On looking at a statue of the Buddha

She must have been beautiful, Prince,
and your love for her as the Ganges flows.

She must have hurt you, for you to wish
you’d never experienced the dream.

It’s vanity to walk beside beauty
and trust the pleasures of the heart.
All this was well known.

Did you tear the jewels from your ears
for being so duped?
And was the pain not enough?
Did your pride demand more?

You haven’t fooled me,
I know why you sat under a tree
for forty-nine days and nights.
I know why your legs
are awkwardly crossed.

The serenity chiselled on your face,
the laugh lines sanded away―
your own hand the torturer of flesh
that once caressed her…

Or was that too, poor Prince,
something which happened only
in your infinite mind?


Shadows preserve the frost

Shadows preserve the frost. He observes
their dark edge giving way

to a soft halo-rim
where thin white ice melts
into green-fresh trimmed grass.

The low sun has made for him
a palisade of a picket fence.

It’s the defended enclosure
he’s hiding behind, having fallen

over sideways from the world
and its familiar regrets, into the shadows

where frost still lingers.



Notes she still writes
with warm regards,
her wounded ‘I’s capitalised
with a weak hand.

Reading without feeling,
alone in a bunk-bed,
way out past the front,
in enemy barracks.

Cut-off from logistics
and support. The walls
all shot through;
the windows smashed.

No point composing
an answer now;
no knowing which way
the war will go.

You’re a mercenary
of words, who should
never have pleased anyone
to lick your sword.



after Pablo Neruda

A difficult time
for twos,
when the number
is many.

Our four hands
cannot clasp
to form one circle.

Our four eyes
cannot lock
space between us.

Instead, we must
reach sideways
with our four hands

to grasp
who we can,
to form a circle
so large

its curvature
cannot be seen
by just one of us.

We can only trust
it will bring us
to completion.


A scene created from bits

A scene created from bits:
the slant of one blade of grass
pulsing with van Gogh’s eye;

the shadow of a gum tree
passing through textured strokes
of wind and hooves towards

your ghost, walking the line
of the old wooden fence―what is
perpendicular or parallel ever

in the leaning years? The fence
holds shape in memory only;
the order we overlay.


Lucky are the forgotten

Lucky are the forgotten, they live on
in violet and jasmine. Until death
the sun is always setting, never gone
from the sky; the golden light through
a high window, always on the wall.

The forgotten sip daily from a cup
dipped once in an alpine stream;
they transverse tussock and rock
to find one small flower to press
like the ancients into a book.


Charles Bukowski talking to my wife in bed

“We’re much better at that than when we started.”

“Isn’t that true of anything?

“Not running, we’re worse at that.”

“I’d rather get better at what we just did, than running.”

“People who run all the time are stupid.
They’ve no creativity, not like poets.”

“Is that right?”

“All those runners, bench pressers,
body combaters, jazz-a-sizers,
they probably think they’re the only ones
any good at it—
but they’re wrong.”

“You know you’re narrowing
your audience.”

“Well, they were never going to open up
to this page anyway, so no loss
—but I have to see them
in public
running, riding their bicycles
in expensive fluro shirts;
I have to see
their dumb faces
walking down the street after 3 hours
at the gym,
I should be able to say
in my own poem
hardly anyone
will read, that poets
do it best.”


Pruning the neighbour’s feijoa trees

Ancient branches twist and snarl, under attack
from shining shears, inflicting scratches

on the forearms of their attacker, pushing him
madly beyond the fence line, dangerously high

on his unsteady ladder; closer now to distant Helios,
his cap-helmeted head above the common melee

like tall Achilles, who in the heat of dusty battle
may also have snapped branches with his bare hands.


About bubbles

for Poppy and Lennox

there are super-rainbow bubbles,
bubbles that pop in a second,
bubbles that fly in your face

there are bubbles the dog barks at,
bubbles you have to chase,
bubbles no one sees

there are bubbles that divide
into smaller bubbles,
bubbles that land in the grass
and must be hit with a stick

then there are the bubbles
which last longer than the rest

(by some accident of bubble technology
which you or I can never know)

that float up on the wind,
over the house, or the road,
higher than the Norfolk Pine

these are the bubbles which
never pop, but go on forever…


Damp laundry

Damp laundry
smells sweet in summer
pulled from the well
of the machine

the expectation
of summer ease, living
slow, the patience
to hang each sock

stopping to take in
the sky, watch the leaves
of the olive tree breathe
and shimmer—

remember in winter
an oppressive odour
and cold fingers
moving quick and blind?