POEM: Try being a poet in the midst of flying bullets


                     For the Nuba people, North Sudan                  

The heat here melts the fat in your neck into liquid necklaces. It’s a furnace of Elo the forgotten god of this land.

Here, children write their dreams in sweat: the indelible ink of their brow. It’s the only way a father’s bullet scar can mean something.

Here, a book is a full plate to a starving mind. And eyes are spoons. Every sentence is a road leading home. And all brackets look like a parent’s open hug.

Here, hills speak in silent tones, as trees eavesdrop in defiance. Trees sejera and ardhef are stubborn children; accustomed to the indifferent beatings of the sun.

Here, if you were to study an old tree, you would imagine its branches when it was young, green and naive to the civilized ways of shemis (the sun).

You would imagine this tree as a virgin; before bees deflowered her and sold her innocence to the birds and the dry gush of wind.

You would imagine its naked branches resignedly spread, like the arms of a one-legged Indian dancer.

You would imagine the life it breastfeeds to the starved beaks of the rocks sprouting across these Nuba hills. Hills that bear bullet scars.

And then, beneath its shadow, there’s a quick-sand footpath that leads to small tombs of children strutting to school in missing arms.

POEM: Remember to Breathe


Of course all the traffic lights were red, even the pedestrian
ones as my fingers drum the steering wheel in
rhythm to that urgent voice that urged
me into this rabbit hole of gridlock. I
can’t answer my mobile but know
it would be that same voice
again. Didn’t it get traffic?
Finally I exit into the
car park, swing into
a space, run four
flights two stairs
at a time, spurred
on by nurses
eye contact

still breathing,
watching the breeze
ruffle the leaves on the cedar tree
confident I wouldn’t let you do this alone.

POEMS: tea in the garden and you know how dogs


tea in the garden

the afternoon tipped
over the rim of her cup
and spilt into her lap
splintered light leapt
at her naked eyes

I thought you knew
said her guest

the scalding spread
indelibly across her thighs


you know how dogs

get those puzzled
prick-eared frowns
from the top of their heads
to their muzzles

and how those same frowns
can curl up their lips
and run down their backs
like hackles

POEM: One Man’s Junk


Referring to my barn-cum-office on auction day
the agent whispers, Have you anything of value there?
after he directs a slovenly man to where
what I cherish waits, inky hours flanked by books.
Only to me, I reply, my intended rueful tone
somehow sounding rather pitiful, a groan,
the creak of an old boat slipping its moorings.
Strangers, smirking locals, peer into nooks,
taking selfies before coloured glass, yakking on phones.
The agent has seen my collected belongings;
my boys’ blue-tacked art, loosened now, framed prints,
among them, a $10 flea-market Raymond Wintz,
sentimental scene typical of both artist and me.
He knows, shrewd witness to clients’ collected longing.