Michael Witts: Five Poems


For Huw


on the dull density
of that wide beach
Merthyr Mawr
part of my childhood existing
beyond memory
one black and white photo
slightly out of focus
like an old tattoo
bleeding back into the skin

the photo is proof
I sat smiling on that forlorn strand
in a car sculpted
by my father’s hand
perched in the front seat
triumphant yet again
over my younger twin
banished to the sand car’s
cramped dickie seat
resentment etched in his frown
us attended by the black and white border collie
not our dog


now as my young son sits
on the hot tropical sand
Noosa air thick as treacle
the day as likely or not
recorded on multiple devices
remembered this time
I begin by burying his legs
with no great purpose
slowly I begin to sculpt
a car around him
other children join I stack
them one behind the other
transform the car into a bus
six children stacked
legs buried in the sand
to the crowd’s delight
they wriggle and squirm
break free in an eruption


the continuum stretched halfway
across the world halfway
across last century
my patrimony
in genes and memories
my hope you’ll be like me
a better man than your father



For Meredith

looking down at you
on your two year old toddler legs
I hobble on my new hip
you see them first
sense they are nesting nearby
insist we search for birdies

your optimistic hunt begins
in the supermarket carpark
bare concrete and fluorescent light
no deterrent to your determination

I see the swallow sweep and swoop
Hirundo Neoxena …..realise
as it alights upon a pipe
it is watching us watching it

the Welcome Swallow’s dart and dash
a show to distract you from the nest
the vigilance of a parent
returning to the same uncertain roost
leads you to her young
hardwired betrayal

you search the ceiling
for the nest until you find
a mud cup with two heads
bobbing out the top
you squeal with delight

it takes my old eyes time
to adjust …..you were on them in a flash
I look to my feet and see
the white and grey droppings from the nest
I need to tell you
how to find the nest by looking down next time

but you are off


Stone Pieces


my Carrara marble egg
its perfect ovoid
disguising the sculptor’s failure
to liberate the angel
contained within that block of stone

benign in its insinuation
luminescent in this afternoon’s light
a useful paperweight underselling its promise

with its mate placed in the hutch
to encourage that hen to lay
no amount of brooding
can impart sufficient heat
to cause those eggs to hatch

not enough to stop her trying


secrets as subtle as the mason’s handshake

never to lift a block of stone
when easing walking bouncing
will dance it into place just as well

if you don’t leave spaces
you’re just building a wall

I come back to these words
a revenant to cut and slash to fashion sense
an echo where the words once were

all poetry consists of remnants
the art in the spaces as much as what remains


Taffy at Kangaloon

for Mimi

at 37 your Welsh pony was old when you got her
by size and temperament perfect for you at 8
more age than choice on her part

your day starts early with the chores
feeding the horses chaff and hay checking water and untangling stays
you find her …..down….. in the paddock before school

the vet attends …..explains …..she is not getting back up
I can give her something to ease her way
what we all may need one day
send your daughter to say goodbye
it’s important for her …..but which
his wisdom escaped me at the time

you approach that shadow in the mist
heat rises from her flanks streaked with red mud
her smell with you as you cradle her head in your arms

tears and the grunt of the backhoe
in the corner of the paddock she made her own
a mound in the mist slowly subsiding
you grow up quite a bit that day


Nest Parasite

woke to that unsettling feeling
the dream from last night was erased
nothing will bring back
that seed waiting to germinate

amongst the morning humdrum
the cape koel’s escalating call cuts through

a cuckold fragment ….all night
searching for a mate
a call with no response
at the outskirts of the migration south
what drives it to repeat
this sterile journey
setting words on a page
no one will read

each year the weather flicks a switch
marking the change of season reliably
the journey from New Guinea
deemed complete at our suburb
pausing to call for a mate
scouting established nests
in which to secrete an egg
so the surrogate can concentrate
on your cuckoo
and you can return north


Michael Witts was born in Wales and now lives in Sydney. He has been publishing poetry since the early 1970s. He was a founding editor of DODO magazine and the Fling poetry series. His three volumes of poetry are Sirens, South and Dumb Music. His poetry can be accessed through michaelwitts.com




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