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


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.

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


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



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 https://earthweal.com/2021/12/13/earthweal-weekly-challenge-o-come-advent-poems-for-earth/

(holy) well

there are no cruel
and bitter gods here,
no winter frosts
that bite black death
in the shortening days –

our gods are moon and sun
and the green green growing,
our gods are river and tree,
the grass rattle seeds of summer
and the songline of birds
singing bridges between worlds –

the gods here speak frog-tongue
fly translucent on insect wings
shatter the darkness
with a cacophony of stars.
the gods here

into the dark quiet
we drop a stone
count the silence
until it is swallowed
by water

know only that
somewhere in the depths
is a surface
rippling now
with our measure
and beyond that
and depth
and depth enough
to slake our desire
quench our thirst.

of course we brought those
cruel and bitter gods here too
brought our gods of paradise lost
to paradise – carried them bone jangling
in the pit of our stomach.
eat or be eaten
kill or be killed
tried to make the world as we thought it
until we learned to see.

there is no right way up on this globe
north and south can be either here or there –
but our bodies like sunflowers
know the seasons and poles
turn and turn towards the light

and will there be feasting
on the shores of tomorrow –
will our feet still imprint
our wild spinning dance –
will the tide take our prayers
like a blossom to the tide.

the trees that blossom here
were planted on the ashes
and bones of our dead.
these trees that blossom here
were planted –
roots running deep,
seeking the holy well.

For Brendan at earthweal’s weekly challenge: ALL SOULS