whats on



























































































Prizewinner in the Aesthetica Creative Works Competition (2009)

At the end of the abandoned lane
among stubby fields of nettles,
couch-grass and docks,
the old house squats.
A muddied cattle-trail curves
to the empty gate and wanders on.

Choked to the lintels with briars,
rotten window-frames gape:
beyond dangling slates
a sycamore where rooks refuse to nest.
Forcing thorns apart, I step in
to the parlour.

A barren grate,
the tiled mantelpiece shrouded with cobwebs
and the drained bodies of insects
that kicked their last as Jim Reeves crooned on the radio:
filthy strands embrace a deserted soldier,
in the mildew beside him a teddy’s eye.

Broken tiles crunch to the thick, square sink
(where stains couldn’t be erased)
and a raddled enamel cooker
its oven door clasped by bramble spikes,
still guarding against
the ungrateful child who wanted.


Prizewinner in the Sentinel Literary Quarterely Competition (2010)

I read letters from lovers
that couldn’t be saved,
and mine to her:
no answer came.

Packages of rain wrap my salutation,
a lament chancing westward
across deaf continents
to broken lands that echo far from home.
Navigating the steps each night,
I throw sentences to clouds
and bribe the air with courtesy for dawn.
I have no prayer: just a shout
held in, the sound of something without voice
that seems to give spiritual light.
In the prison of countless cries
there is no sun.

Beyond her native lake
the ground was dark and cold:
she had no shelter,
stepping to a place
whose end was always near.
The voice was soft, she said
'these words may never reach you'.

Sweet silhouette,
I fixed upon the glowing sky
and whispered
'my skin dissolves in dew without your touch'.
What else could I say?
I’m travelling through the world
that lies before me, endlessly.
It starts to rain as I write this.
Mad heart, be brave.

‘The Country Without a Post Office’ – Agha Shahid Ali (1997)
‘Stepping Westward’ – William Wordsworth (1803)


Highly Commended in the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition (2009)

I came at the call
holding my fears and wishes.
Stationed either side of the bed
we watched him for three days,
unconscious but twitching
under oxygen mask and drip.
Marge kept addressing him
in a crisp, measured voice,
as if a wayward child
slow to mend his ways.

No response. Nothing
but the insistent hiss of the tubes.
They showed us the scan,
a great blot at his left temple:
speech, swallowing and continence
astray in this barren stretch.

A tank commander
he endured desert battles,
capture and camps.
Three months of pumpkin soup in Bari,
years of hunger inside Stalag 8B:
liberated by Patton (with ivory-handled revolvers).
In Palestine, he’d been delayed for the meeting
when the Stern Gang’s bomb
exploded on time.

He begins to regain consciousness
for seconds, then minutes:
the mask comes off, he tries to speak
but nothing utters from arid lips
slid down on the right, a worn-out leer.
With a keening nasal cry, he focuses on Marge:
fifty years and they don’t need talk,
holding hands like sweethearts
before watchful family eyes.

I reappear with gifts:
he fingers them like strange artefacts,
puzzling for a while on my message
as if encrypted in a foreign tongue.
Opening a photo-book of deserts
I patiently turn pages for him,
hoping to kindle the resourceful heat
of his early prime, map-making
under the Saharan sun.

'Rendezvous at the fig-tree in four days time'
they laughed, jumped into jeeps
and motored past the pyramids
into the vast Western desert.
Wavy hair slicked back, sleeves rolled up on khaki fatigues,
he shone confidence in the camera’s bright gaze;
now he’s shrunken into Ward Six,
propped up, but weighed down
by the pillows around his head.
I kiss him goodbye: cloudy blue eyes
looking confused.

The engine starts up and my tears spring:
oh Dad…we’d just traversed that void,
slowly gauging each other’s presence.
In the grain of your workshop, wood-rich,
we fashioned a template of respect,
belated confidences offered like treasure.
Dusty tools now languish in this dumbed shed
and I must complete whatever remains,
speaking for myself.


Highly Commended in the Competition for the Cinnamon Press Poetry Award (2008)

A dead kestrel,
the guts of a washing machine,
mule turds, single mattress
ripped, one black boot, carcass
of a computer monitor,
wide-brimmed wickerwork hat,
Barbie y Ken se Prometen
(box empty), olive stones,
a book on chivalry, whose name
I do not care to recall,
stamped Biblioteca de Toledo.


for Justice Albie Sachs

Highly Commended in the Competition for the Jack Clemo Poetry Prize (2009)

Without me to steer it
the indigo arm of his suit flutters and swerves.
He’s speaking on truth and reconciliation again:
that hand an anchor (trapping his notes to the desk)
this sleeve a flag of passion
the vacant space that’s rightly mine.

Long after the car bomb in Mozambique
he’s told the secret agent wants to confess.
At the Commission, a chance meeting:
the agent sheepishly makes to shake,
I scream
'you’ve already taken me, you bastard'.
Albie pauses, then proffers:
'here, I have another one'.


Highly Commended in the Cannon Poets Silver Jubilee National Competition (2009)

In a lost ocean of terracotta sand
bulges the blood-red shoulder
of an ancestral being
at rest.
As visitors clamber like ants,
bright sun crawls across the tussocked plain
of yellow spinifex,
scattered groves of mulga trees
still their agile leaves.
The land offers up its warmth.

Crimson biceps gather
and stretch,
rippling from a great scapula
six kilometres across:
the ants scatter and snap.
Over scarlet flanks
sunfire pulses, flares:
a conflagration scorches to the summit
and soars into a glistening sky.

Haloed in ultramarine and violet,
Uluru stands serene:
a beacon of the spirit
rooted in the earth’s core.
This eager heart.

tjukurpa: foundational beliefs and spiritual truths (aboriginal)