Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

domestic violence


Yesterday was White Ribbon Day, to protest against violence against women, and domestic violence especially. We are not 100% sure if that is what this excellent and thought-provoking poem is about, (it’s a poem, after all, and therefore open to interpretation), but that’s how it speaks to us. Strongly.

We love the way the poem builds in intensity through a repeated motif. This is very skillful writing.



Oh but to shudder at the hands of a lover

Is no fun

No no no

It’s no fun

Mmm and they say she’s oh so clever

Got some charm, keenness about her

It’s alright,

They keep proclaiming

She’s alright,

Yeah he’s alright,

So let them keep on livin’

Don’t intrude on others’ business

She’s alright,

Just keep dancin’ in that darkened corner

She just fine,

Keep on peeling those potatoes

and tossing that great salad

Keep on sending out those letters

Telling everyone about

How bright

How kind,

How wonderful it is

to be around her,

Don’t let them see the secrets

Buried deep beneath the floorboards,

They’re alright

We’re all just fine,

Quit losing sleep over this duo

It’s their battle

We shall not intrude, no

Regardless of what we hear or see, no

She’ll be alright,

Look at her beaming,

Great big grin

look, now they’re kissing,

They’re aright

They’re just fine.




 not afraid



Do not weep for the dead,
They do but sleep. See?

See. They float on a river of dreams,
gently rocked by ripples and currents.
Warmed by sun, cooled by zephyrs.
Do not even weep for their lost futures.
For their future is peace. And
when they awake, it will surely be to you.

Weep now for the sisters, leafing sadly through albums.
Touching a face, here and there.

Weep for the mothers, who hold their empty bellies.
Rocking with horror, a life unraveled.

Weep for the fathers, lips bitten through in inchoate rage.

Weep for the brothers, with no one left to tease.

Weep for the grandparents, dreams of second carings shattered.

Weep for the friends, struck suddenly dumb.

Weep for family celebrations with one chair always empty.

Weep for all who are
mesmerised by pictures,
strangled by sirens,
crying in bathrooms,
staring into emptiness,
fearful for the children,
losing perception,
casting this way and that,
picking flowers
in case it mattters.

Do not weep for the dead.
They would not wish it.
Think on them, because
you know it is true.

Weep now for the living.
The left behind.
Bind their wounds.
Listen in silence.

And weep for the world.
Wash it clean. And cleaner, still.
Make that their memorial.
And let it stand forever.



Hating war – arguing for a pacifist position, even one that is not utterly purely pacifist – does not mean we cannot weep for and celebrate those who fight wars on our behalf.

With the tragically costly conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Remembrance Sunday – just like Anzac Day in Australia and Memorial Day in the USA – has assumed a new significance, and a new enthusiasm from the young.


From left to right: Distinguished Service Cross, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-18, Victory Medal 1914-18, Medal for Military Valour, Mercantile Marine War Medal 1914-1918,

From left to right: Distinguished Service Cross, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-18, Victory Medal 1914-18, Medal for Military Valour, Mercantile Marine War Medal 1914-1918,


For ourselves, remembering a father who died at 46 worn out by terrifying six years of naval service, a cousin who endured tropical diseases for his entire life after incarceration in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp, a Grandfather who served in the trenches in World War 1 and another Grandfather who received the DSC for trawling up mines dropped by Zeppelins in Portsmouth Harbour, we have always paused for two minutes at the appointed hour, bought our poppy to wear in our lapel, and subscribed to war casualty charities.

In our view, despite that, we are convinced that the very best way to show our respect for those we commemorate is to state, unequivocally, the old an unarguable truth.

“War will continue until men refuse to fight.”

This list of current conflicts, worldwide, makes very depressing reading. Are we really doing the best we can?

Listen to any old soldier, and simultaneously, along with their sadness felt for their injured or fallen comrades, and their quiet pride in “a job well done”, you will almost always hear them explain how the horror of war was worse than anything they could have imagined. How they often felt they had more in common with the foot-soldiers opposing them than they did with their own leaders. And always, how anything must be tried, and done, before humankind responds to a crisis by turning to arms.

Even the most significant war leader in 20th century history, Winston Churchill, who through sheer force of will saved the world from fascism and rescued democracy in its darkest hour, remarked, “Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war.”

From their graves, the dead of countless wars cry out to us for attention. “Don’t do it again! Don’t do it again!”

If you are interested to purchase my collection of poems called Read Me – 71 Poems and 1 Story – just head here.

A Determination.




I have taken a decision.


I am going to live until I die.


The alternative

is far too horrible to contemplate.



Determined, the bus belches its way up the incline.

Inside, cold white faces stare at me, unseeing.

They look at me but don’t watch.

(I take care not to stare

as they pull up at the flaky green bus stop

But I do watch).

Out from the bus steps the girl with the long, greasy-blonde

hair. I have seen her often. The sort of girl

you really shouldn’t fancy

(so, of course, you do).

This morning she pressed her body

into an envelope of black plastic,

stuck down the edges with a gash of make-up,

and posted herself to another pointless day.

Tonight she puddles her way home again.

Scuffed red shoes perilously splish-splash their way

past my heart.

A tight little ball of sex

and lost dreams, no longer hopeful,

and not pretty enough for her clothes.


On the corner of the road with the playground in

Pepe closes up Pepe’s Italian hair-dressers.

Winds back his shiny new awning

and gazes with smiling satisfaction at the light streaming

from his windows.

Lighting up the pavement.

Everyone will see what a warm inviting place his little shop is,

as they crawl home in the wet.

They will look at the bright lights and Panther hair tonic

and the piles of unbought faded yellow Durex packets

(“Something for the weekend, Sir?”)

and remember they needed a haircut.

(Pepe learnt all this from his father.

so it must be true).

As I pass him, he looks straight through me.

He does not recognize wet people in anoraks.

Only dry, springy heads of hair in need of

conditioning and cheerful chatter.

Next door at the late night grocery store

the till-girl who wouldn’t be working for the Indians if she had

any choice, but you know how work is,

reaches new heights of indifference.

As we all drip politely on her recently straightened pile of

Evening Sports Echos she is already in her lover’s arms.

Proud and defiant, she stares down confidently at all comers

in the local disco.

“He’s mine,” she sneers, “­All mine!”

Rich without money, a coarse, virile possession in an

unexciting world.

26p pint of milk kiss

74p curly smoked sausage groping urgent hands

62p Mother’s Pride Thick Sliced last Saturday in his car

it was the first time with him

won’t be the last

oh no.

She doesn’t even see me as her mind on automatic pilot

calls out my bill.

Well, why should she?


I press my nose to the drizzly window of the video shop,

waiting for the crush inside to die down.

Wonder if they’ll remember I owe them a quid?

The little tubby girl is serving, all stupid shy smiles and

dimples. She’ll let me off even if she remembers.

Little black boxes of freedom from thought stacked neatly

row upon row. Boxes of dreams.

Don’t get that one, it’s rubbish. Saw it last week.

(Can’t tell you though.

Don’t want to be thought the sort of

bloke who talks to folks in video shops.)

Trot home clutching our escape route for the night.

Never mind what it is, dear.

(Not that we do anymore anyway).

You stare at him, and I’ll watch her, and when they do

(as they always do)

we’ll clear our throats self-consciously

(’cause we don’t, so much, anymore.)

There was a time when we did.

Watching them at it would

probably have sparked us off.

But the spark went out.

Got damp.

(Should we have got a comedy tonight?

Always should when it’s raining. How come it’s always

raining nowadays?)

Now, out there in the street,

the dirty old bus putters his way home,

leaving a last late commuter cut up on the kerb.

Impervious, inexorable, the great yellow Leviathan trundles into the middle distance,

unaware that my TV screen has turned to a little white dot

that seems to want to suck me in.

As you quietly wander up to bed

I listen sadly to the occasional late-homer,

full of the desperate cheerfulness of a

drab pub where at least someone talks to him.

71 Poems & 1 Story is available in printed format and as a download. Share of any profits to the Bali Childrens’ Foundation and Alzheimer’s Australia


Very excited to let all followers of the blog know that I have just started a new Kickstarter project to bring a whole new Variety show to the stage in Melbourne. Poetry! Music! Clowns! Improv! Circus! Theatre! Comedy! Dance! Stuff! Yes, all of that.

The show will focus on unearthing new talent, or giving a boost to established talent that need an outlet.

It’s a bit scary, but you know what? If you don’t do, you … er … don’t do.

This has been my dream for as long as I can recall, and I’ll be frank, a recent health scare (all is well, never fear) has made me realise time is passing.

I will post more news of the project in a few days when Kickstarter hopefully approve it. Watch this space!

PS! Performers in the Melbourne area, don’t delay, signal your interest to me by emailing me on now.


recycle poems



A fellow blogger, the wonderful Miss Snarky Pants, challenges the world to create something meaningful (or just good) in just Four Frigging Lines.

Needless to say, we could not resist. Can you? Just put your effort in the comments section of one of her (so far) five uniformly excellent efforts.




In the gutter, on its own, a single empty can of tuna in lemon and cracked pepper.
Mouth open, like a gasping fish, staring at the sky.
I hardly know whether to rail at its former owner for his callous discard
Or to take it home and bin it safely, like burying the dead goldfish no one wants to hold.


readMeAnd as we constantly remind you (the house reno is expensive) to buy all our poems (well most of them), plus a short story, head to 71 Poems and One Short Story, available in soft cover or as a download.


all is well

This is how I want it to be when I go. Beautiful, and apposite.

I posted it on Facebook this morning, and later on got a message from one of my oldest friends saying he was about to fly home to his mother’s funeral. His distress was somewhat alleviated; he now felt all is well.

God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.

I was so taken with the words that undertook to find out who wrote them. The writings are actually a poem written by Victorian churchman and academic Henry Scott Holland.

Holland (27 January 1847 – 17 March 1918) was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. He was also a canon of Christ Church, Oxford. The Scott Holland Memorial Lectures are held in his memory.

He was born at Ledbury, Herefordshire, the son of George Henry Holland (1818–1891) of Dumbleton Hall, Evesham, and of the Hon. Charlotte Dorothy Gifford, the daughter of Lord Gifford, and educated at Eton where he was a pupil of the influential Master William Johnson Cory, and at the Balliol College where he took a first class degree in Greats. During his Oxford time he was greatly influenced by the philosopher and political radical T.H. Green.

In 1884, he left Oxford for St Paul’s Cathedral where he was appointed canon.

He was keenly interested in social justice and formed PESEK (Politics, Economics, Socialism, Ethics and Christianity) which blamed capitalist exploitation for contemporary urban poverty. In 1889, he formed the Christian Social Union.

In 1910, he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity, a post he held until his death in 1918. He is buried in the churchyard of All Saints church, Cuddesdon near Oxford. Because of his surname, the writer, secretary and political activist Mary Gladstone (daughter of Prime Minister Gladstone) referred to him affectionately as “Flying Dutchman” and “Fliegende Hollander”.

While at St Paul’s Cathedral Holland delivered a sermon in May 1910 following the death of King Edward VII, titled Death the King of Terrors, in which he explores the natural but seemingly contradictory responses to death: the fear of the unexplained and the belief in continuity. It is from his discussion of the latter that perhaps his best-known writing, Death is nothing at all, is drawn: the frequent use of this passage has provoked some criticism that it fails to accurately reflect either Holland’s theology as a whole, or the focus of the sermon in particular. What has not provoked as much criticism is the affinity of Holland’s passage to St. Augustine’s thoughts in his 4th Century letter 263 to Sapida, in which he writes that Sapida’s brother and their love, although he has died, still are there, like gold that still is yours even if you save it in some locker.

Which is another sweet thought to end on.



For more of the same, head to: We like.

Chan and sukumaran


In a cell, or wandering the yard, the two wait.

Soon, they will be taken to a field.

Their choice. Blind or clear eyed:

one last look at the moon?

Stand, sit, or kneel? A thoughtful touch.

Tense as they hear the barked command

the three bullets will tear through the night sky

like eager dogs let off the leash.

Into their heart

or near it.

If lucky, they die instantly

if not, they will bleed

until revolver bang just above the ear

cup of tea home to wife.

High above, the seagulls will whirl,

squawkingly, suddenly, disturbed.

A child stirs down the road in a hut.

Then all is silent, ambulances

remove the bodies. No need for sirens.

No need for more fuss than is

absolutely necessary.

Anzac dead in captured Turkish trenches in Gallipoli

I wrote this poem remembering attending so many Remembrance Day services with my mother, whose husband, the father who I never knew, died at 46, a cheerful but essentially broken man, after six years of service in the Royal Navy..

I am very proud of this poem, both as a poem, in and of itself, and as an authentic expression of my feelings and some things I consider important.

I am largely a pacifist in my outlook, but I have great respect for those who put their lives on the line defending values I hold dear, and opposing tyranny.

It references not only those solemn services attended at memorials with my mother, but the many times since I have seen elderly people stand and pay their respects to the dead of both World Wars, and other wars.

Anzac DayThere is a wave of emotion sweeping Australia at the moment when Anzac day rolls around, with record numbers of people attending Dawn Services both around the country and in places overseas such as Papua New Guinea and Galipolli.

Increasingly, those people have young faces. The great grandchildren, grandchildren and children of those who were wounded, broken, and died. Why the sudden upsurge of interest? Perhaps younger people today look back to a past when the issues were simpler and convictions stronger.

I am also sure that the 39 Australian service people killed in Afghanistan since hostilities broke out there have something to do with it. The Americans and others have lost more people, of course, but those 39 lives are a grievous loss to a country with a population as small as Australia’s, just as the disproportionate sacrifice of the World War I diggers left a scar across the country that took generations to heal: the faces and stories of those brave young people killed in Afghanistan in recent years sure focuses the mind.

I am also reminded, on this solemn day, of the most important thing ever said about conflict, which is, of course:

“War will continue until men refuse to fight.”

If you are interested to purchase my collection of poems called Read Me – 71 Poems and 1 Story – just head here.

(Article re-published for Anzac Day 2013 and Remembrance Day 2014.)

Doppler Effect

Posted: October 19, 2014 in Popular Culture et al
Tags: , , , ,

ambulance night


The sound of an ambulance

very late in the fetid night

closes, then closer, louder,

howling, cutting machete-like

through the traffic for the ER,

then leaving us, passing

away now, quieter,

and quieter. Just how you

entered my life, in a hurry,

and left it as suddenly.


All there is now to tell the tale?

A wreck, and a fading echo.

fallenA very sad story in the newspaper in Melbourne today, noting that over 104 people over the age of 50 died in their homes in 2011, and lay there dead for a week or more before their bodies were discovered.

Even sadder is that some of those people – victims of heart attacks, strokes, and falls, for example – might have survived if found sooner. And saddest of all is that the same litany of little tragedies are surely repeated every year in every city in the world.

We live in a world which is theoretically more connected than ever. And yet, as more people live alone – especially more older people – any sense that we all live in a village with an eye on each other’s welfare is receding into distant memory.

We recall growing up in a typical middle-class street, with friends and neighbours in abundance in all directions.

Connections were not made because people were nosy and inquisitive, but simply because people were polite and caring. It would be unusual not to greet the people who lived nearby with a cheery “Good morning” when walking past them. Indeed, more so: to nod, smile and utter a greeting to complete strangers, who often became, in due course, acquaintances, and then friends. Nowadays, likely as not, people would shy back, concerned you were a nutter or from a religious cult.

We live in a colder, harder world, where the idea of a harmless conversation over the fence or sharing a quick cuppa on the back step seems immeasurably quaint.

Do yourself a favour. Do the world a favour. Go knock on their door. Any excuse will do – or just ‘fess up. “I thought we should know one another.”

Especially if they’re old, and alone. Just do it.



She used to stand, proud and erect, the Colossus of Assembly.
Headmistress of St Catherine’s Church of England Primary
Concentrating Camp
For David and Gareth and Julie and Helen and Me.

Talons grasping the eagle-winged lectern
she would gravely announce
“All God’s Creatures Here Alive
Ancient and Modern, Number 35”
and God help you if you didn’t sing.
(Except he wouldn’t.
because he was silenced by a glance
from Mrs T, as well.)

She had a cane, but never used it.
If found running in the quadrangle
she just pinned you to the blue breeze-block walls
with Yorkshire-steel eyes and asked you what
exactly it was you thought you were doing?7
And whatever it was, you stopped it.

Bubble-gum swallowed, marbles pocketed.
Prize conker? Dropped it.

I heard some time ago Mrs T had died.
They found her on the floor.
No-one called, no more.
So no-one saw.

Been there for days, they said.
All thin, and gnarled, and very dead.

In later life, she’d mellowed.
Her skin had yellowed.
I used to see her in Church, a bit
when time had pushed her shoulders up in the middle.
She just got all bent, when the rheumatics hit.

Always sent me a Christmas card,
even when her life got hard.

Mum used to shove one under me nose to sign for her
so I suppose she’d always got it,
and then thought I never forgot it.

I never thought I would, but
I felt sorry when they found her,
fallen and forgotten at the bottom of the stairs.

She had a cane, you see.
But she never used it.



You came to me unexpectedly
happening on a glade, as if
gliding over me like crystal in the early morning
cool like the fever in my life breaking
refreshing as the splash of a wave
murmuring like a gentle stream until I drowned.

And then you left as if you had never been
and all my world was dust and air and sand again
but I remember you to this day
when the sun beats down, cruel
when the sun is strong on my brow

I swim in my memories and pretend that you were real.

Stephen Yolland is a Melbourne poet and author/editor of Wellthisiswhatithink. You can find his book of poetry here. The book is also available as a download from


Stephen Yolland is a Melbourne poet and author/editor of Wellthisiswhatithink. You can find his book of poetry here. The book is also available as a download from


Stephen Yolland is a Melbourne poet and author/editor of Wellthisiswhatithink. You can find his book of poetry here. The book is also available as a download from

He would appreciate it if you could share this poem by linking to this blog post in any way you can.



JULY 2014 ~ A POEM


She takes a bottle,

smashes it against a breeze block

they used to build the barracks

that bake at noon and sweat at midnight.


Sorts out a piece of glass

sharp, fits neatly in her hand

draws it across her slender wrist

a green transluscent bow ’cross a brown cello.


She lies back, deeply tired.

More tired than she thought possible

sun incessant on her face

and, dignified, hoses her life over the wooden steps.


Within a few minutes they come running.

Rush her to the infirmary

wrapping her, scolding her,

but she is silent, crying silent, bleeding silent.


A dozen at least like this, they say,

because if they die their children

will have a golden future.

Dreaming of the lucky country.


And in the Ministerial offices

a man with glasses and a poor haircut

says we do not comment on detainee self-harm

we could not possibly comment.


We lock them up.

We send them back.

We give them over.

We un-person them by not talking.


And on the island, the woman lies

wrists bandaged, children frightened.

She is an operational matter:

she operated on herself,

but we are not allowed to know.


The blood bakes black on the wooden steps.

Birds carol raucous in the trees.

Her children weep midst the breeze blocks.

Merry Christmas Island.


broken bottle


Get the garlic. Grab a stake. Don’t walk under any ladders. Throw salt over your left shoulder if you spill any. Avoid slinky, furry things glimpsed in the distance.

Better still, just hide under the duvet.

A full moon is rising on infamous Friday the 13th – the very same day a solar flare could send a shockwave to Earth’s surface.

It’s a triple whammy for superstitious folks, according to Stuart Vyse, a psychology professor at Connecticut College.

“People tend to try to read something into coincidences like these,” said Vyse, author of “Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition.”

“There will be a small group of people who are undoubtedly, predictably nervous about the day.”

Solar Flares Could Send Shockwave to Earth on Friday the 13th

The day also marks the first full moon on Friday the 13th since October 2000. The next one won’t happen until August of 2049, according to NASA.

In addition, the possibility of a solar flare shocking Earth’s atmosphere and disrupting communication signals adds another level to the tension.

“Astronomical events tend to be seen as very momentous and almost biblical in nature,” Vyse said. “It’s seen as being very powerful and something you can’t do anything about. It makes sense to me that it, too, would be connected to the general fears about Friday the 13th and the full moon.”

It’s a long-standing superstition that lunacy is connected the full moon, and that the lunar phase pushes people to act crazy and triggers more check-ins at mental institutions — theories that live on despite being proved wrong by research, Vyse said.

For people scared of the curse, staying home might be a solution.

“People afraid of these superstitions tend to restrict their activity,” Vyse said. “They tend to, for example, not schedule a doctor’s appointment or not travel on this day. In some rare cases, they stay home from work.”

Which is all very well, except the fruit of one’s loins has organised a new Variety night at Club Voltaire in Melbourne for tonight, and we are making a rare public appearance to read our poetry.

It'll be a blast.

It’ll be a blast. Be there, or be scared. Your choice.


So come one, come all.

It’s after dark, so solar flares won’t affect you.#

Be careful of that great big confronting moon, though.

Cue howling in the distance.

Seats are strictly limited, so we suggest booking if you can, if not take pot luck and just rock up, we’ll find somewhere for you. And there’s a bar! Whoot!

A few drinks before listening to our poetry is always advisable.

#We are fully aware of the fact this is a nonsensical statement. Correspondence is not required.


Mystery first-grader’s incredible poem about dancing goes viral

Mystery first-grader s incredible poem about dancing goes viral

When photographer Jason Gardner visited a US public school to photograph some of the students and their families this week, he ended up taking one picture he wasn’t planning to — a shot of a poem, written by a first-grader, which has now gone viral worldwide. We’re guessing you’re going to love it and share it, too.

The poem, penned at an after-school program in honour of National Poetry Month, which takes place in April, quickly became a hit. As a working poet, we simply love it. We love the idea of National Poetry Month, too.

But since Gardner took a picture of only the unsigned poem and not the student who wrote it, at this point the world has no idea of the young author’s identity. The poem reads:

We did the soft wind.

We danst slowly. We swrld

Aroned. We danst soft.

We lisin to the mozik.

We danst to the mozik.

We made personal space.

Forget the spelling, read the thoughts.


Although the poem doesn’t seem complicated at first glance, there’s a surprising depth in those simple words. And it comes with the endorsement of several high-profile writers and critics, including Michael Dumanis, a literature and poetry writing professor at Bennington College in Vermont.

“I loved it!” Dumanis told Yahoo about the poem. “It captured the truth about personal space. The mis-spellings make it more primal and deliberate. At the end there’s an epiphany about dancing and what that means.”

And Dumanis isn’t the only one with good things to say about the elementary student’s work. After Gardner posted the photo of the poem to his Facebook page, NPR’s radio show “Studio 360” shared it with listeners and called the poem its favorite poem of National Poetry Month. (The story has since become the most shared on NPR’s website and has gotten more than 4000 likes.) Meanwhile, a headline on blared “This Talented First Grader Just Wrote a Better Poem Than You Ever Could.”

Though some poets and scholars don’t like the idea of a National Poetry Month, worrying that it will dis-suade people from being interested in poetry during the rest of the year, Dumanis disagrees with that idea.

“Anything that draws attention to an art form is ultimately a good thing. Because of National Poetry Month, more people encounter [poetry], more people write it and find a role for it in their lives. It becomes a long-term pursuit.” He hopes that once the student is identified, he or she will find out how much positive praise the poem has received. He also hopes that the student will continue pursuing creative endeavors and continue to read, study, and write poetry.

“This poem, to me, coming from a first-grader, has so much spark and originality,” he said. “Anytime you put a word on the page, you are making a choice.”

And it’s clear that, for this six-year-old, it was the right one. More power to his elbow.

(Yahoo and others.)