Poems about Distance & Separation

She wouldn’t come – afraid of drowning.
He wouldn’t stay – afraid of soldiers.
He went without her, would send for her later,
no children – still they wanted a future.
He couldn’t look at the streaks on her face,
turned his back and walked away.
His Goodbye is left on her pillow,
hers packed with bread and cheese in his bag.
Strong boots for walking, his phone and passport,
all their savings in a waterproof pouch.

Groups of Philippino women sit on islands
of flattened boxes in city spaces. A day off
to rest in their own languages,

sharing all they’ve got – pungent
adobo or bagoong cooked in odd moments
at work and wrapped in foil. This is how it is

when you have nowhere to be.
They cut each other’s hair, try new styles,
understanding the way it falls.

They plan ahead to the week or so
they’ll spend at home for Christmas,
seeing loved ones for that year. They lean

against one another, scrolling through
mobiles. Above the hurly rush of passersby
the words Hang Seng Bank glitter like a tiara.

When there’s nowhere to be, this is how it is –
so long as they’re together – this is somewhere.




I’d last seen her resplendent in feather boa.
Bright pink dungarees.
Reading her poems of rebellion.
Singing soaring.

I heard her voice in my fitful sleep that night.
Hard to believe I wouldn’t hear it again.

I woke in darkness.
I listened as you breathed beside me.
I turned towards you.
Drinking in life
Thinking of the things we hadn’t done yet.
She’d marked her page well.

You stirred and reached for me.
We slipped back into our dreams.
Safe, warm, home, breathing.

Your Content Goes Here

My grandmother’s comb is within my pocket
I feel its tines on the curve of my head.
The tug and pull the knots my screwed-up face
my tears for leaving, her strokes of regret.

I know there is resistance to my being here
another seeking refuge, a statistic, a number.
I put the comb to my ear to conjure my home
All I hear are her tears, her sounds of regret.

Each day I count its fine wooden teeth
her palm is my palm in the curved mellow wood.
I give her thanks ‘something of me’ she’d said
and carry forever her strokes of regret.

Krople żołądkowe n. Polish (stomach bitters, English)

Krople żołądkowe help for all kinds of pains —
they can release the tightest stomach knots,
pungent, burning your insides.
Mom always told me to have them with sugar,
but healing hurts, so I had them on their own.

Nobody ever tested their effectiveness,
yet we’re all certain that they do work – always.

Krople żołądkowe have serious side effects —
healing bodies, but destroying souls.
They leave unwashable stains,
smelling of Polish meadows, fresh cut daisies
like dandelion seeds carried by the wind,
irritating nostrils.

Physical pain comes out as sneezes and tears,
so it’s good to have them with sugar,
sweeten the taste of longing.

Krople żołądkowe leave stains
in the shape of the time that’s passed.

They say when one door closes,
another one will open.
But there is safety in the empty space.
Ever so boring. Ever so guarded.

I don’t care for the summer,
With its blue skies and sunshine.
The cold of winter offers shelter for me.
Ever so quiet. Ever so still.

With everyone so busy,
It’s easy to disappear.
Hidden between the crowds.
Ever so forgotten. Forgotten but safe.

Home is here now. This
country tucked under the Southern side
of a huge and endless ocean.

It was a sudden leaving, March 2020,
deciding with a week’s notice as the world closed in.

This far side of the earth…. 38 hours flying. The huge palace
of Dubai airport
where air conditioning keeps out the desert heat. The heart beat of
Australia beneath me.

Here now, the days getting longer
in September. The yellow flowers of
the kowhai trees in the sun
attract Tuis
who sing to me.

I ring my 91 year old father late at night
in his morning.
Always so glad to hear from me,
He shares stories of his crop of enormous onions, and jokes from our shared past.

On the video screen on my phone
my two nephew’s show me the game
they are creating. Mountains, lakes, rivers,
a small city. ‘I
Love you’ we call out
as we hang up.

I lie in my bed
as the bright Antipodean sunshine
pours in through the narrow windows.
On the skyline the Tararua mountains meet
blue promise.

Refuge was the school library
at breaktime with Claire from maths. For a while I felt safe from my house, where the walls creaked in time with doors that slammed. A teacher said choose a book and hold it tight, close your eyes, count to ten and a room will appear with everything you love. In my room there was a ginger cat, asleep by a window that framed the sea. In the corner was a ballerina turning and turning in a jewellery box and I could hear gulls call to each other, as if they knew my name. Years later when I visit my room there is a photograph of Claire, the one they used in the newspapers. I hope my gulls call to her wherever she is
hope they bring her home.