This poem is from Duane Vorhees:
An Open Letter to the Critics of Dawn
Long before your stagemother
awaited her darling in the wings,
that trouper’s name was up in lights.
Can you add one iota
to dawn’s theatric timing?
–That great ought in the sky
enters stage right,
after night’s tired delivery
has put the curtained audience to sleep.
That hoofer who has played
the boards of history’s every stage
still performs early matinees every day.
If this longest-running act in showbiz folds,
what will you tell his sellout crowds?
Of what use then your much-lauded stars?
To treat us hungry groundlings,
what bright youngster will you trot out?
If the dawn ever retires,
won’t you critics then be delighted?
© Duane Vorhees
A poem from Lisa Saffron, to those living in countries free of war.
That Woman on Lesvos
the one climbing out of the sinking boat
the one with blue lips in a light summer coat
the one whose life jacket does not even float.
That woman could be you.
the one with holes in his worn out shoes
the one who has nothing left to lose
the one you saw on the six o’clock news.
That man could be your brother.
the one so weak she can barely stand
the one clutching grandchildren in each hand
the one uprooted from her ancestral land.
That elder could be your mother.
That little girl,
the one too dazed to take sweets or fruit
the one not crying, the one who’s mute
the one Assad’s soldiers didn’t shoot.
That girl could be your daughter.
the one who arrived sick and damp
the one who was crying and suffering from cramp
the one playing happily in the refugee camp.
That boy could be your grandson.
the one overwhelmed by the thousands who flee
the one fishing bodies out of the sea
the one abandoned by the powers that be.
That man could be your father.
the ones selling life jackets – useless and fake
the ones smuggling people in boats at daybreak
the ones who are desperate for money to make.
Those people could be us.
the ones on the shore offering sweet cups of chai
the ones handing out clean clothes that are dry
the ones who can’t bear just to stand by.
Those people could be us.
the one for safe passage, who won’t let folk drown
the one welcoming those who flee their hometown
the one opening borders, not closing them down.
That politician could be you.
© Lisa Saffron
A message poem from a tree to you and me from Kate O’Neil.
The Royal Tree
(planted 1868. Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.)
Affie planted me.
He’s ‘Prince Alfred’ to you,
but Affie and I,
we go back more than 100 years,
and have special bonds.
Let me tell you about it.
You’ve noticed my nick-name –
“The Royal Tree”?
Well, I am majestic –
just look at my leaves –
and I’m twenty metres tall
so you can call me “Your Highness”,
but Affie, he was true Royalty;
second son of Victoria and Albert,
and the first Royal to visit this country.
Both of us were strangers here,
he from the old, the civilised world,
me from the wild, the rainforests of Brazil.
Both royal, both strangers,
we’ve both faced dangers and survived.
Not long before he planted me
Affie was shot. He was guest of honour
at a Clontarf picnic when a crazy Irishman
tried to assassinate him.
Not far from here is a famous hospital,
Royal Prince Alfred, RPA.
Yes, you know it.
Sydney nurses helped Affie recover
and this hospital was given his name
to honour him, and them.
The threat I face is happening now –
extinction in my homeland.
When Affie planted me here in 1868
I was a common tree around Rio de Janeiro,
Emperor Don Pedro’s favourite.
It was he who sent me as a gift.
But as Rio grew my family fell.
Close to extinct where we once grew wild,
only Botanic Gardens can save us now.
And here in Sydney, I’m playing my part,
growing seeds for Rio, for the world,
for times to come.
© Kate O’Neil 2016
“Affie” was the nick-name used in the family.
Clontarf – a Sydney harbourside suburb.
This poem is from JJ Evendon, of Cheltenham.
A Better World, But Square
May I ask a question?
Why do you think you were born?
Because of love shared between two people.
Yes – but what else?
To bring them happiness and to see me grow.
That’s fine – but what else?
Be proud of my achievements.
OK – but what else?
To respect the world as a whole
and leave it better than when I arrived.
But what if that wasn’t possible?
It’s not just me, we all must try otherwise we all fail.
If you had the power to shape the world, would you?
What would you do?
© J. J. Evendon
A poem from Alison Williams:
my world is fluid
in a constant
state of flux
I am an ocean
who once spoke
to the dry land
I told him how much
I admired his
he answered me
with rockfalls, landslides
he showed me
all the pain there is
when change comes
then the hardness somehow
has to break
rending himself apart
tears of fire
he gave me
just a glimpse
into his molten core
© Alison Williams
A poem from Liz Young, Sussex:
Did your mother love you?
Did you spread your starfish hand on her breast
as she nourished you
with milk and murmurings –
did she teach you gentleness and respect,
kissing your small hurts better
while you grew strong and straight?
Of course she did.
So what changed you –
what ripped out that well-loved child
leaving only emptiness and hate?
How could that mother’s son
scythe through crowds of children
spreading pain and death
without a qualm?
you took your own life –
was that from fear
or overdue self-loathing?
Let me tell you this –
where you are going
there will be no virgins –
the souls of slaughtered children
will bar you from Paradise.
© Liz Young