The Lichen’s Lyrics


He sits before the sunset and wonders
at the slow language of the planet
that slips by us in words longer than lifetimes
sung to the lyrics of the lichen longing
for translation as the fading light falls
through the cave at just the right angle
to engulf the tapestry with fire.

And he stares into the golden night, wondering
what whispered secrets the clouds keep,
like how to fade into blue, dissolve into nothing
and then return
to dance with air and floating seas,
the river of the sky singing a duet
with the slow language of sunset
in a melody it takes a life to hear.

And like the clouds, so long the keepers
of our secrets, we get to dance with floating water,
we get to be the wildness and the wet
every time we fall, every time we are drawn back
up into the blue until the only dream that’s left
is to sing slow words with lichen
and wait
for one day each spring when the sun sets
at just the right angle to light it all up.


We swam your ashes out into the blue
way beyond the break where I knew,
like a child standing in a bucket
connected to the marvelous,
that we are born of water
and all we did was help you back
as the rain swept in and wrote it’s secrets
into the open sand.

Later, a pod of dolphins swam by
and I swear there was some fishy being
glittering just below the surface
so that when I want to see you
I need just ask
the wind and waves where you are.

Not that you’re with them, there on the beach,
no; you are them and I need just ask,
just knock on the sky and listen for the colour,
walk right in and ask

if this is water as it really is,
the swirling memory of everyone you loved,
everyone you hated, everyone you never knew,
and what it’s like to just keep swimming.


A line of trees
dances in the distance,
swaying drunkenly
before the slate-roofed
houses boxing forward
like some gray beast
set to blow apart this
summer day.

But in the foreground,
a wide green field
and a single LBJ –
little brown jobbie –
bird of my childhood
singing softly of
something unimportant,
but a song nonetheless…

And to the left
a broken shadecloth
flaps lazily back
and forth so that
I can see
the shape of wind,
feel it rustling
in the eaves,
a whole world
acting as the
backup choir for
a little brown bird:

an eternity in itself.

Of Foxes and Fences

I slip from shade to shadow

sniffing at the light,

tentative paw passing

shards of grass in icy sheaths,

pinpricked moonlight

as the world refracts, retracts

before my loping gait,

swift silence across

the flooded plains and

into welcome darkness.


Creature of the night,

wandering ages hence

where no wall nor fence

has ever stood and

standing, fell,

for no mending lasts

against shade and shadow

and the steady clock

tick-tock temporary line

until time is up.


The fox flows away

eyes alive to night,

returning me to I

my little sight of life.

Still, sometimes she calls,

stealthy vixen of the dark,

across flooded fields

piercing, painful, sharp:

a reminder of within

our many-voicéd kin.

“Greenpop Raindrops”

An old log lies rotting in
damp green glades which
invade the fallen sentinel,
breaking through her bark.

But this is no sad story,
as the wet wood gets
smashed by spades and
splintered mulch feeds
thousands of new trees planted
by hippies and treehuggers
trying to rebuild forests
lost to blind greed and
the Age of Plastic Things.

The Eastern Cape Monarch,
ancient ruler of this realm,
slowly turns to watch
while waterfalls whisper
misty encouragement;
the Madonna and Child
brought to life in
falling sheets of light,
dancing rainbows which
play in the cool forest,
turning raindrops green
as they shock the skin,
pinpricks of nature
sent to remind us
of our heritage as
trees begin to grow
and the fallen log
disintegrates further.

Life cycles forever on
and we must play each part;
planted tree and fallen log,
dancing in the darkness
while stormclouds gather
and the Earth begins to breathe.

“The Living Sea”

Brown patches of life
have invaded the ocean,
turning the white waves
into a curling crash of
invisible creatures.

A gnarled old fisherman
with salt-encrusted pants
tells me it’s plankton
as he casts his line,
using a sinker and hope
to hook his supper.

Google tells me that
it is algal bloom, but
the fisherman’s story
is far better,
drawing a Southern Right
almost into the beakers
to investigate his fiction.

The tide advances,
the Earth rises to the sun,
sea mist rolls over dunes
and the fisherman disappears
as I stroll down the beach
contemplating this patchy life
which I have no answer to,
while the Indian Ocean
murmurs her ancient tune:
tat tvam asi
tat tvam asi
tat tvam asi.

“Te Rerenga Wairua”

There’s a place of ancient myth

in the north of New Zealand

where spirits of the departed

take their final leave from

our land of the living and

plunge into the breakers

where Tasman meets Pacific,

forming whirlpools and whitewash

to wish the travellers well on

their way to the Three Kings

and lands we dare not know.


A single tree, old as the sea,

stands guard on the rocky point,

its roots forming stairs for

the descending dead as

they head for one more swim.

It has never flowered,

watching somberly as salty

winds blow across the shore,

leaving no room for life,

save that ancient pohutukawa,

sprung from the rock itself.


You can feel the Maori ancestors

in this leaping-off place of spirits,

keeping careful watch over the

clashing seas which guard

the gateway to another world,

just glimpsed in the dancing spray

of waves born in different oceans,

come to meet their end here

and guide the lost souls back

to their final resting place

deep beneath the rolling waters.

“The Wolves of Chernobyl”

Deep in the zone around Chernobyl,

the animals have all returned.

Industrious beavers busy building

dams and blocking canals to

flood ancient wetlands again,

while shy deer and moose

look to make the most of

the absence of humanity.

Through deserted towns with

desolated streets and houses

the grey wolf wanders once more,

howling mournfully at the moon

and pawing the radioactive soil.


Nature’s adaptability is astounding,

but the rapid re-growth of green

over anything man-made

at Chernobyl is chilling,

proving that mere human presence is

more destructive than a melt down

as catastrophic as forty Hiroshima’s.

We are forgotten by the forests

less than fifty years after we left,

trailing an invisible poison that

infected earth, air and water,

but one still unable to stop

the wandering grey wolf.


He howls his melancholy song

about the brief reign of apes

who killed themselves with a

chain reaction, started long ago.

The wolves of Chernobyl know,

better than most of us, that

on a long enough timeline,

everyone fails.

They melt into the night,

padding over the snow

as the wind picks up and

the poisonous land

breathes once more.

“Dystopian Utopia”

The trees stand out on the ridge

like nature’s smokestacks,

bark-covered chimneys belching

out the dark clouds in columns

streaming over the mountain,

catching the sunshine strangely

between gathered drops of rain

harvested from the Earth.


Forest factories producing pollution

that we, unnatural beings, breathe

caught between technology and nature

(as if the two were separate!)

We are evolution’s own evolvability

smack bang on a course between

born and made; our own saviours

and lab-induced Frankensteins.


We can disregard our messiahs,

turn away from the monsters

of our ambitious creation,

or we can recognise we are

an inextricable part of nature,

not needing to ‘go back’,

but rather extend our minds

with collective connection.


“Man is not an end, but a bridge”

said Nietzsche, for

“We are the universe becoming

conscious of itself”.

Which is quite a grand thought,

I think, as the rain comes

marching through the trees

and a rainbow slowly forms.

“Walking with Wordsworth”

I stood outside and watched

some boys playing a game,

their faces red from running,

shirts brown from sliding

across the rain-soaked grass.

The storm had passed and

it didn’t smell like Africa,

but the world felt fresh and I,

a pagan suckled in a creed outworn,

went for a stroll through the sunset.


I walked passed the lines of cars

watching the faces of the people

contrasted with the light show

put on in four-part harmony by

the sun and staggered clouds,

culminating in the eruption

of a long-extinct volcano

shooting colour into sky,

roused by rumbling boots

while traffic crawled slowly by.


They didn’t seem very happy,

all these driven masses

travelling well-worn roads,

unable to stand and watch

the final act as it closed

with dusty orange streaks

floating over the moon.

So I stood, looked up forlorn,

and turned before the coming night

hoping to hear Triton’s wreathed horn.