I can’t walk around without making a clatter
I can’t sit close to the fire
I can’t give my father a soft embrace
I can’t even want to

I can’t help being made of wood
I can’t stop my nose growing
I can’t work as a marionette: I have no strings
I can’t say what truth is

I can go a long way from the town
I can live in the belly of some gigantic fish
I can live without oxygen

I can sharpen my nose to pierce the fish and escape
I can use my special nose to dig the earth
I can maybe become a tree again

First published in Creatrix


They told me Jehovah
was a person in the sky
The Lord, the Father,
a big Daddy
He could see into your thoughts
and if your thoughts were naughty
he would punish you
but not today, not tomorrow,
not in the afterlife,
and not with karma.
A few years from now
at Armageddon
you would be destroyed —
that was the word, destroyed
along with all the other wicked people,
burnt, blown up, buried in rubble,
drowned in tsunamis, swallowed by crevasses,
while the good children
who controlled their thoughts
would live forever — on Earth,
which in the pictures
was green and well-kept
and lightly populated with families
in clean, modest American clothes,
occasionally patting lions and lambs.

My thoughts were difficult to control.
It seemed there was still time
to learn, but if I didn’t,
in a few years I would die
in Jehovah’s fire and brimstone.

And yet they said
Jehovah loves you.
And he’s everywhere, in everything.
And you can talk to him.

I tried to imagine a loving Jehovah
My child-mind thought
of a blanket in the sky
spread over the world
keeping it warm
I imagined Jehovah
in the stratosphere
or the ozone layer
But that didn’t seem
like someone you could talk to
I guess that’s why the prayers
were more like letters —
you had to ask Jesus to deliver them,
you had to address and close them correctly
as if you were writing to the Prime Minister.

Lying alone in the dark
I wrote many letters
to the blanket-person in the sky, asking
for what you were supposed to ask
for this or that sick person
to be well again
and for what I wanted
for this or that boy
to notice me
or just
to fall asleep quickly
instead of lying awake
worrying about Armageddon

but Jehovah
being a Daddy and busy with wars and things
never wrote back.

An earlier version of this poem was published in Tamba

in the sydney early morning light

it wasn’t even sad, she says, with something
di had been married to gerry for 25 years
scattered her husband’s ashes the previous evening

photographer david maurice smith was shooting
this was a little surprising, david says
it wasn’t even sad, she says, with something

because with two little kids she had to keep going
at sunset the family paddled out on boards
scattered her husband’s ashes the previous evening

each morning since gerry died the ocean is helping
she says they fell in love and blended their families
it wasn’t even sad, she says, with something

formed a circle slapping the water and calling
and then one day in february gerry was
scattered her husband’s ashes the previous evening

her life recorded she had just been swimming
chance encounter with the photographer, whose portrait captures
it wasn’t even sad, she says, with something
scattered her husband’s ashes the previous evening

Composed using text cut from an article by Ross Bilton in The Weekend Australian Magazine 18 May 2013.