Dog For Caitlin

Dog For Caitlin

That summer we loved a small black dog

Whose eyes always seemed to

see beyond the immediate –

moving her neck from our stroking

To examine the future-hazed distance.

She lay by the door, always found the shaded places,

the tunnel through the honeysuckle, the trough

under the verandah where coolness pooled

musty, in the old dairy dark.

She would come when we called,

out into the light, her eyes half-closed

her muzzled dusted

and she would let us stroke

– with our sticky child’s hands –

her earth-cooled fur.

Sacred Magpie

Imagine the traffic skirting your tree
hunter of the underground
your liquid voice – it brings up the sun while you carry shadows on you back – the past’s setting only knows noir
there was only ever right or wrong –
notes so perfect and flute clean
to make the crisp morning tremble
all you worshippers surrender themselves
imagining their own pied skins under the furs
setting candles at your alter and carving your totem into their footprints
hushing the children to listen
listen to the song of the surviving bird.
Planes change course to avoid disturbing your nestlings;
fledglings are guarded by boys who have learnt to cup their hands so gently
that they are known as magpie monks
and are given special privileges
like staying up with the elders to listen
for the September cracking of the blue eggs.
all this for the bare tremulous note.
The true song.
The bird law.

245 days

The air is tangled

all around her

filaments in and out

of these breaths I count

the snug of her

against my side

warm that’s mine

but now her’s.

How can I know her

and not – ?

those days she spent

gathering herself from me

in and out with the


up and down of the two hearts

rubbing rubbing

chaffing life up.

As if this face has always

been with me

and is more my own

than the mirror or window’s

bright fleck of person.

But only this short time

the sleep of her

so enormous.



As the sky leaks

so will you

a minute apocalypse

of fluid

once seemed to be yours then falls

and you find yourself outside yourself

exacting callous flow

from time to time.

He cannot change this

small wonder

that leached your bones’ own filaments

the fine lines of marrow


from the sun or some explosion

in the sky

where all this seems to start

and end.

You see yourself

as structured from surroundings

like birds

who weather

wear the sky from claw to beak

themselves a drop of yolk

sunset pinched to yellow

the salt blue of that fellow

how the clotted bloodstream

twisted up with iron and elements

whose very names – nitrogen oxygen hydrogen –

are foreign outsiders marching

on time’s own order

not soldiers of the self

that pulled me from you and then on again

file after file

in a library of clouds.

Some days you are the sky’s

immense sadness

that speaks up and is surrendered to

blood cord taught

that ends all ends

and will conclude…

Has Lost Her…

Scale back the eye
to halter days
as leaf from tree
this scud of time
doesn’t know where to find them.

From bow to peep
the ankle roll
growth plate after growth plate
the mime of hair
cackle backthrow

just below the heart
this song is sitting
an awning of silver
cloud-loud and syncopated
taut as a rainbow

as reflective
as fish leaving their tails
behind them. Kick start
the leading to muzzle up close:
the reward is sleeping.

Friday poem 4: luminous familiar

The sky-eyed face that buries itself
In my chest is luminous familiar
All the breath
all those ins those outs

The pupil’s yawn
that orchid mouth
Span of forehead my own
To claim and paste with kisses

Even if we were not suckled together
This embrace
Repeated and repeated
A dance of hunger and relief

The ‘o’ of your needs
To the full stop of my nipple
The curlicue of your body
To the asterisk of my hand

At the break of night
Or fall of day
One eating the tail of the other
No beginning or exact end.

Friday Poem 3: Map of the Uneaten

The kitchen has all the evidence

of breakfast balanced in exact disorder;

the egg shells spills of milk

fresh grains of crumpled weetbix

finely ground by hand

and honey strands arranged from

jar to lip and back to jar.


I am armed with a cloth

about to wipe it clean and delete the morning’s ritual

divide the crusts among the chickens

water down the dust and spray

sand away the places you carved your names

the indelible crayon that travels

beyond the paper and onto the wood.


But there, in the slant of the morning

my will, my wishbone shatters.

It is now mixed with the milky map of the uneaten,

I watch it congeal next to the toast

which is exactly as you left it

and travels from past to present and back again.


There will not be another morning

with clamour and mixing of this honey and this time;

the children have left

there is no returning

even from lip to lip

no more milky traces to follow home.