Monthly Archives: February 2022

scheduling cats

I was sitting in my room when one of my sons walked past the door and asked if I was writing a poem. I said “no”. He said “write one about your day, they’re usually funny”. Well, I spent my day chasing late timetabling forms (almost half of them) and querying ones that didn’t make sense (about a third). So not a good basis for a poem. But, here it is anyway.   


Herding cats
is not my calling,
but it seems again that
it is to me that job is falling!
Am I really asking for that much?
I just want clarity on what you need
for your lectures, tutes and labs and such,
and so it pains me when on your form I read,
that you want lab weekly for zero times two hours,
well, I’m handy at arithmetic, and so, numerically, I assume
that you want nothing – a welcome change, and within my powers,
until I read further and discover that you’ve requested a specific room…
I cannot help but think there must be some mistake here,
Perhaps this is a typo, you hit zero instead of one?
Although on the keyboard they are hardly near
pondering the keyboard, a conclusion comes
you must mean nine times two hours lab,
well, I can schedule that in for you,
oh, your timetable will be fab!
Now, tutes – twenty-two?


Filed under poem, rants

come blackberrying

Bright white paper-scrap butterflies
flit and flutter by the roadside,
beside the passing roaring cars
among their passengers’ discards –
cans and bottles, fast-food wraps,
brought by highway, the city’s scraps.

But walk with me into the trees,
where butterflies like autumn leaves
all rise and swirl, then drift to ground
in shades of russet, yellow, brown.
Ripe grasses wave their waist-high plumes,
and tethered between the thistle blooms
silken threads from jewelled spiders
catch the careless zephyr riders.
Come, follow me, up the hillside,
skirting the webs and thistles stride
to where the brambles arch and mound
and birdsong is the loudest sound.

We’ll pluck the fruit, so ripe and sweet,
some for our baskets and some to eat,
sweat slicked, hands pricked, faces glowing
stained by musky juices flowing,
‘til sated at last with fruit, my love,
come lie with me with just sky above.


Filed under poem

oinklet (an oinky sparrowlet)

It’s been a while since I’ve written a poem about my pig, so here in oinky sparrowlet for the Thursday dVerse prompt “Poetry form: Sparrowlet“:


My piggy-wig, my darling girl,
your tail with such a sweetling curl,
in the garden you snoutly dig,
and roughly little plants you hurl,
then break the birdbath as you swig,
my darling girl, my piggy wig.

He saw the mess, the angry man,
he wonders what on earth we can
do with such an awful pig-pest –
he’s thinking of the frying pan
and how to send you to your rest!
The angry man, he saw the mess!

Oh, run and hide, or bacon be,
He knows the truth, so while you’re free,
gallop, gallop before you’re fried,
and served with toast and egg, crisply
browned, with brown sauce. My piggy, flee,
or bacon be! Oh run and hide!


A sparrrowlet has 6-line stanzas, 8 syllables per line, rhyme scheme (as explained by Grace):


with the two halves of the first line repeated but swapped in the last line. 

Thanks Grace! This was a fun form to play with. 




Filed under pig, poem

ask me no questions…

For the dVerse “a penny for your thoughts” prompt from Lillian. Greetings from summery Aus! The challenge was to choose an adage or proverb from the list provided as a starting point, and cite it at the end.  


It’s true, the truth will set you free.
But it will not make you happy.
So please don’t look into my mind,
you wouldn’t like what you might find.
Because the truth will break your heart.
And the truth will tear us apart.
So, before you ask for the truth from me,
ask yourself first – do you want to be free?


I chose “The truth shall set you free” from John, 8:32.  The chapter begins with the story of the women caught in the act of adultery who then escapes being stoned because who among us is without sin…? 

I have a quote at the bottom of my work email signature which I try to update weekly. Colleagues who know me reasonably well can sometimes spot my mood from it or recognise a reference to something going on at work. Coincidentally, last week, and not updated yet, it’s You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.” Aldous Huxley. 


Filed under poem

salt for sore eyes

It was my fault.
I chose the wrong seat,
making it inevitable
that you sat next to me,
mere inches away.
It could have been worse,
at least you were not opposite,
where I could not have avoided
such a salt for sore eyes.


A second quadrille for the dVerse “let’s get salty” Monday prompt.


Filed under poem

sea cravings / 100 miles inland II

Some mornings,
waking to hear the wind in the trees
roaring like breakers,
I smell the sea,
until the sun warms the trees
infusing eucalyptus into the tepid-tea air,
reminding me
that we are one hundred miles inland.
Yet still salt calls to salt.

Written for the dVerse Monday quadrille prompt, “let’s get salty” – 44 words exactly, using the word salt. 


Filed under poem

in your eyes?

For dVerse Tuesday poetics “after St Valentine left the building“, poems about lost loves, the what ifs, and never could have beens….


I wonder if you remember
that moment when we stopped talking
and (for me)
the sky, the grass, the pavement,
just melted away
(like a corny special effect,
but for real)
and all I saw was your eyes,
for that moment that lasted
just one heart-beat to the next
and forever.

Until, interrupted,
(did I blush?
I know I babbled gormlessly)
the moment was gone.

(I’m lying,
it wasn’t gone –
I wrapped it up carefully,
and tucked it into my pocket
for safe-keeping).

I will never ask,
what if you don’t remember?
Or, worse, you wondered why
I was staring at you.

As long as I don’t ask
I can imagine
that you still have that moment
tucked into your pocket too.


Filed under poem

thesis writing: the Rimmer method

I’m spending a lot of my time at the moment reading thesis drafts. And reflecting on the theses and papers I’ve helped students with, and my own writing practice, I have formulated the Rimmer toilet paper methodology for thesis writing and reviewing to help other supervisors and their students.

The methodology is inspired by Rimmer’s frugal use of toilet paper: “one up, one down, one to polish”. Applying the same idea to thesis reviewing saves the time of the both the student and the supervisor.
The aim is that the supervisor only has to read the thesis three times, and the student doesn’t go mad revising draft after draft.
This how it works:

1. One up: the first draft has the ideas and the structure, the outline of the argument, and the chain of logic between method, results and conclusions with enough data to support the argument. And that’s all. So, on the reading of this draft, the sticky and lumpy problems get sorted, and direction for what else needs to go in is clarified. The result of this reading is that the page/word count goes up, because the student goes away with a clear understanding of what to do to put where.

2. One down: the second draft should be pretty much complete, and logically sequenced. A little bit of structural editing happens at this stage – paragraphs get moved, the argument gets tightened up. And this is where stuff that doesn’t need to be in there gets deleted. You can’t afford to be precious – if it doesn’t contribute clearly and directly, cut it out. The result of this reading is the page/word count goes down.

3. One to polish: the third draft should be the last if you did the first two well. This is the copyedit and proofread stage – just making it read nicely, fixing grammar and spelling errors: polishing.  This stage must be preceded by the previous two, because you can’t shine… a first draft.

As a supervisor, sometimes it feels like a whole roll of toilet paper has to be used to clean up a thesis between first mucky draft and final polished perfection. And after the tenth reading you start to want to insert the thesis sideways into even the best of students. But the thoughtful application of the “one up, one down, one to polish” methodology will save time and support better student-supervisor relationships.

Note that the “one up, one down, one to polish” methodology is most suitable for lengthy pieces of writing, where a theme or argument needs to be sustained. For very short pieces, such as blog posts, the urinal method is perfectly acceptable – just squirt it out, and walk away.


Filed under musings, prose

sonnet for D.

Blue Earth-shadow rises above the hills,
while day falls away as we walk the ridge,
night flowing up until the sky is filled.
‘til we stand, sunset-lit upon this bridge
between the working day and evening rest,
and recount the day’s small losses and gains,
an accounting of the worst and the best,
of what the day washed up, its joys and pains.
Then day put away, and night full-risen.
we look ahead now to the next day’s plans
a dozen tasks, ‘tween work, chores and children
a dozen balls juggled by our four hands,
as we turn again toward home and stride,
moon-shadows leading, walking side by side.


I wrote this for the dVerse Thursday MTB prompt “some shadowy lines“, but was too late to add it to the links. It doesn’t fulfil the prompt requirements, as it’s a sonnet rather than a shadowed sonnet with the first word of each line repeated as the last word. I didn’t have the head space for that.   I’m finding it hard to write at the moment, because I can’t read and write. I can read or write.  At least when either is intensive. I’ve just finished reading the second full draft of my student’s PhD thesis – it was pretty intense.   


Filed under poem

Blackberrying, Lake George

There is water now where the sheep grazed,
a second blue sky
stretching from our feet to the hills
where paired upright and inverted turbines
turn slow semaphore signals.

Skirting the gate
and stepping over the fence,
avoiding sodden gullies and thistles,
we come to the bramble-mounds
where the sweet black musky berries wait.

Recycled honey-buckets over wrists,
one hand to steadies the stem,
while the other plucks the plump fruit,
some so ripe it drops at a touch.
We alternately fill the buckets
and ourselves,
until both are full near to overflowing.

Fingers and mouths stained purple,
hands and arms scratched,
we return home triumphant.

Pots bubble
and the scent of
dust, musk and summer heat
fills the kitchen
as we pour these dog-days of summer
into a dozen jars,
to be put away until we need
a taste of sunshine.


Filed under poem