Learning Ukulele

Long as the latitude I allow love—

my one and only daughter sings along
the downstroke of her thumb strum
her head nodding to the ukulele neck.
I keep mum as mothers learn they must
who listen on the other side of window glass,

my other ear to the bush beyond
where the murder birds are bound
to turn in their coffin dreams.
Didn’t all the angels weep
when a single angel wept,
wiping out the difference?
I make believe I could kiss
all the tears from all their baby faces
crooning nothing is amiss, nothing amiss
when the sweetest little bird voice
breaks from the minor chord she bumbled—


An anniversary gift for DM

So, there are two possible ways this could go—
I could give you bronze or I could give you pottery.

Bronze is the obvious, the shade
of the southern hemisphere, a look
already showing on the back of your neck,
your wood-splitting arms, and my hands find,
at the hairline of your face, two zones—
the fresh bronze and the white of the snows
you’ve come from.
You’ve been touched by loving
the sun of it here, and the bronze flush
on the eucalypts in spring. Bronze is the stuff
of bells and mirrors, and the bush is
thronging with it, and today the river gives back
the shape of the hills, dabbling in pleasure.


I dipped into the past today
and sailed a piece of it away

Salt is sweet and the sea is free
and locked by land the same as me

Every child out having fun
can hold a candle to the sun

Light breathes in, days pull up shorter
herons ink their plot of water

Sometimes it’s the stove, sometimes the storm
confirms my heart is home and warm

If they kept being true, the things we meant
we’d be thin soup, puddle-dull, stagnant

They lie through their eyes, their tongues, their teeth
who cannot stomach what lies beneath

In the Beginning

A scientist tasted raspberries and rum
at the heart of the Milky Way.
Another brought back in a wink
from the fixed-and-forever forming,
a billion year old secret,
pink — the first colour that came.

Oh, delicious day,
I saw it come this morning
with a wallaby eating at dawn,

and I felt it follow —
that it’s easier to sit with a stranger,
life is a joy with maggots at the heart,
birds of paradise hide among the leaves,
a girl can hold a secret as big as the sea,
through button grass and panic grass
the snag on the path becomes the path,
a spider loads the blades of the bladed world
with rainbows, then eats its own shimmer.

Instead of Elegy

A slight tug at my DNA
a tighter grip on my crow’s feet

the white glare on the waveless sea
watered-down with gusts of rain

as I follow a road that hugs the coast
to a disused lighthouse at Cape Meares

dragging a hydra-headed hurt
till I stumble on the trunkless Octopus Tree

When you were green were your limbs forced down
hard to the ground, were you pilloried

till you elbowed up like a candelabra
were you told ‘no, you’re an octopus tree’

I can’t stop looking at what I see
where a trunk never was, so close to me

Star Sestina

Sometimes you hear a story like this.
Some lives seem to hang by a star
like the single one in the afternoon sky,
the loveliest one that aligns with your face
when your mother calls, and you go in the gate
left open between the house and the flowers.

I come from women who know what flowers
will stand the salt. And it comes down to this—
summers of sea-thrift beyond the gate
and slender sandwort, a five-petalled star,
and fog and butterflies licking your face
when you lie all day looking up at the sky.

Banana Boat with Sharks

Books on the shelf lean to the open window
behaving like flowers

above them a painting of a purple boat
curved like a banana

and four nut-brown fishermen with spears
curved limbs curved hats and rictus grins

showing rows of separated teeth
the spitting image of the teeth of four sharks

swimming beneath (fish and men with different lungs
kept apart by the signature Annie T who is the artist)

men and fish wide awake and the moment
about to arrive and swell those depths

everything bends past knowing
every painting and every book

Epithalamion on Fire Island

Having watched the gulls gather and fly off
Over a sea as wrinkled as old cloth

Having opened the lid and tipped the sudden air
Having pushed and plunged with your dolphin parents there

Having spent a spring on an hour of earth
keeping a level eye with the eye of the worm

Having wandered to the heart of the wind and heard it talk
the way a candle makes you want to talk

Having made something out of something you have broken
Having felt happiness explode and double,