Surmise

My little son, whose face I never saw,
Who could not wait to bless your father ’s eyes
With wonder, but in such mysterious wise
Slipped from our world bound hard by frost and war
But warm for you with love, in silent awe
We ponder, in a shrouded deep surmise,
Your swifter summons to the world that lies
In our own path, beyond the selfsame door.

Was there a need, some work there, sudden and great,
Your work? Or do you there prepare our home?
Lest we be timid, touched with fear and sin,
Will you beside that mighty portal wait?
Who, when your father and your mother come,
Will take us by the hand and lead us in.

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.

Poems of Love

  • Music and the Heart

    Music and the Heart run hand in hand
    Naked over the shining sand,

  • Forestry

    My love and I in all agree
       As one, save this thing only:

  • Chemistry

    In the summit song of youth
    A quiet quick catch of the breath.

  • Colours

    Before I loved or knew you were
       I spoke as I had eyes,

  • The Well

    Seraph my soul’s content
    More longed than desert well

  • Alone

    Alone to walk the dripping woods of spring
       While daisies spy you?

  • Mutability

    ‘All things are flux: there’s nothing fast,’
    Said Heraclitus, ages past,

  • Sleeping out in the Mountains

    The host of hills encamped around,
    The sleepless army of the stars,

  • Detachment

    …the thunder growling,
    And winds mounting, and the sky falling,
    And night, and you not here.

  • Release

    As homing bird the prisoning hand releases,
    As tide, unyoked, brims up the beach anew,

  • Air and Water

    As water into sand
    As cloud into clear air

  • Come Death Suddenly

    Come death suddenly from the sea or cloud,
    With the blast of thunder and the blinding shroud,

  • 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

  • Stella Polaris: Homebound

    Above the great ship’s lifting bow
    I watch the Pole Star nightly stand,

  • Sweet solitude

    Sweet solitude, my supple slave,
    Delicious concubine

  • Point Lonsdale

    Dark sea dark land lie close beneath
    The muffling guilt of night,

  • My nine-hours son

    My nine-hours son, so wrinkle-faced
    Wry concentration of distaste
    To find your Person so displaced,

  • Autumn Song

    The sun like a centaur leaping the ranges
    Shoots to the heart my garden, shatters
    The dew in a volley of wild carillons

  • Genesis

    You spoke, after long years, about the morning
    That followed the night your first-born son was born:

  • Space Window

    Waylaid by Handel’s theme, I think of you
    Now half a world away, and hear you say
    ‘His music always seems like coming home.’

  • Pause

    You are late coming home
    To the house we share
    An audible silence
    Chills the air

  • Airport Departure

    My love, I watch you thread your way, and turn
    with a small timeless smile, and trail your trolley
    unhurried through the gate of no return.

  • Honor Mary: Seventy-Nine – 1993

    My dearest love, at seventy-nine
    You’re not, and never have been, mine.

  • For HMST – 1994

    My dearest love, where’er you are,
    just through that door, beyond that star,

  • Willow Tree: Two Years After    

    Spring, at a bound. Once more the colourful chorus,
    Daffodils first declare their lyric yellow,

  • For HMST – 1996

    Now for your birthday the single prunus bough,
    by neighbour ’s kindness spared on a sentenced tree

  • Tsunami

    … obliterating in instant mini-time
    a universe of suns and planets
    with or without their myriad forms of life,

  • For HMST – 1997

    Always a step ahead, you’re eighty-three,
    My life-support, contending other me,

  • Just Coming

    Down arches of the years I hear your voice
    explaining serials of our late departures,

  • HMST – 1999

    Six years since your last birthday in our midst
    seems yesterday, in this same so-loved house,

  • For HMST – 2000

    For ever is the promise. I will trust
    To share with you the same light and same dust.

  • Near and Far

    ‘Eternity and time becoming one’
    you wrote for Daniel’s one day in our world.

  • Encounter Recalled

    Wrapped in my gown of self-regard sublime
    I heard your voice arrive from outer space.

  • Going up to the Rocks

    Knowing the time was short
    Yours was the instant thought
    ‘Let’s go up to the Rocks!’

  • Away Day – Ten Years After

    Ten years since that incalculable day
    When from all worlds we know you slipped away