Wednesday, June 29, 2011



I was asked once by a drunk in a pub

what do you like in a man?

(hoping I’d admire his cute bum I suppose)

hands and forearms I replied

I like smooth strong hands with little hair

a wide grasp

but gentle, delicate that can undo the first pearl button

but strong enough to be magic in bed:

flutter like a butterfly

grip like a champion

tidy like a surgeon


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Magic Snakes Rules

image courtesy of Tess at magpie tales

Magic Snakes Rules

We always played games in the car

until mum threatened to throw the snakes out the window if we weren’t quiet

we’d watch the clock blink until we could speak again

those were the rules.

We listened to the Magic Pudding:

one snake each

and then we heard James and the Giant Peach and

then we had two snakes.

I always wanted the green ones and Petal always wanted the yellow ones.

We played eye-spy and spelling-bee and

we sang along to Bananas in Pyjamas and

I sang the Queen of the Night

and we all had one snake each.

Petal fell asleep and Mum took over the driving

We listened to Mowgli and the Enormous Crocodile and

Dad ate all the red ones

I fell asleep and Mowgli’s crocodile fed snakes to the Magic Flute

Mum never did throw them out the window.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Science of Love

If you rely on chemistry alone

to set your heart ablaze,

when entropy’s won

and the fires are gone,

what then for love?


Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Life in Fridge Magnets - III

Ready for a few more?

doorman at Raffles, Singapore

more Shakespearean insults

from British Museum, Treasures of Afghanistan


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tales from Exile – I’ve been Everywhere

map from

It is the season of farewells here in Exile-land.  The schools all follow the northern hemisphere curricula, so end-of-school-year brings end of assignment to lots of folk, not limited to the Education Sector.  Marius and I attended farewell parties on Thursday and Friday nights, and have two more scheduled for early next week.  

 On Thursday night I met an interesting woman who I had nothing in common with.  I am not sure if she noticed or just decided that I was pathetic in general.  She has led an interesting life, full of travel and experiences in exotic places, and had lots of stories to tell.  She wore large pieces of yellow gold jewellery jangling and flashing as she smoked.  Her gestures were sweeping and frequent; her voice large too.  I kept thinking I’d stepped back in time and met an old colonial – she had grown up on a property in Africa, had shot beasts attacking the cattle from a young age and didn’t flinch at the sight of a green mamba above her on the verandah.  She’d also run an ostrich farm and taught the farm hands how to slaughter the birds for market.  (None of which I believe I am capable of.)

 It reminded me somehow of that chap in the Flanders and Swann song (Driven to it – by the Spider in the Bath):  
I have fought a grizzly bear,

Tracked a cobra to its lair,

Killed a crocodile who dared to cross my path;

I almost expected a pith-helmet.

 She’s dined with princes and thieves on five continents and smoked sheesha with sheiks and oilmen.  She has lived in Syria, Brunei, Africa, Venezuela and southern Europe, as well as the Middle East.  She loves it here, not that she stays, mind you.  I wondered if all the other places she claimed she’d lived in she also didn’t stay in. 

I felt quite frustrated with myself.  On the one hand I felt somewhat in awe of her skills, her evident physical power and her confidence to engage in the world in such a forthright manner, and on the other hand I was repelled by something.  

Maybe I was looking for some sense of reflection or awareness of the inner life of some of the people she had encountered along the way.  Perhaps I was picking up something of the colonial attitude (if that is what is?) of the world being there for the picking and hang the consequences.  I hope I am not being a snob:  I have nothing to be snobbish about. 

The writer in me was thinking what a great source of story ideas while the poet in me was thinking there is no emotional life being offered, there is no one at home.  And now that I have got here, I think I understand what my difficulty was:  the role of superwoman was so ingrained I had no sense of the true person out of costume.

When I put aside my own sense of inadequacy I feel compassion wondering what could have made her so apparently tough and resilient, and what pain is she burying in herself?  Then again, perhaps I am wrong and she is superwoman all the way through to her spine.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Inanimate Politician

Can you see I’m smiling:  this is my trustful gaze?

Can you see I’m telling the truth:  I never flinch from honesty?

Can you see me pucker up at the gooey babe?

Can you see I’m working for you, this is my charity day?

Can you see me pocket this cheque?  Look over there at the bad guys.  (Didn’t see it did you?)

Can you see me flirting and screwing: this is my human side?

Can you see me voting for business this is my personal choice?

Can you see me shaking hands with criminals, this is my job?

Can I see you vote:  1 for me?


429 Farewell Severe Mistress (Poems of Exile)

another offering from my 'translations' of pseudo-Seneca, in my collection Poems of Exile

Farewell severe Muse!  Now I  return to amusements and frolics.

Pleasure and playing delight me, Muse.

Swollen-breasted Arethusa stamps at my threshold

and would speak to me, in the manner of the night:

She who learned to slide through shadows,

now tangles me with her hair, now releases me.

She puts her gentle arms around my neck

reveals her snowy flank and half-lying on her back,

she imitates a painter’s model, always

surpassing herself, she languishes on my bed.

Muse, she is even more debauched than me, shameless

and exulting, not ceasing in our pleasures.

The poet has abandoned his labours, of Priam* bewailing his Hector.

Playing delights me Muse:  farewell severe Mistress!

*Priam was King of Troy, famous for lamenting his fallen son Hector, a typical subject of tragedy


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From the Files

courtesy of Tess

From the Files

♯ 199, example of model

note the ear-horns

(A short term experimental development,

 new organs of the 6th sense)

Not continued

 Reason:  all samples were eradicated by majority without the fitting

Conclusion: for record purposes only


for magpie tales Mag 70:

Monday, June 20, 2011



you slide beneath my sheets, Poet,
insinuate yourself between my intentions
offering posies of images
garlands of metaphor

you seize my pen, wrestle the Muse
champion dark verbiage
while I am mute with song

now my days and nights
are printed in lines between the sheets,
you soothe me Poet,

each stroke, each inky mark,
a declaration

and then I turn the page and you are gone


Friday, June 17, 2011

Lunar Eclipse

We stayed up on Wednesday (15th June) night to watch the lunar eclipse.  Marius took some photos which appear below.  They are hand-held and there was lots of light pollution as we did not plan an expedition to the desert, which would have been the sensible thing. These are spur of the moment shots, the first taken through the back window of our house and the rest from the corner of the street, virtually under a street lamp:  photography under difficulties.

I took some pictures too, but they mostly look like ice cream, so I won't waste your time with them.

Before the eclipse started:

And then the Earth's shadow gradually ate the moon:

As the shadow extended across the moon, the whole moon became a dusky red, as if seen through dirty red sunglasses.  Because the human eye adjusts in ways even a clever camera does not, the bright edge of the moon still looks white, even though to the eye, the whole moon was covered by the shadow of the earth.   You can see stars to the right of the moon, which shows how dark the moon really was.

It was a clear night for the Middle East, but the next picture shows how much suspended dust there is in the atmosphere, as the red light rays bounce off the dust particles.  The face of the moon was completely shadowed at this point, although it still looks like part is illuminated.

Watching the eclipse was remarkably and unexpectedly moving.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Birds Drop


your feathered corpse lies in the road
where you abandoned it:

one moment a driven shuttlecock with purpose
the next spent

your chambered heart ruptured

with boiling blood

 I know this death, my friend


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

405 Hymn to my Friend Crispus* (Poems of Exile)

another of my 'translations' from the Latin of Seneca/pseudo-Seneca

Crispus, you are my strength and support, the anchor of my galleon

You are the strong harbour that shelters my shipwreck

My fortress, honour and security:

Under the dear and gentle faith of your shrewd captaincy

Only peace and spiritual rest afflict me.

Nor just for me, for you stand high in public debate

Using your influence only to benefit your clients:

Your heart flows with Athenian honey and

You are the supreme glory of your family’s Name.

To be deprived of you, is to be in exile:

I languish on the surface of this forsaken rock,

But while my spirit is above the soil, it is near to you.

*Gaius Sallustius  Crispus Passienus, a Roman senator active during 1st century AD.  He was consul in 44.  He was step-father to Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbarus, who later became the Emperor Nero.  Seneca celebrated his friendship with Crispus in several epigrams, hoping that he would succeed in gaining Seneca clemency from the Emperor Claudius and thus a reprieve from exile on Corsica.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011



 it is not a tool chest which afflicts me –

not a bench vise

jaws or spanner

not a claw-hammer

auger or awl

neither pliers nor tinsnips

no spiral-ratchet Yankee screwdriver

no nail gun

no drill     

it is only the thrum of blood

in temples, jaw and neck

which threatens my peace


Monday, June 13, 2011


I want to stand on your chest

and say “mine all mine”

“impossible” you say

“there is life, there are obligations, regulations,

the world”


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Part of the Comment Puzzle

Dear Bloggers

I have discovered, following the advice of some of my readers, that comment forms that appear in a pop up window seem to work for those of us struggling with our google Idenities.

I did an experiment with my own Living in Exile blog, changing from comments on the page format to the pop up window, and found that it worked.

This solution might be more agreeable for bloggers who prefer not to have the 'anonymous' option.

Thank you to all for your advice and forebearance.

Best wishes


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Preying Mantiss

image from

he waves his penis at me
like the antennae of a preying mantis

only not green

messages from another dimension
pheromone-filled and dangerous

come and be lunch

or supper

seduced by green blood
well it might as well be


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More Blogger Complaints

I tried to leave a comment on my own blog (the other one) and discovered that on it I was not recognised.  I know on some people's blogs, when I leave a comment, I am already registered as one of the profile choices.  Other blogs that I also follow, I am not.  Thinks, maybe the ones I show up on I follow publicly (I am a bit shy sometimes so follow privately)? 

So I tried an experiment, lame though it now looks.  I thought I'll follow myself publicly on Living in Exile, then maybe I'll show up as myself when I try to leave a comment - like I do on Written in Exile.  (Some time back, blogger made me a follower of myself on Written in Exile.)  Sadly, my comments form still doesn't recognise me.

It is very frustrating.  I often want to leave comments and can't.  By the time I have wrestled the loop of signing in and being rejected a few times, I then get kicked out of gmail, blogger and panic.

I can understand that having anonymous comments is a problem for some people and not a permanent solution.  Perhaps having comment moderation coupled with anonymous comments would work?

I hope the solar flare doesn't add to our woes.  I hope somebody is working on resolving these issues.


Tales from Exile – Ming Dynasty Vase Doyle

We have just passed the anniversary of Ming’s arrival in our lives.  I think it was June 4th, 2003.  She has done very well for a little street cat from the drains of Port Dickson – international travel, a worldwide internet profile, health, contentment, security.  What more could anyone ask for?  As our friend Mart said at the time, from hell to heaven in one leap.

 Her first meal – ever, virtually – was two sardines, imported from Canada, Brunswick.  They were all I had that was suitable to give her, and at 10.30 pm, in a small town in Malaysia, I wasn’t going to be able to buy cat food.

 The first sardine ‘barely touched the sides’.  After a few minutes I decided she could have one more.  I was afraid that if I gave a starving cat too much to eat it would kill her.  The second sardine went down more slowly followed by some serious whisker licking and face washing.  Then she had a drink of water.

 I tucked an old towel on to one of the chairs under the table so that she would feel safe and comfortable.  Those first nights she was locked up in our screened-in verandah, to protect her from civet cats and monkeys and cobras, and not completely ‘inside’ because I was still getting Marius used to the idea of having a pet in Malaysia.  Once he pronounced her as Ming Dynasty-Vase Doyle, I knew she was accepted because all our dependents have three names:  children, dog, and now cat.  (The dog stayed in Australia but that is another story.)

 Ming was a tiny scrap when she first accosted me on the steps of PD Eating Point.  She must have recognised me as a kindred spirit (Marius says she could spot a sucker) because strays usually run from people, not try to trip them up.  She put her paw out to catch my foot and then wrapped herself around my ankle to make me stop, at least to look down at her.  I looked. 

 I thought she was about three months old, maybe younger.  According to the vet, her teeth said she was 6-10 months old (it later turned out she also had a litter of kittens somewhere).  The distance across her hips was less than an inch.  She could fit into the palm of my smallish hand.

 I looked down at her and she looked up at me with huge topaz blue eyes.  She meowed.  She had no obvious injuries or wounds, clear eyes, didn’t smell, a clean shiny coat, but frighteningly thin:  I picked her up.  She purred.  I asked around at the restaurant if she belonged to anybody.  Marius was sure, desperately sure, that she must belong to someone because she was so pretty – like a Siamese cat with a few dainty stripes and a typically Malaysian Zorro tail.

the end of her tail has a little 'zorro'

We had come to pick up some takeaway food on the way to a friend’s house.  In the car I told Marius I would adopt the little cat.  Not a good idea as we were in the last six months of our posting and didn’t know where we would go next.  I wish I could remember my argument because it must have been a good one (mind you Marius is also pretty soft-hearted).  He agreed that if she was still at the restaurant on the way home, I could have her.

We had a pleasant evening with our friends and later we took another visitor back to their hotel on our way home.  We passed the turn off to the restaurant and we passed our house.  On the return journey, I said ‘Now we can see if that cat is still there.’

 Marius said ‘I thought you had forgotten about her.’  He drove back to the restaurant and then told me ‘I’m not getting out or stopping the engine.  You have two minutes to find her.’


There is a side terrace facing the street, with tables and a man cooking satay on a make-shift barbecue.  I walked up the road beside the diners, calling ‘puss, puss’.  Ming darted out from under one of the far tables.  I picked her up.  She purred and rubbed herself on my neck.

<cue: smaltzy music and shots of the sun setting through palm trees>

 I climbed back into the car and did up my seat belt.  

 Marius put the engine in gear and turned for home.  ‘Couldn’t you find her then?’  He almost sounded disappointed. 

 I’d been gone less than the two minutes.  ‘No, I found her.  She’s here tucked under my chin.’

Sunday, June 5, 2011

412 The Poet Protests (Poems of Exile)

Another 'translation' from pseudo-Seneca:

Your doom-laden songs are suffused with poison

And your jokes coloured with black feelings

no one escapes your fangs:

Not man, nor woman; not youth nor old age.

Furious, you throw your cruel words in the same way

as an army hurls boulders at our city.

(but, it is the habit of insane people to appear sane

and we do not see the missiles that strike home)

The Muse rewards your sullen menace

granting discordant songs to you alone

while my rebuttals fall like unpractised

arms, short of their marks.

Are you a man of honour?  Your jokes are like crimes

trickling black venom

Ah, but for a laugh – you say – and the wine,

Anything to score a hit, and if I weep, that wit has won!

Why abolish jokes?  It is not the laugh that is spiteful:

Wits are never light – whoever they strike.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Okay, I am thoroughly fed up now.  I am posting comments to other people here.  Sorry, unconventional I know, but I can't send emails from my goggle account without it freezing me out totally, I don't do/have/own facebook and ...   well, that's enough.


I have been reading your posts and trying to leave comments and now, having waved my arms in the air a la Don Quixote, I have nothing super profound to say.

However, I thought your piece with the photos of the huge redwoods looked like the trees had toes.  I liked them very much.

I thought your piece remembering your brother was a beautiful memorial and that even after twenty years, life does time loops and takes us straight home.
I hope that soon I will not need to resort to such nonsense as this.

Best wishes, Isabel


I read your piece about the dog going to City Pets and I thought I left a comment.  I don't remember being particularly rude (or offensive) so I assume my comment got lost rather than censored.  I certainly hope that I didn't say anything hurtful.

I love pets and animals of all conditions, mostly probably, because I don't seem to get in trouble with them.  I seem, even at my advanced age, to have the ability to offend practically everybody without intending to.  I have often considering have a blanket apology sticker on my forehead as insurance.

Your piece particularly resonated with me because I have climbed those steps with various dogs many times over the years.  We always have to look to see if there are any rabbits to annoy on the way in to the beauty parlour.  We walk the dog (only one now) in Anderson Park where there is a big off-lead oval.  Do you know it?

I am always very interested in both your postings and the responses you attract.

Best wishes, Isabel


Thank you for all your kind comments you have sprinkled throughout my blog.  I feel somewhat in awe of your own work and quite humble that you come to visit mine.

I enjoy Mad Maud and deciphering her adventures, and she always makes me pause over the vagueries of life.  I also enjoy reading the other poets' work that you display.  Always an education for me.

Best wishes, Isabel

The Absent Poet

I always enjoy reading your breathtaking work.  I think that  I grasp about 10% but that does not mean the rest is wasted on me.  I sometimes feel like an archaeologist, sweeping off a paintbrush full of meaning each time I read.

I apologise deeply if I have offended you.  It seems to be my life's calling.  Or maybe that is simply my paranoia.  I wish you much commerce with the muse and hope to read you again soon.

Best wishes, Isabel


The Sea

This morning I've been reading lots of blog posts that touch on the sea as either the setting or a protagonist, and I've been looking at old photos of holidays by the sea, dreaming of other shores.

I was going to post a drawing I'd done, thinking it was meditative and reflective of my sea-borne mood.  I now discover that I can't post pictures - not even from my own computer, because I need to 'sign in'.  The fact that I am clearly - sort of - signed in as I am posting this doesn't seem to count.  I can't sign in to my google account at all.

What is the point of blogging if I am so restricted?  Can't comment, can't post   aaaarrrghhhhhh!!!

At least others' comments of similar problems give me some comfort - it is not only the fun police here that are messing me up - but I bet you don't keep getting your pages turned to incomprehensible squiggle writing,  which is really annoying!

What to do lah?

On second thoughts, perhaps this is the UNIVERSE telling me to get to work and stop faffing around in blogs???