Poems 1985-2021 – # 2


Image: elderly woman with head in hands (photographer: unknown)


I watch you there,
Over by the sink
Or climbing the stair
A little more bent,
A little less certain
About what is meant
Each year more frail
Your steps slower
Your recollections fail
Living slowly somehow
Your strength ebbing,
Everything hard now
In the grey zone
Between life and death,
A life now on loan
My heart breaks
To see you so,
My soul aches
As you fade more
Each passing year,
Your old bones sore
I know you so well
And at once so little
At the tolling bell
The missing years
The untold stories
The unknown fears
I want to hang on so
To what is left
But I must let go
We must all depart
Before anyone’s ready
Torn heart from heart

© 2017 C.H

About this poem: Written in 2017 and posted on Facebook then, this now forms part of this series of poems, prose and photographs. It was written observing my Mum getting progressively frailer and less sure about life. More anxious and more uncertain.

It’s something we all endure and I’ve seen other people go through the same process of watching their parents age. It’s a process that is hard to endure for all but one which we must all bear with stoicism and with acceptance.

Image: Albatross (author; Pearson Scott Foresman)


The azure line marks our path
Human lines on the lifeless ocean
Empty horizons in the lifeless sky
Liquid deserts to the eye’s limit

Above in the blue bowl clouds scurry
Witness to the innocents slaughtered
In my minds eye the teeming ocean
A vision of our planet’s recent past

The last albatross has flown to its grave
Just a memory of the ancient mariner
The frenzy of tuna now only a picture
The frigate bird sails the sky no longer

Now we count just the floating plastic
Below the limitless marching waves
The bleached skeleton of a dying reef
The whale turns its accusing eye to us

The agony of the acid polluted seas
Eats the very foundation of all life
When the great seas are lifeless now
And all its living creatures dead

We will look upon the great blue grave
And we will know the cost of our greed
As we walk our lifeless empty planet
And our souls weep for all we have lost

© C.H 2020

About this poem: This was written during my voyage aboard a freighter from Antwerp to Cape Town. I was surprised that sometimes we would go for days without seeing any life, not even a bird. Speaking to the Captain, Marius, he commented that 20 years previously they would see wildlife including whales, seals, dolphin, albatross and other seabirds on a daily basis but that they had progressively diminished with each passing year until, today, the ocean often appeared lifeless.

Sunbaker (photographer: Max Dupain)


Blue blue, blue water
Beneath the yellow sun
Fingers of heat sear in
My skin takes it deep
Earth beneath burns me
Body opens and breathes

© 2016 C.H

About this poem: There is something primal in the addiction of many of us to the sun and I’m not sure that it’s a need that the medical profession really understands. I think it’s ingrained deeply in our attachment to natural cycles and the joy at the coming of spring and summer that stems from our ancient dependence on the natural environment. I spent most of my childhood in the tropics and still cannot resist that sense of wellbeing that comes from the hot sun striking through the skin and warming me entire being, despite the exhortations of the naysayers. Still, these days, I restrict myself to ten or twenty minutes rather than hours and only in the mornings and evenings.

Sunset over Byron (Photographer: Chris Harris)

Unbroken Heart

I tear my heart from its flimsy perch
Give it to you to break asunder
Hearts unbroken are lives un-lived
A spirit that has never flown free
Like the purity of a blue sky
That never saw the gold of cloud

© 2016 C.Harris

About this poem: I take the view that a life without risk is one only partially lived, whether it by in work, recreation, relationships or anything else. While, like most people, I have become more risk averse as I have got older, it’s still my view that we need to push our boundaries even if they are little lower than they were in our twenties and thirties. It’s one reason why I detest the “nanny state” approach of Australian Governments and believe they are counterproductive to our welfare.

Australian flag with bloodstain (creator: unknown)


Blood spilt
For an idea
Lines on a map
Drawn in blood
Blood of Indigenes
Parading their hatred
Hatred of others
Wrapped in a cloth
The flag of Empire
Symbol of oppression
In the corner
Like a stain
Australia Day
Parading like goons
Patriotism, loyalty
Shouting their myths
Clinging to the tribe
Grasping at the past
Like a cult
The Nation
The Party
The Flag
A twisted love
Of a twisted idea
My country
Wrong or Right
My Party
Wrong or Right
Simplistic rhetoric
Thoughtless allegiance
Red, Blue or Green
I Detest you
You are the seeds of war

© CH 2017

About this poem: I detest nationalism in all its forms, be it the nation state, the flag, the national anthem or national days (eg Australian Day). Contrary to the views of many that is not the same as rejecting, or not loving ones land.

But loving the land you live in (which is a real physical entity) and the people that inhabit it is very different from liking the mythical and dangerous symbols of the nation state. In fact like religion I view these all as a form of devotion to a cult (in this case the cult of the nation state). I view all these things as part of a power system designed to maintain the rich and powerful (read the sociopaths) in power. Similarly, this is not the same as rejecting the need to belong to our “tribe” or “community” or rejecting “identity”.

We can have community and identify without these dangerous symbols to which people attach and which have a principle driver of conflict. In essence it’s a belief in “culturalism” in stead of “nationalism; noting that the latter is often a principal force in destroying cultures and languages.

Image of person shooting Aboriginal man (Photographer: unknown)


My heart lies heavy on this day
Crushed by ignorant, hate and fear
The blood of centuries past still celebrated
Its colour reflected in the foreigners’ flag

The poisoned waters now still and deserted
A land devoid of a thousand stilled tongues
The shouts of the raped and killed now silent
The survivors voices still mocked and scorned

I cry for the unconfessed nation’s shame
And for the leaders’ ignorant blindness
For the celebration of nation on such a day
When all should repent the darkened past

But more still the ignorance weighs heavy
Blind to theft, poison, death and pain
The spitting tongues and pens of hate
Against those who raise their voices in protest

Twisting like a knife in the soul of the nation

© 2017 C.H

About this poem: This is very simply a rejection of the inherent racism and nationalism of Australia day. One that leads to the incidents such as the Cronulla riots and to nazism. Certainly we should not be celebrating Australia Day on a day that led to wholesale murder and attempted genocide of the Aboriginal people of Australia and, in my opinion we should not be celebrating any day based on the nation state but instead should substitute it with a day that celebrates our multicultural diversity.

Cartoon of Morrison as Gollum carrying a lump of coal (author: Van 2019?)


You have poisoned our land with lies
Taking their money and selling our soil
Our beaches swept before your rising seas
The forests laid waste by your mines

The farmlands poisoned by gas wells
Our rivers become ditches of brown
Lifeless channels devoid of great fish
The water sold to friends for a fee

You talk of freedom and of values
But you give us a brave new world
Places of razor wire, damaged souls
Whose hearts blows away on the wind

Hope crushed like refugees on our shore
Smashed in the face of lust for power
Far from the guns from which they fled
Dreams lie broken, scattered on the wire

Your corruption seeps like acid on skin
Burning up the people we wished to be
Eating the very soul of this sacred place
So that the red heart has but a faint beat

Art is pillaged and culture condemned
We are blackened by your casual evil
The fair go lies broken on the ground
Your fires char our peoples’s birthright

The ghost of the 1940s walks this land
First peoples abandoned, ignored, cheated
Everything you touch sickens like the plague
Greed like gangrene eats our country’s flesh

You speak of the bush but steal its life
A billion dead creatures your legacy
Their dying screams scars our soul
Innocence destroyed by your half truths

You talk of God but worship Mammon
Know the cost of all but value of nothing
You talk of family with serpent tongue
Hypocrisy so thick God would choke

We await the day of final retribution
Where powerful will meet judgement
Where the deniers and climate criminals
Will burn for their sins in the fires of hell

About this poem: I wrote this after the fires at the end of 2019 when we say our country scorched by the some of the largest fires ever seen (25.5 million acres). In terms of damage to forest and wildlife they were arguably the worst. These were fires that, if not caused by the Morrison Government were, at least, exacerbated by their ideological refusal to lead on climate action and their stubborn refusal to listen to the experts about the need to upgrade our fire management and control abilities. In my view the current government is undeniably evil in the sense that its actions are deliberately and consciously, via its denial of climate action, contributing to the death of millions worldwide.

Belongil Creek, Byron Bay (photographer: C. Harris)


You worship your fictional Trinity
And ask that we respect your God
But each day you are killing mine
The real God beneath your feet

So close you cannot see it
The God of forests, of oceans
The God of abandoned places
That feeds your body and soul

I feel the anger come quicker
Seeing the destruction you wrought
Killing the places of my childhood
Leaving just my dusty memories

I crave the touch of the fallen trees
The swell of ocean on living reef
The ride of the dolphin in the waves
The free and clear flowing river

The sight of the albatross on the wind
The howl of the wolf at the luminous moon
The dance of the Brolga on the plain
The song of the frog in its swamp

Instead hot sand blows to the end of time
I hear the forlorn call of the boo book owl
Alone now out on its endless range
Looking for the last of its dying prey

Long across the ocean the blue whale calls
A haunting cry to the last of its kind
In it’s cry a message to humankind
Of the coming of the end of the world

Of the death of our common God
The abandoned God of abandoned places.

ABOUT THIS POEM: I have always disliked conventional religions, of whatever type for two reasons. Firstly that they are one of the great causes of conflict, hatred and division and never mind the hypocrisy of institutions that preach poverty but hoard great wealth, and of their adherents whose behaviour is the absolute opposite of their claimed beliefs. But also that it seems to me that if there is anything Godlike in our existence it’s the very beauty, intricacy and diversity of the planet we walk on and that, some religions seem intend on destroying with the biblical messages of human dominion.

At Eternity’s Gate (Van Gogh)


Was it really so long ago?
17 years now since you left
Not a soul seemed bereft
Your memory now a shadow

To resurface sometimes

But on your birthday
I did think of you
Existing like a shadow
In my unconscious mind

To resurface sometimes

I wonder at your life
A life so unknown
Was there loneliness?
Was there pain?

No one asked

Did you long for love?
The love you pushed away
Did you hope for touch?
Touch you could not give

No one asked

I feel for you now
Alone in your soul
Alone for 90 years
Alone with your fears

The fears no one knew

About this poem: My Dad died in 2004, 17 years ago, at the age of 90. He was a man that scarcely anyone knew in any real sense; like many of his generation he rarely spoke of his feelings, showed little emotion and was uncomfortable with any expression of emotions, either is own or others. No one asked him about his life or his feelings. He died a man unknown. No one in our family talks about him and, I suspect few think about him. He’s like a shadow that exists only in our sub conscious like, I suspect, many men (and some women) of that generation.

Baron Empain Palace, Heliopolis, near our home in Cairo, now renovated and open to the public


I crossed the dry dusty street
Following behind my feet
I touched down yesterday
I walked the old roadway

Landing then from overseas
Took the bus past old Ramses
Living by a six lane highway
Must be his last indignity

It’s been fifteen years this year
Since we last lived and played
When we all were then just children
In the Pharaoh’s city of legend

Passing the old Baron’s Palace
Provides some small passing solace
For broken memories of home
For the broken stones of Fayoum

Only the corner flat still stands
Of our precious childish heartlands
Where our games we fought and played
The street where our family stayed

I hear the cicadas frenzy
The wailing of the muezzins plea
The bougainvilleas colour
Smell the rich Cairean odour

I walk down the street where we ran
Crossing the road past the old tram
Standing by the first mango stand
With juice running all down my hand

Past my favourite pastry shop
In the shade where we’d always stop
For a millefeuille each all round
With the teeming street’s raucous sound

Every bit has all gone now
Sent to oblivion somehow
They’ve taken all my memories
Buried the place of my stories

The distant pyramids still stand
In this ancient mystical land
But the place I now can recall
Is just a faded print on a wall

© Chris Harris 2020

About this poem: The five years I spent in Cairo with my family between ages five & ten (1960 to 1965) were some of the most formative for me. It was a time of indolence with endless days spent running in the streets.

Memories are of heat, sand, the life of the streets, the welcome of local people, mango juice, pastries (a legacy of the French) & history.

We lived on the ground level of a magnificent old three story, stone building, cool & characterful where we spent endless nights playing cards on the front verandahs.

We were part of an extended expatriate community that worked and socialised together but, to my great regret, not very integrated into the local community.

The imprint of Cairo was so great that, 20 years later, with no maps I could find my way around the streets to our old houses & haunts. Most those places are now gone, destroyed in the rush to development in a growing city. This is about my sense of loss in seeing those childhood places destroyed.


Leopard, Chobe National Park, Botswana (Photo: C. Harris)


Leopard, Leopard moving light
Grassland shadow ever slight
Slipping away from hand and eye,
Your path marked by distant cries

Your faint shadow in the distance lies
We see only the fire of your eyes
What a vision of beauty you inspire
Even as the world around you dies

Leopard, oh Leopard a vision right
Of a world renewed with light
Where hopes of better times still fly
And animals, for humans, do not die

© C. Harris 2020

About this poem: In 2020, immediately before the COVID pandemic, I took a 21 day trip through the Western Cape of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Namibia. It’s rare to see a Leopard in the wild but we had a fortunate trip, seeing a both a wide variety of animals and, in most cases, many of them. Nevertheless it’s difficult not to be conscious of the disappearance of many species or, at least, their increasing rarity, with the risk that, for future generations that they may never see, at least in the wild, many of the magnificent animals we were privileged to see

Broken Heart (creator: unknown)


You taught me so much my love
You came like an innocent in the night
I saw your beauty then as others didn’t
I gave you everything then I could
But you followed head not heart
The tears ran wet across empty miles
You held my heart in your hands
And crushed it with a single cruel blow

© C. Harris 2020

About this Poem: This is simply about the common experience many of us have, in life, of being rejected, for any number of possible reasons, by someone or something we love (in this case romantic love). Normally it is a rejection by a lover but, more broadly, the same sort of crushing emotional experience can come from being rejected by family, friends or even employers and can lead to depression and worse. We see this not just in personal relationships but in people being sacked by employers, in the end of careers (eg sports people). Generally we are very bad at recognising the damage done and providing support.

Grey haired woman (Photographer: unknown)


Your auburn hair has turned grey
I see the pain in your soft brown eyes
The hurt in your damaged soul

I’m sorry, my love, for all the pain
I treated you so carelessly each day
Pushing you away every day

I did not understand my cruelty
I did not see your bleeding wounds
Arms at length are not arms at all

All you asked was a gentle embrace
Some help to soothe the lifelong pain
Where words are not enough

You gave me your skin, your soul
Getting in return a hard heart
Cutting you with only lust and logic

Two years of longing cruelly denied
Two years of loving harshly replied
Nothing but rejection and pain

No apology can soothe the wounds
No penance can bind the damaged soul
Maybe time will heal the endless hurt

I wish I could undo the bitter words
If only I could unmake the careless acts
So many years, so many regrets

© C. Harris 2020

About this poem: It took me a long time in life to realise that there was a big difference between rejection and indifference (one being, usually, a short sharp pain and the other prolonged cruelty), . It may seem obvious but there came a point when, talking to others, that I realised that it was unethical to withhold from a relationship to which your partner is committed, simply because you are not confident of its longevity. It’s quite wrong and very hurtful.

It’s a behaviour that many of us, not least myself, justify on the basis of “well, my lover will be hurt less when I leave, if I hold them at arms length, if I withhold my affection”. I realised, on the contrary, that it was quite cruel because not only will they be hurt, anyway, if the relationship does end but, in the meantime, they have been deprived of their emotional needs for the entire period of the relationship. Mostly the indifference is worse than a rejection.

Adelaide Hills Fires 2019/20


I see the fires’s dull dangerous glow
It flickers like the anger in my soul
A burning rage at the failed leaders
The tentacles of grief grasp our hearts
For the destruction of our olive land
Like the wreathes of smoke curling up
Each fire the death of a thousand animals
Murdered on the killing fields of climate
A bloody plain of lies, greed and deceit

Thirty years of our hopes denied
By the grasping men in grey suits
Their souls stained with blood coal
Their pockets lined by fossil bribes.
The rising water and drowning islands
Just small talk for men with no morals
Each meaningless marketing mantra
Every empty slogan, a death warrant

How good does it get for the dead?
Victims of Morrison’s moral vacuum
Everywhere the skeletons of houses
Like some warning of apocalypse
Scar the blackened smoking hills
Each one a mark on someone’s soul
Seared by an uncaring Government

In the graveyards the families gather
To farewell the needlessly dead
Murdered by the Captains of industry
Condemned by Murdoch’s mendacity
Abandoned by a cabinet of criminals

In the minds of the bitter people
A vision of the judgement day
When the guilt of the climate criminals
Burdened by the souls of a million dead
Drags them down to a hell of torment
As the flames of a thousand fires
Sears their empty blackened souls
And the screams of burning victims
Asking, for them, the never ending eternity
Promised by their vacuous religions

ABOUT THIS POEM: Written in early 2020 just after the bushfires of that black summer. it’s simply a memorial to that summer and its millions of dead animals, people and trees, as well as call for a reckoning in which the climate criminals such as Morrison, Taylor, Canavan and multiple other politicians, along with the purveyors of shock jock and media lies (Murdoch et al), the propagandists of the IPA and the captains of industry finally face judgement for those they have killed.

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