Poetry 2018

Knowledge is power, it has been said before
Knowledge is also truth, the prevailing truth
Not set in concrete, just a marker in a never ending quest
Knowledge breeds compassion
Knowledge drives out division
Take responsibility for your knowledge
Be sceptical, search for evidence
Demand from the dispensers of truth evidence that satisfies you
If you refuse to apply your education, your intelligence,
Your wisdom, your lived experience in your search for knowledge
If you blindly follow the edicts of others
You are squandering your most precious resource
You are selling your soul to someone else’s truth.

Our Migrants
Welcome our migrants
Especially those from cultures different to ours
Accommodate them, assist their transition, show goodwill
Most of them are grateful to be here
What they want for themselves and their families
Are the same as our own desires
Show preparedness to respect differences
To put up with occasional inconveniences
In the interests of helping them settle in their adopted homeland
Understand their fears and their special needs
To assist their transition
We will earn their gratitude, their love
We will soon reap the benefit of contributions
That further enrich our lives.

The loss of a partner, lover, companion, soulmate
Is hard to contemplate, hard to bear
Devastating when it happens
But good associations nourish personal growth
They equip those bereaved to continue with strength and courage
The foundation laid by a good relationship will never crumble
It is the bedrock on which the survivor stands
Carving out a productive, fulfilling life
A continuing testament to an association characterised by
Love and Affection
Respect, Trust and Loyalty
Support, Reliability, Responsibility, Security
Pride in each other, Pride in oneself
Independence, Interdependence
Common and individual goals in easy equilibrium

Racist Fearmongering
So, what’s happening in Victoria
Has it become a lawless state
Has violence been unleashed by so-called left-wing apathy towards crime
Are marauding gangs on suburban streets and in shopping centres
Wreaking widespread damage and crippling injury
Are they all Black youths, African, South-Sudanese specifically
Is Victoria a State under siege, gripped by fear
Are Victorians staying in their homes, putting up the shutters
Terrified of dining out
Is this shameful right-wing politicisation of a sporadic issue
That admittedly needs to be addressed, that needs to be fixed
But does not need to be blown out of proportion to serve political and bigoted ends
We have had the Vietnamese and the Lebanese similarly demonised
Make no mistake, even though the right-wingers don’t talk about them
Gangs of white men are also known to leave mayhem in their wake
The stench of fearmongering is strong
And distrust of politicians also influences public reaction
Let’s ignore the grandstanders
And focus on fixing a home-grown problem
That is not confined to a particular colour and race
Dealing with the Past
The sugar coating has broken, I see a gaping hole in it
The unpleasant bitterness beneath is pouring out
I have tasted it before, not as strong and lingering as it tastes now
It must have seeped through the coating
And given me a little sample from time to time
Of what I needed to empty out
Replace with sweetness and joy and strength
And throw away the coating, no longer needed, no bitterness to conceal
I ignored it, wished it away, and sugar soon pushed down the transient bile
Now I have no choice
The coating is beyond repair
The bitterness is going through me
Slowly but inexorably making its way out
Never to return
It is leaving an emptiness
What will I fill it with?

Religious Bigotry in Sri Lanka
The dogs of war are on the loose again
Unleashed by their saffron-robed masters
Who preach peace and harmony
Who profess true Buddhist abhorrence of inflicting harm on any living creature
Who advocate peaceful coexistence with people of all races and persuasions
And yet, there they are on the hot, dusty streets, their robes billowing in the wind
With flailing arms, demonically enraged faces and obscenely twisted mouths
They urge hordes of thugs and hooligans to commit brutal mayhem
Against innocents whose only crime is to subscribe to a different religion
The scourge of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism strikes again
Ugly, religious bigotry at its worst
Humanity’s bottom dwellers
Hell bent on destruction
Oblivious that the edifice they ultimately succeed in destroying
Will crash down on them as well

Why does Chopin get under my skin
Not just mine, I saw the evidence, transparent, thin
In his Pere Lachaise resting place
The only grave adorned with pots of flowers, some resting on lace
A shrine for lovers, vulnerable to penetrating charms
Shaken by intense, disturbing passion that swarms
Over the inner reaches of my soul
The strains of sheer, unadulterated music, his Barcarolle
Washed waves of emotion, I struggled not to cry
As love, sadness, grief and joy
Engulfed me, heightened the experience

Racial Stereotyping
How quick are we to assign collective blame
For actions that bear individual responsibility and culpability
And have no links to the targeted collective group
Is the entire South Sudanese community
Or even all our communities from the African continent
Responsible for the rampant crimes of some of them
Is Islam the chief repository of homophobia in Australia
Is our propensity a measure of a community’s bigotry
Lying not far below the surface
Laws proscribing racial and religious vilification only a tenuous lid
Blown off when the opportunity arises to exploit a community’s outrage
At the behaviour of some, by xenophobically targeting
The ethnic or religious group to which they belong
Only if they are minorities of a certain hue or religion or culture
Is this the way to effect change for the better, to improve as a society,
To become better people

Me, Again
I am watching, observing
Trying to figure him out
Who does he think he is
Who is he, really
Is there a difference
What causes the difference
I know he is good
Generous, helpful, sincere
He shrinks from hurting others
He likes to please
But I also see fear
What is he afraid of
Does a word of disapproval carry more weight
Than a hundred that approve
Does a sign of disinterest or dislike
Override a hundred that tell him the opposite
Does he not know himself
Does he not like himself enough
I wish I could help him
Steer him towards the many welcoming, outstretched arms
But his focus persists on the one or two who push him away
I’ll stand beside him, silently supportive
As he struggles to figure it out

My solemn oath
Is to like myself
To accord myself
The same compassion and benefit of doubt
I so freely give others
To find and acknowledge the good in me
Just as I look for the good in others
To value my strengths and virtues
To be an important person in my life

Reframing Failure
Take the weight of your failures
Reframe your flaws as just being human
The road to success is strewn with failure
If your failures weigh you down you cannot move
You cannot learn from them, instead
You wallow in self-recrimination
You are flooded by self-doubt
You think you are an imposter
Be kinder to yourself
Look back on the road
See how far you have travelled
Praise yourself for what you have achieved
Let your successes drive you
Let your achievements tell you what you are capable of
Failures are merely hiccups
Unavoidable by-products of honest effort
Of daring to step out
Of daring to try
Let them teach you, not judge you

The breadth of love
The depth of love
Many dimensions of human altruism
Like physical attraction
Another broad spectrum
Of outlets of desire
Own up, admit
It is time to free ourselves of the restrictions
On natural human predispositions
A society free of religious impediments
Is a society free of inhibition, free of repression, free of suppression
Imposed from within as well as without
A society in which a natural order asserts itself
A natural order imposed and sustained by a battle between natural virtue and natural vice
In the end the need to survive has to prevail
Collective survival
As individual survival is an illusory blip on the road to oblivion

Our Racist Government
The government attack dogs have sprung again
Snarling and biting as they hurl themselves at those in the opposition
Who dare to publicly express a sentiment
Against indefinite detention of asylum seekers.
What moral ground do the attack dogs think they occupy
Professing Christian values on the one hand
And wreaking unspeakable cruelty on innocents, on the other
How do they sleep at night, wouldn’t the stench of their hypocrisy keep them awake
Perhaps they use their faith to erase their accountability
Performing a nightly ritual to wipe the slate clean
For tomorrow’s pompous self-righteousness
As another unbearable day is endured by those who have committed no crime
It seems our government still believes that
Inhumanity towards asylum seekers is a vote winner
What an indictment on all of us
Remember, everyone is capable of good
Hitler loved his dogs
We are not defined by our selective compassion, the charity we perform at home
What truly define us are the cruelty and callousness we are capable of
It is in our power to demand that our political leaders
Collect the consciences they left at the door
And extend humanity and compassion to all

The day has arrived again
He’d have turned sixty-nine today
He stays with me all year
Quietly in a corner, mingling with my grief and regret
Today he gets up, makes his way to the forefront
Still the rare, precious human asset he always was
Happy Birthday Seymour

I heard on the radio today
That Nigel Farrage is coming here
On a speaking tour
He wants to urge Australians to reclaim their country from the elites
Fuck him, he is not worth a poem.

The Best You
How do you turn yourself into the best ‘You’
Your most beautiful face is not dependent on
Absence of wrinkles
No sagging skin
It is a face that fronts a mind
Full of passion and compassion
Replete with enthusiasm and good will
Always looking for opportunities to make people feel good about themselves
The best cosmetic surgery in the world cannot improve your looks
To the same extent good thoughts can
And you’ll save a big bunch of money too

What do I want to say
In the short time I’m here
Before the moments I have left run out
Often the things I leave unsaid
Are those I shrink from uttering
For fear of the consequences
But there are also things
I don’t realise I should be saying
Because their importance does not register
Or I am so wrapped up in my insignificant sorrows
Opportunities slip by unnoticed
Injustice continues
Gloom persists
A life is damaged

What does our PM tell us
About the sort of person he is
When he plays blatant, shameful, racial politics
Hoping it will give the government an edge on Super Saturday
Does power mean so much to him
That truth does not matter
That honesty and decency count for nothing
He has laid his ambition naked and bare for all to see
It is not a pretty sight, it compels to turn away in shame
From the personal, public shredding of dignity
We deserve better leaders
Honesty and principle must prevail
Or we are lost

Dispel Bigotry
At what point in our lives
Does a human difference
A difference that should be celebrated
Become something to fear
Or treated with suspicion
Or dammed as deviant
Or regarded with disdain
Or classified as sub-human
When does the barrier go up
To shut out a black child from her white friend
When do the curtains come down
To block out the humanity of those
Who cry out for your acceptance
For your compassion
When does bigotry set in
And prevent you from seeing the good in people
Because of spurious, venomous notions 
Instilled by nurture and religion and environment
That rob you of your innocence
Block out what is real
And replace it with poisonous perceptions
Not founded in reality
Not based in truth
What is the purpose of education
If not to equip you
To question what was instilled into you
And become completely accountable
For everything you think and say and do

Is there anything lower
Than beating the racial drum
To raise old, unfounded fears
For political gain
Shouldn’t our leaders be trying to unite us
Rather than divide us
Shouldn’t they be welcoming newcomers
Encouraging them
Assisting them
But instead
They lead the hatemongers
They are the spearheads of the torch-wielding bigots
Is this the leadership we want
Or do we need leaders
Who will not fuel hatred just to survive
Whose eyes are fastened to a better Australia
Who are motivated by compassion not raw personal ambition
Who govern for everyone not just an elite few
Who recognise that Australia is no longer a white, monocultural enclave
That everyone has to aspire to no matter from where they hail.

How well do you know yourself
Are your ideas fixed
About what you can and cannot do
About how good you can become
At anything
Be it something you do all the time or have never done at all
What if you dislodged those ideas
Tossed them out
And embarked on finding out
Combined with learning from others
Challenging yourself
Taking risks
Learning from failure
Learning from success
Self-discovery is exciting

Domestic Violence
Cowering in the bedroom
Paralysed with fear
While the storm rages outside
We children have the power, we are told
To purify or taint a family
We nestlings control the nest
Then why are we afraid
Of the alpha male in a testosterone fuelled rage
Flexing his mighty adult muscles
Menace in his deathly glare
Attacking first our mother
He’ll come for us soon
Is this what fathers normally do
Is terrorism the name of the game
Control by instilling fear
The only way

Alone with a book in my ears
Or thoughts bouncing in my head
The quiet rumble of a passing train
Enhances the tranquillity of the suburban hills
It’s never level in these parts
The hiker’s rule
Everyone who descends will shortly have to ascend

A Spring Walk Around Home
Spring has arrived enriching our green suburb with a brighter green
Crisp white blossoms from buds that poked out weeks ago
Festoon the bare branches that shivered through winter
Alone with a book in my ears or thoughts bouncing in my head
While the quiet rumble of a passing train enhances the tranquillity of the suburban hills
I pound the winding, manicured boulevards and avenues
Wary of magpies, always checking their body language, their level of agitation
Hooding up if an attack is possible, hooding up anyway, just in case
Another hill, steeper than the last, lies just ahead
My legs drag me up towards the summit, such as it is, a welcome place
The start of a gradual, comfortable downhill canter to the village

Understanding Racism
Hey white fella
Don’t tell me you know racism when you see it
Don’t tell me the cartoon of Serena wasn’t racist
Don’t tell me that Steve Bannon is not racist
Don’t tell me you are not racist, as if that decides it once and for all
Heed the anguished reactions of those directly affected
By cruel, derogatory stereotyping
No matter how eloquently or skilfully expressed
Or how cleverly concealed by sleight of hand
The victims will tell you what you need to know

My Garden in Winter
The garden in winter lies low
Wearing an ashen pallor
And drooping leaves and naked twigs
And bare brown earth where annuals last spring and summer
Raised their colourful heads
But the melancholy of the garden in winter
Is only on the surface
Underneath, rest and rejuvenation
Are preparing it for growing, greening, blossoming and fruiting
With a little care the garden in winter will, in spring
Explode in bountiful new growth and colour
We have scattered seeds, forked in compost, watered, weeded
Over to you, Spring

Tottering Patriarchy
The patriarchy is tottering
The past is catching up with men
Who aspire to high office
Not a moment too soon
What they did in their youth behind closed doors
Is being dragged out into the open
By victims of bullying and intimidation and rape
Who for many years have had to suffer the spectacle
Of the perpetrators clothing themselves with respectability
And basking in the stature, power and publicity of high office
A threat to their veneer of uprightness shows the world
That the men who were thugs and bullies in their youth
Are still thugs and bullies in middle and old age

Racism - Again
Don’t tell me you know racism when you see it
Don’t tell me the cartoon of Serena wasn’t racist
Don’t tell me that Steve Bannon is not racist
If you are not one of those directly impacted
By the cruel, derogatory stereotyping
That reeks of age-old or even modern-day oppression
No matter how eloquently or skilfully or artistically expressed and defended
Or how cleverly concealed by sleight of hand
Heed the anguished reactions of those directly affected
The victims will tell you what you need to know
Until you are able to empathise with them
Don’t tell me you are not racist
As if the mere utterance decides it once and for all

My unhelpful thought
Who is this person striving so hard
So diligently, so frequently
It has become a ritual
A daily task at the shrine of each pursuit
Without it his day is not complete
He is quick to chide himself
And as slow as a lethargic snail to pat himself on the back
Why does he strive so hard
What is he trying to prove, and to whom
Is he trying to disprove the mediocrity he has conferred on himself
That raises the stakes each time he steps on the stage
That riddles him with anxiety
That squeezes out of his brain the fruits of all his hard work
And robs him of the joy of sharing something he truly loves

Personal Fiction
However hard he tries
The veil never fails to descend
Never fails to distort his view
And prevent him from seeing what actually is
His reality becomes a fantasy, a fiction
That fuels the insecurity
That put up the veil in the first place
He lives in a vicious cycle of unhelpfulness
Spiralling downward
But does he know it
How can he, spinning and tumbling in a vortex
Can he be still for long enough
To bring back his focus from the world beyond to the veil itself
Embroidered into it from years of self-destructive endeavour
The negative, untruthful thoughts he’s accumulated about himself
He’d never do this to someone else
Why does he do it to himself

My Duty to the Vilified
Silence sanctions evil in our society
The world inside my bubble may be just fine
I may think I have all the answers for a happy life
But racism, misogyny and homophobia are still rearing their ugly heads around me
They may not prick my bubble but I can be sure people are affected
People who have been oppressed and marginalised
Some still are
If I don’t understand why they are affected
I can try to find out, it is not difficult
If these people mean anything to me
If their anguish moves me
Is it my responsibility to call out evil when I see it, when I hear it
It may not be directed at me
But it is being directed at someone, I can be sure of that
Someone who once couldn’t fight back, but that is changing
I should be applauding them, supporting them, joining them
Not telling them to get back in their box
And adopt my narrow life that wilfully shuts out the real world

Being Loved
The knowledge that you are loved
Not endured, not tolerated, not cared for as a sense of duty
But loved just for who you are
Is empowering and uplifting beyond words
That someone is happy with you
Unconditionally without expectation
Without provisos or caveats
Whose trust is given freely and easily
Is liberating beyond the stars
How fortunate it is
To be loved and trusted
How satisfying it is
To see the glow of contentment in the one who shares their life with you
And watch them enjoy the fruits of your contentment in return
It is the stuff of dreams

Like Yourself
Why dislike yourself
When there is no reason to
If you knew someone who was kind and compassionate
And generous and helpful
Would you dislike them
Would you distrust their sincerity
Without tangible evidence
Whom do you know better than yourself
Back what you know
You can’t do much better than that
Find the courage to like yourself
Never crave the respect of others
So that you can respect yourself

Do I know the boundary
Between what I control and what I don’t
I control what I eat, what I read, what I learn, what I wear
I control how I use my time
But do I control the reasons I do these things
How much is influenced by a need
To not be noticed by others
Or to earn the approval and respect of others
Or to avoid the scorn and disapproval of others
Or to show others that I am better that they think I am
Or to show others that I am an individual
Why do others come into it
What have they got to do with it
There is something else compelling me, driving me
Something fundamental that lights the first spark
It lives inside me and struggles to get out
But I let the dictates of others push it down
And prevent it from expressing itself
Am I unable to see that I am stifling my own creativity
By being worried about what others think
When in reality they do not give me a passing negative thought

Find a corner replete with quietness
Sync your mind to the soundless rhythms
Observe yourself absorb the stillness
Feel it rise from the soles of your feet
Winding upwards and outwards
Until you are one with the silence
Hear a door unlock, open
Invite the emerging spectre
To dance on your brain
On light twinkly toes
Or stomping Doc Martens
Or something in between 
Let the daimon lead you
Towards the light
Or apocalyptic darkness
Or something in between 
Resist the urge to grab it
Keep your “I” out of it
Submit, trust, follow it
To find the cowering child
Lost, frightened, damaged
Waiting for you to lead him out
Gently and lovingly
To begin the healing

Kindness to myself
Can I be kind to myself
No different to the kindness I show others
Not less, not more
Exactly the same
It should be easier
Because I know myself better than I know anyone else
I know my good qualities
I like to contribute to others’ happiness
I shrink from causing distress
But here’s the rub
I know my flaws
Can I forgive myself for my many slip-ups
It shouldn’t be difficult
I readily forgive others for the same slip-ups
But I succumb to prolonged shame.

Captain of My Ship
Walk away, walk on
Hold your head high
Empower yourself
To be yourself
To be proud of your goodness
To acknowledge that you deserve the love and respect
Of everyone in your life
Don’t settle for less
Even friendships can be tweaked
To attain a happy equilibrium
The best ones are dominated by equality
Like yourself, value your worth
Be the captain of your ship

A child of nature
Gabriel descended on us a fortnight ago
Relishing abundant greenery
Delighting in the splashes of vivid floral colour
Insatiably curious about trees and flowers
Boundlessly energetic in open spaces
In botanic parks and public gardens
And even our humble garden
It was a privilege to share our home with you
And experience your wonder
At the beauty of nature

Me and the Suffering of Others
Do we really feel for those caught in poverty traps
Or do we step back and intellectualise
Shake our wise heads
Lament the down side of continuous assistance
Pull out statistics
Interpret them to support our points of view
While individuals, people no different to you and me,
Forage for food on rubbish dumps
Watch their children die of preventable and curable diseases
They cannot wait until global and national wealth trickles down to them
They cannot wait until global poverty is a thing of the past
It will be too late
They need help now
Are we prepared to help some of them
Even one of them
Or do we continue to shake our heads
Lamenting their passing
Expressing sorrow for their wretched lives
But insisting there is nothing we can do about it

My Veneer
Do I know what’s in my heart
What it is that drives me
To be the person I really am
Where does the real me lurk
He pops his head above the surface every day
To make me do all those things I love to do
But he is shy and easily intimidated by
Another me who is constantly in my ear
Telling me unhelpful things
Placing a lid on my precious wellsprings
Forcing me to subvert my true motivation
With fear of failure
With craving the acceptance of others
With resignation to my mediocrity
I must challenge him
He is not me
He is a veneer
A cloak of inadequacy
That I choose to wear
That I can choose to shed
Thread by thread, if that is what it takes

Never be afraid to change
Never turn away from a new horizon
Life is all about challenging the status quo
How else do I improve
How else do I progress
How else do I realise my dreams
Dreams exist in realms beyond my present grasp
Outside the silo I have built around me
Whose walls are as thick and sturdy
Or as thin and fragile as I want them to be
What does it take to crash or step through my wall
Is it a wall, resistant, impenetrable, unshaken by feeble effort
Or merely a loose, dangling veil, easily lifted
When I finally resolve to take that defining step
Into the middle of my dreams
Into the rest of my life.



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