Who Has Seen the Wind
Who has seen the wind
Whence it comes, whither it goes?
Who has seen the Spirit of the Universe?
Who is not in awe of cosmic mysteries?
Man thirsts for knowledge of his maker
We know you are there – somewhere.
‘Ah’, we say, ‘We will make you in our image,
We will give you space in our three-tiered universe,
We will lead you captive into our houses of worship,
Our words we will write as your sacred scriptures.’
‘This is the word of the Lord,’ we will say,
Your nature we will enshrine in our creeds.
Your very mind will be revealed
In our doctrines and dogmas.
‘Ah,’ we will say
‘We have captured you God,
You cannot hide,
You cannot escape,
You are ours,
And ours alone.
Now we are safe.’
Who has seen the wind?
Whence it comes, whither it goes.
Hebrew ruach feminine – wind or spirit.
‘The wind bloweth where it listeth and thou heareth the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth … ‘ John 3:8
‘As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.’ Ecclesiastes 11:5.
Why is that rose so beauteous?
Was it thus at dawn’s creation?
It enters as a modest bud,
Nothing fancy, nothing fluent,
Its blooms ignite.
Solomon, in all his glory, could not compete.
With form and structure so petite,
How can it be?
Why is it so?
We do not ponder its creation,
We take it all for granted,
‘’Twas always thus’ we say.
Was its parent ever plain
In trying perfection to attain?
Where from did it get its urge
From less beauteous objects to emerge?
‘My genes are patient
My progress ancient
Success will crown my path.’
Has this rose, with such display
Said to its DNA along the way,
‘I must proceed with great intent
I must attract with form and scent
My petal more exotic,
My perfume more erotic!’
And so the weary DNA mutates
And scent and petal renovates,
A million years is but a day,
That former rose is now passé.
And so the bees and butterflies,
Responding to our rose’s enterprise
Take note of colours and of smells
And bring their pollen that impels
An even faster transformation
Of the rose’s reformation
The bee alights and sips the nectar,
In its role as a collector.
Can our rose sense satisfaction
For its master’s benefaction?
And so the genome of our rose
Leaps ever upward to compose.
What implanted, desperate urge,
Can cause such beauty to emerge?
We humbly bow before this mystery,
We stand in awe at history
What splendour and what grace endears
Such patience that awaits a billion years.
Pause and contemplate
When next you see a rose,
The miracle before your eyes,
The scent beneath your nose.For Charlie, December 2013
This poem was written the year after John Pfitzner died unexpectantly at the young age of 70 and encapsulates the widespread feeling of deep loss among his close friends.
How’ve you been JP?
Things aren’t the same since you left,
So quick it was,
No time to say goodbye,
Caught us unawares;
You being so young,
So strong, so healthy,
So much more to offer.
The day went off well – sort of,
Not how you would want,
Lots of ‘In the name of …’
As you were wont to say.
Many spoke about your life,
But the essence went unspoken –
Your struggles, your triumphs,
The important things that made you.
No-one now to push the frontiers,
No-one to blaze a trail,
We thought of one or two
But they all came up short;
Your vision was way ahead,
Further than we dared to think,
Truth, unbound by orthodoxy,
An unafraid and questioning mind.
Refusing to be bogged down
With feet of clay, in the doctrines
And dogmas of your upbringing,
Soaring like an eagle
Into clear uncharted skies,
Giving visions to those around you –
Those prepared to listen.
Your life an unfinished symphony,
With refreshing chords, resonant
Among those of many persuasions;
Those without a doctrinaire bent,
Those honest in the pursuit of truth.
Our worldview changes,
Cosmos and evolution
Enter our spiritual world.
Your headstone looks a treat;
A poem is etched,
‘One Day’ – one of your best –
‘One day you finally knew’…
Spring is in the air,
It’s been a cold winter,
The buds are swelling,
The odd blossom bursting …
Are you happy now;
I somehow think you are.
The cycle moves on,
We play our small roles.
We thought to set
The record straight,
But on second thoughts,
You wouldn’t want it.August, 2014
The Final Test
Recollections of failed final exams in medicine, 1957. The custom in those days was for the newly graduated doctors to immediately work as locum tenens, enabling general practitioners to take a holiday. This window of opportunity existed for December/January, before the compulsory intern year began in February each year. Those who failed had to find alternative employment – such as driving a taxi!
Sid Krantz was an autocratic Jewish surgeon at the Royal Adelaide Hospital who had received acclamation for his wartime exploits whilst a prisoner of war of the Japanese on the Burma Siam Railway in 1942-43.
They were going well
Those final tests
It was the second week,
But he was tiring badly.
Next up the surgery viva,
Alan Lendon was the one –
‘Check that groin, my son,’ he barked.
‘Yes Sir,’ he said,
‘Give a cough, my man,’
‘And now another,’
Ah, he has it.
‘Well son, we have others on our list.’
‘Yes Sir, it’s a hernia Sir – indirect.
So far, so good,
He moves on to the next.
‘Just look at those legs, my boy.’
The biggest veins he ever saw.
But then it happened –
He froze, he stammered,
Didn’t know what to say.
‘Varicose veins Sir,’ he blurted out,
‘Yes, we can all see that!’
The surgeons looked at him
Then at each other
‘That’ll be all,’ they said –
In measured tones.
He staggered out,
As in a trance
‘You’ve blown it lad,’
Indeed he had.
His mind went back
A ward round eight weeks ere,
‘Twas Siddy Krantz of world war fame.
The special test for veins it was,
‘You boy, at the back,
Tell me what I just said!’
It had been a good weekend,
The one just passed
And Siddy quite broke
His train of thought.
‘When I give my time to teach,
You listen, Son.’
‘I’m sorry, Sir,’ he said.
The moment passed,
No further thought,
No looking up the books that night,
Another lesson never learnt.
What a fool!
What a halfwit!
Someone with half a brain
Would have checked the test that night!
And been prepared
For that last exam.
Alas! Too late, too late.
And so the story goes,
Results are pinned
His name’s not there.
Come back next May
And try again.
No locum tenens for you, my boy,
‘Tis driving taxis on the road.
A lonely figure was observed regularly over the several days that Ross and his helpers were cementing in a headstone on his convict great grandfather’s grave at Nuntin Cemetery, Stratford in Gippsland – March, 2003.
We were in Stratford Town
Setting up our headstone
In the Nuntin graveyard
And suddenly there he was
Sitting on a bench,
We, all of us,
Worked hard and long
Cementing our headstone on its base
And, again he was there,
Sitting in his old car, head in hands,
We had our dedication,
The Dean of Sale, he gave the address,
Sam’s offspring came from far and near,
We said our farewells and moved from the grave,
That haunting figure was there, yet again,
Our Sam was buried long ago,
One hundred and thirty years before,
This sad figure had buried his wife
Barely ten days before,
His grief consumed his waking hours,
We knew not where he lived and loved,
We knew not what his memories were,
He came each day to sit and grieve,
As close as close could be
To the temple that enshrined his wife,
But now returned to dust.
Note: This poem was written during and after admission to Ashford Hospital for an angiogram.
‘Lovely clean ‘jarmies, the bag it’s all packed,
A toothbrush and comb, and hankies to spare
Your funeral arrangements, you were to enact?
Your rhymes are a pain and to me they do wear,
Choose a good venue – and pick a nice tract.
Your faith’s disappeared, your cupboard quite bare’.
‘Leave him with us and we’ll put him to bed,
You can go home and he’ll stay in our care.
When everything’s done and there’s nothing unsaid
We’ll give you a ring, and we’ll make you aware.’
‘Take off your gear and just fold it instead,
Then go to the toilet and sit on this chair.’
They come and they go and I’m left to await,
That funeral you know, it just keeps in my mind,
Should I have hymns and a prayer to orate?
Maybe Syd Carter with lyrics defined
A rev’rand or celebrant there to narrate
God is confused, he could leave me behind.
That blackbird, he’s up there amaking his nest,
He’s busy as busy as busy can be
I’m seeing him coming and going with zest.
They’ve got some big possums up there in the tree.
‘How are you going young fella at rest,
You could be the next if I rightly forsee.’
‘We’ve had some hard cases to test our aplomb
Perhaps you’ll relax and just look at our box,
Or maybe your Apple and look up dot com.’
… I surely will say that I am het’rodox,
So after my fun’ral they’ll take me therefrom
And will I be buried, or burned in my sox? …
‘Wake up young Ross, the job it’s all done,
That diagonal vessel it’s got a chicane,
Here’s some good scripts to help you to run
And a very nice spray to rid your chest pain.
And what did you say your job was awhile?
Colorectal ha-ha, that’s the end of the pile!’May, 2014
Note: A childhood recollection from Woodville. Tough little ruffians nicknamed ‘The Kelly Gang’ by my father.
We are the rough and tough,
We are the boys of the Kelly Gang.
‘Tis Friday night,
No homework night,
We gather at our house
To play our games of cat and mouse.
At school today we were frustrated
But now our pleasure’s unabated.
There’s Richard from across the road,
And Murray from a nice abode,
And Robert Draper – he’s real mean,
No parents here to intervene.
We wrestle and we tussle,
Each one straining every muscle.
For two long hours we have our heads,
Even jumping from the garden sheds.
But then I’m shocked right to the core,
Hearing words that I deplore.
‘Wash your hands and come to tea – FLOWER!’
‘No, no, I can’t be hearing right,’ I glower,
A pregnant pause from those who heard
That utt’rance so absurd,
‘Where’s our flower’s little dress,
She does display much comeliness!’
I come inside –
Was e’er such fuming,
‘Twas all consuming.
‘My disgrace is so complete,
That they can e’er repeat.
And I can ne’er deny,
The words that they imply.’
‘I’m sorry dear, I quite forgot,
I apologise, I was a clot,
I did not notice all your friends
When next we meet, I’ll make amends.
They will forget my sad faux pas
Let not this be your bete nôire,
As after all, you really are –
My precious little … PETAL!’May 2014
Papa and Lucy
Papa, you’re eighty and growing so old;
Your hair is so white but your teeth they are not,
The stories you tell us are mostly retold,
And others among them are just tommyrot.
You’ve trouble in hearing the tales we tell,
Even at times you mishear when we yell.
I hear what you say and agree it is so;
Sad when your papa so often mishears.
But how would it be if time went so slow,
You in the kindy for twenty odd years
And two foot eleven without any change,
You’d grumble to mum that your life is so strange.
Papa, how about having your childhood anew,
And being my pal at our school once again;
With lovely thick hair and some classical teeth,
Having no glasses, your hearing regained,
Sitting in classes, and running a race,
Learning your tables with sums to embrace.
No, my dear Lucy there’s time for us all;
Time for our school and a time to be old.
Who would look after your gaga withal?
Eat all her cooking and run the household,
And take all the tablets and do what she said,
And read ‘The Australian’ with porridge in bed?
We live in a world that’s appointed by time,
Each of our flowers they grow and they bloom;
Summer to winter – we slide past our prime.
Papa’s quite happy to take a backroom,
And watch his young Lucy emerge in her spring,
Her beauty and talent a bird on the wing.August 2014
Note: Written a month or two before the birth of Ross’s sixth grandchild – Rémi Samuel Johnson-Saison
Time is a gift that permits life to flow,
Space is a gift that allows each to dwell,
Age is a gift t’wards the life we’ll forgo,
Nature dictates, so we cannot rebel.
And what of those skills that we all do acquire?
They add to our genes, or they’re lost in the pyre?
What wonder is this when new babies appear?
Those millions of years, they’re abridged in the womb,
How limb buds do form it is very unclear,
The marvel evolving we all do assume.
The heart and the vessels begin to pulsate,
The lungs are created but do not aerate.
Let us then ponder, the birth we all fete,
Its body as perfect as perfect can be.
Does it all happen at nature’s dictate?
Or p’raps there’s a breath from divine deity,
The ground of its being for seventy years,
To guide it and guard it away from all fears.
Oh, what rejoicing this baby imparts
To parents and uncles and aunties and friends.
They cluck and they clammer; they clasp to their hearts,
The smell of the newborn a rose it transcends.
The mother and father they’ll ne’er be the same,
Fore’er in their thoughts they will have this new name.July, 2004