the colour of our lives

poetry • celebration • faith • nature • humanity • imperfections • glory

Archive for the tag “family”


jerked from sleep by a loud name – his – urgent
stumble down the hall, into her room.
– Dad, I had a nightmare, and he lifts the weight
of her growing body into a hug.
– Want me to sleep next to you, in the spare
bed? – Yeah. – Let’s go to the toilet first. – OK.
Carry her down the hall, and back, still sleepy,
– Want to tell me what the dream was? – Yes.
And there are good and bad lands; white-striped,
face-painted warriors milling on the far shore.
Mum is there too, defending. The narrow water
between good and evil is leapt, breached, and
none of it makes sense in a narrative way…
– Thanks for telling me … we’re going to go to
sleep now. Love you. –  Mmm.
A single rustling turn; breathing, regular, quiet.
Nothing, then a bronze-shelled insect, closer,
along a vertical wall, closer in the pale tungsten
light, and he is awake again, facing his own



strange, no, that we place such high
significance on maximising a maybe, a
possible future, something we will never
know we have found until we’re there and
not be sure even then. Human potential is
not measurable in aggregate, on average;
set limits, and someone will prove us wrong,
reach beyond the humanly possible. We
burden our children with this immeasurable
ideal, vaguer for an individual even than for
the collective, and there are ten billion
directions, more or less, in which to reach;
in the span of each modern life we have one
quarter of a second to seek each single path,
so each human child must choose, or have
chosen for them, one or two at most. The
margin for error is large, left to chance
or coercion; we reap the consequences: a
natural musician excels in medicine, the
perfect athlete makes a sensible choice in
the building trade. And we pay, subtly but
dearly, for realising the wrong potential;
the dull, inexplicable hunger in moments of
true reflection; for some for whom the
choice was more conscious, the recurrent
sting of regret. The cure for guesswork
or obligation, of course, is passion, but to
let Love or Desire make our choice requires
us to relinquish control, to release our
selves and daughters and sons to still,
small voices and violent rushing winds.

pull out

pull out
those headphones
the music sings and soothes
but the tree frogs
are calling softly in
the twilight and
you are walking
to the ones you love

standard deviation

StdDevin my day job
not remembering formulas is
a handicap;
each solution to the same problem
requires remembering
first principles, and
how to construct the algebra

this could be a
coarse metaphor for life,
I’m not sure if I can recall
the basic principles.
The same problems keep
recurring; how to love and respect
my wife;
how not to exasperate
my daughter

deprived of convenient formulae
it reduces to this;
the aimless scratching of
pencil on paper, trying
to derive a solution for
our condition


at twelve, or thirteen,
listless, lying on my bed
by the window,
white vapours traversed the blue, a
perpetual evaporation
and coalescence powered
by the southern sun.

with an egocentrism fully
matching my years, I was
squinting clouds from the sky,
imagining other perplexed sky-gazers
left bemused
and wondering.

some weeks later my mother,
rediscovering earnest Christianity,
became enticed by a doctrine
embracing human dominion:
“God has made us so powerful, even
clouds will disappear
if we just pray”,
she recited.

I can still stare down the
flimsier clouds; as the years have
evaporated I squint hard,
still, at devout foolishness
which others gladly suffer;
all but the most Spartan creeds
discarded in search of a
gospel as true as the sky.




I changed it, then changed it back. I like the drawing my daughter did when she was three, better than the one she did now she is eight; she sees me too clearly now for comfort






imagined conversations with my adult daughter

  • Do you think it’s weird, you know, that I’m your Dad?
  • Nope.
  • Ok, cool.
  • Dad, it’s gotta be a minor sixth for the harmony!
  • Oh, yeah, sorry.
  • That’s more like it.
  • Remember when you were about eight and I started wearing that ear-ring again?
  • I wanted you to take it out … I still do.
  • Oh.
  • There’s this guy at church … he thinks you can only read the bible properly in Greek.
  • Really? – what do you reckon?
  • He’s such a bonehead, Dad. Sorry, but he is.
  • I love trees!
  • I like it that you’re into the environment, like your mum and me.
  • I would’ve been into it anyway, Dad.

Luke 18:16

A midrash

Let the little children come unto Me,
and do not hinder them

in their prayers. It’s as though God is
tucking her in to bed when she reminds
Him of her birthday, and invites Him to
her party. She wonders if He knows
about pass the parcel, and which of her
friends are coming, and of course that
the summer party is down by the river
and that there will be swimming. This is,
for her, as natural as breathing; she is too
young and free to second guess Him.
Never doubting whether He
shares her excitement and passion,
she overflows in joyful prayer.
for the kingdom of God belongs
to such as these

Haiku and senryu from Nathanael’s Rest

17 November 2009

in rainsmell air
bronzewing pigeons lowing
like feathered cows

daughter, writing
asks me how to spell a word
“start it off”, I say
fragrant humus
subtle spice of eucalypts
a forest’s perfume

quiet kookaburras
thirty seconds earlier
laughing at the sky

sun breaks from grey cloud
two green parrots glow in flight
and land, quietly



I try to create a ledger of my life
a balance sheet of blessings and curses
but even these externals
are not easily accounted for.
This is a wrong turn from
the start.
So I count different things
music (not enough)
love (you have to spend to earn)
God (unable to be bought at any price).
The categories are too broad.
Splitting entries might help, so:
1. confidence (debit)
2. salary (credit)
3. loneliness (debit)
and so on,
but it all devolves
to matters of the heart.
I am stumped; I do not know
how to measure my heart, or
even what hearts are measured in:
not-unspoken words;
passions followed by actions;
moments of courage or sacrifice;
tears of true repentance;
all of these, types of love.
And love, the greatest of these,
defies definition.
Still! my mind, and you
other voices who clamour for
balance and fairness. Speak
to me the kind of love
that leaves all questions open, does
not rush to fill emptiness, answers
all things with brilliant light.

domestic Tanka

bicycle fixed
a spell of gardening
the path is swept —
distracting himself
while wife and daughter sleep

fetching the paper
in the baby-blue dawn
she spies a bright star
that special one’s mine, she says
bright Venus, racing the sun

of a cool morning
we buy fresh vegetables, fruit
and stop for coffee
“babyccino not too hot,
lady, it burns my tongue”

always her shoes first
then preferably her socks
bare feet are best.

senryū for variety 


running us ragged
a pixie with a dynamo
and fuel to burn —
different blessings come
with stories and quiet hugs

his scientist’s eyes
brighten with a challenge
of the mind —
within, a poet’s heart
cringes and slowly withers

the colour of our lives (blog theme poem)

(this poem has its own page, too)

we play and posture
yet always cry sincerely
bare beneath our dream

a summer bushland
perfumed with eucalyptus
you hold hands with God

we sit in silence
stalemate of our stubborn wills;
wait – the thrust of Grace!

evening wine and song
campfire sparks with She-oak; we
claim an ancient theme

dandling friends’ children
is bittersweet with longing:
dreaming, you find hope

clear ocean like glass
vivid life concealed below
floating on heaven

October 2001

Post Navigation