Ink Stains

fountain pen

Ink Stains

A blot of ink stains my sheets,
I notice it on another sleepless night:
tossing and turning, thinking of lines
while my skin turns luminous and clear
so that my veins become a web of blue on skin
and I realise they are filled with ink, not blood.

Ink stains my brain, leaks into everything
until every thought becomes a poem
and every secret, every piece of me is written;
I realise I have made my life a poem,
though everything I own is marred by ink stains.

Roald Dahl Day – By candlelight

Today marks what would have been the 99th birthday of children’s author Roald Dahl, celebrated on the 13th of September as Roald Dahl Day.  When I was a child Dahl was one of my favorite authors and has had a lasting influence on my own writing.  I think the stories we read as children help shape us into the adults we become and in Dahl’s books I found stories full of both humour and pathos, stories that showed the best of humanity in a child, a kind teacher or a reformed playboy, stories that inspire a gentle and nurturing spirit, a love for animals, admiration for those battling against much stronger odds and joy in the eccentricities of life.

The prose poem below, By Candlelight was inspired by the short story The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.  Please feel free to share in the comments your favourite Roald Dahl book and how it has influenced you.

By Candlelight

candlelightHenry sat quite still and stared in to the candle-flame. The book had been quite right. The flame, when you looked into it closely, did have three separate parts. There was the yellow outside. Then there was the mauve inner sheath. And right in the middle was the tiny magic area of absolute blackness. He stared at the tiny black area. He focused his eyes upon it and kept staring at it, and as he did so, an extraordinary thing happened. His mind went absolutely blank, and his brain ceased fidgeting around, and all at once it felt as though he himself, his whole body, was actually encased within the flame, sitting snug and cosy within the little black area of nothingness.

(from The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl)

The candle flame looms, incandescent, bright yellow shell quivering in the stillness. Inside, a solid orange thumbnail holds the flame’s shape and below the purple centre hovers about the wick. The flame draws everything into it, including me. I see myself inside the flame: a glowing ember of thought, a salamander piercing through time. By candlelight I see myself, half a lifetime ago.

I look into the flame and see my own eyes staring back in fierce concentration: trying to control the candlelight, to find ‘the tiny magic area of absolute blackness’ like Henry Sugar in the Roald Dahl story, searching for the key to unlock my mind, a desperate attempt to save me from my own consciousness. Back then I still believed I had magical powers.

By candlelight I see myself, half a lifetime ago, find so much changed, even more that has stayed the same. I see myself more clearly than I ever did at that time. I see now how all my angst would dissolve into nothingness, how all the hurt and fear dominating my every thought would fade into something much further away, and life would go on, not unscathed, but undaunted.

I stare into the flame with fierce concentration. If I look hard enough perhaps my future self will look back, fifteen years in the future. Perhaps I’ll see myself at this moment, in between worlds, in between hearts, in between states of being. Perhaps I’ll see myself more clearly than I ever could now: I’ll see that there was a link after all between my different worlds; all this heartache and confusion will fall into the smallest part of me, rather than the biggest; I’ll make sense of everything, find that I was in the same world, the same heart, the same being as I needed to be. Perhaps my future self will look back and see that after all I did possess a type of magic.



To the rain

Rain haiku
Clouds thicken into
a doona blanketing sky,
drooping into rain.

A drop of rain falls
breaks like a mirror on ground
rain splinters scatter

My hair is a veil
of water shrouding my face,
rain hides everything.

rain falls down my skin
drenches every inch of me—
open door beckons

drops splatter and smash
against glass like a mirror
into other worlds

Clouds shatter to sun,
still, water falls from the sky,
now sunshine and rain.


A whole woman: a poem for International Women’s Day

A whole woman
Somewhere inside me is a whole woman:
she stirs, ready to spring like Athena,

fully armoured and equipped with a plan
for war with my body her arena.

She’s ready to defend all humankind,
she’s not afraid to fight, to take a stand,

nor of the dark spaces in her own mind,
for of herself she’s in complete command;

she doesn’t take on other’s mistakes,
she doesn’t break easily, nor relive

misdeeds for she won’t let anyone take
more of her than she’s willing to give.

Somewhere inside me she stirs, waits for birth,
for the time she can prove to me my worth.



For more information about International Women’s Day check out their website here.

Life (and writing) stop for illness: my life with endometriosis

Apologies, readers, for my long absence.  I have been recovering from surgery for endometriosis, and now that I am starting to feel more like myself again I’ve decided to deviate from my usual focus on writing to talk about my experience of living with this disease.

Endometriosis is a condition affecting roughly 1 in 10 women.  It cause, amongst other symptoms, debilitating pelvic pain and infertility. There is no cure and the most effective treatment is surgery, which for many women means multiple surgeries throughout the twenties and thirties. If you’d like more information you can read more about this disease at The Royal Women’s here.

When I was first diagnosed in 2004 I had never heard of endometriosis, despite having suffered the symptoms since a teenager. Even though I knew my menstrual pain was worse than that of my friends, I still assumed it was somewhere on the spectrum of normal and never even talked about it. Even as my pain grew worse over the years, and I began to have breakthrough pain outside of my cycle, it wasn’t until a cyst was found in my ovaries, approximately seven years after menarche, that I realised my experiences were not normal, that my pain was actually because of this disease that I now had a name for, along with all the other side effect that I had never even questioned before; and as all writers know, once you have a name it changes everything.

Now, increasingly I see endometriosis mentioned in news and social media, and in particular, I see awareness campaigns on social media, such as the campaign by Lesley and Syl Freedman, which you can read about at their Facebook page EndoActive, and this video by Miss Diagnosed which you can watch at the bottom of this page. So I thought I’d do my bit to raise awareness about endo, as I call it, by writing this little piece about my experiences, in the hope that the more endometriosis is talked about, and the more that women’s issues in general are talked about, that no more young women suffering endometriosis will normalise their pain but instead will get the help and support needed to deal with this illness.

Of course one of my blog posts would not be complete without a poem, so here goes:

The fight

I’m a fighter;
no matter what happens, this fear
won’t quiet me, this pain
won’t crush me, this anger
won’t consume me, this fatigue
won’t quell me, this life
won’t conquer me—

I’ll fight and I’ll fight and I’ll fight,
I’ll be bruised, battered, broken,
I’ll bear the scars of my battles,
I’ll be bathed in blood and
wounds that cut down to the quick,
blows that steal the breath from my feet
that leave me leaden and limp in the ground—
but every time I’ll rise, fists at the ready,
and I’ll fight and I’ll fight and I’ll fight.

Phone August 14 1747

Night Winds

Night Winds

Phone August 14 1725

Waking at midnight,
I listen to ghosts wail and fight
and tap, tap, my door

The wind cries and moans
circles my house like a ghost
waiting for my soul

The ghosts have come out
to play in these city streets—
they call out ‘join us…’

A banshee dances
with chimes: a message to the brave:
‘ dance with me, come dance.’

In darkness a knock,
outside the gate shivers forth—
empty but the wind

tiptoeing in dreams
through the dark hallway to night—
departed souls wait

The door gusts open
wind enters, beckons, draws me
out into the wild

A ghost in the night
surrounded by the unseen
naked in the night

wind softens to breath,
soul and hair akimbo
I return inside.

On not finishing things

On not finishing things

It happens to all of us at times, even though in a society consumed with the status of success we are often reluctant to admit it, sometimes we leave things unfinished. If we are lucky we may have the chance to go back and finish them, like that story long ago left in the bottom drawer, but in other instances we need to accept whatever that end point may be is, for today, simply out of reach. As a writer this is something that I sometimes have to face with my ideas. An idea for a story, a poem, an article, even a novel can completely peter out, no matter how an inspired start it may have had, not all ideas come to fruition. It can be particularly hard to know also when you’ve just hit a brick wall and need to find a way around it, so to speak, or when you actually need to call it quits and shelve the project for the next one.

If you’ve been following me for a little while you may have noticed that when I participated in NaPoWriMo I only posted the first half of my poems. Although I was doing this as part of the much larger 365 Poetry project, my aim was to follow the prompt on the above website for the whole month and post each poem consecutively as I finished it. This didn’t quite work out how I planned. Between life circumstances, other work, and illness I started to feel that my poems were becoming too rushed and losing too much quality and that I was better off waiting until I had more time to polish my drafts rather than sharing them as is. I also wasn’t very good at finishing my poems in order which made things slightly more complicated for me. Another reason was the varied nature of the prompts, which left me with some rather ordinary poems, some that were deeply personal and others that have the potential to become much better poems when I get the chance to focus enough time on them.  Those poems may one day find their way to these pages, but that day is not today.

For now though, since I finished my year of poetry and have been going back over all my finished (and mostly finished drafts) I thought I’d share a few more of April’s poems.

Day 17/291: Raindrops

The smell of rain, fresh, swollen,
drops shatter, softly, softly,
rolling to icy wet snail trails on skin
pattering a steady tempo on the pavement
now turned grey and shiny
to match my face;

and though the taste of tears lingers
in the raindrop hanging from my lip,
at least the skies have opened to mourn with me.

Day 18/292: On the bus at night (a rubaiyat)

Travelling on the bus at night,
phone GPS my only light
to places never seen before
or so they seem in this long flight;

passengers look away on sight
filled with ominous stranger fright
while I sit in quiet and more,
pensive as I stare into night

with hands white and gripped too tight
on the phone on which I try to write
words with which my muse I implore
until to brightness I alight.

Day 19/293: Incised moon

There’s an incised moon in the sky tonight
shining on a glittering sea,
shining on a man atop the waves,
shining on a man before me—
a striped enigma in a Peruvian hat
holding in his hands
a jewel box from Lazarus himself
waiting for me to take it, waiting,
while a sea cat swims across my shadow’s
shoulder blade and hisses
‘take it, take it.’


Lazarus jewel box
incised moon
striped enigma
Peruvian hat
shoulderblade sea cat

Day 27/301: Footprints in snow (Ekphrasis)

The world is blanketed in snow,
path and trees almost hidden
in thick layers of white,
frost lingers in each breath,
shivers out of me
as I walk alone
through a path filled with footprints,
and I know I’m not alone
ghosts of past moments walk alongside me
for I can see their footprints in the snow.