touw river on a sunday

we came to the river
on mist forest earthpaths,
spangled with autumn’s first leaves
firebright and deep green veined –
on boardwalks tall-stepping
through fern marsh

we came to the river
walked its way for a while
walked where the forest
grows slow as mountains.
at the pont crossing we left the path,
did not cross to the forest hill ahead,
but slipped instead under low branched trees
onto the silt-sand beach in the shade,
stepped into the water to continue upstream
to where the sway of this river
deep pools into its curves
and a bright sand beach
opens a moment to the sky.
stepped into the river, skirts hitched,
to walk the clear water sand
between reedbank and deepwater,

but oh the tide, the tide of delicious water
so much more than the kneedeep we expected –
knees thighs stomach swallowed,
tip-toeing almost shoulder deep
arms held above our heads
keeping dry what needs to be dry –
laughing with the sun soft river that claimed us.

beyond the reeds
beyond the curve
beyond the chatter and call of the pont
we splash amphibious onto the beach
untie hair – strip and wring wet layers –
hang them on low bushes to dry –
plunge again into the river –
follow breathless that deep water curve
where it drops quiet and dark
beyond tree-shadow and light.

i would like to speak its language
this river that owns me
speak its amber water tongue
skin ripple – its gravel crunch hiss
to underwater ears
its gold leaf surface floating tide

but we came to this river
rain drop to silver surface –
submerged and swallowed
we are lost to the tang of salt
the belly laugh that deep bubbles
rippling fern mirrors,
lost to the unknowable depth
and the sinuous flow.

there is no tongue to speak us
until water formed and shaped
we are birthed again and again
to this world – radiant
on the bank
of the holy river.

For Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: THE LANGUAGE OF THE WILD



it is not like
we can wait,
burning as we do
with the long ache for
dissolution of self
among the choir of trees –
barefeet crunching
in late summer leaves

it is not like
we can wait,
hem entangled
in snag breath lichen twigs
and thorn –
to part ferns, soft grown
knee high, to find
this slow undoing
where the longing of bones
meets rapturous
the long silence of trees.

it is not like
the world
can wait

For Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: WILD MIND

wilding prayer


and always and again
this light comes
distils into bird song
calls us from sleep
sings our awakening


and perhaps
we never needed
to overthink this
being here –
perhaps all we ever know,
all we ever needed to know
is that we are here-now
women becoming
lichen becoming tree-light
bushbuck forest becoming morning
becoming women


turn their bright sky faces
to look to the earth
to the rich dark soil
the unfathomable life of roots
and microbe
and worm


you have to give yourself to it
completely, until you are boneless
in the river – a body of water
lapping with the windblown waves

the only way to stay afloat
is to give yourself to the river
completely, to be buoyed by
saturates and densities
and the lightness of your being.

to tip your head back
hair sea-grass to the saltwater
close your eyes soft
until bright sun through blood
and flesh of eyelid
become that other sky
and we become the reed-bank river,
the mud crab and the grebe
flowing with the incoming tide.


blood warm and smooth as silt
the honey spilled the spoon
drenching the afternoon
in long remembered sweetness


and when the rain came,
to break the heat that lay
heavy on the hills –
pushing our breath,
it came cool from the warm sky
and we who had been waiting
through the heat of days
held our hands and arms
like wilted leaves to the rain
listening to the soft splatter voice
speak our need fulfilled
until skin drenched and
stripped of our lethargy
we laughed with the sky.


between breath
and horizon
the sounding
of a slow sea
that shapes
the long shore
of our sleep

between breath
and horizon
the quickening
of evening wings
the click of frog
the waking
of the night


there was a time
when when her feet still
soft indented this dust
when the rain pooled her footprints
and the wild places grew
where she walked.
she dreamt the night erupting
in stars – and it did.

did she know the feet that followed
never could trace the intricate back forward
turn of her dance – hair and arms alight with stars.
did she know we would try
fail, try again.
did she know the feet that followed?


in the long dark silence
of this night
we have only this breath
to find our way through
only our bodies
our light our longing
let it be enough
let us be enough

In response to Brendan’s beautiful essay at Earthweal’s weekly challenge GREEN FIRE (wild and sacred)

minutes of the wilderness heights community meeting – thursday 27 january 2022

image by arum glogauer

we sat on the grass
on the steps
stood, leaned
waited –
some brought chairs for
the elderly, the frail

we came with empty hands,
old wounds and words
that burned holes in our tongues
and kept us silent for years,
we came with new ideas
and shared concerns
we came with love –

we gathered because it is time
because there is a child
on the street corner
who says she is hungry and
her mother has passed
and if it will take
a village to raise this child
we have gathered to be that village –
build a village from our broken past.

we have gathered because
there is a future that calls us
to be here together –

and the blue clouds
heavy with promise
held their rain until
the talking ended.

and the late sun
broke the dark horizon –
bathed us in gold,
skin and leaf
and grass seed alike

illuminated us
in the light
we are

Linking to Earthweal’s weekly challenge: The Swan

swan song

tell me now
how the world ends
now that morning has come
on broad-wings
measuring the sky with
the slow breath of feathers.

tell me
by the ancient light of stars
by the stardust that
became our bones
how this path ahead –
this real as mud earth tree path
never was for our walking
that we have lived all we can be –
that it is done now

is there time still
for that rain
bundling the horizon
to touch my skin –
douse the summer heat
until i drip pool run
rivers to the sea

for what is this world
but our relationship
with the earth
made manifest

and what is broken
but our hearts –
our connectedness
to the earth
we are

and what is this end
but shedding a scarred skin
too long held

screaming our fear
into the abyss of our birth
as all we thought we were
falls around us

scaled and scabbed and
crusted with old blood –
it must all fall

so we may meet ourselves
first light of morning
bright skin learning a world

For Brendan at earthweal’s weekly challenge: THE SWAN

nativity of now

when one by one the trees fell
when buildings began
to scrape the clouds
when goods became gold
became notes – became shifting
numbers in a digital system
became worth
when earth became asset
when coal of the deep
burned and burned
eating the sky and lungs of the living
until even the moths changed colour to survive
when lives became cheap
and everything disposable
throw away away
when whalesong became cries and pleas
rumbling the bones of our sleep

tell me
who among us
did not know this was wrong,
which child did not grow up asking
but why?

when they asked kane tanakei
the oldest person on earth
what in her life she had enjoyed most
she did not hesistate
or cast her mind back
through her many years
to find a perfect moment

but pointing an emphatic finger
to where she was
she said “ this –
right now”

so i said bring it on – the change,
(be the change – am the change)
let all else fall away –
and it does and i do.
fall. slip.
slip of the tongue and thought.
slip in the mud of this flood.
slipping in shoes in this mud
where no shoes were made for walking.

quiet mist morning mud flood
i walk – barefeet ankle deep
in slip-silk mud,
feel my way in slowly
until the earth offers firm footing
for our journey

when the end of the world comes
a man will sell his daughter for
food enough to get them
through the dry season or
drink enough to forget her name.

when the end of the world comes
the lawns of suburbia
will be neatly trimmed
screen lights flicker
soothing living room walls

when the end of the world comes
we will be sipping tea
ocean elbow deep
and rising

when the end of the world comes
a great plague will
creep across the nations
silent and deadly –
its name is apathy

when the end of the world comes
we will understand
that the world we live
is not the same
as the earth that lives

tell me who among us
did not know this was wrong
which child among us
did not grow up asking but why.

and now and now
the day comes soft
skin to skin
with air so thick and warm
with summer and mist you can eat it –
birds rowing the full air
on purring wings –
calling to one another
from the fruit hung trees

the forest begins
and begins again with
each breath of the many –
my voice is breath of the forest
flesh shaped and rounded
with the morning.

if we saw all –
the beginning and end
and the linear projection
of our actions and reactions,
if we knew already
all there was to know,
would any of us still be here –
would any of us choose to live.

we summoned the change wind
and it came
like a slow salt beast, barnacle-skinned
we summoned the change wind
shaping our siren prayers – luminous, winged
until our skin remembered the taste of rain
we summoned the change wind
and it came

For Brendan at earthweal’s weekly challenge: native to the now

“the land(here) knows you, even when you are lost”

on my desk two seedlings in a pot,
new leaves like soft hands to the sun,
a gift from a neighbour on the solstice –
a twining curcurbit that will hang with
seed-pod sponges come season’s end.

and now with the gift i remember
past years plantings
wild growing the fence closed
where the new peach now stands
long loofah like green miracles
expanding in the sun
and i know this land remembers
what i forget to know
remembers what we plant
what we sow
remembers that a garden grows good neighbours
remembers what it means to thrive.

the rains and rains
and rains this summer
have fed the roots –
lifted green tendrils from the forest floor –
surged and pulsed with warmth
of sun made green manifest
until lost in the forest
paths once clear for the walking
become dew drenched skin songs
shoulder high leaf ecstatic
with the laughter of birds
shaking the trees,
until invisible
in the deep tangle
of all that is
we are no more
no more

when drongo asks for cheese early morning
on the deck and i throw the morsels
to the new blueing sky, she catches them
impossible acrobat of the air between,
and flies off to her nest in the ragged tree
on the neighbouring hill
her black winged flight a speck
amongst the trees.
she knows this forest, despite
title and deed and stale thought
that divided the indivisible,
knows this forest can never be owned
or fenced, that we the living
bird human tree
are always and all-ways
one organism in communion
with the light that always was –
one tumble of voices
holding up the sky.

For Brendan at Earthweal’s Weekly Challenge – ben-bolcain


despite or perhaps because of the
bone soaking rain that has been singing
green earthsongs to the season
and the cool that has us in socks midsummer,

we have brought the evergreen inside
hung it with strings of beads and every
carved or faceted christmas memory,
danced by its flickering light
a foot stamping belly laughing kind of dance
counted in eights and swinging steps
elbow to elbow. i do not know
whose dance this is or why tonight
to the sound of rain and a haphazard playlist
we have been shaking the rafters –
but it does not matter,
none of us know anything any more.

and we sing the songs
of gathering the faithful
songs of the light the light,
calling on what comes with
this turning of the year.
singing the songs
of oak and ash and thorn
throwing what we have
what we are into the fullness
of this night until the dancing
ends with a pause in the rain
and our ears rush
with the silence of stars.

let tomorrow find us here
awake alive at the edge of this turning
singing the bone songs,
the old songs and skin prayers,
speaking to the darkness
calling calling
that which is to come.

For Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: O COME! ADVENT POEMS FOR EARTH

after the rain

down at the estuary the river
has breached her bank
pushed the crashing shore
in a tumult of dark water
and waves.
spawning fish wait
on the turning tide.

down at the estuary
between the trees
water flows thick and dark
swirling whirlpools and eddies
along the rocks,
scraping sand and old stories
from deep pools
to the sea to the sea.

down at the estuary
houses have been swamped
silt dumped – boundary fences
matchsticks against the surge,
tide lines smudged below the windows.

there is no owning her
this river full drunk
on big rain
she flows as she will
as she does

down at the estuary
frogs are giving thanks
from earth-bank, reed and tree
a jubilant pulse – entraining
my breath and heart
to the season
while birdsong explodes
from the dripping trees
and wet grassheads are silvering
in morning light.

For Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: PRAISING IS WHAT MATTERS