summoning the light

when dark mother birthed us
from the star trampled sky –
nursed us by moonlight tender
as silvered ocean swell
and watched us grow
saw our long songs trailing
tendril from the beginning of time
shaping and forming as we came

taught us to sing holy holy is the night
because she knew and she knew
this light that shines bright
in the dark of all that is
and she knew she knew
what was being built
and knew time would come
when we should hide.

quiet paths silent greetings –
hiding plain in plain sight
herb woman, green woman
green growing good wife
mid wife mid life old
mud and blood earth unseen
light on night paths
with quiet quiet lest this false making
rob the world of light

torch them
burn them
drown them
until the light
goes out.

but dark mother knows
as dark mother does
and quiet as candles
she has nurtured this light
sung low owl on gibbous nights
whispered the mountains at dawn
and waited and watched
watched and waited
for the world to want to be
the light that is
waited until it was time
to burn this old house
of shadow beings down.

now in songs as clear as raven flight
she sings saplings into trees
calls the light of silent ways,
the hidden, the hiding and the lost
names us all
for the light we always were.

calls us now to be here
be present
birth this light
into the new world

For Sherry at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: Conciousness raising during the Apocalypse

slowly spring

corona has left me
slow to think, slow to act
slow to write – a 50kg bag of grain
three times the weight is was before
and all the while the planet is hurtling
towards our own inevitability so much faster
than most of us can breathe through

and francesca the goat labours
through the bright sky night
second of september and perfectly on time
and i wait to the sound of frog song
and a silence that hums my ears
for the first inhale breath and bleat cry
affirmation of life tender as the blossom
that leans bare branch, unfurling fragile petals
despite or because of what is –

until impatient 5am under the star crazed sky
i walk out to the goat house.
first toad of the season, lean as winter,
crosses the path up ahead
my breath billows
dew bright in the torch beam
and slowly slowly it is spring

long chewing a quiet breakfast
francesca the goat raises
her head at my presence.
tomorrow she says,
or tomorrow’s tomorrow –
there is still time in the world
for slow beginnings

i waited a while in the goathouse
watched the steady rise and fall
of her abdomen, the sound
of their chewing shaping darkness into day
until the black rooster broke the spell
with his incessant crowing.

back in the house the kettle
metal clicks its warming on the flame –
fingers wrap around warm cups
and through the windows
the sky pinks and greys

there time in the world
for slow healing
slow beginnings
quiet endings
still time

for Brendan at Earthweal’s weeky challenge: SLOWNESS

of course the earth is flat when we are too small to see the curve

there are wheels so much bigger than
this cog and turning daily grind and
somnambulant reel – this moon swell
ocean gyre that counts the seasons as breaths –
this march of constellations across the sky

we live we die we live we die
yet we panic and push against our immortality
pretending only the old, frail or
foreign are mortal, when this life truly is
a moment of wonder or horror in a side tent
at a fair and as the curtain draws back
there it is, the sum total of human endeavour
illuminated in this life of where we are at
in all its wondrous horror and
breathtaking beauty
too much too much
to take it all in and as the curtain starts to fall

we reach out try to catch it
hold it open a moment longer
with a wait i am not done yet
i think i almost understand
what we have undone,
but there is no waiting
no holding back
and fall it must

and in the breath close darkness that follows
our hand finds a face a voice a hand we love
and pull them out the tent
to a gape of stars wheeling above
and the lights and sound
of the universe that is

and in a voice that has been you
since before and before
you whisper to the sky and
the love still warm in your hand
let’s do it again.

For Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: BIG WHEELS TURNING

we live by fire(and hope)

truth is the sun rose
this morning, splattering of light
low and cold – birds on high branches
moving and feeding to stay warm alive
shaking water from the trees
while cold feet
in thick socks and gumboots
wade the night rain become mud.
i know that inside a warm fire waits
and tea
always tea.

truth is, arm down a burrow
in soft wrapped fur,
i find five new born rabbit kits
naked and blind
yipping at the cold of my touch.
they know as much of tomorrow as i
which to be honest
is nothing at all

truth is the world is so much bigger
than we can remember all at once
without losing the parts of ourselves
that re-member here.
and of course we wanted flight
so we have and had it
and wanted and wanted
and now we ache and we break
with all that we are losing
rage with the fires
that burn and melt,
but we are of no use to this world
scorched by our impotent rage,
more broken than that we hope to mend,
more lost than that we stand to lose.

truth is my youngest daughter has covid,
and probably myself and oldest daughter too –
six days in and perhaps too soon
to write we are fine we are fine,
(though really we are)
because we know no more
than those rabbits down the burrow
naked and blind vulnerable
while blissfully asleep.

truth is yesterday new moon
we planted first seeds of the season
all three of us outside
under a fast changing sky –
black soil, small pots
and names like prayers
on stick labels
tomato and marrow,
cornflower and bean.

truth is the sun that rose
after rain that fell through the night
and watered the seeds that
were planted
were planted
were planted

For Brendan at earthweal’s weekly challenge: TRUTH IN A WORLD ON FIRE

imbolc in the south

Swaartberg pass – July 2021

end of july
deep winter cold
and mountains capped with snow.
first day out to clear the beds,
spread compost like a blanket
thick black and warm –
new moon in august
we will plant the summer seeds.

end of july
deep winter cold
out in the garden to prepare the beds –
trellis the peas while first cuckoos,
emerald green and tail flicking,
call from the bare branched searsia
brilliant against the ice blue sky
iridescent feathers in winter sun.

deep in july
snow cold in the mornings
francesca full pregnant and shaggy with curls
watches while we build new lambing stalls
pile them soft with eragrostis –
she knows the waiting
for the turning of the year
and the spring she holds in her belly.

end of july
deep winter cold
and mountains capped with snow –
we sit by the fire
drink endless cups of tea
speak the world
way into the night
while outside the windows
winter howled and hissed

deep in july
late winter cold
first blossoms open
like stars on a cloudless night
points of light on the bare winter trees.
and now we wait
warming seeds in our hands
with the breath of our living,
wait for the turning of the year
so we may sow what light has lived
through the long dark of winter
and reap what we sow
in the warming days to come.

For Sarah at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: Lammas

anyway, the blossoms.

first light
frost cold and unseen
first blossom unfurls almond branch
in palest pink –
crystalline translucence singing
soft praise to quiet winter sun
and the turning of the year.

some mornings you wake to find
the apocalypse is on your doorstep
(even though the country is big
and your doorstep is 1000km away)

and who unleashed the four fucking horsemen
who summoned their conquest, disease and war
and who even knows what the fourth one was –
death? death was with us all along –
holy as the night
returning our bodies
to the body of the earth
holy holy as the night.
perhaps we should ask the horses
if they were willing to ride into war.

and the looters defaced
chapel and temple,
the sanctum of the pious
and the worthy,
scattering the shattered glass
on the marble walkways of the righteous.
because the world will end
when you defile our malls –
take what you cannot afford –
what this economy
has deemed you
unworthy of.

and when the smoke cleared
and the plastic packaging
tumbled lonely ghost
in the semi dark of destruction
and the bodies were found –
trampled and crushed,
burned and shot
in the fervour of desperation.

when the smoke cleared
and the bodies were found
lost – sacrificed
to the cold gods of capitalism
who rewards the devout
and the privileged
with the blood of the living,
the sweat and small joys
of those they deemed
and we counted the damage in rands.

when the smoke cleared,
the bodies were buried
in the name of the father
and of the son and of the
holy ghost of every woman
burned, trampled and stepped on
in the bloody march of christianity
and its prodigal son capitalism,
who turned the sacred earth to dirt
and renamed the living as resources.

first light
frost cold and unseen
first blossom unfurls almond branch
in palest pink –
crystalline translucence singing
soft praise to quiet winter sun
and the turning of the year.

some mornings you wake
to find the world has turned
irrevocably changed
while birds sing the day.

first blossom

For Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: A poetry that does not compromise. ( The Anthropocene Hymnal)


small and round
i found it where i walked,
a lichen twined nest of the batis
storm blown

holding the perfect circle
nesting within my hands,
consumed by the miracle of forest

light falling with leaves between leaves
revealed the old mare’s white mane
spiraled around with grasses and seed down
and there, woven tight and neat
a yellow thread plucked
from the flag we hoisted high
on the bean pole to watch the wind blow.

in amongst the spider silk,
holding moss to lichen and grass,
in bright impossible knot work
was hair, human –
unmistakably long and dark and mine.
the gift was both a nest and a knowing
of slow entanglement,

never more can i be
a mere observer of this forest
or stand separate and alone
in awe of its beauty
for today and a while now
our living is woven
into tree.

march 2013
first published in holy ground 2014

Linking to earthweal’s open link weekend #74

I was reminded of this moment (misremembered some of the details) when reading Brendan’s The Cardinals submitted for last week’s weekly challenge at earthweal.


Image by Tamarisk-Ray Glogauer

the world deconstructs us
takes us apart
until bone fragment and skin smear –
we are identifiable as human alone,
but our humanity exists in the world
we have torn ourselves from.
the one where a phalange in a cave in siberia
is not enough to tell the fern soaked story
of lives lived in tree shadow,
tell the stories between blood and water
breath birth and death that prowls just beyond
the light of fire
the warmth of touch
and stench of living

and yet and yet
we are this world that deconstructs
and cleanses us of our humanity; this
and everything we were before,
the ghosts of our living past
doing a merry bone dance
alongside our daily shuffle
from bed
to work
to bed.

alone in a room
lights dim curtains drawn
air-conditioner breathing comfortably
in perpetual nowhere time.
alone in a room
a child a man
a human sits
amongst the plastic debris
and food waste of their living
controls resting in limp hands
while the room staggers pauses
flashes blue with a repeat message
on the screen
game over
game over
game over

alone in the dark
by torchlight
my daughter and i
check the rabbit house for damage.
woken 2am by a voice
that must have been the soundtrack
for every monster movie ever made
and who knew they even made that sound
until we caught them teeth bared
in a beam of light.
but now is dark and chill as we
cautiously reach into the too quiet night –
trying to hear if they have gone,
honey badger
mid-small and bumbling
cute at a distance, but crazy strong
and ferocious enough
to take on a pride of lions
if need be.

they are not messy hunters
no blood – clean neck break,
prey carried off into the night.

and hard as it is
to tally these midnight losses
we, the rabbits, the humans,
the badger, the chickens
the goats, the genet, the caracal
the cats, the owl, the sunbird, the moth –
we live by this forest –
live by the life growing green verdant
on this forest edge.

much as we live by the world
and think there is no balance and check
think that this world of glass bubbles
and steel does not have to obey
the laws of the earth that it is –
are surprised when balance
looks like a dust storm,
a heatwave
a virus.

and there is nothing to be taken personally
there is no person, big picture, separate
or alone
the only single entity
on the planet
is the planet itself
and even then
it is unlikely she lives
untethered and alone
in the aching darkness
of forever.

breakfast was toast.
sourdough from the market
farm butter
poached eggs from our hens,
black australorps
large and friendly
feathers dark as night shadows
offering them some protection
on the forests edge,
fiendishly smart at break out
and break in plans,
competing with us for garden greens
which today for breakfast
are piled high on the poached eggs.
coriander and basil,
red mustard , new zealand spinach,
some late chillies and garlic
all chopped and doused in olive oil.
a midwinter mid-morning feast.

after years of this
there is no denying
that our bones are built
of the soil of this place –
our blood the tree sap
that rises in spring.

we have town clothes
well not really, but sort of maybe,
just shoes that don’t tramp goat shit
on the hallowed marble floors
of the local mall,
shawls that don’t traipse the forest
in our hems as we walk,
pockets that don’t rustle a handful
of oathay and a few clinking nails
amid the hush of white noise and unlight
of extended hour shopping
where we walk among many
masked and alone.

long crested eagle
waited roadside post
its crest flapping
inelegantly in the breeze
as we made our way up the hill
down the road
to our home –
we stopped the car
dirt road quiet
and watched
as she watched.
until enough of the laughter,
and the foppish crest flapping,
we took to the sky

again a prediction of night gales
again a fire risk warning
today 8 july
21 500 new cases
in the last 24 hours.
it is hard to hold the balance,
hard not to surrender to the fear.

there is no prayer
i can speak
for this time –
there are no words
i can shape
into winged beasts of hope
that may fly the forgotten skies
of tomorrow and tomorrow,
seven generations down.
i can only speak
to this darkness
that knows
the dawn will come.
and know that we are,
every bark leafed,
clawed and slippery skinned
one of us,
that we are the hope
of our ancestors
who lived
long enough
to hope.

For Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: Interdepence Day


two nights of wind storms
have blown my fearless cover

this morning the light
moves quiet as a snake
and golden across the hills –
illuminates tree by standing tree

for now the wind has settled,
silent and stripped bare
the world wakes –
my feet crunch brittle
in the fallen leaves
picking a way between
dropped branches

small birds are counting their living,
calling to each other high and sweet
from the new swept trees.

there is no hiding
under a big storm sky
we hunker down
we wait wakeful alert
we pray.

in this slow morning sun
i check on the seedlings
tend the peas
take note of what still stands
what still holds
despite it all.

vegetable garden damp
seeps the hems of my skirt
the taste of gratitude
like new raspberry
on my tongue

high against the clouds
ibis still fly their prayer runes
across the sky

where our words have failed
the earth still speaks us.

For Sherry at earthweal’s weekly challenge: A PRAYER FOR HARD TIMES.