•December 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

To the editors of letters in the Sydney Morning Herald
Whether here today, or long since dead and buried,
I dedicate these verses in a spirit of great thanks.
If I’d had one letter printed then these pages would be blanks!

•February 29, 2020 • Leave a Comment

VIOLENCE

I abhor violence of any sort.

I have, ever since my late teens, protested even against celebration of violence in wars, whilst supporting remembrance ceremonies for all those who lost their lives.

I am retired but for many years have worked with children, sometimes directly but often indirectly in areas involving domestic violence. Everyone has the right to be safe in their own homes. And surely this especially applies to children. They should be safe and not even witness violence to others, let alone cope with it in their home. Home should be a place of refuge.

But when I refer to violence I mean physical violence which seems to be perpetrated very much more by men. I think this is perhaps because of their extra strength and the acceptance of strength as a solution to many things and admired in the community in many ways.

Control issues are somewhat different but can, of course, coexist with physical violence. They need to be dealt with differently and they are more evenly spread across genders. Here I talk only about physical violence.

I am writing this with children my primary concern as it the children who have decisions made for them and who cannot make them on their own.

Here I must say that I strongly support those working in the community who ask for more assets to set up safe houses, safe for whole families except the perpetrators,and ones which include teenage boys. We need more penalties for those who reveal the location of these places to perpetrators, and more public support for the police. We need more help for social and psychological services for children. Some of these, for adolescents, should be well supervised but without the need for parental involvement or permission.

We must also set up some safe centres which provide professionally supervised contact for children with a parent. Specialist contact supervisors should be well trained. The idea of making another family member a supervisor went out the door for me many, many years ago when a mother killed herself and her three children in her car on a contact visit with her. The appointed supervisor, the children’s maternal grandmother, had made a personal assessment that there was no longer danger to the children and had not followed court orders.

I have met distressed and frustrated members of the police force trying hard to keep the public safe who are dismayed when the victims refuse to give evidence in court. More than once was I told that, when called to an incident, the police sometimes tried to incite the perpetrator of violence to turn the aggression on to them so that they have evidence with which to help the victim when they take the matter to the court. We must be a society which keeps people physically safe, especially children. The police try very hard in my experience and do not need criticism. There are (or at least were when I was working) police officers especially trained in this area.

However there are more subtle but important issues involved with children which we must also keep in mind. Physical safety is primary but unless we attend to some of the other issues, then children may still be at risk, particularly from choices they make. Also we do need to help to prevent violence becoming inter generational

In a domestically violent situation the violent person is one (or occasionally both) of the children’s parents. This link cannot be forgotten, even if the solution has to be no contact at all between a child and a violent parent.

We know that children internalise some of the behaviours of their parents. Some copy parents they admire, some copy unintentionally, some try to make excuses for parental behaviour, particularly when it does or does not accord strongly with their own feelings. Some come to view themselves as being partly evil when they emulate or feel understanding of parental flaws.

But most of all children are aware as they grow older that they are genetically half of each parent and that many parental genes and behaviours can be found in them. They also try to work out the reasons their parents were close enough to have them and now detest one another. They usually are well aware of their resident parents feelings, often a very understandable dislike of their violent parent. This can lead them both to be very tough on themselves, to try and emulate some of the things their parents do and do not do. They may think, especially when they are the same gender as the violent partner, that this is something they will inevitably be. Or, if they are of the other gender, that their role should be a submissive one.

When they are angry at the parent they are living with, as often happens as children self actualise this way as teenagers, they side with their imagined views of the missing parent.

While they are small children these feelings are very much simpler but, as teenagers, most children are coming to terms with the fact that their parents have feet of clay and the parent with whom they are residing seems to be specifically preventing them from doing what they dearly wish to do and all the time! The number of teenagers I have seen, especially in a school setting, who have left their primary parent’s care, without permission, to live with the virtually unknown parent who was last known to be violent, was big enough to be really worrying.

Once I was talking to a violent father whose twelve year old child wanted to live with him. He acknowledged his past violence but wanted to impress on me that this did not extend to his child and was a thing of his past. He said “ I would never hurt a hair on her head.” I am sure this was his firm belief. I asked him what he would do if, when she was 15 , he came home and found her having sex with her 15 year old boyfriend?” He gave himself away when he said, “I’d kill HIM.”

These are the sort of problems that can arise if any child is prevented from seeing and getting to know a parent (in a safe environment). If she had been more aware of his attitudes she may not have thought he was a sensible option to live with.

The worst is when a child gives up and decide he or she must either be evil, like the missing parent, or a complete jerk, as they view the one remaining parent at the time. They do not view their choices as open as do children who can quietly look at what parts of parents views and ethics they will or will not accept. They have got to have an either/or situation in front of them.

If at all possible children need enough exposure to both parent to internalise the view that each parent has at least something to offer them and each has areas they should not emulate, particularly with regard to violence.

But even more importantly children need to be brought up to regard affection, understanding and tolerance to be the important facts in life. That winning is not always a good goal and violence is anathema to sensible people.

Monuments

•April 17, 2019 • Leave a Comment

The structure, the history, the identity

Which holds more truth?

Can one exist without the others?

There is beauty in most monuments.

This can exist alone.

But is beauty in the eye of the beholder?

History is important to the whole world

But whose history?

Stories are written by the victors.

We all treasure our deep identity

Religious and national

Or of many things dear to our souls.

I once visited a mosque in Córdoba.

It held a Christian alter,

An electric polisher was hard at work.

A monument to the modern?

To unity of faiths?

To all it touched?

Or a mere symbol of human diversity and persistence.

Maxie

•October 27, 2018 • Leave a Comment

A baby born before his time
Many moons ago.
A gallant little fighter
Who would not let life go.

He fought to live with courage great,
He breathed once on his own,
Removed his tubes all by himself,
He was doing this alone!

The life he lived was not one month,
I saw him every day.
I gave the milk that he was fed,
And hoped but did not pray.

The nuns around him did that job
As well as nursing him.
I felt no God would let him die
Because I sang no hymn.

Despite this hope, his fight, this care
His life was much too short.
But I’ve six and forty years of love
For the joy he would have brought.

Old Age and Choice

•May 10, 2018 • Leave a Comment

.

Pruning a bougainvillea is a task for the brave,
But also a task that opens doors to serious thoughts.
Bougainvilleas resist the pruning process.
Their thorns are sharp, their branches supple
If they had teeth they would be bared.
They resist destruction.

Older, as I climb the ladder to chop their heads
To cut the branches ever reaching to the stars,
I reflect that when I can no longer climb this ladder
To reach my stars, I can no longer drive to places far
To unload these off cuts, or merely recharge my senses,
I will wither on the vine.

But now, days later, bougainvillea, once so sharp and spiky
Is a gentle green, and is very softly, slowly reaching
For its same stars. But so low the stars can not be seen.
So low wind cannot blow through needy branches
And the rain, to heal, beats on struggling growth.
The bougainvillea fights for a new life.

Maybe one day, perchance quite soon, I may change my mind.
A wheelchair’s breeze may excite as a car’s slipstream.
A ladder not worth scaling from the highs of bariatric lift.
But no. I will never grow new shoots, stars shine no future
And rain, wind and sunshine wither all old vines.
Time will come to dig out roots.

The Songs That People Sing

•March 28, 2018 • Leave a Comment

 

Listen to the songs all peoples sing,
The ones learnt at a mother’s knee,
Hark the solemn message that they bring.

Listen, though heralding bells don’t ring
For songs that call for people to be free.
Listen to the songs all peoples sing.

Though sometime in dismay our hands we wring,
Listen for nuances very hard to see.
Hark the solemn message that they bring.

It’s unwise to our old notions firmly cling
Against strong words that make another plea.
Listen to the songs all peoples sing.

And when strangers reach our land by wing
Or sailing o’er a wide and treacherous sea,
Hark the solemn message that they bring.

It can be a wonderful and beauteous thing
Harmonising melodies him, me and thee.
Hark the solemn message that they bring,
Listen to the songs all peoples sing.

 

 

Love and Marriage

•September 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

“Love and marriage, love and marriage,
Go together like a horse and carriage.”
So go the lines we’ve sung through the years,
The lines that joyfully ring in our ears.

In all of the fairy tales taught to the young
In all of the songs that together are sung,
Bliss is that lovers can pledge their great love,
In a wedding with choirs that sing from above.

The prince and the princess can marry with joy,
The pauper can wed a wealthy man’s boy.
No longer a dictate of father and mother
A husband or wife is one’s chosen lover.

Star crossed lovers, we laud their devotion.
Romeo and Juliette, we share the emotion.
Nothing should stand to hinder their wedding,
No family feud should deter them from bedding.

In all of the legends, which many believe,
From Psyche and Cupid to Adam and Eve,
The core of the theme that delights all our minds
Is the triumph of marriage over snakes of all kinds.

So years in the future when legends are told
Songs and stories, I hope, will honour the bold,
The devoted, who fight for their own human right
To wed a beloved by a rainbow’s bright light.

Regrets

•August 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

Regrets are for a life not lived,
Not for chances that are gone.
A path that one just never took
Cannot evermore be known.

A door that opens in one’s life
Means another has just closed.
Behind closed doors we never see
But dreams can be supposed.

And while we dream about such loss
Reality is frozen
We then might miss the very paths
Behind the door we’ve chosen.

To tread true paths in any life
We must look where we are going.
Not stare into a wonderland
Of glimpses that are showing.

For every glimpse we think we see
Or story we are told
We miss the nugget on our path
That turns out to be gold.

Teenage Boys

•July 18, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

Like saplings they stand tall reaching for the stars.
Striplings raw with athleticism sway, lithely, side to side
Wind whistles around them. Lightening oft strikes.
Hear the sound of giant redwoods groaning in the forest.

The wild birds and animals are wary, some avoidant
Some using the whipping branches to look to the future.
Creatures of uncertainty, is this a tree or man for our time
Or will the hopes and promises of more be stunted?

Panic. Will there be bushfires, droughts or floods
To impede life, to break hearts, to stop branches blossoming?
Or will maturity come, the trunk widening, the canopy sheltering
The boy learning, growing helping others, living life.

Most saplings and striplings grow strong, some stalwart gums.
Some slighter, more willowy, their canopy more sparse
Reaching for the ground, the animals, the bubbling brooks.
Some alone in wider fields, on taller slopes, on barren plains.

But all give joy. If singed by fire, gnarled limbs renew the leaves
Giving more cover. When struck by lightening the divide’s a treasured home.
Warped branches delight, varied barks sought for their many colours.
Difference is the essence of being, for sapling and tree, boy and man .

 

 

Vinci

•June 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

His little feet moved with the grace of a dancer
His nose tweaking in sheer delight
No need to wait for command or an answer
As he’d catch a stray ball still in flight.

He would run through the waves as they broke near the shore
The foam matching his snowy fur,
His quivering body demanding much more
So his dive for the ball was blur.

He was loyal to his family. Year after year,
Vince was a wonderful friend.
Now, as we shed each sad, wishful tear
At the fact that his life had to end

We can think of his time in some doggie heaven,
Past and fond memories recall.
For we know that forever, each week one to seven
He’ll be up there chasing his ball.

LULU

•May 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Lulu, how well named, the erdgeist of Mulwaree.
The fidelity of a Labrador, with a poodle’s light of heart,
Came together in a creature, stalwart as a tree
Devoted to her loved ones from whom she’s loath to part.

And Motherhood she represents better than another.
She met her partner Ollie, true till he had to go,
Tended to ten children, including Milly and her brother
Then relished in her caring for baby Ella, baby Joe.

The pleasure she gave to others via her lively pups
Who learnt capacity to love from their adoring dam,
Gave zeitgiest to many. Raise life’s flowing cups
And toast with love. “Because of her I am.”

She lived in great harmony with animals around her,
Be they family cats, the humans, visitors abounding.
The birds and creatures of the earth she rarely did deter
From sharing in the beauty of the land of her surrounding.

Full of the spirit of the earth when young. Drinking deep
Of all that life did offer as Lulu’s are wont to do,
She ran, bounded and explored. She’d leap
Into excitement, into adventure, into all things new.

She ‘s found a new tranquillity as age has come to her
A lesson for those round her as they face the future too.
Acceptance is part of erdgeist, part of skin and part of fur
Live life as we can, love and model our Lulu.