Monday, December 20, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Alicia Ponder

Running away with a Christmas sonnet
by Alicia Ponder

Go kiss your prince beneath the mistletoe
And hang those stockings high above the hearth
For Christmas is the one day you can show
The greatest love of all and peace on earth

Still, I wish you would take your Christmas cheer,
Pack the day with bows and loving care
And bundle it so far away from here
And don't you mention Grinches, don't you dare.

For while the thought of presents makes some sing
And has the children dancing round the tree
Christmas makes me wish more than anything
That I could wash my hands and be set free -

Just wander off, enjoy the sunny beach
Forget the rules, and
in the sun-drenched

Thanks Alicia for your poem. I love the way it slips out of of structure, and into a languid free-form where content and shape take on a perfectly relaxed ease... even sweeter to my eye no doubt, because I'm about to follow suit, and climb out of my rhyming couplet work life!

Alicia is a Wellington-based author and a regular on-line Tuesday Poem contributer. You can find more of her poems on her blog:

Alicia's poems and prose also feature in 'Caught on Canvas', a popular art book about Wellington, and she has published several short stories in the School Journal, with more to come out next year in various places, including Australia. When she's not writing or coaching at Hutt Valley Fencing Club, she sometimes finds time to review the latest books at Rona Book Shop, relieve at Hutt Valley High School, and provide a taxi service for her two children.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I'm a stickler for writing things right. It actually feels good to own it out loud (even if I did play a bit loose with my grammar there.) I've been the boring parent who always responded "so much fun" to my children's enthusiastic "so fun". I've gaped at their father's loose edges around what's ok and what's not in the English language (he's a former English teacher, and loves languages.) That said, I have made some shifts these past years - wrestle, contort, surrender. One free-for-all zone is my telecom fone. (See?) ... except of course the 'you' word. That's still sacred.
The one other written word I hold onto with stubborn determination is Christmas (as opposed to the X version). This has taken some doing. I write with the speed of sound, mostly illegibly to everyone else, and I love getting to the end of a task as quickly as I can. But I hate the fact that this 'celebration', which does acknowledge a significant birth, has a popularised spelling that deletes the person - appropriately with an x, and usually a big fat capital one.
That said - I have been playing with a new spelling for this event. I've written it up there as my post heading. I think think this spelling puts some meaning back into what it is I'm experiencing. This sweeping madness, from which some of us take shelter, pull our hoodies over our faces, and others surrender and shop and get sick, is surely in response to a myth. It feels like it has mythological proportions. An unwieldy potent 'story', dreaded by so many, and with the power to disturb and unseat us, without showing it's real face.
Anyway, this year we're doing our wee bit to pull it out of the mist, give it a name and a shape that's human-sized. We're leaving town on Sunday and heading for a quiet spot in the bush down south for three days. We have not sent cards, not put up a christmas tree (though plan to locate a flowering pohutukawa by the end of next week). All gifts will be recycled (pre-loved by ourselves or someone else). And lunch will be simple. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tuesday poem: Tackling the day

Some time ago my then writing group dished out half a dozen words at the end of our meeting and we agreed we'd stud a poem with each one - raisins in a pud of our own making. It's the poem I'm posting today, and it feels appropriate as a what... galviniser? - joke? - aspiration? as I stumble to the end of 2010, still ploughing through a ridiculous amount of workatwork, my faith eye on that checkered flag, which should be waving at me on the 17th.
(I'm not sure the compulsory words are readily identifiable, but there are no prizes for correctly guessing one of them.)

Tackling the day

Look at you
Slinking along
Grumbling across the day
With your nose in the falling dark
Before your last foot's
Left home in the morning

By God
Not me mate

There'll be butter and jam
On my bread
At sun up.
I'll devastate crust and crumbs
With a sure jaw
And flashing incisors

I'll take time to kick the rubbish
Where it belongs

I'll spread my shoulders
And pump blood
And draw breath
Like a gale

There'll be no slither
No slits for eyes

You just watch me
I'll show you

I'll show you foreshore.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On Feet

Sometimes words turn themselves over and peer at you differently. Same word, new relationship. Footloose did that to me recently. Me who hobbles about for the first circuitous part of my day - bed to bathroom to wardrobe to radio to jug for cuppa number two; 50, 60, 100 yards of round-and-about and at some point, somewhere in there, I'm limber-ish again. Too many hours with my knees under the desk, and back it comes, this gait that suggests someone whose body's getting old (how can this be?) Perhaps no surprise then that 'footloose' surfaced, and asked for a second glance. What is it - this anatomical freedom that goes with fancy-free? Springing to the surface - a memory of an unhuggable pretty-faced doll, small enough to hold in one hand, with every joint rotatable. (But be careful pam - she'll pinch you.) Surely footloose with its splatty - even promiscuous connotations - would be a tricky way to navigate the world. What I do like, thank you english, is the notion that feet have their own intentions.
Today I've flung both arms sideways and discovered some space around me. I've gone visiting blogs - and with days - sometime weeks of absence, have felt neither footloose not footsure - more someone whose ankles are snapped shut into rather cumbersome boots. Do I respond, all this time after the fresh delivery of these posts, or would I be leaving a clumsy, muddy footprint. Then I remember the magic of this zone: that I can dance or clobber in, leave no trace, but drink what I choose to, because the offering is there. (Thank you!) And I can make my own offering. Light feet, stiff feet, perhaps which is no matter, I can go out and walk the blogosphere.

Friday, October 22, 2010


There seems to be much talk about the brain these days. It's like deep science and the foreign language that describes it are being demystified so we can all get a reasonably accessible picture of what happens up there, if we so choose. As someone who will be hovering in mid-50's for not much longer, and whose memory keeps dropping small things (not pennies), there's some comfort in learning that our 'plastic' brains keep doing the business of spurting new connections and synapsing (new word for the people's neuro-dictionary), and is not a growing pool of dead and dying cells.
I haven't retained much detail of what I've read or heard about brains in my own lively jungle, but one piece of the information that has gone in keeps reverberating. Apparently the part of the brain we use when we talk about ourselves autobiographically, ie tell stories about our own experience, is that same part that's activated when we improvise music. I find this fascinating. All sorts of things spring to mind (thank you brain). One is the sheer beauty of the notion that as I recount my own story, I sing a song. Not necessarily a melodious or even-tempoed (sp?) song, but one that is spontaneous and creative - in much the way that dreams are.
I love this idea in relation to my work as a counsellor, when I sit with a number of people who are feeling their way into their own story, finding ways to articulate and integrate their own experiences - perhaps (with this in mind) not so much to make sense of them, as make a song of them. It also re-minds me of the unique facility we have as creatures to speak the stuff of our lives. (Elisabeth's rich blog is themed with this idea.) Linking it to improvisation, can we look at recounting our own life tale as an act of creative surrender? Like birds at sun-up perhaps, but with an infinitely variable tune, and the the dubious ability to choose whether we open our throats or swallow our song. (I've enjoyed Marylinn's eloquent exploration of this territory in her last two blogs.)
And finally - away from the metaphor and back to making music, it's good to know that for those times when there are no words, no right person to hear, there's something about the act of humming that's more than just a hum.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Recently, and a long way from here, (still milking that trip of mine...) a woman I had just met talked to me about her work as a facilitator in conflict resolution and team building in groups. She said something I've known to be true, but I heard it with fresh meaning: people will start to pull together as soon as they see what unites them. It has hung about in my mind. I've been enjoying this idea. Life is continually thrusting me/us into groups and small communities. As I mentally stretch the tarpaulin, plant the tent pegs wider, I start to create a shared space. I am surely then more able to be present and with those I am with - including those I may have otherwise been inclined to distrust or judge. (I can't help contrasting this with my own tendency to navigate my way to those who meet, match or mirror me.) I'm not sure how much sense this carries in writing it, but I tried this recently - envisioned the rim around the edges of a new group I was part of. It was simply an act of the imagination; an intentional decision that was not reordering the way I saw or behaved, but recognising the bigger place. Medic and therapist Naomi Remen talks about 'holding people large.' Perhaps this can also be applied to people in plural. These are small beginnings for me - grains of insight - but I'm wondering: is this the way to inclusive, gritty, meaningful community?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tuesday poem: Deep Sea Swimming

This is a teetering-on-Tuesday poem. It is in fact Monday evening here in nz, but I want to post this before that whale called work swallows me up. (Starting tonight, but not lasting forever).

Recently Claire beckoned us to the sea, and that trail of thought took me back to this poem which I wrote at 40 - one of the first I ever wrote. I would now describe my immersion differently, but this was how it was then ...

Deep Sea Swimming

I'm out of my depth here
Who would have thought it?

You walk the world for 40 winters
Have children who rise to meet you face to face
You expect by now to stand on sturdy feet
Calves like plaited loaves
Gleaming above the water line
Baskets of fish and tools to catch them
Fair and square on each bent arm
The fanciful high tide of childhood
Going going gone

But no
There's water
underfoot and rising
An ocean tilting
Holding me not quite firm
My basket tumbles
Fish turn and flick
While I, wrinkling
in my shimmery world
Roll on my back
Ease my limbs
With unusual grace

A middle aged mermaid
Out in the depths
Her heart on the horizon


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Away and Home

I'm home. I hear the birds in my garden (hello birds), see the line of Mt Cargill through my bedroom window, that pleasing tiny red roof perching on the horizon. An hour ago I unfolded my computer to travel back through blogs of friends, and now, here I am, back in the portal of blogmedium. I left these things behind more than a month ago, and it's comforting to find them again, (although diving back in here has a small touch of the scare and thrill of a cool sea).

Someone said to me: you'll come back changed. I'm not so sure I would say it with such big words, but I can sense that a raft of gifts has come my way. Some of it feels like good food. The flavour still lingers a bit, and now my insides are getting on with absorbing the nutrients. Other aspects are still bright in my mind, and I'm tempted to look for shields and mirrors, to keep them focused and sharp for as long as I can. I am waking early - is this a gift too? It could have something to do with the fast moving ground I've landed on at work, but I prefer to think that part of me, beyond my say so, is still away, and refusing to surrender to these down under diurnal rhythms.

Anyway, the up-side is that I have time to savour the France and Britain that I got to meet. There's something about being here in Aotearoa NZ - beautiful, spiritual land that it is, that still leaves me aching for the structures - the footprint - of my early early line of forebears. And I found them. Not the bloodlines so much, but the cultural cradle. Drawings etched 17000 years ago onto the limestone cave walls in the Dordogne, France; ancient monastries and churches (I added my song into the stones of one, built 900 years ago.) Then there was the Bronte parsonage - a stones throw from my friend's home. I looked onto it from my small upstairs bedroom window, and this neighbouring family came alive as I read my book - an account of their lives in beautifully wrought fiction: A Taste of Sorrow. (Thanks Mary M for this recommendation on your blog.) Oh, and much more.

My hands went to work there. It didn't seem enough to see and to smell. I wanted to touch, so I did: stone after stone. At other times I put the soles of my feet to work. Stripped off, soft, and so short-lived in the scheme of things, they did their thing. Padded out onto those stubborn remnants that speak our history, and laid down another invisible layer all of their own.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Another quote I'm liking...

"Until we stop ourselves or, more often, have been stopped, we hope to put certain of life's events 'behind us' and get on with our living. After we stop we see that certain of life's issues will be with us for as long as we live. We will pass through them again and again, each time with a new story, each time with a greater understanding, until they become indistinguishable from our blessings and our wisdom. It's the way life teaches us to live."

Rachel Naomi Remen

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Till life do us part

Till life do us part

A warbling note, suspended in air,
Gravity its prepaid fare.
Veins expanded, twinned cells green,
Blue lids blink blind at nature's scene.

The verse is written (now) and seems
Emboldened by the spotlight's beams,
Above reproach, beyond reversal,
Ordained, as death is, universal.

And what must come is washed in brine,
Mottled by discordant time.
Vulgar, vital insatiety -
A broad riposte to mute sobriety.


Harmonics, incidentals - friends
will dream of meeting lovers' ends.
Pallid, exposed and gone to seed,
We come to rest a breakneck speed.

With poems, gingerly, we entreat,
Then with petitions, then receipts.
Our dream selves stand aloof, aloft,
Smiles duplicitous, organs soft.

Denying endgame, we begin.
I kiss the scar across your wing,
Forgetting already what we have begun,
Drawing our strength from the same guileless sun.

Cameron Birnie

(Another from my son Cam.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

9 sleeps

ta ta te ta ta te ta ta in august (high as kite on the ...) i'm not sure i ever knew all the words, but the tune's there and it just keeps slipping out when I'm not looking. I'm heading off to the other side of world. Nine sleeps to go. I think about it and I'm happy. I don't think about it and I'm still happy. My son, when six or seven years old, coined the term joy fit (as in: "i'm having one".) And now from time to time, I get attacks of same. I don't kick the blankets about with my feet, but I do other things: sink my knees a few inches (a curious one), flick my thumbs up when my hands start to rise, sing snatches of old songs, and only when I catch what I can of the words, figure what I'm feeling: very very good. The coming occasion is the wedding of my niece Susannah and her fiancee Patrick, who will marry in a tiny ancient church in the Dordogne, France. And I'm going.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tuesday Poem: angel

she undoes her hands shows him how

tendrils of corn hair lie plaited in her palm

it’s angel hair she says in a cool

cool voice but her heart is telltale beating

her cheek slips into shadow no one looks

as her hand closes back in the fold of the other

at night when he is asleep she opens

her eyes and waits for the wing to descend

Pam M

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A quote I am liking

"We may talk our whole life away, without speaking anything other than interminable repetitions that fill the empty minute, but the steps of thought which we take during the lonely work of creativity all lead us downwards, deeper into ourselves, the only direction which is not closed to us, the only direction in which we can proceed, albeit with much greater trevail, towards an outcome of truth."

Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Word has it

The opening poem at a poetry evening, held in Dunedin to celebrate poetry day last Friday, was an artful reminder of the weird stuff that goes on in people's heads at poetry readings. We - well certainly I (and she seemed to know it) - make use of such events to take a wander inside my immobilised body. I un-focus, drift in a meandery way, let the images brush me, poke me, hum gently, run me over. There are periods of time where I'm sunk deep in the cushion of my head, oblivious to the offerings. Others where I'm off and running, triggered by a turn of phrase, writing my own soon to be forgotten first line of a poem. It's gorgeous, and no-one asks me where I've been.

Then there's the odd occasion where the weird and wonderfully unexpected takes place outside of my head. The following poem was inspired by an encounter at another poetry reading here in my city.


Word has it that she’s 70

But the woman on my left

Is bah phooey

The way she lives it

We’re starting out

So we go for topics

That sit safely

Between us

I say: this bag

Is a cow’s stomach

And I open 1,2,3,4 soft black

Openings in evidence

I am elbow deep

Foraging for glasses

She says: look

It’s like a vulva

Glee takes hold

flickers without a sound

(It is a poetry reading after all)

Our mouths ripple

My complicit arm comes out

From the dark folds

There in hand is a

Firm ripe tomato

The G spot! we splutter

There's no holding back

We are simply delicious

Decorum is undone.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Re-entry and a Tuesday Poem


I’m finding it a challenge to modulate my voice. Is this too loud … too soft…? I’m speaking again into this place after a time of absence. Life’s gone on of course, in all its hurly-burly, but part of me has been very quiet.

Research shows that the longer a person holds back from speaking in a group, the less likely they are to begin. Yep. So here I am, tumbling back into my blog, needing to start again this …logue. Suddenly wanting, really wanting, to overcome this curious sense of shyness, this inhibition that feels like it could grow big, and cause me to shut shop here at cadence.

Silence has been a theme for me for a while. I’ve had a love affair with it in recent months. Recently, I’ve been up against its other face. No longer the lush darkly folded place of presence (the fur coat route to narnia), but a place that seemed thin, reedy. I remembered a poem that I wrote a few years ago. Then too, I’d become aware that my own inner sound had altered - a sense that somehow my internal orchestra had gone quiet. It made me wonder – where did all the instruments go?


A piccolo is playing in the hollow of my neck

The orchestra has vamoosed

The performance pit is empty

The piccolo is upstairs, playing on alone

The cello spat the dummy

Is sulking in the corner

Fretting on some score

The double bass has lost heart

It knows by holding still and turning to wood

It can pull off a vanishing trick

The trumpet has given up on noise

And is napping with the mute

On a bed of black velvet.

The violins are awol

Cavorting in a field

They may not be back

The piccolo is not holding its breath


Monday, June 14, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Dear Reader

Dear reader

I am afraid

That the act of writing a poem

Might force me to take a position

Or make a confession

Or both

I know that I should avoid

Adopting a stance

I may regret later

In a world transformed

By the scurrilous germination

Of early spring

Or some new fashion

Oh reader

How I wish

We could simply go there together

Without all this language and paper

And geographical space

Between us

Forget poetry altogether

And take our clothes off

I don’t want to write a poem

To avoid having to make a decision

There is a time for writing a poem

And a time for mowing the lawn

I don’t want to write a petition

Or to pamphleteer on the pavement

Like one of those earnest, hard-working

Well-intentioned people

That nobody likes

No unnecessary paperwork, please!

Dearest reader

I must confess

I am afraid

To be here in my poem

At all

All I have to offer

Are some minor details of August:


The huddled masses in retreat

Songbirds celebrating the concrete-coloured sky

Cameron Birnie

(Another poem by my son - thanks cam.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesday Poem

Irish Pipes in the Forrester Gallery

The ceiling is libidinous
It curls and swells
and holds
lightly to decorum

The floor is knotty
But sound and square
It promises
to keep behaving

49 chairs are in position
They were prised open
An hour ago
They are not comfortable

Under a man’s arm
A bag is filling up with air
Pipes hang over his knee
Skinny and awkward

His fingers cradle a hollow bone
The bellow is breathing
Dust molecules, huddled in corners
Turn to face the music

The chairs roll onto tiptoe

The ceiling cups her breast

The floor forgets his promise.

Pam Morrison

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tuesday Poem

Regrets: I’ve had a few

Imagine saying it over again,
This time against a backdrop of lush orchestration,
A swollen reservoir of strings
And the twittering of flutes overhead.

Imagine saying it over again,
This time with an open hand.
I realize the trapdoor is about to open beneath me
When the sky begins to resonate with canned laughter.

Imagine saying it over again.
I could have just told her the true things,
Aubergine clocks and double-breasted werewolf suits and so forth,
All the while gnawing a dinosaur bone,

And still she would have dispatched me
With those baffled refugee eyes.

Cameron Morrison Birnie

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tuesday Poem

Mother at Ease

Fat as a roll of pork
mother is prone
cupped in canvas
and perfectly pitched to 30 degrees

She wears a wig
She is clad in black
Her jovial mourning frock
is laughing from hip to hip

That belly's a rotunda
The band's packed up, gone home
Hands splay across the roof
Fingers, soft as savs
tap to the off-beat
of a remembered saucy song

Out from the swollen folds of skirt
calf nestles up to calf
calm as lovers
after a tempest of love or hate

Small feet, moored at the ankles
have lost their mast and rigging
But see - their prows are at the ready
set to sail to different countries
somewhere east and west.

Pam M

I wrote this poem at a time when being mother was a defining role in my life. I wondered about other shapes 'motherness' might take.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Affluere: to flow to, to flow abundantly

An online dictionary describes fluency as (being) capable of flowing; capable of moving with ease and grace… Ease of expression, and ease of movement yes, but more than that – the facility for doing so. Gift, as the saying goes, is born out of hard graft, in a sobering10:90 ratio. Another dedicated somebody has also gone mathematical, claiming that it takes 10,000 hours to gain mastery, with the underlying suggestion that anyone can get there, if they have the grit. One of my offspring has taken this to heart, and is off at a jog, though still in the early miles of the marathon. As for me, I look and am daunted. Is there not a route to fluency via my own wellspring? A being place where the bubbling water will unknot my limbs and my larynx.

My recent experience reminds me, well … no. A traveller who is multi-lingual has been staying for the past fortnight on a helpex scheme where guests help out in exchange for board. One of her gifts to our household was to talk to my partner, daughter and myself in either Spanish or French. I watched my daughter enter the dance of conversation. She was ‘capable of flowing’ with accompanying gestures and laughter – the hard-won fruit of her solo stint in Central America. Partner JB also, after months of regular propping of self with Spanish text books, also did the biz, but with perhaps more perspiration. I entered my child self, wobbling on one foot - able to stammer a simple sentence en Francais, but lost in the response.

I’m not that interested in languages I tell myself, and it’s true. I am interested (deeply) in developing fluency in music, but hold that at bay for reasons I’ve not yet plumbed. But here I am, on my blog, in the medium of English. I have fluency here, as do all who happen to be reading this. We do have language. We can speak, and we can choose not to speak. Is this a case of love the one you’re with? All I need was laid down when I was a toddler. Here I am with an ocean to play in. I can decide what words in what order. I can choose when and to whom. Seven years ago I ditched journalism as a career, and told myself I would never again write to someone else’s deadline. This blog is my own; my one (kind of) public container for my thoughts to take expression through writing. I’ve been away from it for two weeks; wondered if, and when and how I would return. And here I am back again. Fluency in this medium of English: a constant, whether my words are in ebb or in flow.

p.s. I have learnt that affluent is also a noun, meaning a tributary into a main river source. It seems to me that affluents are riches indeed. May there be many for me and thee.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

moths and myths

I have two stories in mind as I launch my blog boat today - one is true and one is made up. The true story took place when my son C was a small boy. I had settled him into bed, and as I stood up, I told him that I was leaving, but God would be with him. His eyes grew wide. "Do you mean that God is here in this room?" I smiled and nodded, happy enough to give this glib comfort so I could return to my book. His face took on a look of panic. He pulled his hands out from under the bed cover and slapped them together. "Here", he said, with solemn intensity - "I've got him. Take him away." I cupped my hands around his, separated them off with care, and carried God out to the hall where I flicked 'him' into the dark like a small moth. Done!

The other story was one that I heard recently. It went like this: God was in heaven with the angels. God was badgered day and night by prayers from humans, always asking for this or that. The angels noticed how tired God looked, and said they would find a hiding place so God could have some peace. They took God into the heart of a forest, to find a place to rest in the soft dark undergrowth. But soon the clamour returned. The prayers had found God, and they were as noisy and demanding as ever. Then the angels said: "We'll try another hiding place. We'll take you to a cave. It's high in the mountains; its opening is hard to find. The humans will never find you there." But the same thing happened. No sooner had God arrived, than the prayers and petitions came pouring through the gap in the rockface and into the cave. The angels thought and thought, then one of them spoke up. "I have an idea: we'll hide you in the human heart. Hardly anyone will find you there."

Banished in one, scuttling for cover in the other, god is present in both stories in fascinating roles. Where does god reside? Can we find him/her - catch god even? Do we want to? Over the years my theology, once reasonably sturdy, has fallen away. Now, with a sweet pile of twigs remaining, I am standing in the open, feeling curious and responsive. I hear about, am drawn to the idea of divine encounter, espoused by those who have embraced spiritual exercise such as silence and meditation, and by those who are impelled into creative expression (surely branches of the same tree.) Yesterday I posted a ted talk on youtube where author Elizabeth Gilbert invites us to loosen up and cock our ear/heart to the divine muse - the genie that lives outside of ego. She relates the story of a poet, now in her 90s, whose divine daimon would come at full throttle - an earth shuddering, thundering horse-like creature. My son likens his poetry writing to vomiting; the creative impulse a spasming affair, where the body pitches and the formed poem is expelled - sometimes at astonishing speed. I loved reading vespersparrow's experience as described on her blog - an intensely delicate, heightened sense of encounter, that indicates she is about to write.

As for me - who knows, but I will keep faith. After all, I have carried god between my palms. In the meantime, as Elizabeth Gilbert so beautifully puts it: just keep showing up and get on with the job. Ole.

Monday, April 26, 2010


My daughter has given me a gift. She linked me to a ted talk. I now pass this gift out to you. You may have seen it. If you haven't, prepare yourself for a glorious reminder. Creativity is a relationship ready to happen.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tuesday Poem

Heaven is other people


Heaven is other people.
Hallelujah. See them strewn about the earth,
Their stony cities lit by dim electric light and furtive love.


I am at the doorway of the world,
Pushing poem after poem through the crack.
And I know that they are read,
For whenever I arrive,
The garden path has been dutifully swept,
The unruly roses trimmed,
And footsteps murmur in the dark house as I leave.


If I reach inside you, all the way,
I cannot bridge the gap between us.
I cannot offer final proof.
And when my scouts retreat from the
Terra incognita of your flesh,
They bring me wild reports of wonders perceived,
But scarcely understood.
Hush. This imperfect knowledge
We share in the silence after.


Heaven is other people.
Hallelujah and Hosanna. See them
Cradled by a vastness of raging debris,
Boldly going about the business of
Rewriting the story from scratch.
It makes me want to never leave.
But when leave I must,
I am left with a solitary consolation,
That I must leave it all to you,
To you and to you and to you.

Cameron Morrison Birnie

This poem was written by my son. (Thanks cam for letting me post it.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tuesday Poem


Roam around the skin before starting to ghazal.
Loosen it from the bone. Let it spill.

The lap is hollow and shrouded in dark silk.
It aches for its losses and so it is never empty.

There's one on whom the eye can never rest.
The arms are still and well behaved, but the pulse is racing.

In hot weather blood grows thinner than water.
Magpies beat their wings in your hair to keep you from their young.

I remember the day my palm was plump with love.
I stroked the locks your hair and found them wet with dew.

Pam Morrison

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Heart is where the home is

Some weeks ago Elisabeth blogged on 10 things that make her happy. This invitation that was travelling the blogs got me thinking. I fished for one of my many journals and wrote my list. There were a number of precious happy-making 'things' jostling for position at the top of my list - the only way they settled on the page was to assure each of them they were not being prioritised. And right up there in that unranked uppermost bunch of blessings, was my home.

I've often said this place called me to herself. I used to walk the long straight valley at the base of my hill, and would invariably look up into the no-exit street, densely bushed and seemingly untouched by the taming hand of suburbia. If I could choose, this is the street where I would live, cash-strapped pm would whisper on her way past. I walked to the top on occasion, and remember my breath catching, the first time I peered through the vista of native bush to a small wooden bridge leading to a barely visible ramshackle two-storied house.

Eight years ago through a series of unexpected openings, that house became home. It has been a love affair that continues to this day. The garden is beautiful, never quite tidy; the multiple rooms are happy, the rough corners content to wait the year or three it might take for the flick of the paint brush to finish them off. I am softened by our relationship - made beautiful even. I told a friend I would bleed to death if I had to leave this place. It seemed an appropriate metaphor. An artery had opened up, and lifeblood flowed through it. For the first time ever, I spoke the truth when I said: I am home.

Late last year I did what I had been intending to do for some years. I attended a quaker meeting, an hour long gathering where people meet to be, to settle in the quiet, to open in their own way to worship, largely in silence. I keep returning, and over easter I travelled to the quaker settlement to learn more of the quaker traditions and to enter again that shared experience. In a different way, in a distinct way, once again I sensed myself coming 'home'.

Right now I am on a path that will teach me - please pam, learn well - more about home. By the end of this year, due to circumstances yes, but also a call to simplicity, this physical dearly loved home will be passed across, entrusted to others. It will no longer be my home.

It has taken me years - a lifetime - to begin to learn to receive. Now I am beginning to learn how to leave. I have been given a new metaphor. I see an organ, laden with capillaries, and one by one, with pain-staking and tender care, each tiny capillary is being cut and seared. There are many of them, and it will take the full nine months. Sometimes I wince, and already I find myself weeping easily. Yet even now, I have begun to dream. There is room in me for that little place down the bottom of the hill. I will move on, and I trust my heart will travel with me.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tuesday Poem

And so my question is
Can you write a poem
When you’re slumped in a chair
And your fingers are soiled
And the brown shirt is
The only one that
Suits you today
And even though
You’re just home
From a retreat where
Deep silence and
Thoughts of light
And mystery
And the stuff
Of meaning
Filled every
Single day
All you know
Right now
Is your nails
Are grubby
And the cat
Wants food
Well can you?

pam m

Monday, March 22, 2010

chick flicker

I gave my inner chick an outing recently - albeit a brief one. I was away with two women friends, one of whom had come equipped with a bottle of shiny coral nail polish. NP and I have only a very remote acquaintance. I ineptly coloured my finger nails once or twice as a young teenager, before drifting off to other pass-times. That smell of polish I now most associate with quick and messy multiple dabs at the ladders in my school stockings. However, that tiny brush was flourished again a couple of weekends ago, and my feet were invited to the party. I told my friend that this was their first time - these were ten little virgins with no prior experience. They had never been buffed, coloured, filed, let alone celebrated and put our for potential admiration. Anyway me and my toes - we did it. (Excuse the grammar - I'm learning to loosen up..) And for two weeks I have shone in my nether regions. My city has, on odd days, had bursts of heat, so the toes (and the chick they were connected to) came out, gleaming through the spaces in my sandals. In a recent long, noisy and tedious meeting, I rolled them to catch the light, surreptitiously checking to see if my colleagues had observed this shift in my presentation of self to world. In the quiet of a meeting of quakers, I found them squirming, and less able to frolic. As days have passed, this brand new focus on feet has been, well, uplifting, but also mildly unsettling. Last night, as I fell upon the polish remover - a daughter legacy tucked away in the bathroom cupboard, I uncovered the 'real me' with some relief. Here were my half forgotten, mostly unseen old buttons. Up on the bath edge, ridged and a bit bashed, they took on a sweet familiarity, and I welcomed them back. It seems I have returned to default position. That glam pam is back in her box, not under wraps - just taking it easy.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Regretfully yours

A relative who is dear to me told me about an unexpected and rich conversation where he and his friend, both 60ish, talked with frankness and mutual trust, about their regrets. Something lit up in me to hear that these two had visited a place that is so often confined to dark corners. If only I hadn't ... I wish that had been different... Post-modernism, new age impulses - the philosophies that infiltrate our thinking - don't come with much permission for this particular take on our own lives. And so it remains un-named - grist for the mill of our unconscious, emerging in dream shape, or in the confines of the therapy room, where it can be wrapped up, corners tucked, before we re-enter the 'real' world. Why is this such hot-tin-roof territory? Where the temptation is to reassure, rescue, placate, and blow on our own and each other's paws. If we allow ourselves and others to feel the heat, is that not the place where transformation can take place - with its concomitant gifts of peace and acceptance? Regret is worthy of its name. It asks for a place in our lives. More than this, I think it is our access door to our own pain - that fire that ultimately purifies and re-connects, rather than the one that destroys. Are we - am I - trusting enough to expand our conversation with ourselves - and others if we are so fortunate - into realms that say of regret: yes, I do.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

me, myself and I

In the early days of facebook, someone told me about the experience of being snubbed on his first 'friend' request. He found someone with the same name, made a virtual approach, and was a bit peeved when there was no response. He later realised he had been flirting with himself - he'd set himself up on facebook months earlier, then forgotten. We heard this story with great hilarity and it always tickled my fancy. Now I've had a laugh at my expense. I find my own face in amongst my supporters on my blog site. It came about when a dear friend from Wellington was down for a brief visit late last week. She was intrigued by the blogging business, and, when we got onto the site, keen to join my little band of followers. In travelling the route to set herself up, she put not her, but me, on the board. And there I was, larger (well-smaller actually) than life, and seemingly ineradicable. After the frenzy of attempts to delete myself, I relaxed my shoulders and had a laugh. Now I've decided to enjoy this public display of apparent narcissism. We are often told we need to be our own best friend. I'm familiar with the inner critic who has my name. I've been consciously fostering a friendlier and more affirming meta me. So, in one swoop, I've boosted my following by 15% and given myself a public and permanent thumbs up. Hi Pam. Thanks for your support.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The shape of things

As a child, by dint of personality or birth order, I came to the conclusion that the only way I could change my world was to alter my perspective. I got very good at it. I reframed and reframed, concluding in one philosophical moment in my teens that the earth was in (one) truth still, and the universe twisting around it. My flexible paradigms kept me stimulated and safe from uncomfortable and painful positions, but I realised in early adulthood that ethereality had come at a price. I had given away my power. With some contortion and awkwardness, over many years, I made my way into the driving seat, and backed my own endeavour to keep my wheels on the tarmac, come what may. This is an oversimplification of course, but there is some usefulness in the metaphor that I was now driving my own car. I could turn the wheel, accelerate, back up, choose - and change at will - my destination. It is a joy to me that aspects of my dreams are realised, and I attribute some of that to my 'coming down to earth'. But at the age of 55, I find my existential position is changing again. I no longer want to 'get' anywhere. I have plans and hopes, but I am in a hurry for nothing. To move from road to water as context for my metaphor, It seems to me it is enough that I set my rudder, and learn to relax at the helm. In words that came to me in the silence of a recent Quaker gathering: Let what will be come.
(Forgive me if I sound like I have life wrapped up. I don't.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

stop, drop, ascend

The idea of upstairs has always held magic for me. I have vivid recall of my cousins' house, with its bridal-train staircase spreading at the base, my nana's flower strewn flight of stairs that rose sharply from her front door, the wooden staircase to my ballet teacher's sparse studio above George Street. In amongst the armful of dreams that I cradled through my childhood was the image of my own big house with lots of rooms - and stairs. Right now, decades on, I sit upstairs in my room, looking out over a valley to the tree-smattered hills on the other side. Is it magic that this longing has come to pass? Not only do I live in a large house, which is three whole stories high on the cellar side, I work in two jobs - one of the top floor of the tallest building on campus, and the other at the same level in a century plus old building in the city. Stairwells at every turn - not to mention the views. Recently I discovered a new magic that enables me to head on up. This one takes a gentle discipline. At 6 or 7 minutes past 8 oclock in the morning, amidst the flurry of getting ready to work, my aim is this: relax hands and position self in front of the bedroom couch. Bend knees and drop onto the cushions. Breathe. Listen. The NZ concert programme offers a beauty spot after the weather report every day. It's someone's choice of something gorgeous. The kind of music that makes you melt, that gets you, somewhere close to where those sweet saturating daydreams of childhood used to live.

Monday, February 1, 2010

whys and wherefores

'The online universe of blogs' - that's what Encyclopedia Britannica calls the blogosphere. I was intrigued that the term had found such a firm place in the dictionary and encyclopedic world. I shouldn't be so, I guess. The blog universe has been around for a while. It's me that's the newcomer. I can't get over this ongoing sensation that I've entered a realm that isn't real. And yet here I am, back in the zone, putting out another offering, and, (be honest Pam), delighted when there's a response. Often I have felt like a shy cook, slipping my plate of victuals onto the table with a self-consciously casual hand. Barely able to look at what I'd prepared, and astonished to discover that someone had come for a nibble. My first response to diving into this world was a huge sigh of relief to be back writing, and the small morsel approach of the blog seemed just the right proportion for me right now. It's taken not very long to learn that of course this is not just about me writing... it's about connecting. And that for me, holds both potent opportunity and pitfalls. I love connecting with people. I want to be resonating with the ideas of others - and for them to be resonating with mine. The pitfall: that I start to hanker to hear back from this non-tangible community, mostly neither known nor seen, who may or may not be reading this right now. That a blog of mine goes out and takes its place without any echo - that's ok. That's what I'm telling myself.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


My introduction to the word kairos came shortly after my sister was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We were on the phone in different islands, just days after the news that her liver had secondary cancer, even though no prior primary had been found. She talked about concepts, new to her, of chronos and kairos, describing them as horizontal and vertical time. We were blinded by (and blind to) the possibility that her life passage through chronological time could be cut short by death. But on the phone that day, as we talked about kairos time, we both 'got it' - the mystery and the substance. There is tIme that is yesterday and today and tomorrow, and there is time that is so imbued with 'now' that it's off the tracks, no longer earth bound, and ballooning with possibilities. In the subsequent 12 months we went on to experience, in parcels of shared days, Kairos's capacious and unbounded gift. Kairos has come unbidden at other times of my life, often in the company of crisis. It seemed in these moments that alchemy had taken place, transmuting pain to something redolent with peace, even joy. But the other beautiful and baffling characteristic was the altered sense of time. Was that a minute, or an hour or a day? Time no longer took me or, if in company, others, forward through time, but rather wrapped us like an ever-changing perfectly fitting shawl.

Recently I have been reading about the ancient Greeks who not only named kairos but gave it form. This given shape is intriguing: a winged male with a forelock hanging over his forehead and a bald skull at the back. The hank of hair, according to early writings, is an invitation - a lure to take action. To seize Kairos in our fist. The lack of hair at the back - a bald reminder that the opportunity can be lost. This odd and ungodlike figure, and the ungainly action he invites from us mortals, has given me pause. Rather than letting kairos descend (or ascend) like a divine grace, maybe I (we) can practice the art of getting out of step with chronos. Is it as simple as a reaching out, a grabbing, a resolute holding on? If this man has wings, I'll certainly lose my footing. Perhaps I'll give it a try.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I had a fantasy while on holiday (exiled from phones and computers) that I would next blog on ertia. It pleased me that there was no such word. I had the sense that I had made a new discovery. Liberation from the forces that bind. I found I was easing my way into all sorts of unlikely pm activities: cycling on bikes we had carted across the Alps to the coast; dipping oars in Okarito's Lagoon; walking steadilly up steep inclines to breath-taking lookout points. I was gleaming with the satisfaction of someone who was engaging with the physical world, and taking the body in hand at the same time. Inspired by a Doug Sellman book, I had even taken up a feminised version of morning exercises and stretches - sit-ups, squats, pressuppishes and the like.

What I have since discovered is the smooth slide back to what I now like to think of as the fulcrum of the inertia/momentum seesaw. There is little to boast about here in this straddled position, but there is a certain peace about not getting too surrendered to momentum, nor too stilled by that other force, unleashed by inactivity. The year has begun and so I give myself to what I must: my work; my hosting. I breathe deeply. I forgive myself for what I'm not achieving. I exercise heart and brain to remember what will really count this (and every) year: relationships. And ... bushy haired and creaky ... I still (20 days in) do my first-thing five minute Doug Sellman routine.