pocket-sized stories from near and far by a knobbly kneed lady of the sea

The Bronte Splashers

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In the mottled pool

Sea turtle heads bob

In lazy orbits.


The routine:

Dip    bake    dip    bake

Coconut oil thrown

In small tides, and hourly

Across rumpled  skin.


He defies cancer

It’s sunscreen, that’ll give to you

Does his wife adore

The tangerine tint?


As salt crystals dry crunchy

On porous sandstone,

On backs and shoulders

And on our bodies

Yet to grow brittle,

like theirs.


In the Ladies

Curved bedrock

Valley and crevice

Toughened and ground down

By wind and years,

Bending un/gracefully

They are free of our younger angst.


In curtained costumes

And swim caps,

Their goose pimpled flesh

Prepares for invigoration

And the sudden sensation

Of ice water.


As surfers speckle

The line-up

Like ants

And just as ravenous,

The waves do summersaults.


Photo: Lee Morgan





In the Tenderloin

A man with bloodied foot

Yelled that middle class women


Outside Amoeba

Your mum – visiting for three weeks

Stepped on a human shit

And it was entertaining

For the guy selling the Streetsheet


That was before we bought

Towns Van Zandt’s record

And remembered

To talk about the sweetness of springtime

Every now and again


And you found

That codeine was a good friend


When the Giants won the World Series

A drunken mob set a bus on fire

And the lady standing next to you

Made the most of the broken windows of an electronics store


Berkeley went crazy on mushrooms

And you thought you would end up

In Rockland with Carl Solomon

Or in the Tenderloin with bloodied foot

Yelling something about

Middle class women


Across the bay in Oakland

At the Fox Theatre

Car horns sounded

And people cheered back from the sidewalk

Because Obama was back in

And we had a martini with a guy called Larry

Who kept saying

It’s a good day, it’s a real good day


At midnight

When the storm came

We left the calm of no. 24

And climbed the bald hill

At Bernal

Fell into the violent wind

With Tessa

And the incandescence stretched out ahead

To touch the racing stars


(This poem was published by Verity La)

Wordsmiths of Frisco

Kerouac’s ‘frisco’ holds a romantic space in many of our imaginations. Before leaving, I secretly thought of myself there on the steep streets of that city, writing and reciting poetry and drinking red wine with other ragged, wannabe beatnicks.

But I didn’t go to poetry readings in dingy, dimly lit rooms in cramped North Beach apartments. I went to pay homage with all the other tourists, at the bar where Kerouac used to drink. With the masses, I browsed the bookshop that published Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ when it was considered rude and obscene. Lurked in the poetry room upstairs. Drank the words in those books like liquor from an old boot.



Happily, my time there wasn’t completely bereft of writing. I did have a poetry class once a week. My teacher was 85 year old Dan Langton who spent the class telling us stories from years gone by. He was like a grandfather, telling his grandchildren tales from his youth, rambling, unable to stop. And sometimes you wanted to put your head down on the table and go to sleep. Often though, if you listened you learned something. Not how to write a poem, by God no, but just stuff, about life. Looking through my book now, I find small wisdoms everywhere. I will share some with you:

“Death is reality only when you are dead.”

“University is for delaying adult decisions.”

“Learning should be useful and sweet.”

“If a poet writes something that you have to be a learned person to get, then he’s a snot.” – Thanks Langton, I needed to hear that!

“Lie and lie and lie until you see the truth.” – From Picasso.

Toward the end of semester he said about our assignments: “There are only three grades possible. I have never given a D or an F in my life. I’ll leave that to God.” (Langton is a staunch atheist).

On progress: “One of the joys of the world is to sit on a train and watch the world go by. I took a fast train to Marseille once, and no one looked out the window. If you did it was like looking at a bottle of homogenised milk.”

“The only true contemptible emotion is contempt.”

“If you want to know the names of the rivers, don’t stray too far from the water. And take the advice of those who have waded in it.”

“Go home. Be wise. Do good.”

I borrowed one of his books of poetry from the university library, it was full of love sonnets to his wife.


Leaning Toward Canaan


Silence cups the ear

Hills of boulder rise,

As if each smooth rock put

One atop the other

Dropped precisely and deliberately

From above,

The expansive dome.


Speckled across ferrous sand

The Joshua tree like an army

Poised for crusade

In timeless moment

Leaning toward Canaan.

Stories From the Desert

Meeting quirky locals in desert towns is surely one of the charms of California road trips. This is Gordon’s place. Now in his seventies, Gordon is a proud and patriotic long time resident of the town of Joshua Tree. We happened upon him one morning when we parked our van outside his house while making our morning cuppa. He taught us a lot in that half an hour. For example, how and why the Joshua Tree came to be. In his brown, sandy front yard (for there are no green lawns here) stood a warped, spiny thing—half tree, half cactus. “Is that a Joshua Tree?” we inquired. “That’s him”, replied our friend, “reachin’ up every mornin’, praisin’ ta God”. Sure enough, the tree had two main limbs, reaching out to the heavens. We looked at Gordon with the telltale eyes of non-believers. But he did not waiver. He stared at us with the fiery conviction of a man who has never experienced doubt. “That’s what he’s doin. He’s prayin’ to God! That’s why He made them that way!”

As one might suspect from this corner of the earth, Gordon is a deeply religious man. Living in San Francisco, you don’t get a lot of rif raf like Gordon. Mostly you get greenie, atheist lesbians, and so on and so forth. Which is why we love it so much. But a visit to the States could never be legitimate without running into a character like this. Gordon also told us that he died for a minute and a half once. He went to heaven and it was like being a child seeing the bright lights of Disneyland for the first time. He said he’s not worried, because he knows where he’s going, and he knows where we’re going too! Bless.


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The Cray Fisherman


Down by the silvering inlet

You watched me

Watch a stingray dance

It fluttered on the water’s rippled surface

And went.

Traffic lights

You say,

I don’t know how you do it.

It was talked about

When Moruya got its first

And only set.


Down on 24th and Mission

I watch you

Watch a woman dance

She whirls as someone plays violin

By the metro station

To an emptying street

Her red dress

A flit of colour

Suspended under night air

And gone.


You steer your boat home

To your quiet inlet

Its swirling eddies

And are happy.

Stories From The City

San Francisco is the city of nostalgia. We walk its streets looking for the stoned ghosts of Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix. They sit in the gutters of our hearts as we walk up Haight Street. These days it’s all unwashed youths dreaming of anarchy, and T-shirt shops capitalizing on a bygone era. But as we wander up the sticky footpath, we imagine this place in the summer of love. We slip ourselves into the antique coloured scene of our minds eye. Hair down to the bum, rambling and unbrushed, underarms overgrown. And there’s a creeping of something into our hearts, something left over, lingering. It oozes from the cracking pavement of this hung over, smacked out, sold out strip of history.