Two autumn tanka

18 March

the tomato vine
once supple with promise
dried, a squat fruit
of autumn—life’s lesson

(as if it needed underlining)

19 March

smokey sunrise
gorgeous pinks and scarlets
street lights haloed
horizon a Rothko smear
crimsoned over charcoal

Image: Mark Rothko – No. 46 (Black, Ochre and Red over Red), 1957. Oil on canvas (1903-1970) Panza Collection. MOCA c/- Rob Corder on Flickr. The Southern Hemisphere moves into Autumn, the vegies die off and hazard reduction burns on the escarpment drape the valleys with smoke.

And for music this morning, I’ve been a bit obsessed of late with Caroline Shaw’s composition Orange (Youtube). So here it is again for all you gardeners.

illawarra likes – a solid 4th

Delighted that my poem, illawarra likes – won 4th prize in the Melbourne Union of Poets International Poetry Prize 2022 announced Feb. 26. Thanks to the judge Nathan Curnow and Melbourne Union of Poets and honoured to be in company of such fine shortlisted and prize winning poets. The poem below probably won’t read well in reader, so here it is as a PDF.

I’ll update this post when MUP publish details of the award winners.

the banyan on northcliffe

in the road a century tree
guard railed, buttress of grasses

encirclement of kerbing 
captive and indomitable

speaks of road-makers’ charity (or cowardice)
its roots extend—feels the traffic above 

suckers appear in gardens
blocks away

it shades, a brief dark pool
sudden respite from the tumult

cruelly pruned to allow trucks
its leaves caress, its arms

wounded but beautiful
as you descend 

Image: The Australian Banyan (Ficus macrophylla,) tree this morning.

And for music, here’s Tom Verlaine (former guitarist with Television who died in January after a long struggle with cancer) with some gorgeous de-tuned guitar work from his 2006 album Around (only available on Youtube). RIP Tom.

tanka on the first heatwave of summer — Feb. 16.

beyond the cafe —
street trees roil, girrrr of 
ten thousand cicadas 
SUV backs into wall —
tea-leaves orbit my cup

Image: my scorching driveway. The poet musing from the air-conditioned comfort of a cafe while the world outside gets used to what local weather forecasters describe as a ‘low intensity heatwave’.

And for music this morning, here’s Taiwanese ensemble Cicada with their 2023 album Seeking the Sources of Streams (Youtube) –

Fresh new coastal poetry…

I’m delighted to have jointly-edited a new anthology of coastal poetry. Published by the South Coast Writers Centre, 34-37 Degrees South comprises work of 20 contemporary poets – both emerging and award-winning — from the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and South Coast of NSW, including:

Kathleen Bleakley | Jonathan Cant | Norman Fairburn | Amelia Fielden | Lajos Hamers | Tim Heffernan | Col Henry | Elanna Herbert | Kai Jensen | Moira Kirkwood | Linda Mcquarrie-Bowerman | Steve Meyrick | Brid Morahan | Ron Pretty | Paris Rosemont | Ed Southorn | Dorothy Swoope | Elizabeth Walton | Melanie Weckert | Myfanwy Williams | 

The digital collection is available to read and download here – and is also available in an easy-to-read format.

Images: Joel Henry on Unsplash (above) and cover of 34-37 Degrees South featuring artwork by Kirli Saunders (OAM) commissioned by Wollongong City Council and installed at Port Kembla Olympic Pool.

And for music something rare and delightful from Ethiopia, here’s nun and blues pianist Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou with her 1963 piano solo album (Youtube).

on the path to the shore, a haibun

I’d not been down it for a year, not since the dog’s arthritis got worse. It was a cunning way. From an unpromising corner of a municipal lawn, a steep descent into wilderness, a few blind turns, then some scrubground where the dog can go off lead looking for fox and the black snake, an eastern whip bird right there in the casuarinas. 

Today it’s so overgrown it barely exists. Morning glory, lantana, bittou bush and coastal banksia have closed over—it’s as impenetrable as paradise. Crouch thru low doors and tunnels, feet deep in weeds and puddles, the green rained-on vegetation like a shroud over what promise there is in the day.

All its history gone: schoolkids, dog walkers, shoplifters fleeing security guards, masturbators in their groves, workers with their lunch pails taking the back route down to the plant, and men like me, huffing up and down hills, determined to stave off the heart-attack that’ll inevitably take us too early. 

(My ex-wife jokes about what a buff corpse I’ll leave.)

Surely there’s some wisdom about paths needing to be used, remade by walkers lest they vanish?

At last that engine the sea—the grey rollers full throttle against the rockshelf, spray snatched away by the southerly. The remains of the swimming pool built in the twenties to keep the kids and the sharks apart—rafts of twigs and plastic. 

Gone also that house. It had occupied this block for more than 100 years, with a nice aspect to the pool and the yawn of the beach. Lead-light windows, curated succulents in coffee tins up the front steps. I imagined the dark of the sitting room, a photo of her son in his uniform on the mantle, the chime of the clock on the quarter hour, a tabby on the sofa sniffing the day. 

How quickly houses become meadows. And meadows become houses. Surely there’s some Buddhist sutra about impermanence and abandonment?

bleached shell
tossed on this midden
five thousand years ago
just yesterday  

Image: Lounge chair, Port Kembla. And for music today here’s Australian musician and multi-instrumentalist Oren Ambarchi with his solo album Shebang (Youtube). And if you’re wondering what a shebang is, start here

Here’s a PDF for those having trouble reading this…

tanka on the arrival of a new symptom… Feb. 3

refractory gang — 
eyes, toes, night sweats 
a heart overthrown
like my dad I yell 
at the screen, what new thing now? 

Image: Skeleton dancers and band on theatre stage, Sydney, c. 1928. Photographer unknown c/- State Library of New South Wales on Flickr. Musing on the body and what we inherit (including a dodgy heart) from our parents…

And for music today – here’s Gianluca Littera on harmonica with Quartetto Energie Nove playing with Gordon Jacob’s Divertimento for Harmonica and Strings (Youtube). The whole album’s worth exploring (as long as the harmonica wasn’t spoiled for you by listening to years of Max Geldray playing in the musical intermissions on The Goon Show on the BBC).

tanka Jan 29. (with mosquitoes)

after Rodney Jones

such a battle
just reading your poetry
mosquitoes dance      the page
she will inherit (not us)
— how she sings the harvest 

Image: untitled by Daniel Iván on Flickr. A piece inspired by Rodney Jones’ poem about war and violence The Mosquito – which I was reading in my kitchen at 5am under attack from the subject of his poem (the last line is taken from his poem).

And for music today here’s some uplifting “nature punk” from US band/singer Hurray for the Riff-Raff – with Life on Earth (Youtube) (The whole album is gorgeous and recommended).

a flat tanka — Jan. 15

barely waves, turquoise
lift and settle
of surfers
collective supplication
anything, send us anything

Image: Harold Salvage sunbaking, “The Sunbather” from Camping trips on Culburra Beach by Max Dupain and Olive Cotton c/- State Library of NSW on Flickr

Music this morning, here’s Australian musician Andrew Tuttle with reminiscence of Alexandra (Youtube has the live performance), very chill – banjo, cicadas and sprinklers on the lawns – and no surf today.