Wounded children

Fear of exposure is predicated on shame. If one is not ashamed to be seen, truly seen for who one is, there is no way to be exposed by anyone else. Shame is predicated on wanting to hide and I do not want to hide.

If you show me to the world as I was born I will say “yes, this is me, see how beautiful I am.” There is no shame. I am not ashamed of my body or of that which lies under its skin. I do not hide.

If you try to sully my name I will freely admit my sins and say what I have done wrong. I take responsibility for all I do. I make mistakes and do not claim to be perfect. Perfection is a fantasy that maims.

If I cannot be honest with myself, there is no way I can relate to you. Those who cannot be honest cannot be close with themselves or others. I am able to be close.

I do not hide. You see my writing and in it you see me. You cannot take away my clothes or my mask, because I do not wear any. I walk around naked every minute of the day. I know me and in knowing me I know you too. I am brave, but are you?

I can see you behind your mask and your costumes and your skin. I see you clearly and this makes you uneasy. There is nowhere to hide and being seen terrifies you. I see you.

Rest assured, if anyone else could see beneath your surface, they would not see much, for there is very little there, nothing tangible. Maybe the ghost of a little boy unable to articulate his fear or secure the love he needs. He trembles. He cowers. He hides. He rages. He cries in secret. It is for him I have love and compassion. It is with him that I try to connect.

I do not love the shell of you. Your shell is old and it is hard, cold and impermeable. It is aggressive and greedy. Your shell takes and takes.

Child me connects with child you, for that is where we share DNA. You know me for I used to be like you, until the moment I was not. The moment you decided to remain more animal than human. Predatorial.

I have met you before, many times already in this life, but that does not mean you are safe. It only means I know you. I was born to one just like you. There was a moment when you all chose the wrong path, the sinister one, and now there is no way back. I chose the right path, so now, after decades, we are chasms apart. Yet somehow the ghost of you echoes within the kernel of me. You are a product of the path I refused to choose.

I do not love the shell of you. Your shell is old, gnarly and calcified. Your shell is punctuated by an erect, hungry cock. Your mouth is full of sharp teeth and your mind is full of chaos. You have eyes that cannot see.

You are grown now, and all you are is this carapace. You are a mirror and a mime. I will not be your muse. You are layers of defensiveness: sweat and hair and ink and smalls and thermals and shirts and jumpers and coats encased in armour, sequestered away on an island in a fortress surrounded by moats that distance you from those you claim to love. You are locked away in a state of arrested development. You are an onion with an empty core and I peel you back until you are no more. I will not be your whore.

Mother’s Day Slam

And so on this most feel-good of tributary days, on the day of the deification of The Mother and all that is maternal, loving, warm, caring, nurturing, selfless, giving and kind, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.

To those who were unmothered, who were ignored, abandoned, abused, subsumed, repressed, oppressed, used, treated as a friend, or a play-thing or a no-thing.

To those who grew up without role models, so that a mother means mean and selfish and distracted and childish and foolish and unpredictable and explosive.

To those who mothered and continue to mother themselves, though without the guidance of role models do an imperfect job, alternately indulging the self ‘s every whim and punishing it with endless barrages of internal criticism.

To those who mother others, but not necessarily themselves. To those who had the mother-child role reversed, and learned to play carer, nurturer, listener, genie-in-a-bottle-granter-of-wishes, not just to their own mothers, who couldn’t mother them, but to everyone, stranger or friend, who needed a mother, at any time of day, or night, in any place, or any space, appropriate or not.

To those women who cannot or will not have children, you are not less of a woman for it.

To those of you who find today hard because of any or all of these things. To those who feel left out.

I wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day (spoken word video)

You can read the text of Mother’s Day here. You can also watch this video with auto-captions; please switch them on in the settings menu in YouTube.


This poem was originally published in 2018 after I experienced a miscarriage. This Sunday it is Mother’s Day in Australia. Every year I have two poems I post in order to draw awareness to the concepts surrounding motherhood and gender roles and the valorised, socially sanctioned, often unquestioned, myth of the ever-nurturing mother. Miscarriage is a devastating event. Being unable to mother when one wants to is also devastating. Being considered less-than by society for being unable to mother or for choosing not to mother, is blatantly wrong. Mother’s Day is about my miscarriage and about the lack of respect that women who do not mother are subjected to in patriarchal society. In the patriarchy, women are generally only valued in relation to others and what they can do for others, rather than for their own abilities and merits as autonomous individuals. My poem aims to address some of these themes and provides food for thought on a day when so many women feel lonely, less-than, or defective.

Mother’s Day

The blood
Marks me
As a woman incapable
Of mothering
Every moon

Stigmata
On cruciform sanitary pad
Growing stain
Reminding me
Of my irrelevance

I bleed internally
From excess womb
Invisible wound
Evidenced by bloated belly
Looks ripe but is empty

Embattled within
No red cross protects me
From enemy fire
I haemorrhage with ease
And lose credibility


This poem was originally published in 2018 after I experienced a miscarriage. This Sunday it is Mother’s Day in Australia. Every year I have two poems I post in order to draw awareness to the concepts surrounding motherhood and gender roles and the valorised, socially sanctioned, often unquestioned, myth of the ever-nurturing mother. Miscarriage is a devastating event. Being unable to mother when one wants to is also devastating. Being considered less-than by society for being unable to mother or for choosing not to mother, is blatantly wrong. Mother’s Day is about my miscarriage and about the lack of respect that women who do not mother are subjected to in patriarchal society. In the patriarchy, women are generally only valued in relation to others and what they can do for others, rather than for their own abilities and merits as autonomous individuals. My poem aims to address some of these themes and provides food for thought on a day when so many women feel lonely, less-than, or defective.

The train is winding slowly: a poem about war, love and longing.

Poem by Harry Searle

Above is a poem by my Great Uncle Harry, killed in action at age 23 during World War II, in the battle of El Alamein (1942). I’m posting this today, on Anzac Day, to honour Harry and acknowledge the deep loss felt by my family at his passing. I’ve written out a transcript of the poem below. Written for his wife Beryl, it’s a poignant and tender poem, speaking of love, loss and longing during wartime.

IMG_20210425_110732_519

The train is winding slowly
Through a strange and foreign land
And as far as the eye can travel
Stretches the shifting sand.

Along the dying daylight
Into the darkening light,
The turning wheels are taking me
Farther from your sight.

But though I travel farther,
Even to the end of my day,
My love shall be as your love
For ever and for aye

Book Review – The Kali Project: Invoking the Goddess Within

The Kali Project: Invoking the Goddess Within, is an apt and provocative title for this substantial anthology of poetry, writing and visual art by Indian women, collated, produced and edited by IndieBlu(e) Publishing. Kali is a Hindu goddess who defies easy definition and contains contradictions and multitudes. She exists both within and outside of traditional notions of ‘the feminine’. Kali is a nurturing protector who ultimately seeks justice through the destruction of evil. A fierce and violent warrior, Kali is considered terrifying, ugly or beautiful depending on the context. She is primal and wild, yet able to complete seemingly impossible tasks, such as vanquishing otherwise unstoppable demons, with her cunning and nous.

Kali is the ultimate feminist icon; she doesn’t just break down the narrowly defined, socially-acceptable traits of womanhood, she smashes them to pieces. Kali is boundless and will not be contained. This boundlessness and her complexity stand out in stark relief against the narrow, restrictive and prescriptive gender roles ascribed to women in Indian culture, the same culture that, ironically, birthed her many centuries ago.

The Kali Project is both a document of what it is like to be a woman in contemporary India and a protest against the way women are subjugated and violated daily in that same culture. It is an important collection and a vital read for anyone wishing to understand the lived experiences of women in India. The poetry and writing in the anthology is largely confessional and personal in nature, lamenting the struggle for respect and dignified treatment in a culture that devalues women.

Themes that are tackled include the rigid gender roles that women and girls are expected to adhere to, including the heavily circumscribed roles of wife and mother. The Ultimatum, a poem by Abha Iyengar, is about a young woman who has been raised to believe she will have independence, freedom and agency in her life, but instead, discovers she is being groomed for marriage by her mother. The sense of betrayal conveyed is crushing.

Tales of domestic violence and femicide surface throughout the anthology regularly enough to act as a chilling reminder of the overt misogyny still present in modern-day India, a culture in which women are expected to serve men while lacking agency and even basic human rights. It makes for eye-opening, if sobering, reading.

The body also features in The Kali Project, both as site of abuse and as a vehicle for agency, pleasure, procreation and change. Mangifera Indecorum or How to eat a mango, a poem by Ermelinda Makkimane, describes the pure joy and pleasure of eating a mango, and taking mindful, conscious time out from the stresses of life and gendered expectations to do so.

The hypocritical paradox of how female goddesses are revered and worshipped in Indian culture, while real women are systematically subjugated and abused, is also explored throughout the anthology by various writers. Goddesses wield considerable might in Indian culture. Anita Nahal’s Homo Sapiens and Hindu Goddesses in India and America speaks to the power of invoking all the goddesses at once:

I became all the goddesses when my son was born. I became all the goddesses when you tried to snatch him from me. I became all the goddesses when you abused me in public. I became all the goddesses when I rejected you. I became all the goddesses when I decided we must leave. I became all the goddesses when I fended alone for my son. I became all the goddesses when I did not compromise anymore. I became all the goddesses when I did not cry anymore. I became all the goddesses when I signed on the dotted line of our divorce papers in my America.”

Kali herself is woven through the anthology, as subject and as guiding spirit, in both the writing and the art. In the artworks, which are dotted throughout the volume, images of Kali – including illustrations, prints and paintings – range from the traditional and more representational to the symbolic and more abstract.

The Kali Project raises awareness, educates and documents the experiences of everyday women in India. If there is a clear message that the anthology conveys, it is that Indian women are justifiably enraged at the intense oppression they are subjected to. The anthology reminds us that women are still, tragically, far from equal and far from free. It’s a defiant, timely and important document in the current political climate, in which intersectionality plays a significant and vital role; we live in a world in which the voices of the most marginalised need to be heard the loudest in order to affect real progress. The Kali Project raises up and amplifies the collective voices of Indian women as they agitate to take back their power. This energy is captured beautifully in the following poem, #MeToo, by Bina Sarkar Ellias.

#MeToo

It crackled
in the dark of night~
a sonic spear
that struck open
her voice locked
in the stealth
of time.

it crackled
in the still of night~
this voice
that rose from
the grave of her guts
that swam through
her anxious veins
bathed in blood
and pain that stained
the ocean
of time.

it crackled
in the womb of night~

this voice
that rose from
the grime
of her shattered mind
and claimed its space
in the ruptures
of time.


The Kali Project: Invoking the Goddess Within is edited by Megha Sood and Candice Louisa Daquin. It can be purchased at amazon.com in paperback and kindle formats. You can also buy the anthology at Book Depository with free global shipping. And for those living in India, the anthology can be purchased at Pothi.

Book Review – The Kali Project: Invoking the Goddess Within

The Kali Project: Invoking the Goddess Within, is an apt and provocative title for this substantial anthology of poetry, writing and visual art by Indian women, collated, produced and edited by IndieBlu(e) Publishing. Kali is a Hindu goddess who defies easy definition and contains contradictions and multitudes. She exists both within and outside of traditional notions of ‘the feminine’. Kali is a nurturing protector who ultimately seeks justice through the destruction of evil. A fierce and violent warrior, Kali is considered terrifying, ugly or beautiful depending on the context. She is primal and wild, yet able to complete seemingly impossible tasks, such as vanquishing otherwise unstoppable demons, with her cunning and nous.

Kali is the ultimate feminist icon; she doesn’t just break down the narrowly defined, socially-acceptable traits of womanhood, she smashes them to pieces. Kali is boundless and will not be contained. This boundlessness and her complexity stand out in stark relief against the narrow, restrictive and prescriptive gender roles ascribed to women in Indian culture, the same culture that, ironically, birthed her many centuries ago.

The Kali Project is both a document of what it is like to be a woman in contemporary India and a protest against the way women are subjugated and violated daily in that same culture. It is an important collection and a vital read for anyone wishing to understand the lived experiences of women in India. The poetry and writing in the anthology is largely confessional and personal in nature, lamenting the struggle for respect and dignified treatment in a culture that devalues women.

Themes that are tackled include the rigid gender roles that women and girls are expected to adhere to, including the heavily circumscribed roles of wife and mother. The Ultimatum, a poem by Abha Iyengar, is about a young woman who has been raised to believe she will have independence, freedom and agency in her life, but instead, discovers she is being groomed for marriage by her mother. The sense of betrayal conveyed is crushing.

Tales of domestic violence and femicide surface throughout the anthology regularly enough to act as a chilling reminder of the overt misogyny still present in modern-day India, a culture in which women are expected to serve men while lacking agency and even basic human rights. It makes for eye-opening, if sobering, reading.

The body also features in The Kali Project, both as site of abuse and as a vehicle for agency, pleasure, procreation and change. Mangifera Indecorum or How to eat a mango, a poem by Ermelinda Makkimane, describes the pure joy and pleasure of eating a mango, and taking mindful, conscious time out from the stresses of life and gendered expectations to do so.

The hypocritical paradox of how female goddesses are revered and worshipped in Indian culture, while real women are systematically subjugated and abused, is also explored throughout the anthology by various writers. Goddesses wield considerable might in Indian culture. Anita Nahal’s Homo Sapiens and Hindu Goddesses in India and America speaks to the power of invoking all the goddesses at once:

I became all the goddesses when my son was born. I became all the goddesses when you tried to snatch him from me. I became all the goddesses when you abused me in public. I became all the goddesses when I rejected you. I became all the goddesses when I decided we must leave. I became all the goddesses when I fended alone for my son. I became all the goddesses when I did not compromise anymore. I became all the goddesses when I did not cry anymore. I became all the goddesses when I signed on the dotted line of our divorce papers in my America.”

Kali herself is woven through the anthology, as subject and as guiding spirit, in both the writing and the art. In the artworks, which are dotted throughout the volume, images of Kali – including illustrations, prints and paintings – range from the traditional and more representational to the symbolic and more abstract.

The Kali Project raises awareness, educates and documents the experiences of everyday women in India. If there is a clear message that the anthology conveys, it is that Indian women are justifiably enraged at the intense oppression they are subjected to. The anthology reminds us that women are still, tragically, far from equal and far from free. It’s a defiant, timely and important document in the current political climate, in which intersectionality plays a significant and vital role; we live in a world in which the voices of the most marginalised need to be heard the loudest in order to affect real progress. The Kali Project raises up and amplifies the collective voices of Indian women as they agitate to take back their power. This energy is captured beautifully in the following poem, #MeToo, by Bina Sarkar Ellias.

#MeToo

It crackled
in the dark of night~
a sonic spear
that struck open
her voice locked
in the stealth
of time.

it crackled
in the still of night~
this voice
that rose from
the grave of her guts
that swam through
her anxious veins
bathed in blood
and pain that stained
the ocean
of time.

it crackled
in the womb of night~

this voice
that rose from
the grime
of her shattered mind
and claimed its space
in the ruptures
of time.


The Kali Project: Invoking the Goddess Within is edited by Megha Sood and Candice Louisa Daquin. It can be purchased at amazon.com in paperback and kindle formats. You can also buy the anthology at Book Depository with free global shipping. And for those living in India, the anthology can be purchased at Pothi.

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar: Vale Helen Reddy

Vale Helen Reddy, Australian singer and feminist icon, who passed away today, aged 78. My poem, Shrill, was influenced by Reddy’s feminist anthem I am Woman, and the last line is a direct reference to Reddy’s song. I am Woman was a hit only a few years before I was born. It was ground breaking and trail blazing and contained a radical political message for its time. Reddy helped encourage women to not only speak up and speak out, but to roar. Please enjoy my tribute to Helen Reddy.

To read the text for this poem, please click here. You can also watch this video with captions. Please switch them on in the settings menu in YouTube.

Blue velvet

This feeling of solitude and playing with petals while sitting in dirt is familiar. I feel calm alone. I am hidden alone. Nature is my friend. I breathe and I notice. Plush blue velvet on dry brown dirt. Clumps like rocks. Tiny veined yellow petals fall on my pants and get caught in the wind. The crop behind acts as a shield and keeps me warm and sheltered. The sun is diffuse through heavy cloud. The yellow is fading to green. The dirt looks pretty on my velvet pants. Rust brown powder on navy sheen. I breathe and I am here. I am safe out here.