between closing the gate
on new planted beds
late evening – winter cold,
and heading inside
to close up the house,
snap kindling, light a fire.

between tree silhouettes
and golding sky
the way opens
into forest –

and who knew who knows
the paths taken the limbs touched
skin to bark- who knows the trunks
leaned on in the quiet.
who but the bird watched
shadows among shadows
among trees.

until here,
paused – sitting boulder still
on granite forest bones growing roots and moss –
claimed and owned by fallen leaves,
we breathe for centuries as one.

(and sometimes surfacing from silence
i wished i came her more often –
came on gentler feet
not garden boots caked with mud
here to the temple door –

but dust is dust and the temple floor
waits for our feet – soft with longing and prayer
and in that aching stillness
i slip into silence once more)

and who knew who knows
the paths taken the limbs touched
skin to bark- who knows the trunks
leaned on in the quiet.
who but the bird watched
shadows among shadows
among trees.
and who knew who knows
what it is to be here

perhaps it is the cold that calls to form –
air tinged with night bracing deep breaths –
finding shape from boulder and root,
shedding leaf and scale and feather
until unfolding limbs
hold us human once more.

hands deep in pockets
following the path up through thinning trees –
foot stamping dirt on the wooden step
i head inside. light the fire –
hold cold hands to the warmth of flame,
watch the sky fade through the windows.
late evening still.

For Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: WILD STILLNESS


small comfort

so long so long
since i have been here
dipping into this icy lake

uncoloured morning
slippered and blanket wrapped
for the cold cold
that sits at the base of the spine

where the donkey was nail beat years ago
on a red dust road in the sun
make-shift harnessed to a scrap cart
going nowhere

same low curve back where the needles
were inserted three times epidural
to numb to numb the cutting births
with their spilling and stitching
three girls three girls and joy

wrap wrap in blankets
shorn from the goats long locks
falling warm from the slow breathing flanks
new hair bright white in the shade.
washed and combed fibres aligned
ready to spin fine and steady
by winter fires

dyed in skeins with baths of leaves
moonflower and henna
and fragrant persicaria
until greens and golds
double dipped in indigo
it dries in the sun while goats sleep
and dream their green season babies.

until quiet quiet on long journeys
keeping an eye on slow mountains
the mohair is stitched
square by square
into this blanket that years later

wraps, warms the cold of my back
while the sun fills the sky on
still mornings approaching the solstice.

Linking to Earthweal’s open link weekend #122


the mountain

we walk amongst the bones here.

early rain has sprouted green
along the path and buds drink swell wait
to burst drunkenly into bloom

human calcaneous and soft ball joints
find footing on jutting mountain bones –
sandstone knees and elbows –
scapular, like a blade,
like a contour, like a cliff,
granite sternum and ribs
to protect the heart
beating still –

hips that curve and curve around
walking us home
on old paths
of bone.

For Sherry at earthweal’s weekly challenge: DREAMING IN GREEN


staring down the sun

Photo by Tamarisk-Ray Glogauer – Wilderness, South Africa.

there is futility in this bearing witness to no one,
bearing witness for who but ourselves
bearing witness for who might come after
when clearly our doomsday prayers
sing the end
the end – no who in sight
no after.

there is an inevitability
in this thin rhetoric,
a confidence in our march
through the end of time
a stark martyrdom –
for the greater good we say
of a planet, our planet
will be better off without us.

(“earth my body, rivers my blood”
tell my heart that i live on a planet
space rock – third from the sun,
that my body is a temple
when the temple is my body
when all the earth is wholly holy holy)

and some of us
have been building boats for sure
waiting for the waters to rise
waiting for our promised 40 days –
stocking up on canned beans
and coconut oil. learning
to spark the flint,
cradle the kindling,
blow breathe blow,
nurture enough fire to live by
(because the end of course
is not for everybody)

but the ark –
the ark itself gives me sleepless
nights pacing the cubits,
bare feet on new wood –
what beauty is worthy of salvation here –
who gets to come on board
two by two – not all
not all lest our salvation
become our sinking ship.
there are too many of us any way.
not you and me – just us – humans you know.

(“earth my body, water my blood”
air my breath, fire my spirit”
how we have burned and burned
looking for the fire
when the fire burns within –
sacred fire in the holy temple
holy holy holy)

carrot seeds and heirloom peppers
are a no brainer for sure –
but what of the useless,
the frivolous the pretty
do we store zinnia and lobelia,
and cosmos on the ark –
do we need them
and which beasts will come
two by two
the spotted and striped
feathered and clawed
the edible
and what of sperm whales
and sperm counts falling
like trees in the forest
what if our ark is barren–
what if it never rains
what if our end is drought.
what if the end is fire
what if we do not know the end
how do we, the righteous prepare,
build a fireproof flotilla
to navigate unknowable oceans.
some nature in the hold,
along with the beans
and our petty fears
and comforts enough
to end a world with –
bearing witness until,
last bean in the can
hot fried by an over zealous sun,
we can no more.

(“earth, my body,
water, my blood,
air, my breath
fire, my spirit”
we live we die we live
holy holy holy)

what if we don’t know how it ends.
or if.
how do we live
if it doesn’t.

For Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: WITNESS TO MAGNITUDE


may song

still now,
with mornings
speaking in dragon breath
and prophetic tongues
of shortening days
and the cold that comes
that comes –
still now
the birds proclaim the day,
call clear blue
horizon to horizon
while singing autumn songs,
gorging themselves
on fruit full ripe and
sweet with sunlight gathered
and grown to seed.

the commons: air, water, habitable earth

“take back, like the night,
that which is shared,”
like the cool become cold
under a scattering of wild stars.
like our breath , held
against the now
that explodes on our screens
stealing light from our days
and stars from our night
until no more –
say no more
no more
throw open our windows
our doors – step outside
allow the night cool
to pry breath
like a sigh, like a howl
like a bird from our lips –
watch it take flight
mist swirl breaths in the night
swimming among the stars
becoming air
becoming ours
becoming shared.

“take back, like the night,
that which is shared,”
like a thirst, like a longing,
like the river. like soft lips
touching water reflecting fur
and eyes and hooves
and quiver flesh hide –
still. more still than
we have names for
like a sip, like a thirst
like a longing –
like the tree whose branches
flow river catchment from the sky,
like our bodies
holy water
wholly shared

“take back, like the night,
that which is shared,”
like soil in our palm
holding seedling green tendril
like a gift, soft
like a home built slowly
like a tree being
both shelter and sheltered
like the earth
that grows our bones
that become the earth

Quotation from Gary Snyder in The Practice of the Wild.

In response to Brendan at earthweal’s and weekly challenge: THE COMMONS.

Find his excellent essay here.


eubalaena australis – hope is in fellowship

in shades of green and grey
the ocean spoke the coming storm
while breakers tossed ice-whisps
against the tide.

double socked and
braced to the wind
we face that cloud stacked horizon
and give thanks for the rain
the rain
the rain that comes
and those who return
with the snap cold turn
of seasons.

by 1750 the north atlantic right whale
was as good as extinct for commercial purposes –
because they were the right whale to kill.
slow and placid, rich in oil
likely to float after death.
they were the right whales to kill
until they were gone and
whalers looked to the rich southern waters
where generations of mothers
had returned and returned to quiet bays.

the southern right whales, it seems
were equally fit for purpose.
38 000 harpooned in the southern atlantic
39 000 in the south pacific
an incomplete record gathered
from far flung whaling stations
and the silence of the sea.

too late too late for the north
harpooning of right whales
was banned in 1937
though illegal whaling continued
for few decades more.

i never saw a whale as a child
never felt their breath in
and out like the ocean beneath me
until i was older
adult and sitting half way down
the rock strewn cliff
among the erica and watsonia
watching mother and child
roll and roll in the swell
of the deep water bay – close
close enough to see eyes
and spray catching light
with that vast exhale sigh
that rumbles rock and bone
and all the watery spaces
of my being – slow
slower than any breath i could dream
or hope or imagine

i never saw a whale as a child
because there were so few.
because they were the right whale.
because healing takes time.
because we did not know
how to hope
for their return.
what action hope needed
for their return

about 13000 southern right whales now
and counting. population growth steady
(we hope) at about 6% per year.

this is the slow crawl back from the brink –
the precarious tiptoeing at the edge of existence.
this is the quiet hope of winter
this is the prayer at the shore.

that despite it all
the changes and the changing
that the mothers return
as their mothers before,
full pregnant and nourished
by bright antarctic waters.
that they calve here
safe near the shore –
that our daughters
and daughters know
the wide waters
the rocky bays
the salt ocean breath.

photo by tamarisk-ray glogauer

For Brendan at earthweal’s weekly challenge: RADICAL HOPE


it is the cracks that let in the light

it is hard to see in the darkness
of these days, morning sun
bright shadowed on heather
and grass thick dewed.
it is hard to see.

it is hard to remember
who spewed what hate
at which fractured piece
of humanity first – who threatened,
ate power made of discord.

it is a dark shore
these morning waves
break on.
it is hard to see

but knee deep in the pushing tide
at the edge of our unknowing
we take this holy water
wash unseeing from our eyes
taste the ocean salt of our bodies
and turn again to face the shore
turn to see the horizon
cleave darkness from the sky,
become mountain and hill and home,
a murmuration of hope
alive in our bones.

A reworking of a 2017 poem for Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: A RADICAL HOPE.


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


the reckoning

she came so slow on silent feet
i never knew she came at all
rippled the forest floor pelt spot,
no more than shadow and light.
by morning breathless the leaves
still sang their chorus of green
but my world lived
irrevocably changed
knowing a leopard
had stalked the night.

(far away
and closer than bone
the bombs fall
and fall
and fall.)

you do of course know
as i know
that this is one narrative –
that might, that could
that will end like this
that there are other tellings
of who we are in the world
other worlds that wait still
to be told

some days
knee deep on the edge of
this fathomless ocean,
learning to hold longing
like a pebble on my tongue
beach warm and tasting salt
until the heat of day
breaks with the sky
into night swimming stars
and we submerged
and bereft of light
are slaked
and slaked again
in the dark waters
of our beautiful

strong in my hand
and big as a bird
the butterfly beats
against the glass
against my palms enclosing
until caught, wings folded
and silent.
outside i open fingers
like a carnivorous flower
releasing the dust wings
the paused shimmer
the breath of stillness
before flight

and could you still arrive
at my door empty handed,
lay down the burdens
of time passed
of said and unsaid
to be here
in the world
once more –
and could i arrive
at yours

(and far away
and closer than bone
the bombs still fall
and fall
and fall.)

there are prayers now
to be spoken by these hills –
a chorus of rippling hallelujahs
to be sung in smooth river rock.
and we have come – all of us
on hoof and foot and scale belly claw –
still now in the presence
of our own fading light.
so we the forgiven and forgiving
may live luminous
on the shores
of tomorrow

dear poet (and queen)
i wonder sometimes,
much as you are missed,
if it was not better
you left the world
when you did –
what would you have said
bright eyes creasing smiles
laughing off the shadows –
what would you have said
had you seen what happened since –
how would you have kept alive
that which was so alive in you –
watching the world you loved

(and far away
and closer than bone
the bombs still fall
and we fall
we fall
we fall)

do we yield
to this reckoning
this leaf litter hair
spine to root
bone to tree reckoning
i have not the feet anymore
to walk this back
only the being here, sinking
beneath and into this, into the skin –
this smell of earth swallowing leaf
drifting between, untethered
wanting not wanting
the feral claws, the soft pad indent
walking unseen
the ache of seasons rising in bones
shedding form and shedding again
until we are graveled tongue
feathered furred scale
nothing and unknowable
opening eyelid after eyelid
to taste the world

For Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: ANIMAL POETRY