Faceless Women

Waves crash on nearby rocks, I’m about ten,
sitting in a small room full of paintings,
patterned fabrics on sofas from a long time ago,
a room filled with untouchable pieces,
be careful where you step, rickety tables,
dad’s deep voice, mum crying in the bathroom.

Oil paint in a wooden frame, he always liked wood,
no wind, the sky blue, yellow sun in the corner.
Three women stand on a beach,
face the water, backs laced with thin bikinis.

There is no fear in the world of these three women
captured unknowing in his glance.
The world he pictured,
not the stifled world
we lived in.

Painted like a memory,
a beach I’ve seen in Greece,
a small cove sheltered from waves,
not the beach we lived near.
I might be mistaken, haven’t seen the painting
for more than five years now.

Thunder crashes, cold rain falls,
only the sound of hard drops
thudding, and his voice, like thunder,
the light gone from the world
as the world closes down.

The hand that made it
is not the man I knew. He had time to paint
three women,
a world we did not know.
No time for us; no time
now he is gone.

First Published Ishaan Literary Review Issue 6 2015

Sheltered

She sweeps the bed sheets smooth,
presses wrinkles with a sigh
but leaves shadows behind;
careless words hurled hard;
shuts the wooden window
from gusts and wet sea salt.

Behind glass
the ocean crushes down
echoes on the widowed shore
his boat smashed on moonless rocks
one year ago.

She picks two eggs to crack,
beats with a tic and twitch,
thrashes at her thoughts,
crushes a broken shell.

As words waste to the dead
butter burns in the iron pan,
black smoke veils her face.

She leaves the kitchen cold
retreats to the bedroom pane
and from behind the glass
watches the muted ocean
cast with lingering words
he refused to heed.

He chose to fish,
enticed by the sea
that pulled them here.

The wind lashes
with desperate knocks,
howls through flotsam
thrust with the tide,
remnants buried
she leaves the storm,
pulls the curtains close.

First Published Ishaan Literary Review Issue 6 2015

Notes at a Park

1.

Old man stops to rest,
burnt bat wings above
spread over two wires.

2.

Tree trunk leans
its shadow on the lawn;
a brush turkey sprints;
no birds.

3.

Woman sits
alone at a table,
with salt,
car on concrete
fallen leaves.

4.

Magpies shriek,
swoop at a goanna
noiseless in the grass,
a young fern bent
in the wind.

5.

Grey wood path crosses
the creek
frogs hid in the reeds
when there was water.

6.

Four white ibis walk along the fence.

7.

Dry twig dangles in the wind
black cockatoo upside down.

8.

Old man
on a bicycle
in birdless heat,
dried seeds on the ground.

First Published in Bitterzoet Vol 2.1 2014

Still Life

Paintbrush,
weathered and grey,
dried through years,
old hairs fixed.

Cluttered paintings
of beaches and women
beside oil paints
hardened in dust.

You used to paint
the world considered,
your strokes lit oils,
painted the new.

Now idle
by unfinished works,
you gather dust,
stare at walls.

First Published Message in a Bottle Issue 21 2014

Adrift

A small rock
rises from the sea
a tough refuge
for battered birds.

Perched vigil,
they salvage a piece
of austere sanctuary,
tread their tired feet.

The sea sweeps
in haste surges hard
white foam thrashes
and squawking birds,
their port flooded,
flap into the air
abandon trust.

The birds shriek,
weave in the wind
then outstretched glide
into sky.

Splash empties
back to the cold sea,
where the rock,
rising again,
remains.

First Published Message in a Bottle Issue 21 2014

I Shed My Skin

Surrounded by night, the shriek of unrelenting frogs
roused after torrential rain, covered in the long reeds
that flourish by the fast-running creek and rice fields.

A lotus flower wanes, floats on a pool of fresh water
collected in the lid of a large vase. A snake lies still,
curled on the base. This is not usual. The phone rings
near midnight; my sister tells me my father has gone.

Words are interspersed with frogs; it will be hard
to recall this type of nature untouched with sadness.

The frogs do not stop all night, until the snake slips
away into the reeds. I do not see it again till days later
when it quietly slithers out of its den, leaves behind
silence, and the transparent shell of moulted skin.

First Published Axolotl Issue 1 2014

After a Study of Lizards

When I wake, the red gum tree has elephant feet
swollen at the base of its trunk, as if an elephant stopped too long,
its feet embedded in the fertile earth; and the rain that poured
last night, that sprouts roots on things that stay,
bound its feet to the underground.

This has happened before, but no one says anything;
one day the spell will be broken. I warily climb the trunk,
but do not feel the rest of the animal hidden inside the bark.

Its branches have fingers that reach to sky
for the blood of sun. I soak up the heat.
Leaves whisper together, murmur that they’re feeling trapped,
stunned in a nakedness they wanted all along;
to be part of the world without having to think about it.

Noisy miners congregate on nearby limbs,
rouse each other’s angry little spirits, create a colony
of eyeballs.

I won’t back down. The tree is a place for me to find eggs,
my scales for courage. I like the black cockatoos that sit stately
on the uppermost limbs. They growl like lions, fly the sky
as if they have been flying since the dinosaurs.
It’s like the sun is a candle, snuffed out

by the ocean at dusk, while below little people relight it
ready for dawn. At night ghosts flutter with insects,
bees tend love, and the trees bring the African plains.

Elephants, lions, and in the distance, Mount Kilimanjaro.
I have been listening to humans for too long. I have a hard skin,
but inside I am soft. I find new ways of seeing;
the tree is really an elephant; an elephant is really a bird
that mourns; a bird is really a bud escaped from a tree.

First Published Axolotl Issue 1 2014