Steer clear when the light turns bad.
Avoid the rank smell small habit has —
“survival” is repetition.
Be as little the creature you’ve been so long:
untangle your life from the sad dragnets
and respond to the pull of the glad magnets
wherever attraction bees
That buzz is your rule of thumb:
don’t settle too soon for comfortable numbness
and whatever you do
don’t stick your hands
in that dazzling, advertised wealth
of the willing dumb.
He was a sales rep,
he’d hit the road for weeks at a time
trying his best to flog carpets gadgets LP records —
god-knows-what! Once, he brought home for us
a sample volume full of the start
of a 100 illustrated stories
but not an ending in sight
despite my endless re-readings.
(I’m still waiting.) And then
there were the ukuleles, perhaps a swap
with some other travelling mate, their thin strings
strung as taut as the highest high-wire;
our fingers, however, they were
no tight-rope walkers.
Perhaps his head dreamed incessantly of Hawai’i
from our twanging Melbourne gloom.
You can’t blame him for trying, can you?
Now look at him, old salesman,
shadow of his former sell,
but after a lifetime, the story,
Hawai’i, these — undeniable —
stay true past us all.
Photograph: Moss, Quartz & Kangaroo Dung
Step out onto that silent grooved plate,
lay absent-minded fingers on the sleek handrail,
and wait for that memorable uplifting shift
to platform slats of flat metal
out into magical stairs.
As wide awareness of the world
drops away from attention, sink
as you stand motionless
in movement back into personal dream.
What goes on from this point
you have little idea, and when the everyday-conscious
re-asserts its lapsed claim,
there you are, red-faced,
hard-pressed to recall
where exactly you were all that time in between
this and that — spot-lit — mirror-blank —
shopping-centred — floor.
Photograph: 香港錦田天后廟 Kam Tin Tin Hau Temple, Hong Kong
“What is the poet in Australia to do? He must learn how to make it rain in words.”
— Robert Wood, History & the Poet
Try fixing the boundary between forerain
and rain . . . Forerain errs forever
on the side of the individual, each drop
having a whole vertical cubicle of atmosphere
In this it shows, liquidly conspicuous,
but never showers, a doomed, one-hand clapping rain
that peters out for want of symphony.
True rain is orchestral:
it is — by instinct and by definition — a drenching mass noun.
Every article in a downpour performs
to the echoing chorus of its sisters.
There are no distinct palm-beats in a sea of applause:
the Supreme Admiral Pattern
enjoys self-evident precedence over all
that is not it — assertion, confidence, nerve —
and, when the rain rains off,
a wide hush like dust
endorses the world’s choice.
Photograph: Evette Kwok
It had its own special niche in the tool shed.
She kept a ribbon
tied to its shaft and, sometimes,
together we changed that ribbon for freshness.
It was regularly sharpened
in a shower of orange sparks I was allowed to watch
through one unsmashed eye
of a pair of old sunglasses.
She showed me the gleam of the razorish blade,
but I was forbidden
to go near it: we all bear scars,
whether outside or in, our
It had no special name of its own,
but with me — and only with me —
fondly she called it
her Great Great-axe of Kindness.
香港西貢沙角尾：黃葵 Musk mallow flower in Sha Kok Mei, Sai Kung, Hong Kong
Here I am, breathing life back into myself
directly out of thin air. Do you know how it’s done?
Until I do, I don’t ever take any of it for granted:
my chest heaves to the tune of monotonous oxygen;
the bars of my rib cage separate out so sweetly;
where I was stale and empty now stands vital and reconvened.
Thank Heavens, I say, for nostrils,
those rills or blow-holes through the nose,
unlikely allies of the heart
that keep it punctually loyal to the pulse.
The body ingests atmosphere of its own accord
since most of the time we’re off doing something completely different
with ourselves — but slap bang in the middle
off a suddenly heated argument
or in that jagged instant danger’s menace cuts close up right to the bone
that old miracle — part of our second nature —
stubbornly simply to inhale.
I go out late in the afternoon to pick up sticks out of the thin forest floor. As the dog circuits rabbit and hare scents in the tussocks, I conscientiously fossick, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on small timber the wind or bigger birds all of a sudden broke free. The hum in my head talks on and on and on steadily — sometimes I wonder about this chatterbox I’ve kept my mind stuck in for the better part of a life. Why will it never shut up? Who holds the lid down? The dog on the periphery meanwhile tests his world by wandering, breaking new limits in fits before he comes galloping at full stretch when I call him back to the centre of attention. Before we know it, the green bucket is virtually pleasingly full, presenting a satisfying bristle of Chinaman Creek’s local woods. He suggests with his usual puppy playfulness that he pull the whole lot out so that I can start my patient gather once more from scratch. No, I tell him, as it matters. It’s getting late and we must be ready for the depth of Winter with this fragile tinder crackle that lets the first fire-sparks go.