what returns


the moon grows full
in an april sky
and still the world is quiet –
humans gone to roost
a great clattering
noise of centuries
suddenly stopped

when hope returned
to the city streets
it came with claw and hoof
and webbed toes scrabbling
on the pavement.
it padded and clattered
patterned fur and roughened hide
through a world we had forgotten
was inhabited.

like a bud
like a season
like a forest
like the moon
like a seed
turned sapling
stretching in the light,
life returns.





if it is the beginning
you seek
the unravelling comes first
close below the ribs
a roar of migrating butterflies
uncharted unnamed
new wings tested by the wind.

if it is the beginning
you seek
then take those coins
from your eyes,
if the ferryman
brought you here
he has already been paid

if it is the beginning
you seek
i hope you have boiled the eggs
stashed nuts in your socks
we may have to feed
the wolves along the way
or ourselves

if it is the beginning
you seek
it may be too late
this is trickster light
that bends between trees
and we haven’t seen the world
clearly for years,
wiping water from our eyes
when already
we are submerged

if it is the beginning
you seek
etch in gold upon my breasts
the way of our longing,
we are forgetful not forgotten –
matter remembers itself,
the dark path and veins
it knew earthwarmed
before it was mined
assigned value,
let warmth of skin
enliven this old story
let heartbeat be drum enough
to sound our way home.

if it is the beginning
you seek
then lay yourself down
let sleep be your witness
let the stars come,
the planets in procession –
let them name you again
from the darkness unknowable
let the silence of stars
be the silence between pulse
and wave and breath
because there in that silence
is the beginning we seek
and the end we must come to
before we reach the shining shore
at the edge of tomorrow

if it is the beginning
we seek
the map is carved in
the bones of the earth
flesh of our beings
there is no other way
but home.



for Brendan’s weekly challenge at Earthweal

where albertus slept


my oupa lived in the outside room
of his large house.
he had grown up in sutherland
under the vast karoo skies
before the observatory was built there
herded sheep as a boy
before the wars changed the world –
despite his ancestry and
the complexity of south african colonial politics
he joined churchill’s men
serving in north africa and italy
his mother never forgave him,
that branch of the family tree
remaining severed.

it was a small room
one door one window
deep shadows
a bed a bench
a buckskin on the floor.

sometimes he would sit outside
in his yellow morris chair in the sun
sipping black moerkoffie
from a saucer held in shaking hands.
he smoked a pipe
sniffed snuff from his thumb-joint.

he told us about the war sometimes
my brother and i –
about caves in north africa
that had acted as barracks for both sides.
grim stories of corpses and the bitter biting cold
and trains and towns with strange names
and strange songs.
we hung on those words
traipsing across continents

he grew grapes on a trellis on a sunny wall
felt the weather in his bones
predicting rain by the ache in his knees.

he said grace in high dutch
at the dark polished table
big enough for sunday lunch
high ceilinged with fine china
a stern wife and seven children.
sometimes and christmas
my brother and i would sit among them
cousins everywhere
and still the table was big enough
and oupa would pretend to choke on his pudding –
pull a two rand note from his mouth
a ransom to us in those days
and we loathe to eat the brandy soaked confection
vigorously doused it with custard
spooned it in, finding nothing
but small coins amongst the laughter
until his wife would say
that’s enough now albert
and the table would quiet down
and the dishes carried away

alone he would return to his room
off the back of the house
where he slept as always
with his door open to the stars
perhaps as he had
when he was a boy in the karoo
herding sheep on the open plains
in a smaller world
with a bigger sky.


5. Mammals/poets/fish


found a poet last night
late in a quiet house
devoured poem after poem,
like a bird like
the shoals of big-eyed moonfish
like a mongoose slipping into undergrowth –
you don’t want to see those alone.
you want to call and point
say there the wing
catching light,
see there they flash silver
in dark water as they turn –
you want to shape those words
sound them with shared breath
you don’t want to find them alone.


among the living

it was my plan all along to lie down there among the twigs and fallen leaves,
let the forest have me
because there is something in my bones that does not know these days
can’t taste the sunlight or feel vast oceans pulse in the night.
three days now the snail has been sleeping on that leaf through my window,
it is not winter, none of it is making sense
and we can’t and we can’t and we can’t remember
how we came here, how we built these worlds and walls around us
how our lies become our stories and
our stories became stones that paved into roads,
piled into wall and hut and temple. big stories like pillars
holding a roof over our heads so we can’t see the sky
and the stars can’t speak –
a roof to keep the rain from touching our twitch animal skin
lest we remember who we are. we know that we are tired
we know all this will fall like leaves to the forest floor.

it was my plan all along to walk until my feet wanted,
to find a root that curls around my body, a parasol touched with light
and lie down there among the twigs and fallen leaves
and let the forest have me
and if it happens the sky is blue enough to be seen
like a reflection on still water between the trees
or thin pond mist grey wisping on high winds
i will watch dark shadow birds, wing fingers spread to carve sky paths
above the canopy, knowing their backs are feather painted by the sun
and i will untangle the bramble from my hem, pull thorns from my hair
and lie down there among the twigs and fallen leaves
and let the forest have me.
and when black butterflies wake because morning has come slowly
(do they sleep? do they remember in dream life before wings?
if imaginal discs hold potential do they hold memory too?)
when black butterflies wake, turn their folded wings from leaf to flight
to dance hover circles in unexpected shafts of light
i will be there silent stone among the roots of the tree
and the birds might move around me speaking summer voices
like pebbles tapped together underwater –

breaking the surface to gulp laughter instead of air
and you speaking flowers
saying life is nectar
while river salt dried on your skin
and all was fractal and light spilling sweetness
until even the mud between our toes sang of beauty.

and no matter that it passed as summers do,
the river still flows deep dark to the sea without me –
the kingfishers have fledged, skimming their impossible malachite flight
less than a breath above the water.
i love them no less for not seeing them,
not seeing those golden leaves fall turn spin to touch the still surface –
drifting small boat, stem sterns to the ocean.
summer will come again and we will walk once more among the living
reading stories with fluent fingers across their tall bark –
taking breaths so deep they burst shudder from our mouths
that can speak no more than i love you and thank you.

it was my plan all along to come here
to lie among the fallen leaves and twigs of autumn
to give myself to you
breath, blood and bone
again and always

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-25 at 14.20.46


april harvest


there is nothing
to be said
of what was
or might be
on days like these
when the tang
sweet of summer
leans light into autumn
and fruit hangs full round
on the trees.


WhatsApp Image 2020-04-24 at 15.21.30
Tamarillos full ripe on the trees today.



learning the shape of things

there were big windows, wooden floors
and an indoor quiet that made our ears hum.
it was monday morning
after a favourite uncle’s birthday
on the weekend
i had made him a card
drawn flowers because he like them
copied in my newly acquired hand
Dear Les
Love Lindi
it took me most of saturday
each letter a task
down up around and down swish
change colour
around up and back down swish
ended with a flourish
a loop, a flick –
he loved it.

back in the quiet hum of the class
i applied my new skills to the page
finishing a whole row of a’s and m’s
with tails turning up, dotting the i’s with flowers.
time passed in focussed silence
punctuated by the rattle of pencils on desks
and the slow steady click of the minute hand moving.
final flourish on the bottom
of a well pleased page
flower flower

after break teacher called me to her desk –
we all loved her
with her golden curls and lipsticked smile.
my book was open on the morning’s work
i nearly crowed with imminent reward
those gold stars we got to wear
on our foreheads.
what is this, she asked
and i oblivious
told her of my uncle les and the birthday card and

no, she said
this is wrong, she said
i don’t ever want to see this again,
i thought they looked nice, i said
and surely even then i should have known better
but it was my first year at school
and i still had much to learn.

i held out my almost six year old hand
on command as i had seen
other children do before
so you remember she said.
turns out the long arm of the law
had painted nails and a gold link bracelet
and knew how to apply a ruler
to the unruly.

back at my desk
i sat on my hand
to cool the burn
i did not cry.


yma nown bleyth dhymm


i will stop my mouth
with poems, eat through
continents and centuries
shovelling hungry words
like a dog
hunkered over scrapings
so when the walls are too close
to speak this awkward now
words like broken teeth
and shards of poems
will fall from my mouth impersonal,
fragments of snow and bone
and flowers from another’s hill –
i will leave them there
raw on the quiet table
amongst the rooting basil
and afternoon light
to be rearranged by others
inoffensive palatable

outside the sky is blue infinite
vast. black veined butterflies
as big as my outstretched hands
swoon sun-soothed among
towering stems of plectranthus.
honey warm and silent
i know my fill
taste of colours lingering
on my tongue.

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-22 at 11.33.40


Todays Napowrimo prompt  asks us “to engage with different languages and cultures through the lens of proverbs and idiomatic phrases.” The Cornish title yma nown bleyth dhymm translates as I’ve got the hunger of a wolf.



under the weather


sunbird against the window
this morning first light
must have come in through
the new opened door
purring wings against the glass

quicker than the cat
i cover her in hands
still the beating wings
feel her long beak find rest
between fingers
outside above the valley
i slowly release her
body no bigger than my thumb
she perches on the edge
of cupped hands –
turns that slate grey head
to look at me
a moment

today there will be no sun
to catch her quick iridescence
just the low dry clouds
trapping birdsong.