
Like you and all those girls before
Who mop the floors and lock the door
Who build the walls and pray for light
Who long since gave up on delight
I send a blessing on the wing
That someday your hearts will sing
That buried in your suffering
That one eternal, glowing thing
More valuable than diamond rings
The wish that at your blessed birth
You’re nourished on your own self worth.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Of Gods and Mortals

Apollo could speak no lie
He drew the sun across the sky
God of medicine, God of light
The dark winged crow in full flight
He left Diana the huntress fair
His sister beautiful and full of grace
Her arrow drawn to kill the stag
Goddess destroyer
Righteous hag
While Ceres
Runs the seasons down
And weeps for Persephone underground
All nature wild is her domain
Goddess of corn and grain
And Juno the queen
Of the Roman state
Protects her people and guides their fate
And Venus fair deity of love
Breaking hearts from up above
While lesser mortals down below
Pray for mercy, light, health, wealth and crops to grow
For rain and sunshine
For prosperity and hope
These little things that help us cope
For something greater than ourselves
For proof of heaven or to avoid hell
How fragile then we must seem
In our quest to glean
Some understanding of our plight
Knowledge to destroy the blight
That rids us of our ability
To discover immortality
Much time has passed
The years have flown
The winds of change so swiftly blow
GM crops we’ve learnt to grow
We rape the earth
We reap we sow
We plunder both land and sea
We forget our own humanity
Wars are waged at what greater cost
Than the precious lives we’ve lost
What great minds have we destroyed?
Making men out of boys
Armed with guns and MTV
We’re here for oil – and to set you free
Nuclear weapons do us proud
The worlds demise in a mushroom cloud
Enough however of doom and gloom
We’ve chartered rockets and walked the moon
We heal the sick
We council the mad
We dish out Prozac to cure the sad
We strive for peace
Freedom from pain
We endure suffering again and again
And if all else fails
There’s always Oprah
Who needs an oracle?
When there’s Deepak Chopra
And for a dose of sober humour
We have our own Jacob Zuma
Our lives are small in the grand scheme
But we live and love and hope and dream
And though we may battle or feel sad
We try to cherish what we have
We try to live without regret
We try to forgive and forget
We search for meaning
We long for truth
We hanker after elusive youth
So on your Birthday dear friend
I wish you joy that knows no end
I wish you comfort
I wish you light
I wish you the moral high ground in every fight
I wish you resilience
I wish you wine
I wish you prosperity
I wish you time
I wish you Apollo’s chariot to chase the sun
Diana’s prize when the hunt is done
Ceres fruits when life is bare
Juno’s protection everywhere
And finally I do implore
The aid of Venus from above
To generously and abundantly
Bless your life with love.


It is these moments
That make this terminal life worth its aches and joys
Together in your flat
Candles lit
We laugh and eat and reminisce
Our collective Joy lifts the roof
A hot air balloon bursting forth
It flies through the ceiling and over the city
Its colours bright as a circus tent
In this gathering
Who have laughed and cried with me
Whose lives knit to my own
Make sense out of my existence
Who make up the community in my heart
Whose walls surround me
Whose love absorbs me
Whose Joy implores me
Together in this room
We celebrate a passing year
And drink to Gods and Goddesses long since gone
The candles burn down to their wicks
Too much wine and song
And scanning the room my heart a warm beating pomegranate torn apart
Is filled with love and warmth and light
For a moment, brief spell of time
The world and you
Are one
All is as it should be
The dance goes on

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I still recall the day
As if perhaps time had frozen
The arctic tundra in my mind
A negative
A photograph
We had laughed oh how we had laughed
As if the world was not unkind
And you had held my hand
For old times’ sake
I was thankful for your kindness
It filled a hollow unmarked place
And the joy so acute after weeks of grief
Brought respite to my broken heart
How had we let the years pass us by?
Why had it taken so long to call?
You were much the same
And so was I
We had marked out a space for ourselves
Fallen into routine
We were suitably encumbered by houses and pets
We seldom thought of the past
We lived beyond regret
As the firework petals painted the sky in neon anthems to the moon
We let ourselves imagine time a slow and fluid kindly thing
And knitted in that hour glass
The dream of our collective dream
I wish I could have frozen time
That sad, sweet moment when you were mine
And transient joy gone all too fast
Was bound to our fickle hearts
And that the world required nothing more
Than laughter
To stitch the years
We parted on the Circle line
Returning to another time
Where I’m not yours and you’re not mine
But still the stars throb and throb
And brighter still the winter moon
Beckons to the falling stars
Please stay
But they are young and free
And falling fast and far away.

Full Flight

From the sky
The silent wreckage
Heaven bound
Below the sea
Eternal want of safe passage
Destroyed with all those dreams
The disaster is all we have
It makes us great in our small lives
How quickly spent this mortal coil
How oblivious to all its charms
Just last week
Our bridges burned
We crossed the dead sea of ourselves
And fate her silent progression mapped
Delivered us apart
So hopeful in the aftermath
We lived to tell the tale
While the Boeing lost without a trace soared its story pre-ordained
To fragment and evaporate
Its crumpled metal wings
Nothing more than this
In the end
A paper rocket
The epiphany
The apology
The answer
A day in June

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


The girl comes undone
An unraveling thread spins out her grateful demise
Just last week stars bloomed in every eye
Today is done
Tomorrow too far to contemplate
On the horizon
Distant smoke
Heralds the obliteration of another week
And the fanciful dreams
Of the whole and well
Render her silence at once acute
Perhaps in this tundra
Spring will come
And summers kiss won’t be too late
As she hangs her flag upon a mast
In surrender
In remembrance
It’s worth the wait

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

So long Moby Dick

I have resigned myself to the fact that you are not coming back. I have tired of clutching the phone like the last lifeline and have relinquished my grip on it and gained a tighter grip on myself. At least I hope I have. I said I’d give you one thousand days – today and counting one thousand and one. Patience is a virtue – that is the biggest lie anyone ever told. It’s overrated. It’s a ploy – to make you wait in despair for something not really worth waiting for in the first place. I am sorry it took me this long to figure it out. Well good luck buddy – your loss. I say it like a mantra – I am going to say it until I believe it…I consider recording it and playing it while I sleep and then I think what would the point be? I don’t sleep. And I believe the loss is mine and that I would wait another thousand days if it meant you would return.

I have played it out a hundred times in my head – the Cassablanca-esque reunion. I’m slimmer, prettier and wiser – I’m cool and aloof – I smoke menthols from a cigarette holder and drink single malt even though I hate the taste of it. I am the better part of myself – the person I imagine I’m holding hostage somewhere beneath the skin and fat – don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about – we all have one. Anyway that’s me at the bar – I’m wearing something classic and tailored – suddenly I can afford Chanel. I smell good. I walk in stilettos. I am funny and ironic and mysterious…essentially I am perfect. You appear at the door…you look tired…older and a little bit rugged. You’re wearing a hat – I always wanted a man who wore hats. It suits you. You scan the room – I watch you – enjoying the distress on your face when you can’t pick me out amongst the wannabes around us. You’re about to give up and then you catch sight of me and I’m looking at you from over my shoulder – a little smug and sultry – you catch your breath – in one instant I’ve you floored. You’re surprised – you’re impressed – you can’t believe it’s me – you want to pinch yourself like this is all some dream – the hat is scratchy. You smile. Your eyes crease – I am coy – I pray to god I don’t have lipstick on my teeth – I want to run to you and jump in your arms and tell you that I have missed you…I don’t. I wait for you to come over. You buy me a drink – white wine spritzer for the lady you say to the bartender – I interrupt actually it’s single malt now – you look at me trying to recognize me again – the woman you knew is gone – you killed her remember? She drowned in the wash cycle of your filth. The years of your discontent evaporate. You are enamored. You want me. You want me. You want me. I get stuck – the record won’t skip past this point. You want anyone but me. You want me but someone else. You want me to be what you want. Your want. This is a bad idea. I am stuck – I need to get out more. I need to go for a run – I need to be one of those women who run. When did being what you want become so difficult? Why am I so afraid?

Enough. Enough. I open another box of wine. It’s dry and cold and I drink it like an alcoholic off the wagon for the first time. I put on some music – something loud and sassy. I move like a stripper – or like one of those girls who know how to dance – who look cool on the dance floor – I am at one with the rhythm – I am gorgeous and I am free. I am young and unattached. I am going out. I drink another glass of wine. My mouth is numb and my tongue is thick and my cheeks are hot. I stumble to the bedroom and open my cupboard – a pair of tracksuit pants fall on me from the top shelf – they’re the charcoal grey ones I thought I’d lost – I rejoice at the sight of their comforting softness and fake fibres – I begin to pull them on then remember the mission. I search the back of the cupboard throwing out the wreckage of poor taste that greets me. When was spandex ever a good idea? Velour? Sweet Jesus I need a drink. I bring the box and spill half of it on the floor – by this stage there is a moment where I debate licking it up – I stop myself – Have you no respect? I look at a pair of green polyester tights…the answer to that is a resounding NO. Eventually I find it – a purple apparition of loveliness. It was the dress I wore on our first date – You took me to a Cuban restaurant – we drank mojitos and danced the salsa. It was the best night of my life. I was in that moment the most beautiful girl – not in the room – to you. Your eyes never left me. You smiled your gorgeous smile and dipped me. I laughed and laughed. I was happy – so very happy. And other couples wanted to be us and we knew that and it felt good to be the poster children for something other than one night stands and dirty bars. The dress smells of dust and damp – another life form has commandeered the left shoulder – it doesn’t look lethal. I grab a cloth and begin to scrub it off – eventually it yields but one patch is now considerably lighter than the rest of the dress. I swig some more wine; I can’t find my glass so I pour it straight into my mouth. The box feels lighter – I could have sworn I’d opened it recently. I pull off my clothes and stumble as I try to pull the dress on. It’s proving to be quite a mission – I don’t remember it being this difficult back then – but then again I hadn’t drunk three quarters of a box of wine…or put on 15 kgs! The dress is tight. On. But tight. I feel like I’m suffocating – like a sausage in its casing bursting out. I hobble to the full-length mirror, it’s difficult to walk – I feel like a geisha girl. I try to breathe and feel like I’ve cracked a rib – I suck it up. The mirror is a cruel, cruel invention. I am stunned by its unfeeling reflection. I greet myself in all my splendor – the dress is out dated, the shoulder pads are misplaced and the zip is broken – the hem has come out and it fits like a glove…on a giant. I have never looked this bad. You wonder how this is possible with aforementioned track pants…but really, I have never looked this terrible. It doesn’t take much for the tears to come – they spill out onto my red cheeks – I look like the Goodyear blimp – a giant purple Oros man – my legs are pale and I forgot to shave for three weeks. My nose is running, I blow it on the dress. I am beyond self-respect. I debate smashing the mirror or carrying it out onto the street as punishment. Leave it on the garbage to torture someone else – but that would mean I’d have to walk – in this dress – out there. Expose myself to shame and ridicule. I think better of it. I try to pull the dress off but it won’t budge – I swear in frustration – stumbling about the room in this monstrosity. I am beginning to itch – I imagine the unknown life form hatching and penetrating my skin – I try harder to free myself. A final tug and I trip over my wine glass – it cracks sickeningly under the heel of my foot and I go down. The pain is blinding – worse than childbirth I imagine. I’m still trapped in the dress and I’m gasping for air.

I feel like a giant, beached, purple whale – volunteers rally around me – pouring seawater down my blowhole. I feel naked and heavy. They stroke my blubbery grey skin – a guy with brown hair smiles at me You’re going to be alright – we’re going to get you back out there in no time. A shark circles in the distance. I try to talk – but can’t. I cry but my tears are lost in the water. Just then the six o clock news crew appear. A blonde with perfect skin stands in front of me with a microphone – the cameraman counts her in and she’s talking about the unusual purple whale that beached itself behind her – she comments on the phenomenon and the mystery of why I am there – I try to call her over – because I am fat and stuck in a dress you stupid bitch! She doesn’t hear me and then she says there is no hope – that the kindest thing is to euthenase – and I find myself nodding in agreement. Yes, put me down. It is the kindest thing to do. Within five minutes I am surrounded by men with rifles aimed at my head – onlookers are crying and I am gasping for air. So long cruel world I whisper as they fire. I wake up in the dark – my mouth is dry and carpet fur is stuck on my lips – my head hurts and a searing pain from my foot throbs in reminder. I roll onto my back – A strange sense of déjà vu creeps over me – I have done this before. The horror of the last two hours washes over me – I am too sick and sore to cry – I crawl towards the dressing table, a giant purple caterpillar – I fumble around for my scissors – this is the most shameful moment of my life. No wonder you won’t come back. Look at me. Please don’t look at me. I cut myself out. My body relaxes with every inch freed. I breathe easier – the air is cold on my bare skin. The carpet soft on my naked back – recovering I sit up – a ruby gash across my heel throbs congealed blood and glass and the carpet looks like the star in a slasher flick. The sight of it all turns my already churning stomach and it takes a will of iron not to throw up right then and there. I reach for the remaining sip of wine – it is warm and not nearly enough. With every ounce of courage I possess I pull a shard of glass the size of Italy out of my heel – I have never been one prone to exaggeration – not once in my whole life ever. It hurts like a bitch – I never understood what that saying meant but I get it now. I release a primal scream and the neighbour’s dog howls a response – fresh blood gushes out onto the carpet – I apply pressure to the wound with the shreds of my dress – God please don’t let me die this way. I feel angry – this is really all your fault – if you had come back none of this would have happened. The fat, the drinking, the accident. Good riddance to bad rubbish! Huh! I wave my fist at the wall like a French revolutionary – I debate breaking into the chorus of Do you hear the people sing from Les Miserable’s but can’t remember the words, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirrors poker face and somewhere deep inside me a sob swims to the surface – bubbles of spit foam from the corners of my mouth and my nose is red – the sob is deep and raw and convulses my whole body in its power – the grief comes in waves – a rolling tide of all my regret – it offers no respite, I cannot stem the tide. The tears flow, pelting down my naked skin, in this moment I imagine that I could really cry forever – fill an ocean with them and then? I’d swim. I wouldn’t suffocate on the sand with a bullet in my head – I’d just swim – and the waves would carry me further and further out to sea and the crowds would cheer and shout she’s alive! She’s alive! And I’d flick my tail and swim until the tears dried up. The more I swim the thinner I become. The blubber evaporates and I shed my purple whale hyde – and instead of fins I have arms and legs and I am fit and strong and beautiful. This comforts me – all things considered we take comfort from whence it comes. I wipe the tears away and confront the mirror girl – she stares at me, a puzzled look on her face – I stare back until she blinks and then a smile breaks from the cloud of her face and we laugh. We laugh.