Portfolio – Books

From The Scarlet Moment (Picaro Press, 2009)

Bumblebee Words

A swarm of bees
vibrate the
air with
chemotherapy
and
lymphoma.

Perspiration
shimmers my
skin as if the
pores
open for
the prick
of the
stingers.

In the
frenzied air,
broken
picket fence
teeth gape,
yowling
mouths
squalling
at me.

I wake
howling,
my arms
swatting
the humid
air.

Portfolio – Books

From Conspiracy of Skin (Ginninderra Press, 2018)

HIV Transmission*

Black cat streaks the bedroom. Her weight sags
the mattress. My sleep time ends. She looks
at the window. The cane blind blocks her

escape. Crackers bang outside. She detonates
down the stairs. Breaking glass echoes. I jolt
upright, shove the bedclothes off, pull the blind

back. I look right, my nostrils flare. Ash dusts
the air. Nerves roil my stomach. I look left
down the row of terraces. Flames ruby

the morning. My sister stirs in the next room.
Cate. I leap off the bed, my feet thump
the floor. Cate. Smoke steals into our house.

* ‘HIV’ is the acronym for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Portfolio – Books

From Conspiracy of Skin (Ginninderra Press, 2018)

Bandit Country

1.
Some symptoms of illness are bandit country:
	sudden intrusions into our lives,
the treasures of citizenship
     stolen, ruddy
			health shimmied away.

Life margins tumble & slide
		as night lives with day & day night.

Bodies wither, legs are twigs.
	Dreams snag on thorns.

Our lives are borderless,
	envelopes in the post with no address.

2.
Stick figures stand at a crossroads in the frayed dusk.
Coloured flags point north
		& south
		& east
		& west,
all points of the compass benign,
		without judgment.

From nor nor east, words suddenly appear,
	fly through thin air,
	feather our closed eyes.

Our eyes open,
	Word-storms smother bandit country
	in black-&-white.
Diagnostic words return memory of sky,
	the solace of light.

Our envelopes are posted abroad.

Anthologies:

From Writing Water: Rain River Reef (Red Room Poetry, 2020):

Writing Water - Rain River Reef

Homecoming

Was it the rainy moon? Or a reminder of the sound
we’d lost? The forgotten hum of running water?

Two weeks before, the vault above us had warned.
For days, an oyster sky spoke sprinkles

as fine netting. For afternoons on end, a purple-
bruised dome squalled torrents of silver needles. Two days more,

a dirty-washing firmament patterned steady rain. Rivulets as earth-
bound stories gushed down cliff-faces & hills. Pooled in many spots

along the streets, water molecules gathered for story times. The following week,
the weather cleared. We mailed letters, purchased bread, hung

washing on our lines. In March 1974, Lismore ignored another
inundation. Now street signs write various histories: differing depths

at points around the floodplain; bricks, mortar & furniture as flotsam;
exposed foundations as art installations. Again in March 2017, Cyclone

Debbie & a low pressure system co-joined. Conversations rumbled between
them & you, Wilsons River. On 31 March after 40+ years, your perfect

memory ripened. Your homecoming took shape. In your ancient way, our
built environment, farm land & Big Scrub remnants became intimates.

For generations, we lifted belongings, moved stock & vehicles – then
returned them. Yet this flood cycle was different. The old stories were washed

away. Afterwards, we stood still. By 2 April, our hearts were roiled, minds
soiled. Your declarations were now mud, hidden, awaiting.

reappearance. Were you angry with us? Was this the construction of our
levee? When will your voice speak lessons to us again?

Poetry – Sacred Country

At a Goolmangar acreage on Wijabul/Wia-bul Country, a camphor-laurel
sun-faces. The sky’s lion speaks light day & night. Year-by-slow-year,

day-by-slow-day, growth rings seasonal stories about nearby trees – some
long-gone, some still present, all a community of devotion.

The owner, a carpenter, treads revolutions around the tree’s base.
Head bent in deference, his feet make maps on Country

& intuits camphora secrets: a chair, stool & archway are companions
& have waited eons to reach out & meet the gathered peoples.

He picks a ground-near branch as thick as three forearms
held together & as long as a cathedral spire. His fingers

circle the axe’s handle as questions of angle, curve, slice
& weight are considered. He slants the tool; it glints

the morning air. A deep cut reveals honey-rich hardwood.
Mystery guides this shaper’s fingers. A hand-plane back-pares

roughness; nails sing the hammer’s down-swing.
Timber glows in stacks on the work bench. Inside each length,

the grain beats & flows more than the tree has ever known.
This resonance laces new patterns, new stories to tell,

legends that bind earthly matters to those not of this world.
The wood-carver arranges a steam box: a cooking-pot with a coat-

hanger across the inside. These wires elevate the wood as the steam
of change bends the lengths to archway curves. Later the beams,

plinth & other pieces are blocked together as one deified piece.
In the church, the woodworker & others install the archway,

hammer in the final cogs. A bow of light, deities, devotees
& devils enter this building on Sacred Country.

All this gathered wood resonates with the great old stories
too – every action, every utterance a benediction.

Dust motes like half-remembered sins float the yellow air.
Also a passage of departure, the deities & devotees leave,

but fallen angels, even with wings folded tight,
cannot. For now, they’ll pray in silence.

Will recollecting this knowledge from their ancient
ways activate reverence on Sacred Country?

__________

First Prize, 2023 Kyogle Readers and Writers Festival Poetry Prize

Artwork representing the poem

At Torakina Park
(Brunswick Heads)

Three plover chicks prow Torakina Park, parents
at their helm: their heads alert, their eyes sails.
If these were waters, the kookaburra in the grevillea branches

Above would be a shark. It sails near them. One parent
flaps and shrieks, the second pilots the chicks
into a harbour of low-slung branches.

Spring is a hard season for the lonely. The debris
of winter storms: grief-stricken trees,
their branches scattered & shattered on the ground

as if they were my heart. I sit Buddha-like
on this sea of grass. I listen. Angels’ hymns
turn the loam of memory: my attachment

to terra firma where chicks tumbling in the sun-
light with their parents or the ocean of starlight
kindling midnight, blaze through the despondency ahead.

__________

Eureka Street Vol 30 No 20 13 October
https://eurekastreet.com.au/article/spring-is-a-hard-season-for-the-lonely
Sightlines: an exhibition of works by local artists responding to poems by local poets Small Works Gallery, Murwillumbah 9 – 20 April 2022

Top of page: “Plover” by Rachel Dunn – a piece that responds to the poem “At Torakina Park”

Exhibition poster:

SIghtlines exhibition poster

2002    ‘Batman flies from a Tree’ (earlier version) New England Review 15 Summer

Batman flies from a tree

Walking my bike to the top of the Hindmarsh Street hill,
I disturb Batman sitting on a branch of a wattle tree.

Flying off, the wind of his cape slices the still evening air.
I feel the push of wind on my face. I watch him circling

& circling above me. Two headlights splinter the veil
of darkness & a car crests the same hill. For ten long seconds,

I stand in the sights of these lights. I pray to ole man safety
to take me in his muscled arms & my petitions work:

the car swerves past. As I stand by my bike, I look
up & see Batman, his robust arms outstretched, his hands

clasped ahead of him. Do the fingers twitch in fond farewell –
or do I imagine this – & Batman flies behind the folds of night.

2023 ‘Guttural Symphony in Three Movements’ (short fiction) Baby Teeth Journal January

Extract: ‘So one morning, I banged on the roof with a broom handle during a passionate moment when there moans had reached fever pitch. The two of them swore & as I sat tee-heeing silently to myself, I heard the younger once curse, saying, ‘That fuckin queen downstairs.’

Read the whole story

2010 ‘Satisfaction / Enough’ (previously ‘Satisfaction Enough’) Eureka Street Volume 20.11 15 June

Extract: Satisfaction / Enough

that at home, I’m guessing,
she rests the pram at the back door;
that pains bands her ankles,
her feet crossed on a chair which, for now, is satisfaction enough.

Read the whole poem

2020 ‘Writing Illness, Writing Life’ (essay) The Blue Nib 16 April

2018 ‘Could I borrow the car?’, ‘Chances’ and ‘Sight Lines’ Bent Street September

2018 ‘Game Changer’ (memoir) Bent Street November

2016 ‘Vacant Block (Lismore)’ Landscapes: Journal of the International Centre for Landscape and Language ‘Ecotones as Contact Zones’ Volume 7.1 February Read it here

Portfolio – Books

From The Scarlet Moment (Picaro Press, 2009)

Bumblebee Words

A swarm of bees
vibrate the
air with
chemotherapy
and
lymphoma.

Perspiration
shimmers my
skin as if the
pores
open for
the prick
of the
stingers.

In the
frenzied air,
broken
picket fence
teeth gape,
yowling
mouths
squalling
at me.

I wake
howling,
my arms
swatting
the humid
air.

Portfolio – Books

From Conspiracy of Skin (Ginninderra Press, 2018)

HIV Transmission*

Black cat streaks the bedroom. Her weight sags
the mattress. My sleep time ends. She looks
at the window. The cane blind blocks her

escape. Crackers bang outside. She detonates
down the stairs. Breaking glass echoes. I jolt
upright, shove the bedclothes off, pull the blind

back. I look right, my nostrils flare. Ash dusts
the air. Nerves roil my stomach. I look left
down the row of terraces. Flames ruby

the morning. My sister stirs in the next room.
Cate. I leap off the bed, my feet thump
the floor. Cate. Smoke steals into our house.

* ‘HIV’ is the acronym for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Portfolio – Books

From Conspiracy of Skin (Ginninderra Press, 2018)

Bandit Country
1.
Some symptoms of illness are bandit country:
sudden intrusions into our lives,
the treasures of citizenship
stolen, ruddy
health shimmied away.

Life margins tumble & slide
as night lives with day & day night.

Bodies wither, legs are twigs.
Dreams snag on thorns.

Our lives are borderless,
envelopes in the post with no address.

2.
Stick figures stand at a crossroads in the frayed dusk.
Coloured flags point north
& south
& east
& west,
all points of the compass benign,
without judgment.

From nor nor east, words suddenly appear,
fly through thin air,
feather our closed eyes.

Our eyes open,
Word-storms smother bandit country
in black-&-white.
Diagnostic words return memory of sky,
the solace of light.

Our envelopes are posted abroad.

Anthologies:

From Writing Water: Rain River Reef (Red Room Poetry, 2020):

Writing Water - Rain River Reef

Homecoming

Was it the rainy moon? Or a reminder of the sound
we’d lost? The forgotten hum of running water?

Two weeks before, the vault above us had warned.
For days, an oyster sky spoke sprinkles

as fine netting. For afternoons on end, a purple-
bruised dome squalled torrents of silver needles. Two days more,

a dirty-washing firmament patterned steady rain. Rivulets as earth-
bound stories gushed down cliff-faces & hills. Pooled in many spots

along the streets, water molecules gathered for story times. The following week,
the weather cleared. We mailed letters, purchased bread, hung

washing on our lines. In March 1974, Lismore ignored another
inundation. Now street signs write various histories: differing depths

at points around the floodplain; bricks, mortar & furniture as flotsam;
exposed foundations as art installations. Again in March 2017, Cyclone

Debbie & a low pressure system co-joined. Conversations rumbled between
them & you, Wilsons River. On 31 March after 40+ years, your perfect

memory ripened. Your homecoming took shape. In your ancient way, our
built environment, farm land & Big Scrub remnants became intimates.

For generations, we lifted belongings, moved stock & vehicles – then
returned them. Yet this flood cycle was different. The old stories were washed

away. Afterwards, we stood still. By 2 April, our hearts were roiled, minds
soiled. Your declarations were now mud, hidden, awaiting.

reappearance. Were you angry with us? Was this the construction of our
levee? When will your voice speak lessons to us again?

Poetry – Sacred Country

At a Goolmangar acreage on Wijabul/Wia-bul Country, a camphor-laurel
sun-faces. The sky’s lion speaks light day & night. Year-by-slow-year,

day-by-slow-day, growth rings seasonal stories about nearby trees – some
long-gone, some still present, all a community of devotion.

The owner, a carpenter, treads revolutions around the tree’s base.
Head bent in deference, his feet make maps on Country

& intuits camphora secrets: a chair, stool & archway are companions
& have waited eons to reach out & meet the gathered peoples.

He picks a ground-near branch as thick as three forearms
held together & as long as a cathedral spire. His fingers

circle the axe’s handle as questions of angle, curve, slice
& weight are considered. He slants the tool; it glints

the morning air. A deep cut reveals honey-rich hardwood.
Mystery guides this shaper’s fingers. A hand-plane back-pares

roughness; nails sing the hammer’s down-swing.
Timber glows in stacks on the work bench. Inside each length,

the grain beats & flows more than the tree has ever known.
This resonance laces new patterns, new stories to tell,

legends that bind earthly matters to those not of this world.
The wood-carver arranges a steam box: a cooking-pot with a coat-

hanger across the inside. These wires elevate the wood as the steam
of change bends the lengths to archway curves. Later the beams,

plinth & other pieces are blocked together as one deified piece.
In the church, the woodworker & others install the archway,

hammer in the final cogs. A bow of light, deities, devotees
& devils enter this building on Sacred Country.

All this gathered wood resonates with the great old stories
too – every action, every utterance a benediction.

Dust motes like half-remembered sins float the yellow air.
Also a passage of departure, the deities & devotees leave,

but fallen angels, even with wings folded tight,
cannot. For now, they’ll pray in silence.

Will recollecting this knowledge from their ancient
ways activate reverence on Sacred Country?

__________

First Prize, 2023 Kyogle Readers and Writers Festival Poetry Prize

Artwork representing the poem

At Torakina Park
(Brunswick Heads)

Three plover chicks prow Torakina Park, parents
at their helm: their heads alert, their eyes sails.
If these were waters, the kookaburra in the grevillea branches

Above would be a shark. It sails near them. One parent
flaps and shrieks, the second pilots the chicks
into a harbour of low-slung branches.

Spring is a hard season for the lonely. The debris
of winter storms: grief-stricken trees,
their branches scattered & shattered on the ground

as if they were my heart. I sit Buddha-like
on this sea of grass. I listen. Angels’ hymns
turn the loam of memory: my attachment

to terra firma where chicks tumbling in the sun-
light with their parents or the ocean of starlight
kindling midnight, blaze through the despondency ahead.

__________

Eureka Street Vol 30 No 20 13 October
https://eurekastreet.com.au/article/spring-is-a-hard-season-for-the-lonely
Sightlines: an exhibition of works by local artists responding to poems by local poets Small Works Gallery, Murwillumbah 9 – 20 April 2022

Top of page: “Plover” by Rachel Dunn – a piece that responds to the poem “At Torakina Park”

Exhibition poster:

SIghtlines exhibition poster

2002    ‘Batman flies from a Tree’ (earlier version) New England Review 15 Summer

Batman flies from a tree

Walking my bike to the top of the Hindmarsh Street hill,
I disturb Batman sitting on a branch of a wattle tree.

Flying off, the wind of his cape slices the still evening air.
I feel the push of wind on my face. I watch him circling

& circling above me. Two headlights splinter the veil
of darkness & a car crests the same hill. For ten long seconds,

I stand in the sights of these lights. I pray to ole man safety
to take me in his muscled arms & my petitions work:

the car swerves past. As I stand by my bike, I look
up & see Batman, his robust arms outstretched, his hands

clasped ahead of him. Do the fingers twitch in fond farewell –
or do I imagine this – & Batman flies behind the folds of night.

2023 ‘Guttural Symphony in Three Movements’ (short fiction) Baby Teeth Journal January

Extract: ‘So one morning, I banged on the roof with a broom handle during a passionate moment when there moans had reached fever pitch. The two of them swore & as I sat tee-heeing silently to myself, I heard the younger once curse, saying, ‘That fuckin queen downstairs.’

Read the whole story

2010 ‘Satisfaction / Enough’ (previously ‘Satisfaction Enough’) Eureka Street Volume 20.11 15 June

Extract: Satisfaction / Enough

that at home, I’m guessing,
she rests the pram at the back door;
that pains bands her ankles,
her feet crossed on a chair which, for now, is satisfaction enough.

Read the whole poem

2020 ‘Writing Illness, Writing Life’ (essay) The Blue Nib 16 April

2018 ‘Could I borrow the car?’, ‘Chances’ and ‘Sight Lines’ Bent Street September

2018 ‘Game Changer’ (memoir) Bent Street November

2016 ‘Vacant Block (Lismore)’ Landscapes: Journal of the International Centre for Landscape and Language ‘Ecotones as Contact Zones’ Volume 7.1 February Read it here