Tuesday, May 19, 2015

(for Na Na)

Now you mention it, that’s a memory:
so many times with father we returned
from gathering firewood in the dusk, yearned
for the glow of bush branch and temporary
warmth to bask in before bundled to bed.
And of course, mother needed good stove wood,
so father had found where a dead tree stood
miles away. Chopped those fallen boughs instead.
Bush driving at dusk with lights still dim,
the scuttle of a rabbit underwheel—
reminds us now of the times we could feel
safe in the old car in the care of him.
At dusk the world contracts to elemental things;
our children trusting in what simple comfort brings.

Glen Phillips
February, 2015

(Nana san ichi buta, or the ‘Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department’ of the Japanese Kwantang Army, occupying Helongjiang Province north China before and during World War II, was actually a place for testing chemical and germ warfare on live humans, mainly local Chinese. It is now a museum of horrors set up so that China and the world will never forget these atrocities—among the worst ever perpetuated by human beings on other human beings. To conceal its real purpose it was just known as Unit 731. No non-Japanese was allowed to leave it alive.)

My life led me to this latter day Gehenna,
in a manner of speaking, and now, despite
persistent funereal drumbeat of rain
on the umbrellas of the pilgrimage,
we walked steadfastly towards gas chamber
chimneys and concrete bunker relics
on those drear northern plains. Here, far from
my own beginning in red dust among salt lakes,
nearly eight decades have passed. Yet each step
destined, now I know, to advance me through 
through schoolrooms, stern halls of academia,
through steep valleys of Alps, past chill lakes
of sweet water and beside mounting forests;
or climbing tropic slopes to temple refuges.

Each step that once took me down into 
well-sandbagged wartime air-raid shelters
under blue skies of the Great South Land,
at night penciled with the searchlights
seeking Nippon’s reconnoitering planes,
spying for our secret munitions factories 
or bases for the US submarines. And up
again after the ‘all-clear’. Then, much later,
in step with my national service comrades,
I marched with my rifle toward firing ranges
to await apparition of distant raised targets.
Yes, every step so devilishly designed
to bring me to this drear day of light rain
of Pingfang District and dreaded Unit 731.

Glen Phillips
© October, 2014.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wet From the Womb


Here I am, born (but not stillborn).
I’m being passed around, to be admired,
to be compared with others’ offsprings.
When I laugh for joy of life or scream
my being generates my parents’ joy.

Later in life the picture changes
for novelty is a transient gift;
siblings bring rivalry, seasons pass,
hair sprouts in strange places. Secret’s
out that you’re not so welcome round the house.

Sometimes you’ll see in the garden perched
on the birdbath, remote, as if moping,
a solitary dove or mudlark.
A closer look reveals lesion upon
lesion about head and neck. An outcast.

Time and the hour may run through rough days
but life is a road paved with travails
of separations. One after one they mark
love’s toughest lessons ever after
that moment when we were wet from the womb.
                                                                                    Glen Phillips © January, 2012.

Soon it will be my birthday the 21st of February

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Today's Poem


In April in the country after month
upon month of summer the air
changes: skies take on the milkiness
of the film on a blind man’s eyes.
 Suddenly there is not the welcome cool
of evening. In the night the air is chill
and mornings follow in a hazy fume.

Across the windstruck skyline suddenly
like the tail of a kite, raucous black
cockatoos fly screeching to the pine tops.
And children call them the ‘rain birds’.
 Where they have been you see holocausts
of torn twigs and ransacked cones
scattered on the silent earth beneath the pines.

And now at night you hear the hidden frogs
whooping their calls. They importune
the King of Frogs to unloose his great
pale belly distending with the winter rains.
Night after night they chant and chant
litanies in the gardens, in the fields.
And at last in the norwest, darkening the earth,
rises the shadowed bulk of their King!

As often times over the lowlands
of Sumeria or the Nile           
when that scent of rain at evening
has promised the rising flood,
the frogs redoubled their pleading chants;
and a patter of answering drops comes
on the powdery dust. Dry grass stoops,
the tree leaves quiver like moths,
then ranks of grey showers hammer the roofs;
I see dark rivulets run from the spouts this night.

Afterwards as the rain steadies
on the black glistening road,
the thankful white-robed crowds
of frogs advance out of swamp and ditch
to stand in the beam of our lights,
heads aloft to their awaited God-King.
Their faith, their great longing satisfied
just as our whizzing tyres
smack them down, as if they were pale leaves
pasted on the stones by rush of rain.

            © Glen Phillips, 1969.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Poem My Rivers

(XVIIIth Birthday Poem)


Water broken by sunlight
water in the wind
swept by ruffles
dark whorls
on the river;

pale cool waters
by the keel parted
carved by the searching prow
thrust by burdened rafts,
waters broken by voyaging.

On childhood’s coloured maps
the thin blue trace of rivers
Euphrates Tigris Nile
Danube Po The Thames
Rio Grande and Yangtse Kiang;
above the ranked reed beds
stem and stern posts
the beat of driven oars
heard not seen
the sway of passing masts.

These rivers join
the oceans of our blood.


Above the tree-lines
under scree slopes, stirring
in hidden springs ,
filtered through anabranching
downward thrust of roots:

the chill mountain waters
gather in rills
splash into leaping freshets
jet through the tumbled

with weight of the high valleys
behind mounting waters
press of the millstones slowly revolve
and the clean grain pours
in the great stone throat.

From the long thrust
of the stream’s steep weight
the spin of the wheel
and the headlong rush
the white waters course on,

glancing from bank
to bank, through
sloping groves of budded ash
among thorns and bramble canes
still red with winter’s frost.

Below, the terraced fields
the rough stone barns
and steep slate roofs
of hillside farms catch
the glitter of falling water;

lower valleys receive and calm
these plummets of pebbled torrents,
anchoring them in the deep swirl
of green pools shaded
where stooping willows cling,

where dun brown cows doze
fetlock deep in water meadows;
here waters slide under country roads
briefly received by the arch
of lichen spattered stones.

So the river lives with its surface
broken by sunlight,
swept by patterned ruffles
making dark whorls
on its voyaging brim;

and takes for its easy burden
the prow and the helm
of our years of human lives—
these rivers join
the oceans of our blood.

Glen Phillips
© October 18, 1984

Monday, October 4, 2010

Submissions open in Landscapes Journal on Sustainability

Landscapes is currently accepting submissions of academic articles, book reviews, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, photography, visual and sound art for its 2010 issue on sustainability. We welcome all submissions that attempt to explore the theme of sustainability in literal or metaphoric ways, regionally in Southwest Australia or internationally. Academic articles of 8000 words or less will be submitted to a peer-review process before publication.
See Landscapes Journal for submission guidelines and for previous issues.

For the next issue, all submissions will be managed through Submishmash. More details are available online.

For further information, email ICLL at landscapelanguage@gmail.com
Closing Date: 30 November 2010


International Centre for Landscape and Language
Landscapes Journal


Building 17 Room 231
Edith Cowan University
Mount Lawley WA 6050