Wednesday, October 26, 2016


a letter of apology,
which I delivered to kind strangers
who live in my neighbourhood

As my Rose walked by
this morning, she did spy
the perfect place to do
her stinky greyhound poo.

She left it on your lawn
at six o'clock this morn.
I reached into my pouch,
full of poo-bags, I would vouch.

Alas! Gosh darn it! F#@k!
See, I was out of luck—
Whichever way I'd stare,
the pouch was, sadly, bare.

And so began my caper.
Right then, I spied your paper
in a tidy plastic wrap,
just perfect for her crap.

I opened it with joy,
as if it were a toy
and I were still a child.
(My, isn't my life wild?)

I laid your news back down
neatly on the ground
next to your front right tyre.
(I thieve, but I'm no liar.)

Now, with my hand in plastic,
and feeling quite fantastic
(and perhaps a bit absurd),
I gathered up that turd.

I realised, with regret,
your paper might get wet
or blown around by wind,
but I could not rescind.

I checked around the place
so as not to leave a trace.
Then we resumed our jog
with our little bag of bog.

Sorry, thank you, and I hope your newspaper didn't get damp or windblown!
:) Tamyka Bell

The legend of the poop poem

Once we got back home,
I started work on a poem.
I tidied my first draft
(so I wouldn’t feel too daft).

Then carefully hand-wrote
the poop-dog poem. This note
I dropped in their mail box
(and saved a copy in Docs).

A couple of days went past,
then messages came fast
from lots of friendly folks: 
some sheilas and some blokes.

‘You’re famous, take a look—
your poem is on Facebook!’
‘Hey, it’s on Twitter, too—
your poem about the poo!'

So there, in all its glory
is the rest of my story
of how one untimely shit
turned into such a hit.

About this piece

I think all the detail is in there. I wrote this and dropped it in their letterbox the same afternoon. It appeared on Facebook the next day, much appreciated by the recipient. Poop-de-doop and The legend of the poop poem were both first published on

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sultry…an acrostic Cavatina

Heat rises unchecked, like passion. We come
undone. You wear
my sweat like gloss upon your parted lips.
I’m you, and we’re
drowning in droplets that grant no succour.
I lead you where
this love should give us strength and lift us higher.
Yet here we lie, oppressed by our desire.

About this piece

This poem is part of the series Weather Our Souls, which explores the weather as a metaphor for the human condition. I worked with the twin meanings of the title in the form of a Cavatina, which seems to 'limp rather than flow'. This feeling of unsatisfying oppression persists as the sensual narrative is built over the acrostic base, humidity, and ties them together in the final couplet. Sultry was first published on

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Greater good

in secure
it becomes
for outsiders
to be
in, so curiosity
leads us
to ask
whether we should
in, so curating
for the other,
such that
they can be apart
and still
a part
of what
we offer
in so curing
the world
of its follies
we need

About this piece

I don't normally give too much information about the subject matter of a poem, but it's important to me that you understand that this one describes the tendency for privileged members of society to ignore the plight of others in favour of imposing their own views. It was first published on


It’s not a case of there or not-there; it’s always there.
You can’t switch it off.
You can tune it out, but it’s still there.

You can pretend it’s not, but it is.

You can’t tone it down, defining it in physical terms of no relevance:
it’s an electricity thing, it’s a magnetism thing, it’s a chemistry thing.
It’s no thing at all.

But that doesn’t mean it’s nothing. Oh, it’s something, alright.

You can try to turn it into something it’s not:
doll it up, or pare it back, or add a fine glimmer of mystery.
It’s unchanged.

Always has been. Always will be.

You can’t segregate portions of it and assign those parts labels
like you try to do with people. It’s not like people.
It doesn’t even lie or cheat or steal or war. It doesn’t do anything.

It just is.

You can feel its warmth and you can see its glow but
you can’t contain it. It’s already got a home.
You can try to make it mean something more—but how could it?

It already means everything.

About this piece

I wrote this in response to a Medium piece, at the end of which the writer asked for our thoughts. It was first published there, too.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Some mornings we make breakfast,
some mornings we make love and
some mornings make no sound, they just
slip by unnoticed while we make what we can
out of what we have — not much, but enough.

Some days, this world gets too much
and I want to cry out for you but I don’t dare
seek you because you’re already too much
for me, and even when you’re all I want
you’re not my everything — but you are enough.

You can never be my everything;
I won’t let you be my everything,
but if everything else was taken away,
I’d be okay, if you were all that remained —
if you were all I had, you’d be enough.

About this piece

I wrote this poem in response to what I believe is one of society's most foolish myths: that my lover should be my everything. It was linked to an essay I wrote at the same time, with the rather long title I don’t want you to be my everything. I just want you to be enough.

Enough was first published on, where it was also featured in the Reading Roulette curated collection on 12 October 2016.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Muse…a double acrostic tanka

Prisms shape my flow
of fond memories into
each awaiting ear,
mirrors to my soul, dated
symbols, created in dreams.

About this piece

I wrote this in response to the second Poetry in Form prompt on, and that's where it was first published.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Thunderstorm…an acrostic Parallelogram de Crystalline

Carry me
up with you, soaring on
majestic wings and rushing voices.
lust wells up and crashes
over me, tide of turbulent air.
Numb inside,
I tumble down again,
made heavy by your Antarctic words.
Building me
up always ends with me
sublimating to nothing once more.

About this piece

This poem is the first in Weather Our Souls, a series exploring weather patterns and elements as metaphors for the human condition and our relationships. There are few single-stanza poetic forms with the 12 lines I wanted for this acrostic; the cyclic nature of the Parallelogram de Crystalline suited my image of a relationship that grows and breaks down like rain or hail in a cumulonimbus. Thunderstorm was first published on

Saturday, October 01, 2016


as possessed by Rose, and used on her owner (me)

It melts my heart,

that way you look at me,
those big brown pools I see,
the way you seem to be

a work of art;

but then you fart—

it hovers in a haze,
it leaves me in a daze;
you never break my gaze—

you little tart.

About this piece

I first published this on You're not meant to take it too seriously!

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Look —
skittering downtown…
frosty, windblown, grass-laden hill
bald on top, much like the one who brought me here to run.

About this piece

I spent my last night in deluxe boutique accommodation just outside Queenstown, which prompted this Fib poem.

First published on

Friday, September 02, 2016

Flamingo…a trib-Fib

Three Cupcakes, by Elegantly Frosted

layers — 
decadence — 
swirling dark ganache,
floating, fluffy buttercream clouds,
morsels of delight: each Elegantly Frosted bite.

Ice Cream Sundae cupcakes,
by Elegantly Frosted (Instagram)

About this piece

Tonight I wrote a trib-Fib to the delectable cakes you can get from Elegantly Frosted. Trib-Fib is a name I came up with to describe a Fib poem written as a tribute. A Fib poem has syllable counts based on the Fibonacci sequence.)

First published on

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Straight-talk (for the poets)…a Petrarchan sonnet (plus)

For sights we catch in our attentive gaze,
For all the convoluted plots we write,
For ev’ry piercing word we wield with might,
For epics full of tragic, dying ways,

For dreams that carry us throughout our days,
For fantasies that torture us each night,
For hope that lingers, longing for the light,
For paths that lead us safely through this maze,

For beauty lost beneath this filthy haze,
For blind injustice hiding in plain sight,
For soldiers lying dead after the fight,
For sailors sheltering in unmapped bays…

When ocean storms approach, we stay our course,
Courageously move forth with sails unfurled —
Where nature leads, we go without remorse;
When man opposes us with insults hurled,
Or silence falls, we shout until we’re hoarse:
We are the true plain-speakers of this world.

About this piece

The idea for this poem became stuck in my head as I read Poetry at Work by Glynn Young: poets are the ones who speak the hard truth. But we don't spoonfeed you—we feed you in ways that get you thinking. To add to the challenge, I went for the Petrarchan Sonnet.

First published in Poetry in Form on 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: 12 Easy Steps to Self-Publishing For Busy People (Second Edition), by Terence W. Tam

I read a version of this book that has already been superseded at least once—I think I wrote away for my free copy back in the mid-noughties—so I was pleasantly surprised to find its content more relevant and less out-of-date than I had anticipated.

You probably won’t find anything earth-shattering in 12 Easy Steps to Self-Publishing For Busy People—it’s the same old advice that gets trotted out in every essay on the subject. But Tam does well to focus on carving out the right niche for your writing, and targeting the right audience. Of course, the publishing industry has moved on, and we target audiences in different ways these days. 

With the rising popularity and cheaper distribution of eBooks, self-publishing has become a relatively simple task. It’s certainly a lot easier to get your book into Amazon than it is to convince the bookstore owners down the road that they want twenty copies of your latest tome. In the online space, self-published authors can finally compete head-to-head with traditionally published authors…and occasionally win.

Part of that is due to the change in marketing tactics, with authors now having a lot more direct contact with their fans. Back when the author was drafting this book, Facebook didn’t exist. Social media is now one of the primary ways writers interact with their fans and potential fans, and even traditional publishers recognise its value, pushing their signed authors to maintain an online presence. 

What most disappointed me about 12 Easy Steps to Self-Publishing For Busy People was the number of typos it contained despite the author’s frequent calls to invest in professional editing. And they were simple errors, such as repeated periods or incorrectly placed apostrophes. Even the book layout was awful, with the page numbers appearing on the right-hand side of every page, so that it was tucked into the binding on left pages.

And then there was the title…I just couldn’t figure it out. There weren’t twelve chapters. There wasn’t a list of twelve steps. And it didn’t seem particularly aimed at busy people, or any other specific group of people (other than those interested in self-publishing). Given the author’s advice for creating catchy titles, I suspect he created the title without really thinking about how it related to the content. Maybe that's why he was giving away this version, and why he released another book in 2007, called Seven Easy Steps to Self-Publishing For First-Time Authors

In hindsight, I’m not really sure why I read it, but it’s done now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


In me, butterflies—
pas de deux in scarlet hues,
boundless skies above.

Colour blinds your eyes—
misconstrue the things I do,
never see enough.

This way, trouble lies,
unless you begin anew—
offer the white dove.

When the flutter dies,
teach it to return to you—
then you’ll know true love.

About this piece

Lies about love leave us always looking for more. Love leaves when you don't nurture it—trust that you have enough, always enough.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Passed on.
now, for evermore
with the woman your heart adores.
To your bride, none can compare; the sweetest love you share.

About this piece

This piece is for my Opa, who passed on last Sunday, and whose love for my Oma was so great that I think he started dying the day she passed on, some twelve years ago. I never saw anyone else love like that.

And the dictionaries state that both forevermore and for evermore are correct, so I chose the latter, even though the former may have got me more hits from the Philippines. (In the US, forever more is also used, but that doesn't make quite so much sense to me.)

First published in Poetry in Form on

Monday, August 01, 2016


You leave.

once you’re out the door,
you realise you’ve left everything.
You’re nothing
on your own.

You remember:

smiles and sunshine,
love and laughter,

hugs and hateful words,
kisses and kicks and
pushing and punching and patronising and pretending and

playing, right? Just playing—
a little harmless fun.

You go back.

once you’re back
in smiles and sunshine,
love and laughter,
you’re playing
a rigged game, fighting
a losing battle
against an enemy you love
more than life.

And you don’t know
how to get out,
how to get away,
how to let go.

But you do.

And then, once it’s over, it fades.
It fades away until it doesn’t really feel like much at all
and you wonder if it was as bad as you thought
and maybe, just maybe, you left too soon.

You grieve.

when you’ve let it all go,
you realise: you’ve lost everything
you could measure, and nothing
of worth.

About this piece

This piece is just a little something I wrote about the lies we tell ourselves and the truths we discover when we think we have no strength to carry on. First published on

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Dissolving dust darkens the day;
Evening rushes with the wind;
Silence seeps into the
Earth, softening cracked clay;
Recently condensed clouds fall in
Thick, fat plops;

Rivulets of ochre flow;
Animals flee flash-bang fireworks heralding
Infinite and infinitesimal transformations:
Nature, sated, renewed.

About this piece

I started this poem some months back, but I needed to witness the effects of recent desert rain before I could complete it. I finished it after the World Rogaining Championships last weekend, where I travelled on foot through the East MacDonnell Ranges of the Northern Territory. First published in Poetry in Form on

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Soft were her lips,
warm her breath.
Her kiss was sweet:
the kiss of death.

With racing heart, and
trembling fingers,
love may call, but
death: it lingers.

About this piece

I published the first verse of this piece on 17 January 1995. It stuck with me years after the rest of the small collection faded from my memory. I was about due to republish it when a second verse started itching, so here's the new extended version.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sacred space

You are the devotee;
I am your sacred space.

In my flesh, you seek enlightenment;
in my fingers, you feel fire;
in my face, you find the freedom you desire.

Leave your worldly worries at my threshold;
immerse yourself, gently at first,
lower yourself into the depths of my presence.

Grow in me as you swell with the possibility of new life.
Let awareness fall away into oblivion;
become lost in this moment.

Let life fall away into love;
become lost in me,

in your sacred space.

About this piece

You can hide behind a façade or throw yourself headlong into love: either way, you lose yourself. First published in POETRY AFTER DARK on

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Pink and blue highlights
shimmer in the pre-dawn glow:
80s retro sky.

About this piece

As I walked my dog this morning, I looked up and saw that, for the nth day in the row, the sky was all blue and pink like the eyeshadow-and-lipstick combo best loved in the 80s. It was always shimmery, wasn't it? I snapped a photo as the words swirled around in my head. Twenty minutes later, at home, I raced to write them down, while my dog whimpered her protest at having to wait a minute for food. First published in Poetry in Form on

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I wrote this for you

I think I found you in the
space where time didn't matter
and words didn't exist,
or maybe it was on the internet.

I clicked and tapped and
swiped and your words came
and went and fed me.

I followed you
until I lost the track,
until you polluted the usual medium
with things that were never meant to be spoken,
not typed out on an old machine and snapped
for all the world to see.

And then I realised that I was invisible
and that, like words,
I was meant to be invisible.

So here I am,
writing these words from the space
where time doesn’t matter
and no one exists.

About this piece

I drafted this piece in January 2015 and it has sat silently since then. I rediscovered it a few weeks ago and decided to polish it up and see what I could make of it. First published on

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


You were born of woman and man; thus, you are a child.
But, also, you are a poem.
Child, know: you are a one-line poem, breaking
rules, breaking over lines in determination
never to be broken.

So much more than just words on a page,
you are the all-consuming flame. You engulf the core—
you are the core—of my being. I hear you
in your silence. Your sounds
shape how I move. Your touch stills me.

You are a child. You are my child.
I bled you into being. I bled you
out of my soul and I bleed now
sending you out into the world.

Child, know: you are everything I could make you.
But, also, you are much, much more. I bleed now
sending you out in faith,
sending you out as lines unspoken.

About this piece

I wrote this about my relationship with words. First Published on

Friday, July 01, 2016


I am

used up.

When you cry out to me,
I struggle to escape dark places
my dreams take me through.
You cry out for me
so I come for you
but I never wake up.

I am


When I cry out to you,
you flit and float through light so high
and sing while I sink deep and low.
You sing to me
and I come for you
but I am barely me.

I come for you
and you come in me
and I am empty,
used up,


About this piece

This piece is about caring for children, and suffering an abusive relationship, and love. First published on

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Heart pounding,
I want to shout out

and tell you you’re wrong,
that’s not how it is,
that’s not how it was,
that’s not how it went.

That’s not how this goes, and
you’re making things up. I should know—
I was there. But now you mention it…

Maybe you have a point. Maybe I should
‘interrogate my behaviour’
to see if
‘I was unreasonable’.
Should I?

Maybe I should
‘question my memory’
to see if
‘I missed something’.
Should I?

Maybe I should
ask you what happened—you remember better than I.
You always do.

Maybe you see through me,
through to my core, understand
my motivation better than I.
That’s it—

thank goodness I had you here to remind me
who I am and why I love you, though you
also remind me I ‘don’t even do that properly’, but—

thank goodness you forgive me

these failings and all my faults, though you
tell me over and over, as if I’d forget myself
if you didn’t remind me. But then—

where was I? Ah,
How lucky I am
to have been chosen by you,
when you could have your pick,

whereas I can only
drink my fill from the proffered cup,
bask briefly in your glow, and burn.

I’ll enjoy it while it’s still my turn,

or so everyone will see,
while I swallow down
the rising panic
each homecoming brings.

Act cool, be calm,
show no fear.
Pretend I’m glad to see you.
Pretend I want to be here.

But I do…
I know I do.

You told me so.

About this piece

If the situation described in Gaslight is completely unfamiliar to you, then you have been blessed! If you've never heard of gaslighting, here's an introduction, some often-unnoticed signs that are more to do with how the victim feels than anything a witness would see, and another solid overview of the subject. Gaslighting doesn't only happen in intimate personal relationships; it also seems common in workplaces. First published on

Monday, June 20, 2016


I wake with a whimper,
I wake and I reach for you
in the darkness.

You stir.

I hold still.
I hold you close.
I hold my breath
in the darkness.

You settle.

I breathe.

I love you; I want
to be free with you forever. I want
to be free forever. I want
to be with you forever.

I settle
for a time, aware:
time moves on;
I hold still.

I hold your darkness.
I hold you

About this piece

I started writing this poem about waking up from a nightmare and reaching out to the man I love. But it equally well described waking up to a nightmare where the man I loved abused my trust. These two relationships could not have been more dichotomous; yet, from the outside, they presented exactly the same. First published in ~POETRY AFTER DARK~ on

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Ode to the other man, owed to the woman


You see her in ways I never can,
woman in all her perfection —
daylight and sun smiles, innocent
children playing in the summer blooms.
You know her open spaces,
deliver her heart’s desire —
You know her in ways I never can.


You see her in ways I never will,
woman in all her perfection —
moonlight and rose lips, insatiable
adults lying low in candle-lit rooms.
You know her secret places,
the way to light her fire —
You know her in ways I never will.


I see you in ways they never did,
woman in all your perfection —
candlelight and midnight eyes, inspiring
old souls dancing in dying wombs.
I know your many faces,
the truth you speak as liar —
I know you in ways they never did.

About this piece

This piece is about the way a woman's lover and husband resent each other, but it's also about the way women are boxed into the stereotypical roles of mother and whore. It's about how others claim to know us better than we know ourselves, and how that silences us. First published in ~POETRY AFTER DARK~ on, where I also posted a longer analysis.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


See that pile over there?
The one with the magazines,
the sweater, and
last month’s wish list?

Not far down that pile,
just beneath the magazines,
the sweater, and
last month’s wish list,
you’ll find a book.

It’s not a long book.
It’s not even a good book. It’s just
something I threw together, probably
something I should’ve thrown out
but I didn’t.

It’s a book of words—
aren’t they all?

It’s a book of words for you,
a book that should never be read.
Leave those words to lie,
just beneath the vocalised.
Leave them to lie unsaid.

About this piece

This is another piece prompted by Robert Lee Brewer's Poem-a-Day Challenge of November 2012: a 'just beneath…' poem. As you might imagine, the poem contains elements of memoir—it's not unusual for me to pile up dissimilar items on the coffee table or chest of drawers.

Sunday, June 12, 2016


So urgently you give love,
so earnestly you show love, and in return
you ask so little: only that I accept
your love.

You do not ask how best to love me.
You do not ask if I want your love at all.
It goes without saying that I want your love—
of course I want your love!

It goes without saying that you get no answer—
you seek no answer.
You need no answer.
Of course, you do not ask.

You are committed to me.
You are committed to your love
and your love bears down
hard upon me

and friendship
and hope
are crushed
by the weight of love's expectations,

when love should expect nothing at all.

About this piece

I was—and still am—angry over the misguided belief that love must be not only accepted but also reciprocated, that if you fight for someone long enough they will realise they love you, too. It's not true. It's offensive. It's destructive. It's abusive.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


If I chance to lie
then here is why: the beauty
overwhelms my eye.

About this piece

It's prompted by the photo, which I took on my phone when travelling through Victoria on my first holiday with my partner. I'm easily distracted and careless with the words I voice, which is why I prefer to write. First published on

Friday, June 10, 2016

She was the poet

She was the poet.
She did not know who else to be;
she could not be any other.

For her words were rhythmic, pulsing with life
so strong that, even when she wrote prose,
she wrote poetry. And when she read aloud
those words were song, infused with life
so strong that, even in her death,
she was the poet.

About this piece

This is why I write—one day, I want to become the poet.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Christmas lights

At first, you were
Christmas lights. You shone
brightly in the distance, tempting,
luring me closer, promising
happiness, excitement,
joy you failed to deliver.

In reflection, you were
red and blue. You shone
brightly in my rearview mirror, blinding,
chasing me down:
you pulled me over,
took away my freedom.

Now, you are
darkness. You seep
through my being, paralysing,
smothering from within, poisoning
my spirit;

long gone, still you darken my days,
haunt my dreams.

About this piece

In December last year, I took a photo of the Brisbane River with the lights from the Story Bridge playing on the water. It reminded me of police lights, and that prompted this poem. First published on

Review: Saved by the Celebutante, by Kirsty McManus

If you’re looking for deep and meaningful feminist literature to inspire your daily thinking and change the world, you’re in the wrong spot. I wanted a light, face-paced romantic comedy with zany and lovable characters, and Kirsty McManus delivered: I wasn’t disappointed.

Saved by the Celebutante starts with a big shock for both the reader and our protagonist, Chrissie. Her whole life is suddenly A-over-T and we follow her closely on her journey to set it right again. Picking up a celebutante as a client looks like just the break she needs, but with so many distractions in her life, she’s not really in a position to capitalise on it.

Chrissie’s antics are as charming and frustrating as a kid sister, so I alternated between wanting to hug her and wanting to throttle her. And occasionally wanting to laugh and point. When she eventually figures out where her loyalties should lie, we follow her on a road trip to a festival in the desert—a very eye-opening experience for both Chrissie and me!

(Excuse me while I culturally stereotype here, based on another Australian chick-lit author, Donna Joy Usher.) I think the author’s Australianism comes through in tiny demonstrations of self-deprecating humour that are far more refreshing and engaging than the self-indulgent drama I’m used to seeing in the genre. Don’t get me wrong—there’s plenty of that too, but it’s balanced out nicely by the chuckles.

I got to the end of this book wanting more—a sequel, or maybe a spinoff featuring Gia. Or something with Oli. Oh, yes. That one. Please?

Saved by the Celebutante book cover

I read an advance review copy of this book and provided feedback to the author but received no payment for my feedback or review.


You left me
right where you found me
on my way down,
searching for a way out.

You crept in,
lured me closer;
you sent me away.

You summoned me once more,
turning things over until
I lost all sense of direction, spinning out of control,
slipping under.

I looked behind me;
I didn’t know my way back. But
you led me there.

You left me there,
right where you found me.

About this piece

I only began this poem recently, but it came from another of Robert Lee Brewer's Poem-a-Day Challenges. This one was from the November 2012 Chapbook challenge, and Day 6 was a two-for-Tuesday challenge: a left poem and/or a right poem.

On leaving…

Better to leave you
Than to stay and attack you
Where you are weakest.

About this piece

I wrote this piece in response to Haiku #5 by Felicity G. First published on

Friday, June 03, 2016


No words could wound me, no strike
bruise me and no knife
bleed me the way your eyes do

when they fix
upon Her.
The mere mention of her name

transports you to a place I can’t reach you.
Eyes glaze over; you are dead to me.
Nothing left, I promise myself

I’ll let you go. I promise you
I’ll let you go. I promise the world
I’ll go on, go away and next week

I’ll be back, begging.
Her name is poison and you feed it to me
and I slurp it greedily knowing

death is mercy. From within it eats at me,
growing large in small ways,
growing large in empty yet cramped spaces.

About this piece

It's not uncommon for romances and friendships to wax and wane until they naturally come to an end. Yet some people choose to hold on and torture themselves. This is my attempt to understand why. First published on

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Marvels, mysteries made
dangerous in mad musings, confusing
obsession with love,
friendship with fearful pandering,
panda-eyes and drama—
so much drama!
Accusations of assumptions made,
built on assumptions of accusations; at the centre
you wallow in a muddy mind riddled with despair,
despairing in riddles of your own making and

About this piece

I think we've all got someone in our lives whose constant dramas we'd rather not have to deal with. But it's only your friends you get to choose—colleagues and family come with the territory, and it seems like almost everyone carries baggage these days. After using the word 'wallow', I had to resist the urge to include an image of a hippopotamus in mud. (But they're so cute!)

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Endless promise captured in a single strand,
detained by concertina wire, spiralling out of control
alongside bright white and feint rule. One splotch,
black on hearts unchained, uncharted. A few
notes, here and there and nothing of substance.

About this piece

Writers love notebooks. A new notebook holds so much promise, all that fresh paper ready for brilliant words. But, so often, I fill my notebooks with nothing of substance. I wrote this poem in a spiral bound notebook on a flight to South Africa, 6 May 2016. (The spellchecker seems to think it should be 'faint' rule, but the cover of my notebook says 'feint ruled', so I'm sticking with what I've got.)

Sunday, May 15, 2016


growing up dreaming, believing in The One
who would right all wrongs. Write your songs
with clumsy words and ugly phrases, dripping
with self-indulgent self-pity.

your love is blind, bitter words best left
on the tongue, tasteless, hidden
behind filtered smiles and flawless features, faltering
in feigned fragility.

spending all your years never knowing
The One you claim
to love, as if

knowledge would shatter beautiful illusions, a chrysalis
torn down, down-trodden, trodden upon.

Imagine, just
imagine your love, The One, finds love—

real love that is not blind, but sees;
hopeful love that shines and lights the darkness you crave.

Imagine, just
imagine your love, The One, finds love—

with another, in pleasures you choose
to forego, in a joy you choose
never to know.

Imagine, would you,
could you let them go?

Imagine, but do not imagine you have any say.
They are already lost to you,
to blissful abandon.

About this piece

This is a poem about the bitterness of holding on when it's time to let go. I began it back in February, but spent a good few months getting it just right. I'm off on an expedition tomorrow, so I decided it must be ready.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


She was broken, once,
bleeding. Her body had been battered,
beaten down, burned alive by
love, too hot to touch,
or so she believed.

She was empty, then,
hollow through. Her mind had been scattered,
eaten out, sucked dry by
love, needed too much,
or so she believed.

She was confused, again,
directionless. Her dreams had been shattered,
flung about, lacerated by
love, slave to its clutch,
or so she believed.

She was naïve, see,
stupid. None of it mattered,
crying so loud as if tortured by
love, a victim as such…
but no one believed.

About this piece

When I first started writing this piece, it was about a friend: she lies to herself and others, and refuses to let go of what was never hers to begin with. As the poem evolved, it became about the way we hold onto unhealthy relationships and tell ourselves that's what love is meant to be, even as we doubt every word we speak. And in its final (for now) iteration, it is about how those relationships drive us into depression. First published on

Monday, May 02, 2016

Echo: when next we meet

Next time we meet,
let’s keep our clothes on.

The nights grow longer and colder and
we only have a few hours.

Last time we met,
we stripped our clothes off.

My muscles cramped and ached and
my lungs burned, though
we only stayed under a few seconds.

next time we meet,
let’s take our shoes off.
Let’s lie in the sun on the rocks by the stream.
Let’s dip our toes in.
Let’s dream.

The summer passes and fades in
shrinking days, and
will soon be over.

next time we meet,
let’s keep our clothes on.

About this piece

This piece is a response to a writing prompt by Mike Essig on Medium. His call was the first two lines of a poem by Diane Wakoski; this is my echo. See more of my words at…and right here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Timid toes

Timid toes trace twin lines in the sand where I stand
between in no-man’s land, twisting and
meandering through the minefield
you set each day with shifting borders. I retreat
from high trajectory words
you wield. I cross over, twisting
into rifle deeds of despair. I slip away
into encroaching waters. I slip under
your raised hand. I cease
to understand,
to exist. In time,
in tide, all will be
washed away, and I
washed clean.

About this piece

The first line formed in my mind as I reflected on a personal and public history of domestic violence, a war on women that persists around the world. The rest followed like a freefall into oblivion and, eventually, peace.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Constructing happiness

One of the great things about social media is that we can construct our own public identities: the fun-loving adventurer, the deep-thinking poet, the wealth-driven salesperson. In real life we are pushed around by competing forces and conflicting feelings, but online we are in control, bravely writing our own cyber-destinies, one post at a time.

It's not just the things we post that create our online identities, though. It's also the things we don't post. The things that go unsaid, that remain hidden, locked up, kept safely where no one can judge us for them.

In real life, people notice such gaps. They notice our absences, even in our presence. They see the darkness behind our smiles and the emptiness in our eyes. But in cyberspace we can fill those gaps, covering them over with cat videos and inspirational quotes so our friends remain none the wiser. Or so we think.

But our friends aren't stupid. Our friends do the same thing, carefully applying layers of pretty wallpaper over the bits they think we won't like, filling their gaps with what they want us to see, what they think we want to see.

Our friends see through our careful constructions in exactly the same way we see through theirs, so it's all to no avail—they just don’t buy it. Which leads me to ask: if you're spending all your time on social media, trying to show the world how happy and in-love you are, who are you really trying to convince?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I see her fear as she feigns frivolity.

I see her eyes flicker with fleeting hope.
Her halting stride falters; she flees
his next strike even as she runs
back to his hand.

He sees it, too, and
he sees that I see it, though
he never really sees her.

He only sees her belatedly elated smile,
struggling to surface from beneath
her innate loyalty and the weight
of a simple gold band.

Background image by Steven Straiton

About this piece

I wrote this tonight in response to the latest prompt on Three Word Wednesday
  • elated (adjective)
  • flicker (verb) 
  • halting (adjective)
In reviewing my own work, I picked up a valuable tip for new players: check which part of speech you're meant to be working with. In my first attempt, I used flicker as a noun and halting as a verb. (Oops. It's fixed now.)

If you're reading my work regularly, you'll know I spend a lot of time editing. Not tonight, though! So I'll probably go back and change this many times over before I put it in print.

 Three Word Wednesday

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fall short

Sometimes when I lie
close by your side and I breathe
you in, I know:
I must confess. I search
your eyes and I taste
my words, let them fall
out. I discover:
my words will always fall
short of what I mean,
short of what you mean
to me.

About this piece

Most days I believe my words can capture anything I'm challenged with. (Except maybe fairy tales.) But there is one case where words are not enough, and this is as close as it gets.

Friday, March 18, 2016

My story is in English

I recently entered an unusual short story competition. It wasn't cheap, but it had an interesting format and the organisers promised we'd receive judges' feedback. It seemed like a good investment, so I signed up, then waited for the official start.

A few weeks later I received my three-part prompt: a genre, a character and a subject. I hated all three, especially the genre, and if I'd had these details earlier I never would've signed up. Worse, I only had a week to deliver up to 2500 words on this topic not-of-my-choice.

But I'd already paid, so I squeezed out a story. (Yes, I used that phrase deliberately. What came out wasn't pretty; it stank.) I hated it almost as much as I hated the prompt, but I thought about that promised feedback and submitted it anyway.

I expected the feedback to be critical and I hoped I’d find it educational. But my excitement at its arrival in my inbox today soon turned to disappointment: the judges hadn’t covered anything I didn’t already know. (They were right, of course; they just weren't as insightful as I'd hoped.)

My disappointment flared into frustration when I read this patronising little nugget:

…she can now listen to animals (which is telepathic by the way, not psychic)…

Um. Do you even English?

The Oxford English Dictionary includes telepathy as an example of a psychic power.

(Before you get cheeky: yes, the US English definition is the same—no excuse!)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

He said, she said

'So, you come here often?'
she asked,
smiling, as if she knew
the answer.

I lied,
smiling, as if I knew
something she didn't.

'Oh, really?'
she asked,
smiling, as if she thought
I was telling a joke she didn't get.

I lied,
smiling, as if I was telling
the truth.

'How come I never saw you?'
she asked,
brows furrowed, as if she didn't believe
my words.

'Were you looking?'
I asked,
brows furrowed, as if genuinely perplexed
by her lack of recognition.

'I guess not,'
she conceded,
smiling, as if she forgave
things I hadn't yet done.

'You should have been,'
I offered,
smiling, as if I wanted
her conversation.

'I will next time,'
she promised,
smiling, as if there would exist
such a time.

About this piece

I've been working on this piece since Robert Lee Brewer's Poem-a-Day Challenge in April 2012. The first day's prompt was a communication poem. Since then I've tweaked it here and there, always intending to save it for something big, such as a book or a competition. But I reckon it's ready to go live.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Review: Stories of Love, by Anaïs Nin (Cleo edition)

During my postgraduate studies in writing, I spent a lot of time reading about the great diarist Anaïs Nin. That’s right—not the author, the diarist. We were interested in how she delved into her thoughts and feelings and what she brought out of those strange dealings. I read so much about her person and her mind, but until recently I’d read none of her fiction or erotica. So when I found Stories of Love at the Lifeline Bookfest for a dollar, I was sold.

I then hesitated to read the book, not because I was worried about its naughty content, but because I was scared to be seen in public with such a cover—it showed a woman caressing her own naked flesh. I’ve heard you can’t judge a book by its cover, but no one said you can’t judge the reader! (I think this is one of the advantages of e-books.)

Anyway, I took the book with me to New Caledonia, thinking a French colony would be the ideal place to read such forbidden words. Surely no one would think poorly of me if I read it by the pool? Still, I chickened out of reading it poolside, instead only reading it on the boat and in our bungalow.

The book is a special edition created for Cleo readers as a free gift. (I wonder if it will become a collector’s item, since the final issue of Cleo was released just recently.) I’m not sure if the selected stories are a good indication of Nin’s entire body of erotica; I suspect they were specifically selected for their target audience—an audience that’s somewhat younger than my thirty-five years. Nin’s other stories may be wildly different, so I won’t write off her erotica just yet, but I’ll say this particular selection didn’t really do it for me.

Each story is beautifully written; I didn’t find myself cringing at any Mills & Boon-esque euphemisms. Nin touches on *cough* tender subjects such as first orgasms, polyamory, gender identity, and the very concept of intimacy. Each story explores physical love in a new context, but I grew bored with what was essentially the same story arc: a journey of discovery from unwholesome repression to blossoming sexual freedom.

Perhaps the stories failed to *cough* excite me because I live in a time where so many of the issues raised are no longer taboo in polite society. I understand how desire can make us insecure, but I don't know its guilt. I understand how it can be overwhelming, but I can't see it as shameful. The specific acts Nin depicts are not foreign to me—while her stories were groundbreaking at the time she wrote them, such tales are now shared freely on the web. It’s sad to think I might be missing out on the wonders of her writing because I’ve been conditioned to see nothing extraordinary there.

Perhaps my problem with these stories was the prevalence of words over elisions; my imagination was allowed no space to tease the tale into something that *cough* touched me personally. I guess this is always a risk with explicit prose, and more so with erotica.

Perhaps I detached from some of the tales because of the dark violence lurking beneath them. As a domestic violence survivor, I find nothing sexy about the prospect of partners wanting to hurt each other with the force of their desire. It’s an animalistic touch, but unlike the idea of wanting to consume a lover, which fascinates me, this one repulses me.

Perhaps I was turned off by the way all sexual acts, even those performed between two women, seemed constructed to satisfy men’s gazes—a dangerous lesson for the young women I believe this compilation was aimed at. It was a stark contrast to the womanly beauty that surrounded me in New Caledonia, where women of all shapes and sizes and ages and ethnicities revelled in the simple pleasure of donning tiny swimsuits, not to lure men, but simply to swim and sun themselves.

Or perhaps I’m overthinking it, and I simply overdosed by reading too many of the stories in a row.

While I didn’t love the collection, I didn’t hate it either, and it saddens me to think that fiction may no longer hold a place for uncomplicated journeys of sexual discovery. The market is now saturated with erotica about dinosaurs, werewolves, BBW, bikers and bears—none of the simple pleasure of expressing love in a physical way. But if that’s what the world wants, who am I to argue? It’s difficult to defend a genre I have no real interest in reading. (I have some interest in writing it, but only because I’ve heard it’s lucrative.)

As a bonus, here’s a terrifying and intense love letter Henry Miller wrote to Anaïs Nin during their affair. If you haven’t checked out Letters of Note, you’re overdue.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: The VelvetBlory Blue Book #1, by Velvet Blory

I remember when I fell in love with VelvetBlory. I had been on Tumblr for a few years, thus accomplishing my primary goal of reserving my username. But I hadn’t done anything with my account. I’d applied an uninspiring-but-free basic theme, which I’ve since replaced with another, equally uninspiring theme. I occasionally liked a poem or reblogged a photo, and I watched my activity feed closely, so I knew it spiked whenever I posted. It spiked all the way up to one or two views. I even had a few followers, but I suspected they’d simply returned the favour when they saw I’d followed them. I doubt they ever checked out my blog; it was such a disappointment.

VelvetBlory changed Tumblr for me. I was a part of something bigger, something creative. It was through Velvetblory that I found Rakuli, a talented concrete poet (more on that), an Australian photographer and one of my kindred spirits. (I never told him that last bit, though; I just liked almost all of his posts.) VelvetBlory was what finally prompted me to start sharing my work after years of silence, with a little hashtag that I hoped would catch their attention. They never noticed me, so far as I can tell, so I worried that my work was awful; it was such a disappointment.

In 2011, the VelvetBlory crew announced they were publishing a book. Writers eagerly submitted works in the hope of a ‘real’ publication; recognising my own work was unworthy (as all writers firmly believe, except those whose work actually is unworthy), I didn’t. But I did order a copy of the final product, and when The VelvetBlory Blue Book #1 arrived I eagerly unwrapped it and placed it on my bedside table with every intention of reading a few pages each night. I didn’t, though. It lost me; it was such a disappointment.

It stayed on my bedside table for several years, unread but for the first few pages. It relocated whenever I did, living in and out of boxes until one day I forgot it existed. I didn’t recall it until I unpacked it again in mid-2014 and placed it hesitantly in the poetry section of my bookshelf. I finally read it in 2016, on a deckchair in New Caledonia. The view was spectacular; the book less so. It was such a disappointment.

I read on, though, because surely even the most awful book contains a few magical lines! Gems like this:
I remember with eyes closed and
feet moving forward.

So I underlined those gems and noted them down. I even found a few blories that I liked in their entirety, such as Title by Eric Boyd, 13 by Scottie Hughes, The Meeting by Roxy Resic (Roxanne Magdaleno) and, of course, Rakuli’s contribution: Poetry was her name.

But with its unprofessional layout, inconsistent design and grammatical errors, the compilation left me with a foul taste and a bunch of unanswered questions: why does the cover call it VelvetBlory, all one word, when the title page calls it Velvet Blory, with a space? Why does a page break separate that blory from its title? Why is this page double-spaced and that page single-spaced; why does the font change here and the numbering format there? Why have you hyperlinked text in a printed book, where I can’t click it? Why are these blories printed unedited, with grammatical errors that can’t possibly be for a deliberate stylistic effect?

And while all these questions were valid, none were so valid as the one that addressed my self-sabotage, the one I did not ask: why did I think my work wasn’t good enough to submit?

I can’t comment on VelvetBlory's more recent compilations except to say the covers look more professional. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing the first book, though, unless you're doing it solely to fund their cause—you’re more likely to find the good stuff by searching their website. But you should definitely check out the writers I’ve mentioned above.