For Scott


Already late Autumn
but still warm,
we sat outside
under those perfect trees,
our wine pale gold.
Friends' knowing laughter,
fretting casually about mothers
and work, what could be done,
the bizarre violence of bureaucracies.

Your face was golden brown,
as round as a nut,
summer's mirror.
Your sleeveless top - a trademark -
your close-cropped hair
not quite proper
in this establishment of Higher Learning
you loved and derided.

I grizzled about the stresses,
the usual tired grumblings -
I wasn't loved enough,
my students seemed unmoved,
I could do better if they cared.
You listened, playing camp mother
to perfection,
hazel eyes intent,
offering the hard word-knots
with which you honoured me,
commanding your stuttering share
of the time.

I still miss your open face,
your comings and goings
at my office door,
that air of long summers
sweeping in with you,
an ageless Puck,
carefully irreverent,
promising to come again.

I won't forget
you once invited me -
it was inconvenient, I was busy -
to visit your new place,
your own fresh, light, breezy rooms.
You had painted them
bright, dazzling, sail-ship white.

It was a celebration.
You served bowls of lollies -
snakes, sherbets and smarties.
There was laughter, and love
and cool kids posturing
that broody summer's night.
You welcomed me
as if I belonged.
I couldn't stay long,
work to do.
You were ravishing among your friends,
a colossal-hearted boy
preparing to fly away.




Since I am subject to the fall of light
on the low hills, the green elegance
of swaying trees pierced
with every season,
black rain and golden heat,
I am, then,
subject to the rise and tow
of earth, which was created
not by me, but by the power
of winds and time, calling
in a voice I cannot quite hear,
except, perhaps, in the broil
and moan of earth’s loveliness,
in the deep sigh of its turning
away from me, with no malice,
always to be there
while I pass by
in brief light,
flickering dissolve
with leaf and rock,
rainfall, air and earth.
So, I am subject to transforming death
which stands beside all loveliness,
recording who I am,
and am not.

Fig Tree

Fig Tree


Your fat green hands clap in the wind,
Rasp, clatter, part.
Breathing light across the lawn
you are a bird heaven,
a back-yard jam factory
fermenting your juices,
oozing and sweet.
I am the dapple queen beneath.
You make for me, in your spreading arms
a picture, a place, a world.
There are stories you tell,
from a long sunlit memory
of women in wide straw hats,
sipping tea and whispering
secrets in your shade,
of children who peek, laughing Pans
hopping through the branches;
of mothers making endless jam,
sticky to the elbows.
You are memory.
When all knowing disappears,
when fears grip,
you smile the seasons at me,
silver or green.
I circle round you, branching totem,
transformed in your moving light,
enchanted back
into the living stream.

Winter Gift

Winter Gift


Tonight I am lit
by Neruda's blue stars
and admit to being
a voluptuary of night scents,
cool-breathing Daphne,
Pittostorum, and creamy Freesia.
I roll in the soft moon green
of imagined hillsides,
am brushed by flickering wings,
feel in my fingers
the buzz of simmering burrows.
I crouch in the fig-tree's arms,
her silver candelabra,
her water-green tips
tenderly igniting for the black sky,
for the seasons turning,
not random or rare,
but familiar as dream.
Arms full-stretched, hands open,
I'm laughing out loud, in a shower
of winged and shimmering gifts.

Her Song

Her Song
For Jeri Kroll


There is a constant saw
gnawing at her immensely warm-hearted,
centrally-heated bourgeois body,
damp-leafed autumn settling down
outside. Inside,
cosy tribal rhythms and rituals.
Today she reads extensively,
an insider, able
to read poetry,
possessing time,
nodding at plump shadows
lit by the delineating sun,
butter yellow, velvet black,
days in the garden, moons that cradle
her robust children asleep.
Drawn with care, her world breeds
a kind of purpose, a past
unfolding the future
sweet as stolen fruit.
She rests in these pleasures:
smooth-limbed child-love,
the thick loyalties of lover and friends,
the thousand freedoms
to choose better, and the best,
warmth at a touch,
whisky hot in the throat.

But on the page, words
look back and sneer,
tight, bitter-green emblems,
structures of time
without need.
She drives in the late afternoon
to buy bread, and milk,
pizza and a video,
past the station where grey figures
squat waiting,
exhausted or bored, bowed
in a blurring autumn rain.
Are poets, now, the only ones
especially unable
to know the cold outside,
the damned tiredness,
the hunger
beyond words?

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Waiting, something opens
without our willing it,
without force.
Calm, in half-light, the horizon
crosses our sight,
the opening
of a dawn, a memory,
half-hoped for
metaphors coming home,
familiar ghosts, dreamed of
as they cross through loved fields
and dry gullies,
bringing with them unspoken conversation,
new thought, suspended
without knowing,
awaited, but unattended.
A vastness of silent notes
accompanies us, a symphony
we have longed to hear
of belief far beyond
interpretation, open
to the swinging movement, and the resting
between here and any horizon
you have ever dreamed, seeing
the other side
of this surrounding openness
coming to meet us,
this spaciousness, holy and held,
where words and silence merge
immeasurable in their own resting.

Reflections: The Finitude of Language

The theological critic, Ian Almond, discusses the thirteenth-century Dominican mystic, Eckhart von Hochheim, better known as Meister Eckhart, and his desire “to reach a place where one can ultimately abandon [words] altogether” (1999:161). However, this is unlike Jacques Derrida, for instance, whom Almond sees as placing “words…under erasure because of a restless play within language,” and “not because of some linguistic incapacity to express an elusive signified ‘out-there’” (1999: 160). In other words, “Semantic instability – that is, radical indeterminacy within finite parameters of play – makes such Durchkreuzung (erasure) necessary,” and not, as in the case of Meister Eckhart, “the presence of some ineffable unsignifiable which constantly makes us lament how ‘finite’ and ‘imperfect’ our language is” (Almond 1999: 160). In Almond’s words, to “talk truthfully…about God/language is a forever unfinished project” which Meister Eckhart translates as “man’s finitude of thought” – forever undercutting “every attempt to say what God/language is” (1999: 161).

As I read my own poetry, the ontological and theological frameworks for inquiring into the inadequacy or limits of language are not cause for lament, but are utterly intriguing and instructive. There is a middle path, between Derrida and Eckhart, between play and limit. For me, accepting such assumptions leads me to consider not just the nature of language, but the finiteness of the player in the field, the finite lamenter seeking an unreachable and ineffable something – God? Humanity? Art as salvific? As language animals, humans must know their own finitude at the same time as they continue to reach for the light, again and again.

How, in response to the unfinished nature of language, does one write, think, act, believe? What does it mean to proceed with this premise about language and human destiny, that they are steeped in the “finitude of thought”? Some will not even bother to countenance such a premise, pursuing Art and the many forms of language supremacy like little gods or masters. But others will indeed lament, or learn to lament, the fallibility and finitude of language. Some (like Derrida?) will acknowledge this premise, but act otherwise, continuing to use language playfully, joyously, productively, not concerned with the final telos, which does not exist. Yet others (like Meister Eckhart?) will accept such a premise, and will seek a silence beyond all human chatter and form.

This, I expect, is why so many of my poems are about recognizing the finitude of language and of the language animal. From the poem “Word-knots”, dedicated to a friend who suffered from extreme stuttering to “Her Song” and the page from where “words look back and sneer,” I see a recurrent need to question the limits of words and their power. Language takes us so far, but also raises the question of what, if anything, is beyond language.

At one end of my poetry there is this suspicion of the limitedness of language in the face of human suffering. At the other end there is an informing desire to reach with Meister Eckhart for the unfathomable giftedness beyond language: an awe, even an exalting acknowledgement “of earth, which was created/not by me, but by the power/of winds and time, calling/in a voice I cannot quite hear” (“Argument”); or of “Arms full-stretched, hands open,/ …laughing out loud, in a shower/ of winged and shimmering gifts” (“Winter Gifts”); or even of

the other side
of this surrounding openness
coming to meet us,
this spaciousness, holy and held,
where words and silence merge
immeasurable in their own resting (“Gelassenheit”).


Almond, Ian (1999). “Negative Theology, Derrida and the Critique of Presence: A Poststructuralist Reading of Meister Eckhart,” Heythrop Journal, Vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 150-165.


Lyn McCredden, a Professor of Literary Studies at Deakin University in Melbourne, has authored, co-authored and co-edited eight books in the areas of Australian poetry and fiction, the writing of poetry, and literature and the sacred since the early ’nineties. She has also been president of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature in 2004/2005 and is a member of the editorial board of its leading journal, the JASAL. Her tireless promotion of Australian literature locally and abroad is manifested as much by her co-authorship with Rose Lucas of Bridgings: Reading Australian Women’s Poetry (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1996) as by her extended interviews with, for example, Judith Rodriguez in Australian Literary Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2 (1997) or Robert Gray in Double Dialogues, Issue Five [“Dialogues with Poets”] (Summer 2003), not to say her visiting professorship at Berlin’s Freie Universität in 2011. Notwithstanding her intense literary critical activities, her poetry has appeared in, for example, Overland, Eureka Street, Prosopisia: An International Journal of Poetry & Creative Writing, and, most recently, in the anthology Australian Love Poems, 2nd ed., ed. Mark Tredinnick (Melbourne: Inkerman & Blunt, 2014).


All poems, whether previously published or not, are included here with the permission of the author.