A complicated song

This poem was written with thanks on unceded Wodi-Wodi land 

Here I am grateful to be up early 
while the house is still asleep and 
the sky is the colour of blood plums. 
To slip into the kitchen, take the last orange 
from the china bowl, quarter it 
bleeding juice and cells, and give thanks.

Thanks for the orchard near Griffith
6 hours west of here where it’s still night 
the whoosh of frost fans, the fruit like lanterns 
hung in the bladed leaves. And for 
the Italian diaspora, out of poverty 
and crumbling fields to new south wales — grazie, milli grazie.  

And ever for the Wiradjuri Nation on whose land 
this fruit grew. For quartz knives and scrapers 
singing trade routes thru the alluvium. 
For the mottled cod on a rock face and 
a deep well of water hidden by a flat stone 
— say mandaang guwu (that’s Wiradjuri for thank you).

To the picker from Kiribati grateful 
for our wages (less board, less diesel, less this ‘n that). 
In three months, he’ll see his family
they’ll buy a Chinese solar battery 
so their daughter can do her homework at night
sitting up out of the tide — and they’ll give thanks. 

Such abundance, such good juice. 3 aussie dollars 
buys a netful from my grocers. There’s Damascus pop 
on the radio and in season you get the best broad beans. 
They pile nets of glorious navels in bins by the doorway 
and help mothers in hijabs and elders in duffle coats 
load their trollies high — and say shukran.

Wait. Time for one final thanks:
for this morning’s morning chorus, the honeyeater’s tchlik
the blackbird in the casuarina — another settler 
another feral import, useless but to assuage 
an Englishman’s nostalgia at breakfast and 
to bless us in our loud, complicated song. 

Image: Postcard, the Parent Navel Orange Tree, Riverside, California, c. 1930, Boston Public Library c/- Wikimedia Commons. This is the image of the ur-navel orange, the mutation that occurred in oranges around 200 years ago that produced the navel. All other navels are clones of this one blessed tree.

I’m sorry for not posting for a while but here’s a new poem which I hope you’ll enjoy.

And for music today, (I know I’ve linked this before) to celebrate seasonal change wherever you find yourself, here’s Max Richter’s Four Seasons (Youtube).

Drake tanka

girl in the Honda 
smoking as she shift lanes
she's listening to Drake 
driving like she doesn't care 
she’s thinking YOLO

Image: Dodgem cars, Luna Park, November 1952 _ photographed by Ivan Ives, c/- State Library of NSW on Flickr. Drake, is a Canadian rapper musician, who is currently the most streamed artist of all-time on Spotify, with his songs having been played over 46 billion times, as of April 2022.) He also popularised the saying YOLO (abbr. you only live once). A tanka after Drake Equation by British-Nigerian poet Gboyega Odubanjo

You’ll have to find your own Drake (just ask anyone under 40). Meanwhile here’s US bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding with her 2008 album Esperanza, (Youtube) maybe start with Samba em Preludio (Youtube)

a tanka sonnet — August 2

as sun leaves the wall
spider gets busy 
sowing sails and vacancies
scaled to her prey 
in hopper legs and fly husks 

how like this this is — 
line on line and beauty
bent round purpose 
like a bonsai cypress 
framed by chicken wire 

and how wrapt we are
beguiled by gravity 
stuck, barely able 
to remember the door

Image: A favourite wall in Wollongong, rear of the Bridgestone Tyres outlet, McCabe Park. A bit of play with forms today (apols to any tanka purists, the syllable count doesn’t work either).

And for music this morning, here’s another piece from favourite US soul guitarist Shuggie Otis, Live in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) from 2014 (Youtube).


don’t you just love how along a line
                        there’s a word that signifies
                        a lit fuse spitting in a milk bottle

watch out reader          stand away

this poem is about to        l a  u   n    c      h
into some parallels            unexpected               revelatory              (or dull) 

fresh takes on the familiar: car-crash, swan, a vase falling floorward 

do it
I'm so ready 
to be arrested by 
outré ways 
of looking 
at water
-birds &c.

Image: c/- Rijksmuseum on wikimedia commons. One of a pair of porcelain swans are small versions of the famous large porcelain birds from the Meissen porcelain factory. From 1749 onwards, the successful Paris dealer Lazare Duvaux had several pairs of similar swans fashioned into candelabra. This pair may have come from his shop. A bit of silliness inspired partly by Marianne Moore’s poem ‘No Swan so Fine‘ and this amazing construction.

And for music this morning, here’s West African (Burkina Faso) singer song-writer Amadou Balake (1944 – 2014) with Taximen (dedicated to all those drivers out there making their way through the streets of Ouagadougou ) (Youtube)

tanka — 23 July

i wrote poetry
in the morning     bright
dew on tranquil lawns

— it’s afternoon already
and i’m re-writing    still

Image: Night Scene, from Camping at Culburra, NSW 1937, Max Dupain and Olive Cotton, c/- State Library of NSW on Flickr.

And for music this morning, here’s American jazz dada-ist composer Raymond Scott (1908-1994) with some soothing sounds for baby vol 1 . (Youtube). Maybe start with Sleepy Time (Youtube) Yes, there’s another two volumes (!).

tanka on the first wattle bloom — July 22

still frost rules...           

rumour is 
that spring’s
been sussing rentals
tlc )

Image: a coastal wattle (Acacia sophorae) on this morning’s walk. And in the Dharawal calendar (on whose unceded land this tanka was composed with respect) we are just entering time of Wiritjiribin – cold and windy time when the lyrebirds’ calls ring out through the bushland as he builds his dancing mounds to attract his potential mates.

And for music this morning, here’s Soviet-Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin with Unsent Love Letters (uncollected on Youtube but start here)

sonnet on a still life

after Dressing table self portrait, Margaret Olley, 1982

there are days — when the levity of dogs
the fridge motor, the pol air chopper 
says there’s no quiet to be had

but for this moment to which you return
again and again, your familiars —
blooms, a fan of feathers
ovals and angles turned so the light

that lines your dressing table
leads to the morning over your shoulder
then descends into blue, blue shadow
— your cardigan, your face is awash

you stare at the sun specular in glass
and antelopes on a black lacquered box
lost to us now, but leaping still

Image: (detail) Dressing table self portrait, Margaret Olley, 1982. A poem after Australian painter Margaret Olley‘s (1923-2011) 1982 painting which is here. Olley painted several versions of this scene over a painting career of nearly sixty years during which she focussed on colour and still life.

And for music today, in keeping with the retro funk from yesterday – here’s London based electronic producers Jungle with their May 2022 EP Goodtimes/Problemz (youtubers)

tanka on Cameron Smith’s victory at the British Open, 17 July 2022

every morning
my usual breakfast
cereal, fruit
and eighteen wild swans
lifting over the water

Image: Tho it’s still winter, the bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is blooming here in the suburbs. A piece in tribute to the mullet haircut of Cameron Smith, professional golfer who recently won the British Open. In case you missed it, here’s a patronising piece on Cameron from the Daily Mail – ‘you can take the boy out of Brisbane, but you can’t take Brisbane out of the boy…’

And for all those suffering in the heat, here’s some very cool retro R&B soul from New York band Nuyorican Soul with their self-titled 1997 album Nuyorican Soul (Youtubers).

a found tanka — 14 July

stopped i await
her coming in the night
what a treasure
she watches me. I say: 
‘was it you?’       and she answers... 

A found tanka after Russian romantic poet Anna Akhmatova and her ars poetica poem, The Muse (1924) in belated celebration of her birthday on June 23 1889.

This daily tanka is taking a short break to catch up on some housekeeping and wander by still pools. Back in a little while.

For music this morning, here’s Portuguese fado-iste Anna Moura with her fabulously successful album Desfado (Youtube)