Rhodes Poetry Retreat 2019

In September 2019 I traveled to Greece to attend a poetry retreat run by the renowned poet and performance artist Luka Haralampou (Luka Lesson). These handful of poems were written and developed there in Monólithos on the island of Rhodes.


When I left the island
         I knew it would be long
The clip on my suitcase
         kept slipping undone
and all my things kept sliding out
again         again         and again

Rain fell and wind blew
         and salt spat in my eye
and all my words kept sliding out
and so I threw them            high

“Fly on!
         and wait there!
         voice, my passport
         song, my visa
Together we will go
         north, north and ever north.”

The journey just begun
rooms and beds and floors
smoke and dreams and stories

         north         and ever north
to touch
         the edge
a fading drug-soaked war

yellow limes       green coriander
five tone language on my tongue

I rode the dragon       smiling
empathy resigned      separate and superior

Why do we always wonder where the water ends?
Why is the sea so jealous of the rain?
Why those salty tears when we never drink the ocean?
Why waste our days in wondering
         when we would cherish, sleeping
         one rich and gentle dream?

We pull in new directions
         Did you hear the pebble turn?
                  north, north and ever north?

And who would smash my story?
Call disaster on the journey?

I prayed to you for purity
I played the better parts of me
What more do you ask of me?
My jealous heart, a part of me
that lessens all that I could be?
I paid the muses, can’t you see,
with shadows of my poetry
I made the call, come dance with me
We’ll sing the songs where we can be
the stars of our eternity …

I know …
slipping clips and sliding things
guide me on this round

I gather up my scatterings
as my feet find their ground

              darkened and more singular
              with all the grit that got me out     
to here       to there    
     and turning still
grinding slowly to perfection

north, north and ever north
will I know when I arrive?

My Hands Can Always Hold More

Speak to me of your woes
My ears can always hold more

Your troubled nights, your tumbling pain
These arms can always hold more

Let’s yell our curses to the moon
The sky can always hold more

Let’s sing our keening to the stars
The night can always hold more

Stomp your grief into the stone
The land can always hold more

And even when you cannot bear
the thought, the words, the secrets

Or even if the hollow night
echoes as it listens

Or even if you feel the empty day
will yawn with your existence

Please know
a single look, a simple touch
a sign in my direction

however small
whatever weight

My hands can always hold more


When I die
I want a bed of pine needles
Bees zag zigging in their best striped suits

I want birds
         and butterflies
to stop
         and swap their stories for the day

I want the snake
         to slide into my shelter
         keep my weapons and utensils safe

I want the eagle
         perched upon my roof
         to tell the tales
                  of all the seas
                  of every land
                  from every wind
         and are the gods
         still cruel and kind?
         and who has birthed and
         who has died and
         who will be my neighbour?

Sing to me when the birds don’t come
Talk to me when the eagle cannot fly
I know the pines still grow
seed on seed on seed

And tell my tale to me again
making sure that every child
hears how proud they should be
to be
from this land
under this sky
and standing on this stone

Tell my tale to me again
Hold your head this high

For you are Kimisala born
best realm of mighty Rodos

The sage is sweeter
Rosemary more wise
Our goats are quickest
Our terracotta brightest
Honey to cure all your ills

Hold your head this high
Sing your song this loud
For you are of Colossus
shining bright into the north
to make Apollo proud

Breathe it in this deeply
For everyone you love
Will feel your warmth

And so the pines still grow
seed on seed on seed

Then take me gently into my dark
For I am tired and you are ready

Take me softly to my past
Bones so fine, so dry, so light

Her smile imprinted in my mind
Her steps, her shining hair
Her lilting voice
a burbling spring
mountain born
she flowed into our lives
a clouded moon
a violet haze

we thought that we had tricked the fickle gods
but less than three returns of age
was all that she would see

and we
would never see
the moon
with vibrant hearts again
and we
would never hear
her laugh
or twist her shining curls
yet there she lies, protected

So tell my tale to me again
For I am tired and you are ready
Making sure that every child
hears how proud that they should be
to be
living on this land
under this sky

Hold your head this high
Sing your song this loud

Breathe it in this deeply
And everyone you love
will feel your warmth

This Place Sings Differently

Ah, to speak of land that sings!

Whispering pines

       in harmony with

         the fragrant sage

                                  that clings

         to rocks’ debris

Clay so red

         you’d swear that

 it had bled

seeping from the stone

       and with the drone of bees

         birds tweet twittering

                  wings and beak

              and so much work

         waiting to be done


Before that man with burning eyes
         and welcome smile
                  stepped into my life

Before I saw those printed words
         strange names unknown
                  distant places

Before I saw that you had chosen me
         to be the one to speak the tongue
                  with you, for you, from you

I didn’t know it was
         your kinship that was coming

I couldn’t see
         that knowing nothing
         was how I’d start each day

In those moments when I tried
         to form the picture
         of where I’d be
         or what I’d do
I had no template

I worried for the impact of my ignorance

Landing on a red dirt strip
    alone, but not quite lost

I turned in circles
         in the heat —
         in the dust —
         and was led
         to a broken house
         a crooked tree

A woman, same eyes, same smile
         and taking both my cheeks
         Yabbarra-ngeba nja-kakaya
         the clearest tongue
         the grace of elders
         patient and complete

And when it was over
so many years passed
we had lost and we had gained

Babies born       Elders dead
Children lost      Language found
And when the dust settles
We measure the love and the loss
with words of every shade

Now I understand
that in the turn of moments

Everyone we love
can be pulled into the wake