1986 – 1990

we talk of nothing

in the free world

we talk of nothing

across dinner tables

in pubs, at work

we talk of nothing

our empty mouthings

poor substitute for dialogue


of course change is desired

but not required

when voicing opinions

can get you fired

and blacklisted


even without that risk

change is resisted

for the sake of a quiet life

popularity with the boys

in the name of tradition


we all know conformity

needs no voice

so we talk of nothing


minor details such as

freedom of choice and expression

justice, political integrity

access to health and education

trust between the sexes

with all that that implies

these matters are simply set aside

while we talk of nothing


where is the democracy

that must be protected

at any price?

not here, not now

in the civilized west

we can’t even talk to each other

Netherton Woods

on the city streets where people

worry their way through life

drained faces and downcast eyes

reflect the state of the nation in general


in particular

the rich and socially aspiring aside

there’s much suffering in the struggle

to survive against all odds


here in the woods

where the going is soft

birdsong and solitude

ease the pain

viewed in perspective

cares recede, threaten less


alarmed by my intrusion

of their privacy

a group of roe deer

bounding effortlessly

over bush and briar

are gone in a few brief seconds

during which my soul

finds sustenance


between the river and the trees

lies a graveyard

representing countless lives

and struggles ended

my mother

she has always tried to do her best

in the face of circumstance

which, in her case

has almost always been dire

in strength, she found dignity

in times of trouble

a burning desire

for peace of mind


her strength is a fire raging


but finite nonetheless

eventually it too

will fade and die

leaving only ashes

and a pall of dignity

hanging in the still air

Sardinian Seas

on my back now

above me a sky

too blue for words

the strong salt water

lapping at my shoulders

holding me gently

in its warm embrace

while unintelligible

Italian conversation

and the long squeals

and laughter of children

come drifting from the shore


did you float thus

beneath the Portuguese sun

blissful and unaware

that life itself

would soon be gone

and our hearts broken yet again?


Stuart, my attitude towards water

is so ambivalent these days

as ever, I love its smooth caress

but always I think of you, and Billy

missing you (for Billy)

my photograph shows you forever young

a half-smile flickering across your face

restrained by that earnest gaze

held dear in my affection


when you slipped your mooring

I kept my composure, retained my buoyancy

would not, could not let you down

acquiescing in fate and the immutable law of change

I refused to let grief scuttle intrinsic faith

anchored by a firm belief in mutual understanding


but, some twelve years on

adrift on a sea of disillusion

quite unable to quell the tears

or assuage the pain of the past few years

I would that you were with me now

to keep me from drowning

Wei Chi – before completion

I will be

like an old fox

cunning and sly

moving forward

with caution

alert and listening

for tell-tale

cracks in the ice


no more

heart on my sleeve

no more

rushing into the breach

with careless abandon


like an old fox

I’m determined

to reach

the other side

and find completion

Brighton Beach


a solitary gull flies

from the deep

great walls of water rise

and rise till they

can climb no further

before crashing into

frills of foam

that chase one another

to the shore



out there where

grey meets grey

a ship that seems

to be going nowhere

is seen to have moved

quite imperceptibly

on a hairline horizon

perpetual motion charting

the relentless passage of time



on the numberless stones

of Brighton Beach

huddled in the

breakwater’s lea

contemplating worlds

beyond my reach

and all of life’s

awesome immensity

I remember who I am

unanswered questions

when we do meet

too nervous to embrace

we greet one another

with guarded eyes

and cleverly disguised emotion


we might have been lovers once

in reality we are old friends

with nothing in common

but the unacknowledged longing

that binds us close


at what cost missed opportunity?

I can dream, I can fantasise

but always there is the uncertainty


if we had been lovers once

had lain naked in each other’s arms

what then?


would we be lovers still?

would we still be friends?

dreaming dragons

I saw a dragon in a field

a luminous creature,

serene and wise

she did not linger long

of a sudden

her two great wings unfurled

and with steady beat

she rose before my eyes

to where five others of her kind

went spiraling upwards

wavering between the earth and sky

my dragon dipped her wings

several times before

soaring to the sublime heavens

alive and kicking

midway through my

three score years and ten

I must confess

I am surprised

to find that

I  am still alive

and, what’s more

still kicking

Bogey Man

your anger startles me

and I am afraid of you

a stranger who hates

with such intensity

my heart trembles


you are the bogey man

I want to run and hide

better still

I want to find again

the one who

loved me gently

who smiled

more often than not

who gave me faith


is he a myth

of my own making

une grande illusion

a figment of my imagination

all these years?


but for sure I met him

less than a month ago

and glimpsed him briefly

the other day

so who is this monster

I see before me now?

are you here to stay?

Epitaph for my father, William Foster McAuslan

would he have us weep?

released from the agonies of a diseased body

and the hopeless frustration of a caged mind

he has found an end to suffering

and for those of us for whom his pain

had become a blade

tearing our vey hearts until

all strength and courage drained

we could bear no more

there is relief of sorts


so when remembering him

think not of the wasted flesh

the sunken eyes with their

silent pleas for help

much rather think upon

the reckless youth he once was

his generous spirit

the way he made you laugh

and those precious

private moments when

as father, brother, lover or friend

he gave you his best

and be glad, be glad

for he is at rest


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