What the river told me by Jane Skelton

broomstick orchestra by Jane Skelton

along the lake’s edge   
our burnt limbs scratch at the sky   
rapping in the wind −   
gentle ratapan, a screek   
a soft scrunching of paper
as it passed through us   
we could only receive it −   
dreaming of water   
arms upraised in frozen dance   
amid the whirlwind of fire
our spectral voices   
sing the conflagration   
mimic the crackling   
as the wind brings the burnt reek   
the acrid recall of pain  
waves unburied our song   
our creaking cacophony   
roots deep in midden   
sand falls from shell, bone, graveyards   
old feasts uncovered, old fires
fishing boats glide past   
seabirds, on indifferent trails   
we cry from the dunes   
our terrible scribble is  
crazing the ruffled water 
the wash slaps our dune   
our every wounding, a sound   
the lake whispers back   
its silky repetition   
new growth creeps forward   
our song is nearly over   
twine us in green strength

from “Riversalt” by Lou Smith

An Evening Swim at Kilaben Bay

Between the wooden slats
of the boardwalk
distant lights of houses
blur in a diffraction of amber
like Venus through drizzle
or in the curve of waves
fanning from shore
What the river told me by Jane Skelton

from “What the river told me” by Jane Skelton

Ben Boyd’s tower

The bay’s silk curtain is  
blue milk, draped from the opposite shore  
	the sea pricked out in boats  
their white sails dancing upon its pleats  
	through the spyglass he scanned  
the coves, the inlets, their crescent smiles  
	and across to Eden   
a Stink, the whale bones lying about   
	covered by feeding crows  
Framed in a high window   
he might look like a wandering ghost   
	his skin freckled, weathered   
his eyes pink-rimmed, lips dry, salt-glistered   
	a struggle climbing up   
seabirds caterwauling round his head   
	he grasped his broad-leafed hat   
lest the wind snatch it for the ocean   
	and show his thinning pate 
Toward the spindrift-blurred   
horizon, something in him yearning   
	always had, since boyhood   
he’d built a port, a place with his rules    	
	and his own currency  
though all was against him − the weather!  
	lack of labour, the laws!  
Not his fault his ventures have collapsed  
	suddenly, he was bored  
Sea eagles were circling   
an aeronaut, he might fly away
	but could only climb down
a servant came forth with his carriage  
	helped him up, awkwardly   
he glanced at himself in his mirror
   	slicked down his balding crown   
he, who felt himself a personage
	was he still comme il faut?
Along the ship-wrecked coast   
hidden vessels drift beneath the waves   
	octopuses’ gardens   
huddle in the weed-furred rotting hulls   
	in deep green whale-strong swells   
he made for the Pacific Islands   
	dragging his submerged selves   
plotting a republic, a land grab        
	sailed to his secret death   
The scorched tower still stands   
its headland now fire-razed, scalped of scrub  
	tourists potter about   
pause before the signage − warped, melted   
	and will it be replaced?   
the tower’s cordoned off − they ignore   
	pose, in its emptiness 
watch the waves slam vermilion rock   
	below treacherous cliffs  
Wind mouths the lone tower   
tourists speculate − these sandstone blocks  
   carried miles, from Sydney  
by bullock train, at enormous cost  
   who was Benjamin Boyd?  
a colonial Christopher Skase?  
   but more, a blackbirder  
wrought death, disease on his captured men  
   indifferent to their fate 
 Matting the headland now  
green and juicy growth − wattle, myrtles  
   spring out of charcoal ground  
fire has revealed the middens, the shells 
   crumbling to ashy earth  
signs of those whose place it was, and is  
   the romance is fading  
listen − other voices are speaking  
   a new naming begins

from Iman Budhi Santosa’s “The Faces of Java”

Silversmiths from Kotagede

life was blown gently
into the silver, gram by gram
binding the emerald, enhancing the ruby
eyes shining on each finger
hammer and file danced at the stroke of midnight 
solder hissed in between 
and light taps 
to the belly, ‘antique accessories
when weighed are worth 
more than the maker’s finger’
for years they have saved 
but not a single necklace 
to drape the scrawny chest 
the hair has turned silver
in the making 
silent and forgotten 
by the children of time


from Rob Shackne’s “A Chance of Seasons”

A Poem for the Hungry Ghosts

I won’t wear red to draw attention,
sing or whistle my favourite melody.
I won’t linger near the shadowed walls
to stir or fret the hungry ghosts,
unrested souls trying to recall a life
without fear or violence or tragic luck.
Their whispers are all sighs and envy
as I walk home in open lamplight.

an elevensie from Kerri Shying’s “Knitting Mangrove Roots”

Note: an ‘elevensie’ is a poem form with the title in the middle and five lines on either side.

how about I sleep out here tonight 
final evening   let the ropes    tighten 
to the dew     hold the shape of days 
before the road and home    inhale me
set me once again 
                                   to use 
on trickier palaver   Kent pumpkins 
after hand-pollination and the 
herbs we need for winter   altar 
blooms to go in  I am already one 
hand in the pantry    broody hen 

from Alex Skovron’s “Water Music” – Sunspots

The people have filled the city’s open spaces,

they stand shoulder to shoulder, expecting everything.

The platform above the Square is empty.

A buzz of unease caresses the bare heads,

their coronas of hair thinning into the breeze;

see the rolled-up newspapers, the scarves that twitch.

The hum mounts to a whisper, the whisper

delivers its secret, the secret

is betrayed, spreads like an epidemic;

outside the city they are building a pyramid of books.

Common of Garden Poets #12 – Kerri Shying


Where the bees rest where the butterflies play

                                                                  “What we most need to do is to hear within us 

                                                                     the sounds of the earth crying…”

                                                                                     – Thich Nhat Hanh

from October the trees are all betrothed        each

to the gardener                        in nets  white gauze    

figs      peaches sequestered from the busy beaks

and teeth          of bats and birds

the day            sultry as a girl in her slip swimming     

waiting on the Southerly Buster

cicadas  heat from the city      a brown bubble popped

by flat-iron cloud-banks                      

high and sharp as the beaked head of a kookaburra

tall sky and 

gratefully I’m small


up the hill 

march the white

agapanthus                  forcing genetic breaks

onto our purple beauties          scrambling the misty blues

to hybrids        there is no 

            one garden       in my street


I see     the Ice flower

nipped out on a beach walk    mini red-fringed suns

succulents  rescued from places where old age gave way

to builders’ aspirations            pieces of old friends

the Mentone red geranium that Gaagang saw from his pram

Hoya from the balcony           back at the flat           the boys had

in Drummoyne            your tree

  a pencil planted just before

you died


begonias like Mum’s   pelargonium from The Redemptorists 

a fine piece of Menken’s building   lotus out of farm dams

mingle a floral beer garden    with tin peacocks

and galahs                   turmeric  galangal  Vietnamese mint 

vanilla orchid                         mustard greens

are you hungry            thinking how to mow around 

the condiments                        and if you’ve ever seen a chicory flower

mauve and  delicate as tissue 



I see a garden built by birds by bats   


flown in  yonder          from Ash Island 

White Cedar    loquat  air mail

in a sweep of feathers

    the odd drop of oyster shells           

beside the Jizo statue

bark     depends from gum tree           piling around roots

mandarin and finger lime        lemons            parsley

all engrossed with weed         with blue tongues

pushing up in pots       in tubs in cisterns



these tiny         hair-drawn feet

can tread