understanding history as a list of actions that became us

in the beginning in the beginning
was the single song of the songbird
that broke the dark silence
and pierced the quiet sky
so the singing of this world
might begin

in the beginning in the beginning
the nightjar tumbled
moth winged bat whispers
across the path and into sky

in the beginning in the beginning
was the grey ocean of pre light
cresting silver waves to the moon

in the beginning in the beginning
our voices measured the dark between us
our words unshaping the world
that held us bound, making it anew
as the car crept closer to the dawn
our headlights counting trees.

in the beginning in the beginning
we knew the world we were becoming
listened for its voice among the falling leaves
smelled it on the salt tongue mist
that licked the shore.

in the beginning in the beginning
was this daily commute,
this stretch of spirit become flesh,
action become world,
this pause between the rush
of dark busying and the school bus
that meets down the hill.

in the beginning in the beginning
was the red light of dawn
stretching the expanse of heaven
above the dark mountain
of all that was and would be.

returning to dust

it is a long journey
from dust to dust
becoming and becoming
until we are
no more

today i sort the wool
rank with goat
and dirt of living –
hook out the bristle thorn,
lucerne stalks and seed debris –
air it on the table in the sun.
sinking fingers into
sun warm fleece
to say the prayers of thanks

because how can this not be holy
grown of the forest
and the sun and the earth
until shaggy with curls
and tree entangled
we meet eye to eye
on the cutting table.

harvest days spent in the goat house
conversations rising and falling into silence
while they press their soft foreheads
into dip of shoulder, leaning into us
as the long curls fall to the ground
to be gathered and sorted and weighed.

when winter comes
we will spin washed fleece
by the warmth of the fire
hearing it speak the names of our gods
from lap to hands to bobbin.

in the caterpillar soup
of this transitional phase
when all we thought we knew
of our work in the world
is being dissolved
amidst virus and enzyme and dust
that storms thick billows
from unbreathable desert.

in this time of transition and transiting,
it is the imaginal that knows
what we never knew we knew,
every thought brought forward into action
from the deep of our knowing matters,
becomes matter in the world
we want to be.

i don’t think i ever mattered to him
any more than he could have
mattered for me
and i don’t say that lightly –
i think we crystallise
the immensity of who we are
into matter – into embodied form
when we love fierce enough,
love enough to animate flesh –
to become an earthbound conduit,
sharing and shaping energy into form.
no, i don’t think we mattered
at all.

the potter sounds the cup
to test if the making is whole
a cracked cup, no matter how
fine the flaw, cannot ring
with the sound of its making.

in the same way
words written longhand
by light of tree
or moon or LED,
shaped digital and saved
by the transient gods
of data preservation,
are tested by the wind
given breath to sound them.
to hear if the note
they played from the deep
holds true.

and then what of these moments
under a summer night sky
when the space between
is no more
and the leaves
on the apple tree rustle
untouched in the moonlight
and everything ripples
ecstatic skin
in voices full soft
saying it is beautiful
it is all so beautiful.

it is the slow grind
of coriander seeds
picked early autumn
in the black stone
of mortar and pestle,
the spinach gathered
thick dewed in the morning,
it is gloved hands on the wheelbarrow
while raven shouts the sky,
it is pawpaw and kiwi and plum and grape
and chilli grown too tall to reach.
it is the slow everyday eating and being eaten
until i am here, the location,
becomes i am here,
the being.

because what do we live for
dust to dust
but this.

In response to Brendan’s excellent essay earthweal’s weekly challenge: EARTHCRAFT(a way of working)


invocation in autumn

by the clear light of morning
these hands have grown old
counting months and moons
on knuckles like prayer beads –
learning postures of praise
and gestures of thanks,
hands face down
to the cooling earth.
cupped fingers to palms
to wrist to palm,
skin invocations
to the waxing moon.

it is morning now, love,
the days grow short
and ache with beauty,
my hands an empty bowl
to the wheeling sky.

5 March 2020

WhatsApp Image 2020-03-05 at 10.31.38

Reposted for Earthweal’s open link weekend #71



Photo by Tamarisk Glogauer

there is no sanctuary
but here, waiting
in the soft between
rib and hip
and small of back.

first light we walked the waters edge
amid the silence and the shuffling reeds
waiting for the dawn flight of egrets
hundreds of white wings
flying the seam between river and sky
like breath across the water.

we came here to this place
this steep catchment slope
in the rain shadow of this mountain.
and perhaps we wanted
green pristine light leaf through forest
and stream that flows forever clear and clean –
but we were not that

thick wattle infested
with snares hidden among
old growth forest in the ravine.
the skin of the hill crackled dry
and disturbed

fed the goats under a low rumbling sky
in the goathouse we built through the summer.
found and old door with a porthole,
wooden walls, sod roof.
inside all is quite but the steady chew of cud
and the sibilant sighs of new rain in the roof grass.

these are our holy of holies
the prayers that shape us
and the living between.

we cleared the wattle.
finding forest trees and old scars.
had bonfires to the aching moon
burning the root stumps
sending sparks into the clear night sky –
we learned who lived here –
sometimes by bloody encounter in the henhouse –
sometimes by quiet recognition of other
while the mpephu grew waist high
and the seedbank dreamed a forest into being

how many years in the vegetable garden
last light, until trogon showed up
perched silent incandescent
on the fence post –
watching the scrape of hand furrows,
planting of seeds
in soil black soft now with time.

in the counting
of these numbered days
when waves no longer hiss on the shore
but counts its toll in available beds
and percentages of patients recovered
nine eggs from the hen house this morning
are solid smooth sanctuary in my hand.

we planted in the name of the goddess
and sought blessing of the gods
we never knew,
and we grew.

by the time trees new planted
were casting shade
the girls were naming their own gods
singing their songs to the soft growing earth
and my father had died here
his ashes becoming the land

and the years turned
and turned again
and the rhythms of seasons settled.
a wood owl landed with claw scratch
on the steep pitch roof of the house
to sit the night in deep song,
slowly slowly
hill becomes forest becomes sanctuary
we took time
we take time
to heal.

high summer i had gone
to the steep slope forest again –
to the tree at the centre of the centre
given myself to that yielding
forest floor, slept sun-dappled and adrift
amongst the curve of root and crunch of leaf
until my skin was no more
no beginning no end.
kingfisher called me from sleep
called low branched loud
just beyond my reach
called until breath by breath
i took form once more
found feet
and walked the world anew.

there is no temple
but here, waiting
in the soft between
rib and hip
and small of back.

this is our holy of holies
the earth prayer that shapes us
and the space that lives between.

Posted in response to Earthweal’s Weekly Challenge: Sanctuary


unmapping our future

if i say
i love
and it was not predicted
by an algorithm,
is it really love
or an act of resistance.
i don’t want to be mapped,
charted, measured.

i want to say lost
and taste that word
like salt from another ocean.
i want to loose myself
again and again to this
six note feather song
that falls from the tree
with late light that pools
amongst root and leaf
to spill over skin
new lined with paths
made by feet
finding their way.


5 march 2020


WhatsApp Image 2020-02-29 at 17.40.38



Linking to Earthweal’s open link weekend #70.



low soft their voices came
on white wings across the water
reflecting sky
reflecting water

and we wanted to join them
across that still forever –
touch again their shining faces,
walk fearless on the reflecting sea.
but our earthbound bodies
sang kin-songs to the rock spilled shore –
took form from the forest that named us
trading our wings for words
and the knowing and forgetting that brings.

some mornings water’s edge
we hear them calling still
low soft voices
like white wings across the water –
and we lean towards that calling
toes touching that rippling forever
and we cast our words in paper boats
towards that distant shore.

Photo by Tamarisk-Ray Glogauer

For Eathweal’s weekly challenge: Voyage to the Otherworld


not here: travels in the otherworld

drove to the city and back
six hours each way
returning the art student
to the university she evacuated
for fire four weeks ago –
some buildings still charred stone exterior,
roadside trees holding helpless charcoal hands to the sky
on the slopes of the mountain that runs black seams
up into the high gorges
where nothing but eagle and rock hyrax nest.

i slept the night on a riverbank
deep within its leafy suburban heart,
the treeline hiding a seething multitude of sins
but all i could see from my window
was the mountain peak
fading into the crescent moon sky.
i slept dreamless in that place
the endless drone of city and aircon
and push of river at its concrete banks
speaking a voiceless dirge to the night.

and slow the day came
warming leaves fallen
damp on the path.

we shared a makeshift breakfast
of the previous day’s travel food
fresh season naartjies
and cream cheese from home
on the old stone steps of the university
near the room where she stays.
pied crows drawing slow circles overhead
threading red roofs and stone buildings
to blue sky and burned trees.
the day stretched ahead
full with the sadness of parting.

this is the city that bore me
raised me through its seasons and shadows,
though truth be told it is another world to me now
bigger brighter more
its shacks and shanty towns bigger and bigger
strung spider web with electric cables overhead
its relentless gated villas and estates and malls
marching off to other mountains
swallowing kilometres and kilometres
in its suburban daydream.
its five lane highways their own special purgatory.

an hour away i climbed those distant mountains
looking back at the city
like a jeweled illusion in morning light –
endless suburbs bathed in soft mist and factory belch,
the bays and small harbours postcard blue
under the flawless sky.

steep driving down the other side
the road unravels horizon to horizon
through hills and crop-lands
playing pastoral painting –
dams and ponds brim full of first rain
reflecting the cloud skud sky

(and perhaps and maybe
as the fields speed past
and for a moment,
like in summer
when cupped hands to the surface
you look through the reflection
to the world of waterweed beneath,
the fawn stands green clearing
on the edge where the the old tree
reaches over the stone pile
and something twangs
in the place where knowing lives
and a doorway swings
open and shut
and the road draws me
on and on)

and all the while
the distance between
until my heart pulled taut
is played like a drum –
a four beat repeat
like a calling
like an approaching

and finally end of day
rounding the pass that opens rockface
to stretch of ocean and estuary and forest
and all the voices that speak me
i retrieve the skin
i left at the shore.

For Eathweal’s weekly challenge: Voyage to the Otherworld


on the nature of love at the end of the world

love never changed her mind
or changed her ways.
she has always been
in love with you,
with the fiery heart
of your living –
your burning passions
that could set a room aflame –
the quiet your of being
in the emptiness.
she knows your vulnerabilities,
your need to keep yourself warm.
and perhaps she should have
said something (and perhaps she did)
when your living flame
turned to burning desire
and trees began to fall in your wake.

and you need to know
she loves you no less
now that the world is on fire.
that she walks with you,
tattered and burned
thirsty feet crunching warm ash,
that she still hopes you will
see yourself in her eyes and know
that there never was any need –
that you always had been enough.


Reposting for the Earthweal’s Open link weekend #69.



in the moth dark
of time between
nightjar wheels
on silent wings
before first light
breaks the sky
and winter trees
like skeleton leaves
bare witness to
the rising sun.

fierce love

they say that death
might come
like a thief in the night,
but love knows those paths
through the deep mystery too,
asking nothing of us
but all we are to give,

and waking one morning
early summer light
to find my belly stretched taut
marked welt-red and wild
like the skin of a shadow-play beast
rippling with life,
i knew this love would be fierce –
that i could be swallowed,
torn sinew and bone
from what i thought i was

the animal snuffle-yelp of the newborn
would devour and devour completely
until nothing remained
but that which was always becoming

and years later
i would come up for breath,
those marks now long faded
to lightning-strike silver scars,
the girls grown like saplings
reaching for the light

and winter would find me
sitting forest floor,
hands deep buried
against breath bite cold,
heart gulping radiance
that spills through tall trees
until i come undone
skinless in the morning,
becoming this place
we always were

always loved.

For Sherry at Earthweal’s weekly challenge – Fierce Love.