For my brother: Ave atque Vale

Our mother’s birthday, the first you were not here
On the earth she loved with such instinctive joy:
Those long bush walks we took refreshed her spirit
That chafed, at times, she had not been born a boy.

Our parents, marrying late, so different, stayed
Faithful to one another and to us two,
Finding in us their hope, care, place of meeting,
They held back nothing they could give or do

Through childhood, boyhood, to our Spring of manhood,
Proud, struggling, dreading the approaching guns.
Then war, the years we tossed on distant oceans:
Singing “God save….”, she prayed “God save my sons.”

The prayer was answered. Suddenly they left us.
We chose our paths. The years like water run.
I am proud you gave so greatly in your calling
And grieve for things I did, and left undone.

Catullus at his brother’s tomb in Troas
Stared hopeless into everlasting night,
But Vaughan cried out, seeing his lost friends walking,
“They are all gone into the world of light.”

Ashes are silent still, but we have trusted
Words beyond time, a household God shall build.
Brother fare well, journeying to that Kingdom
Of faithful servants, and of work fulfilled.

April 1st, 1984

Tributes

  • Relativity

    “Boy killed on Bicycle”; smallest print, four lines
    Islanded in a tossing sea of type,

  • Surmise

    My little son, whose face I never saw,
    Who could not wait to bless your father ’s eyes

  • Coming into the Clyde

    Part of me for ever is the January morning
    Coming into the Clyde in the frosty moonlight

  • For Yarmuk, Elder of the Ulupna Tribe

    A worn-out body laid in quiet earth,
    Attendant trees, a wattle’s throb of gold,

  • For James Ralph Darling

    In that keen morning it was good to wake.
    The sun that roused the swans on the lagoon

  • Boris Pasternak

    This death of a man, this sudden stop of life,
    Such total end, or such a faring forth
    Into what regions?

  • Post-mortem

    When a man dies
    We find that suddenly there’s time to praise him.

  • A Message to my Grandson

    You chose a marvellous morning to be born,
    The orange edge of dawn, the stars paling,

  • Bamboo: A Portrait

    The bamboo cut to suit you from our garden
    Has become your favourite stick – dried and varnished

  • Fragment of a Chinese Classic

    Catching the distinctive T’ang of old China
    She chooses for herself the character of Punctual Autumn

  • The Honey Man

    Like liquid silk in golden eddies
    the honey laps into my tin.

  • For my brother: Ave atque Vale

    Brother fare well, journeying to that Kingdom
    Of faithful servants, and of work fulfilled

  • Farewell to Skye

    Little death of a little dog
    In a death-wish world of news by body-count

  • Ballad of Old Sox

    They’re burning Old Sox’s shack
    Just two weeks since he died.

  • A Lambeth Garland

    A garden gracious, serene and spacious at Lambeth –
    This is the dream, the vision that shall be its crown

  • Banquet

    ..You they found fallen, holding a garden hose,
    Where, year on year, you watered, weeded, nurtured things to grow.

  • Taking Leave

    Ninety years youthful, questing through generations,
    historian of two hemispheres, quickener of other minds,

  • Anna-versary

    Anna is one
    What fun, what fun

  • Fred Hollows

    Raged, raged against the death of others’ light,
    Toiled, fought, till sick and blind received their sight.

  • Yudina

    I praise a heroine of the Soviet Union,
    pianist Yudina, through Moscow’s gloom
    spelling a Mozart magical concerto.

  • Letter to Judith Wright

    ..apartness conquered by the power of love.
    Carry us with you as you journey on.

  • For Nkosi Johnson

    His question ranged the echoing galaxies
    of empty cold unanswering space, returning
    home to our earth.