Poetry Samples

This page contains samples of my poetry. Please note that this is work for adults; I do not currently write poetry for children, although I am an experienced teacher of poetry for ages ranging from primary school through to tertiary level.

Written after tipping endless mountains of sand out of my daughter’s shoes. Anyone who’s lived near the coast will be able to relate to this one

Travels Without My Daughter
Written in the departure lounge at Perth International Airport, on the occasion of leaving my then two-year-old daughter for a research trip to Japan

Ancestor Games
On my way to work at UWA, I used to pass by Fremantle Cemetery. One day, I started thinking about the absurdity of the space we take up in death

A poem I wrote for my collection, Cleanskin. Someone pointed out to me that I tend to write long poems, and they were right, so I thought I’d see if I could stay tightly focused on a single image for a change

Another one written for Cleanskin. All those years of beach holidays, and quick, silent currents


In the garden,
my sister and I empty our shoes
without being asked,
having learned early:
can’t have that sand in the house.

As we watch,
impossible piles form
around the grevillea –
mountain ranges thrown up
from size 4 sneakers.
Even our mother
no longer blames the ants.

Down at South Beach,
we pick out letters on rust-eaten signs.
Do not walk on the dunes.
Revegetating. Restabilising –
all under control here.
Our mother squeezes
our hands,
keeps us to the path.

And at night, she closes doors
on its relentless advance –
inland and inland,
through pockets and crevices,
fissures and follicles.

But somehow, we know
that it stays with us, this
crumbling border
of our seasons,
and every highway’s inevitable end.

Seashell to our ears,
there is only our mother’s voice:
Don’t go too close to the edge.
But already, we know:
the edges insist on their own approach;
even in the dry centre, there is no path
that leads elsewhere.

As broom and vacuum sweep
the coastline from our door,
my sister and I wirebrush
our feet on the footpath,
knowing there will always be

Despite months of cloistered, air-conditioned days,
the lingering taste of sea-salt on skin fails
to surprise us.
Bottomless pockets, shoes barely bought,
bleed sand as if tapping a vein;
And as we close
those late-night shutters
we catch ourselves in imagining:
a false-backed wardrobe – there!
how easily we step into
this vastness of dunes,
that expanse of sky.
(first published in Westerly, vol. 49, November 2004)

“Travels Without My Daughter”

The airport hums with my leaving,
and with the anticipation of her grief.
‘She’s hot’,  I say,
my palm limpet-like on her forehead,
scanning for something I cannot name.
She’s tired’. You too. ‘Just go’.
Detaching myself, I write crumpled
bereavement on her face,
and steel my limbs forward.

Ticket, passport, boarding pass:
this, at least, I know.
I’m cruising now, unstoppable.
You’re back there somewhere
folding her into yourself.
(Later, you tell me
her vomit hit the floor with the closing
of the doors.
You put it behind you –
they have people for that sort of thing.
I, who would not have,
am already half a world away, immobilised
behind a thin veneer of ritual).

When immigration seals me onward,
I plunge into the departure lounge,
a barely surfaced diver, gasping for breath.
This sudden soaring buoyancy
jostles with the sheer weight
of her absence.
From here, so many different skins
will pull me to my destination
which is nowhere but away,
and all of them will be easily shed
while my hands still glow
with the memory of her fever.
(first published in Blue Dog, vol. 2 (3), September 2003)

“Ancestor Games”

In Hong Kong,
they give you seven years – no more,
to shake loose that heavy flesh
and settle your bones into the earth,
Then they crumble you into brass,
to spend the rest of your death
squatting on mantels,
blind witness to the living.

In Japan, you find a corner
of the house, sometimes a seat
at the table, compact and sweet:
mandarins are the flavour of death.
And they pause, now and then,
in the midst of their breathing,
to open and close shutters
on the quiet business of the dead.

Here, our lavish bones crosshatch
the suburbs, push skyward
in columns of vehement stone.
Unruly skeletons lay
stubborn claim to acres; we picket
our dead yards, drunk, still,
on horizons, this luxury of air.(Here, in this comforting vastness,
we spread our deaths
across all tomorrows,
as if the end of us were also
the end of the world)
(first published in Westerly, vol. 49, November 2004)


On the ocean road, we are tourists
of calamity; our father parks us close
to crumbling edges
and alarm. The sea puckers slick
rock-cheeks of disapproval, exhales
one body, consumes
the rest.


Back then, we’d align ourselves to the beach,
pitching our safety on hastily dropped bundles:
a bag, a towel, a pair
of parents. And look up, wave-drunk,
to find ourselves gone. Or at least
far away; somewhere in the salt-spray
an invisible leaving. You’d play
at brother, then, hauling us
out, and how could I lament
the return of feet to seabed, that sand-
stagger homeward? Even now, I am first in,
furthest out, drifting