Poetry | December 01, 2003

Featuring the poems:



(for Roger and Siobhan)


My father’s hands

scatter grain, freckled,

giant, as I stumble after him

watching his palms

cast from a jute sack

this way and that as if

he’s performing a rite.

And what I wonder about is

how he measures out

the ground and how he knows

how thick and fast to plant

as he paces forward

and where exactly it lands?

The Bible warns against stones.

What about the birds

already having a feast

as they flock and lift

treating our harrowed space

as if it were Christmas?


He’s unconcerned about stones

and it’s important to cater

for the birds. They’ll soon

have enough. As for the seeds

I watch them sprout

delicate ribby greens

against the rainy earth

and rise over months to a deep

aquamarine that glistens

and runnels under the breeze.

Avid to catch the split

second the colours change

I play hide and seek

vanish and appear,

eye to eye with ripening grain

stilled by a tide shifting

the field and close my eyes

to listen as the harvest

turns golden.



In the house next door are two small boys.

They throw Beanie Babies across the fence


and shout their names and call for someone

to throw them back. I sit quiet with a book


pretending not to exist as animals rain

but they have climbed onto a ledge and spied


a patch of dress through the lattice and red

roses that bloom all round a gap in the hedge.


Already there are lions, elephants, penguins,

and several species of reptile looking sad.


“Here’s Amber,” they holler undeterred.

A striped cat lands at my feet.


Two pairs of brown eyes observe.

“Would you like to keep him?” They smile


as I pick up the cat. Amber is soft, enough

to take me off guard. More Beanies shower


the fence. The boys are yelling and it’s time

for bed but from their incessant voices,


I can hear that exhaustion is a deluge

flooding the land, their parents are already


drowned and I am beginning to understand

what Noah in the ark must have felt:


I am their only chance and my garden

is the last high island left.


The Freedom of the City

He slips out the back gate

with a young woman,

fair hair, pouting lips

and long ethnic skirts,


an old man with keys in his hand,

his bald head turned

to check the lie of the land,

that one backward glance


cautious as the bushy-tailed

red fox whose eyes met mine

in our garden after rain

one November afternoon


in a deluge of green

between leaf fall and sunshine

before he turned to light again

high on the boundary wall.


Island of Miracles

Forty degrees. Not a soul on the beach.

I began to dream of rain

as we lay in our shuttered room,

blood growing thin,


of standing out in a field

drenched to the skin,

tongue out

drinking as it poured down,

of falling to my knees before the heavens.


We sped north and east,

the hot wind from Africa burning our heels,

rose with the road, with our fear,

the breath of an angry god


through mountains above a ravine

round Kera Pass,

you could no longer steer

and our bike was a trembling reed.


I turned my face from the precipice

as you steadied the wheel

in that land of the mother goddess,

and drove at full throttle.


I could feel our lives in our hands,

then mercy of the elements

as we flew to the plain

of a thousand springs


where the gale ceased

by the cave of baby Zeus,

and we glimpsed the shadow

of an eagle floating downstream

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