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Tag: poetry

May she know the promise of hope

A poem reflecting on student wellbeing:

A long absent student enters class,
sits with quiet determination,
tries not to be noticed,
you call her by name.
Survival is a story ancient as the stars:
light out of darkness;
a distant child returned.
After one hundred days of exile
may she know the promise of hope
and walk peaceably from joy to joy to joy
from blessing to blessing to fresh immeasurable blessing.

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The great Spirit moves hope among twenty one young women

I teach RE at a Catholic high school for girls. On Friday 11 March 2022, during period 1, my Year 8 students were to create a storyboard of key events from Holy Week and Easter. To centre the students in prayer before beginning their work, I introduced the Taizé chant “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom”. We sang the chant twice in a ‘call and response’ fashion. I wrote this poem during quiet reflection that evening.

Through the communal mingling
of voices, the great Spirit moves
among twenty-one young women,
kindling to fire their hopes for a new
world. In the quickening of call
and slowing of response, these singers
become carriers of joy, heralds
of freedom. This is the truth being
met, here are the people of God.
Look at them call out in unison
see them glance at each other
hear their enjoined words
and how can you not be moved?
In awe, open your eyes, lift up
your ears. These are the witnesses
to faith, these are the first responders
to suffering, these are the students
whose lives are to rebuild all things.

Image: Hans Vivek on Unsplash

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Resonant birdsong in a concert hall of trees

When I sat down in a nearby garden, distant from life,
I listened to resonant birdsong, 
I gazed at the golden edges of cloud,
I admired the yet-to-be-planted ferns,
I watched the tiny spider climb along the soil ridge.

And I heard my soft voice in the depths 
and I experienced my yearning hoping loving hungry self
and I knew a deeper response to my day had arrived.

Then a repeat call of a bird in the tree above
renewed my sense of that place:
A haven for responding peacefully to life,
A home for discovery,
A rest stop to bring awe onto your path.

Meanwhile the sun—kept back by whiteish grey clouds—
meandered its way toward dusk in this place
and sunrise in another; and the cars
on the street below bellowed a solemn blare to the birdlife.
The birds went quiet for a minute or two,
taking in several breaths
listening out for their audience of trees
seeing comrades launching high
feeling the breeze of renewal
experiencing the soft sky
and readying themselves for performance.

But then across the same concert hall of trees
travelled the staccato cry of an infant human
and the non-human world offered an orchestral response
their glorious symphonies returning me to joy.

Finally the sun’s soundless rays spread over this page, 
gently inviting, and my happy pen takes its rest.

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Observing to belonging: catching trains from 1999 to now

Most mornings of 1999 I caught the 7:04 train
and felt compassion for all the downcast faces,
a 12-year-old witness to disappointment.

A people alive to the world would bring colour to trains;
had my fellow commuters suppressed
their true desires for life?

I continued observing, noticing, watching
for the next decade or more, until friends invited
me to step into my own shoes: to participate.

Set free from such memories and judgments
I embraced this people and their enterprise
with pen, mind and heart.

Now I hop off trains and walk
with the moving assembly, joining in
with fashion and courage, ‘life abounding’.

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Movement at Abbotsford Convent, home to ANAM musicians

The gathered musicians talk with gladness
while standing under a tree, listening well
for the sounds from one another:
here voicing anecdotes and observations,
there responding with humour and light-heartedness.
In this encounter with delight each one is
renewed for the practice that awaits.

Music is a communal celebration of beauty
wherein players are safe to explore
the spirit and emotion of their hearts.
I observe the joy of these student musicians
set free by melody and meaning.
I imagine a culture of apprenticeship
which empowers young soloists
to embrace the boldness that is their own.

Soon these musicians will walk on, their
quaver-feet moving to a syncopated rhythm,
conversation abounding with colour and light.

The Australian National Academy of Music website is here:

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Swimming in the surf among participants of daily life

Port Macquarie, January 2018 (photo by author)

The sun shines bright for everyone,
people who notice and people who imitate:
being a light for loved ones,
bringing a candle to a friend’s darkened room,
holding out a torch for strangers.

Walking barefoot on the sunlit beach,
we who notice prepare to join others in the project
of re-making co-creating loving
this spectacular spacious wounded home
for grace and doubt—our world—while swimming
in the surf between the flags and
among the participants of daily life who,
conscious of it or not, renew and restore
with all their being and effort, and
sometimes miss the mark.

While we swim near one another,
each one’s name sealed upon their heart,
we may do well to turn and say hello,
or not, and cover our eyes with goggles
and dive under the next breaker. This ordinary
ritual—ocean swimming—prepares us to swim
the more extraordinary channels of suffering
and helpless fear angst worry and illness
which one day will come our way.

Meanwhile, teams of lifesavers—sitting on the sand
and walking the beachside breakers—watch on,
ready to intervene if necessary,
poised to save a person struggling
in the water, hands bouncing above head
with distress and terror.

When this very situation unfolds,
coffee-drinkers at the seaside cafe notice
a commotion down on the water, and the
quick ripple-effect of human solidarity and
protection fills the sky with clouds of
concern. The man, in his 30s, is saved
from drowning, and splutters up water when reaching
the shore. CPR is not necessary, but they
will check on him in the hospital, just to be sure.

Our eyes play witness as ocean, land and air
overflow with compassion and leaves flutter in the breeze.
Several lifesavers are off to a barbecue,
murmuring to each other as the sun retreats,
expressing wonder at all that had happened in the light.

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Swimming in a lifetime of joy at Maroubra Beach

Maroubra Beach from Arthur Byrne Reserve, July 2018 (picture by author).

Swimming Maroubra Beach aged 12,
I walk out through the chilly waters
near a breaking wave and
the thrill of life fills me
at the point of decision:
to rise over the precipice 
and stretch my neck high,
or dive under the body of water 
and feel the tide roll over my back …
I take a moment to taste the salty water
and sense the warmth when I stand;
I spy my sister Claire out beyond the breakers,
a capable swimmer enjoying the surf,
now dad’s on his way, prescription goggles tight,
diving under each wave and slapping his arms on water,
coming up for air,
that thick broad glorious smile spreading wide across his face, 
a lifetime of joy on his home beach.

My grandfather Pop called this his swimming pool,
provided just for him: a place to move and discover
oneself on the edge of a capacious ocean, 
riding the waves and wading through troughs,
ever watchful of rips.

Back on the beach, towels unfurled and
glistening wet backs in the sun,
we feel a satisfying sense of achievement
and breathe out awe. At the arrival 
of fish and chips we tuck in and relish each bite.

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Big sky Canberra meets native white gold grasses and a family of trees

The bright blue expanse of day is set against a hill of native grasses. Each plant’s leaf sheaths and spikelets shimmer like white gold. Motionless waves of flowering stalks stand upright and tall, awns curved out and away to absorb the sunlight.

A small family of trees rises over the crisp coastline of blue and gold. These brave trees reach out as neighbours to the thick hillside of grass. They reach up as sailors, ready to push out onto that glorious still calm ocean of sky.

In the cool of evening, the sky takes on a cooler blue. Native grasses move to a quiet breeze. The leaf sheaths and spikelets are a darker gold in the nighttime sun, this entire hillside a great fortune of grass. Long may the lawnmowers fall silent.

Four confident trees rise above the sun-soaked tussock. Branches of bold green leaves reach up towards light, drawn by the promise of sky.

Meanwhile the affectionate dog at my feet is filled with joy.


Now is the time: invited to freedom and life in fullness

In these days marking the start of a new year, we all become more aware of time as a precious and limited resource. In 2020, our sense of time has been a little warped. Friends have said that February feels a lifetime away, whereas March feels like yesterday. So much has changed for all of us. And yet each person wants to experience our life’s time with a sense of agency and purpose.

Time is an invitation

Time is an invitation:
to feel the gift of the present;
to rise to the new with enthusiasm;
to climb to the heights of experience;
to dive into the depths of our desires;
to choose freely the more loving and generous path;
to make companions for the road;
to enlist one’s own heart in the challenge;
to walk tall and hopeful, embracing each scene;
to speak words of peace;
to listen with a compassionate heart;
to dance to the rhythm of music;
to sing from the diaphragm;
to love, to heal, to renew, to build;
to support one another in times of trial;
to attend to the inspiration of each day.
Illustration by Maggie Power

Each second, minute, day, week, month, year, decade and lifetime carries within it potential for growth and liveliness. Indeed, every moment calls us to embrace the invitation of our lives. With magnanimous and open hearts, hands poised and ready, and our feet firmly planted on the ground, we will be ready to walk the next steps toward life in fullness for all.

May our memories resound with gratitude.
and our present awaken a new sense of freedom.
May our new year 2021 bring forth hope and generosity.

Wishing all readers a peaceful new year!

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‘An abundance of leaves’: appreciating Carlton Gardens one Autumn

A vision of plenty in Carlton Gardens.

Deep in the dappled light
beauty spreads its way
in Carlton Gardens. Everywhere
the sun is bringing colour and liveliness
and flavour and joy—trees
bask gratefully in the embrace,
lovers take selfies on seats,
sunglasses on and happiness
abounding. Shadows recede
and an expanding thankfulness blesses all who
walk by the fountains, exhibiting signs of delight
on their faces, residue from the noonday sun
making their smiles radiant and unabashed. This
is abundance and fullness, an experience of wonder
and awe and all that is magnificent about day.
autumn leaves dappled light
It seems everyone can have a sunny
Autumn day in Carlton Gardens — 
leaves decomposing under foot, trading
shades of green for orange and gold. 
The opulence of creation is here
for all to enjoy—the hungry and the satisfied, 
the grateful and the worried alike.
dappled light and autumn leaves
Somewhere close by
a troubled man walks through the gardens,
unable to fathom the light that surrounds him, 
so filled up with regret, riddled with loss,
and conscious only of the ground
beneath his feet, the Autumn leaves more copper than gold.
This one lonely man trudges through the gardens
his eyes downcast, and the lovers continue taking photos, the
trees continue their earnest embrace of sky
until their branches look on him with compassion
and drop leaves into his path. Noticing, and
overcome with the emotion of all he has been carrying,
our man finds himself weeping and
dropping to his knees and the leaves fold into love
before his eyes and the world resumes its colour, 
and his loss, though terrible, now seems less consuming. 
The brilliant light surrounds him and the lovers begin to notice: 
the sun, this man on his knees, an abundance of leaves 
falling like red tears 
from the branches above.
In a moment, our man will rise, 
pick up his crumpled bag 
and walk to the other side of the gardens.
But for now something close to 
joy moves within him —
fresh as wonder, dappled as light.
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