Category Archives: poem

looking at baby animals therapy

For the dVerse Haibun Monday prompt, “solstice

On Sunday I walked down to my neighbour’s place to see if her overdue new calf had been born. I dawdled and delayed, scared to look in case it was still-born. But there it was, a few hours old, already fluffy and staggering around uncertainly. And I cried and cried when I saw it. Great sobs bringing up the darkness of the last months, washed out in a flood of tears (and, inevitably, quite a lot of snot). God knows what the cow thought of me, sobbing hysterically next to her. But she looked me in the eye and lowed loudly. I don’t think it was sympathy, she just wanted this mad human away from her calf.
Yesterday I planted two apricot trees, with a bag of manure each. The winter sun, even on the second-shortest of days, was warm in the garden and lifted sweet tendrils of scent from the horse and cow manure. Sweet scent of manure, sharp scent of calendulas, a comforting twist of woodsmoke from the chimney. Sitting on the ground, I day-dreamed of apricots – sun warmed, juicy and tangy-sweet, the colour of winter sunsets.
Today, my neighbour left a bunch of flowers on the gate for me. On this shortest day of the year, I have flowers on my kitchen table, the hope of summer apricots, and a fluffy calf I can visit later when the sun comes out. And if it doesn’t come out, perhaps there will be rain for my apricot trees.

let’s start the new year
with the solstice, so that each
new day is brighter

cow and calf

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2004 – 2022

all those moments
when the inside didn’t match the outside
when no one looked closely enough to see
all those moments
when I couldn’t say just what I felt
when I said nothing instead
all those moments
when we were together
when I was so alone
all those moments
of trying to understand
of trying to be understood
all those moments
of wondering why I am here
of wondering whether I can bear to stay
all those moments
will be lost in time like tears in rain
will be over as the rope snaps taut

 

This was written for the dVerse “words of departure” prompt, and to help me process a death I’ve been struggling to come to terms with. I’ve been wanting to write something about it, and while when I first saw the prompt I didn’t think I’d be able to write to it, it actually tuned out to be a way to begin processing this. The prompt required the inclusion of a quote from a selection. I chose “all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain” from Bladerunner (one of my favourite films).        

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say it, spell it, say it again

For the dVerse Monday quadrille prompt “casting a poetic spell“:

 

Waist high and terrified
they approach the microphone
and await their word;
enunciated and exemplified.

We wait,
no one breathing,
as they say it,
spell it,
say it again.

Then sigh in shared sorrow
or breathe out in shared relief,
whoever’s child it is.

 

Years ago one of my sons made it to the NSW state spelling bee final. My proudest mum-moment was at the end of the regional finals when he got a second word after stuffing up a first, and then the only other remaining contestant stuffed hers and didn’t get a second chance.  He was declared the winner. And he went and told the judge that the other contestant should have had a second chance too. I know he reads my blog sometimes, and I hope he knows how proud he makes me, not just that day, but always. 

But on the whole I dislike spelling bees. The poor kids looked so tiny and so frightened, and it was painful watching any of them when they got a word wrong and their little faces crumpled no matter how stoic they tried to be.  I think every parent felt that, based on the collective sigh of sorrow whenever any child went out.  

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good things only #4: unexpected gifts

It’s been a while since I posted one of these, inspired by Sean’s series of “good things only”. And thank you to OM for the wellbeing pack. It was a lovely surprise.  🙂  This time a tanka series. 

 

I morning commute

there in the mirror –
see the falling yellow leaf
dancing gracefully
in a slipstream pirouette
lost already in passing

II rushing between meetings

in the corridor
between meetings she gives me
a wellbeing pack –
I give myself permission
not to overthink this gift.

III walking to school pickup

a wet tennis ball
dropped into my hand by a
stranger’s smiling dog,
waiting to share his joy in
green grass, blue sky, and the chase

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success couching (redux+)

This is a re-post from a year ago, with an update…

We’ll get us a success coach
to train up our success
he’ll pump us up with slogans
until we are the bestest.
He’ll elevate our excellence
right up to the sky!
And as the gas comes whooshing out
our excellence will fly! Continue reading

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a little empty space

This is written for the Tuesday dVerse prompt “women are people: invoking Amrita Pritam“. Thanks for a great prompt Punam, and especially for introducing me to Amrita Pritam’s work. 

I chose as my jumping off point her line from empty space:Look further on ahead, there between truth and falsehood, a little empty space.” 

What if I wrapped up my truth
in academic verbosity,
called it auto-ethnography,
and submitted it for your review?
Would it still get a rejection
on the grounds of misperceptions?
What if I edited it carefully,
removed the tell-tale markers
like all those excess hedges
and threw in more self-mentions?
Would it still require your corrections?

I never knew there was a line,
between your truth and mine,
until you showed it to me.
But I still don’t see why one side has to be
true and the other false.
Can’t we just blur out the line,
and allow a space between to meet
where no one has to be at fault?

 

I’ve had rants before about being a woman in physics/engineering, and how patronising colleagues can be – how they are (at best) oblivious to, or (worse) blatantly denying of the lived experiences of those who are not (middle-aged+ white) males.  So I won’t start another one of those.
But here is an interesting bit of research from one of my PhD students: there are quantifiable differences in the way (senior) men and women write in science, despite the
very strong genre conventions.  For example, women use more hedges (an explicitly taught genre norm) and more engagement markers, men use more boosters and self-mentions (despite these being officially frowned on in science). The differences are largest in physics… surprise, surprise.   

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two strong hearts

For DJL:

I am distracted as I wait
choosing sunset-coloured pansies,
and when you greet me
my heart thumps
like a rabbit in my chest.
And there you are at last –
smiling with your heart racing
like that of a frightened bird.
For how many years now
have you fondly mocked
my choice of decaf?
But today you order two,
and it is my turn to mock,
as we exchange our tales
of high blood pressure and PVCs,
of dizzy spells and fatigue,
GPs, cardiologist and ECGs.
Two strong hearts, you say,
and of course I agree –
we may both be drinking decaf,
but at least it’s still full-cream.

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“sod off, ya evil bastards”

The Tuesday dVerse prompt was to write about corvids. In Australia, our only corvids are the crows and ravens. Our lovely native magpies and charming choughs are not corvids (not related to the northern hemisphere varieties), so that just left me with my least-favourite birds to write about. 

 

Even in the sunlight they are silhouettes,
croaking their curse-calls, their protest
at the wire and netting spread to protect
the hens who cluster in maternal distress.
These black cardboard cut-outs in the trees,
these are the chick-killers and these the egg-thieves
I shout and throw a stone to scatter these.
Let them search instead for a carrion feast.

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a rabbit in my chest

For the dVerse Monday haibun prompt “Summer“, let me tell you about my day….

 

A trip to the GP turns into an afternoon in the Goulburn ED. A triage nurse takes my history and some blood, then runs an ECG as we chat about how hard it’s been for nurses during covid, how good the change of government is for women, about #MeToo and wonder “you too?”. Then I wait again, until someone else comes to take me for a CT scan.
First some saline through the canula and a cool tingle rushes through my chest triggering another thump. Then I am waiting as the machine whirrs, and tells me: “take a breath and hold it… now breathe normally”. It is hard to breathe normally on command. Then the iodine solution is pumped in and there is a rush of heat to my face and between my legs and a strange taste in my mouth. Again, I take a breath and hold it on command as the machine whirrs.
Dressed again, though still speckled with ECG electrodes and with the canula in my arm, I wait again until a doctor calls me through. The tests have all come back clear. So the chest pain? …likely pleurisy, long covid. The thumping beat, like a rabbit kicking? “yes, I heard it – ectopic ventricular beats”, tentatively “are you still… regular? Given your age…”.

Autumn inside me,
no summer heat flush, just a
rabbit in my chest

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where did summer go?

The Thursday dVerse “meeting the bar with the Constanza” challenge was to write a series of at least 5 three line stanzas with the rhyme scheme a/b/b, a/c/c, … in which the first lines form a poem in their own right, which is then placed at the end. Oh, and it has to be in iambic tetrameter as well.  Ummm…. okay, here goes:  

 

We watched the summer come and go,
the fields turn green with summer rain,
then gold with ripening of the grain.

Now bright leaves fall from the gingko,
to reds and browns they add their gilt
as autumn lays her patchwork quilt.

Against blue sky, bare branches show
and a half-moon peers through their net
at pigeons roosting in silhouette.

Flocks of autumn carrion crows
scrounge fields now brown and stubble-strewn.
The winter’s chill comes all too soon,

so while we wait for winter’s snow,
we’ll fill the woodshed to its beams
to give us warmth for winter dreams.

Now build the fire, and in its glow
dream of spring and a greening land
and plan the next spring’s plantings, and

ask ourselves, where did summer go?
In just a moment it was past.
But briefly too will winter last.

We watched the summer come and go,
now bright leaves fall from the gingko.
Against blue sky, bare branches show
flocks of autumn carrion crows.
So while we wait for winter’s snow.
build up the fire, and in its glow
ask ourselves, where did summer go?

 

I’ve followed Björn’s  lead in going for a seasonal theme – autumn for us down here in the southern hemisphere. Unfortunately I haven’t taken a photo of the gingko trees on campus which have turned brilliant yellow, but here are the pigeons in silhouette, against a typically blue Canberra winter sky with the moon peeking through the branches. 

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