I’ve Seen Rivers

I’ve seen rivers at sunset
With the warm flow of currents
Carrying the colours of life down from the hills.
Patches of memory over the years burning
Into my recollection.
Birds skimming ripples of the surface
Cormorants and seagulls sending cries
Across the flats in the ochre of the evening.

In the deepening shadows the children chatter
As they take their nakedness into the cool
Of the waters in the wading obscurity of night.
The calm mixed with laughter scattered dispersed
And the evanescent hum of insects
Animals pausing to lazily slake their thirst.
The birds settling into their nightly routine
Gather their feathers beneath them.
Mothers secure their children for the journey home.

Mighty Amazon, the mother of them all
Brothers Congo and Limpopo in Southern Afrique
Holy Ganges, the Yellow and the massive Yangtze
and I Mississipi, Lady of the South.
Gateway to New Orleans.

I have seen rivers at low tide
With skippers and catfish flopping in pools
While wildcats capture a sweet start to their day.
Ibis strut nonchalantly along the banks
Buffalo tearing the green from edges
They stand and chew without a care
Dumbest of beasts, implacable
Impenetrable stare.
Hippos are boats cobbled together from huge bladders
They whistle and yawn at each other in rough seduction.
Closer to home there is the Darling,
The longest river in our land.
The Swan and the mighty Ord principally in the west.
Then the Snowy, the Murray
and Murrumbidgee. Too much salt. The Sturt.
The Derwent steeply between lush valleys.
Dry rivers like the Todd which sparkle with life
On either side for miles around — in the sun
With the coming of the rain.

I have seen rivers engorged with flood
Carrying the fruit of the rain before it
Lifting all before it in a sea of mud
Rolling like a carpet into the night.
Trees, cattle, antelope and deer
Even puny man caught and ruptured
Destroyed in the rampaging fear
The roiling tempestuous turbulent cover
That washes over in a final period
To their existence.

Nile, Tigris, Euphrates.
Oh you seats of mighty cities
Tributaries that feed the history of man.
Amu Darya poor cousin now reduced to a trickle.
The beauty of the Rhine from high in the Alps
Cascading swiftly down to the valley floor.
From the Rio Grande and Mato Grosso
Between Brazil and Paraguay comes the majesty
Of ParanĂ¡ second only to Sister Amazon.
Sweeping down to peaceful rest
In the basin of an Atlantic bed.

Africa has a plethora of rivers.
Some I have already mentioned.
But then there is the Niger,
The Orange near the eastern cape
And don’t forget the Zambezi
With Victoria Falls a spectacular view
Tho’ Dr Livingstone
I would have preferred
A name that’s new.

I have seen rivers overnight
Coating the desert from a storm.
Lifted in my sight
Illuminated by the light
I sense but hardly see the rain on the trembling waters.
Fish leap into the darkness to escape pursuit.
The predator distended with a surfeit of food
Almost torpid,
Incapable of effort, slips beneath the waves
To digest his feed.
And his prey
Lives, to enjoy another day at least .

Old Father Tiber what memories you must bring
The tales you could regale us with concerning mighty Rome.
The deeds and cruelty done in the name of Christian charity.
The blood and torture of the great circus.
Such extremes. Such torment. Such devastation.
But not to you alone are such stories owed.
The Danube has many tales of hellish bent
Some recently coined but just as fearsome
To the same extent for all that we pride ourselves
Of making progress in such matters.

I have seen rivers stagnant and adrift between tides
Belching occasional impatience in the languid afternoon.
After the turmoil bloated bodies surface trapped
Between the leaves and branches of dead trees
Lolling sightlessly. In death they do not have
The same appeal — to me at least.
But to the carrion eaters, one meal is the same
As any other. The birds above are ugly beasts
Not just because of their function but their
Manners are offensive to say the least.
Meanwhile down below old father croc
Is having a right royal feast.
Lip smackingly scrumptious from his point of view
As he pays his last respects to the late lamented
The carcass or if you prefer — the deceased.

I have seen rivers fill fields with cotton
Wheat and barley.
And those same fields destroyed in an instant
When too much rain has burst their banks
Leaving little or nothing behind but waste
Shattered in the dust, all — everything destroyed
Except faith in tomorrow and the belief
That better days are yet to come.

From the Rockies to the Alleghenes
From the Darling to the Mountains Blue
From Mexico to dark Peru.
Rivers rule our lives
With the water of life
Feeding forests and the verdant plains
Wet, fecund covered with dew.
I have seen them coming from the mountains
Midnight passage passing through
I have seen them sparkling in the fractured hue
Through the gutters,
The canals cascading downwards
Always downwards
Through the magic rainbow of existence
I have seen the rivers flowing
I have seen them come.
I have seen them in the evening
In the last dim guttering rays of sun.
I’ve seen the rivers and felt their passage
I have seen rivers — I have seen them come.
By John Hall

© 22/03/02 by John Hall

The Curling Tree

It is like a fragment of music
Glissando slipping through the room
There is a strange almost consolation
That impels the assumption
Of an onset of gloom.
But I reject this as
Not the way it needs to be.
I know there is no logic
No reason for it — justification even.
But it is the way I sense
Things can be. As if it were
An afternoon sun brushed
With the brightness of hope.
I feel sure that one day
The sun will shine for you
I know there are days when you feel
That there is no remission
No relenting from the desolation.
That there seems to be nothing
More than a desiccated wind blown tree
Bereft of any tiny fragment of comfort —
Stretching out on an unending desert
As far as the eye can see
Lost beyond some far horizon
In an endless frozen land.
Yet perhaps it isn’t so.
At least it doesn’t have to be.
We’re told that life is
A journey full of change and variety
You never know when you’ll run
Into a different piece of reality.
The curve of a beautiful woman
Or in your case a bronzed young man
Supple in his symmetry — But this
Is not what I’m referring to.
It begins with a glance
Maybe the promise of a smile.
Someone willing to risk opening
A window to their inner mind.
Either way hopefully that there is
A memory a fragment bright
Caught in a rainbow light
To warm our every tomorrow.
There is a different perception —
Which can be found in another tree
And one day I hope that you will
Explore it with me
It is no young sapling you understand.
It has been there for a generation at least
Maybe more.
When young, it’s growth was strained
Pruned, tethered and trained
Pointed in a direction to which it should go.
There was belief that time would soon
Whip it around the iron work to endure
In a pattern that would lift in the warmth
Of faith to nurture and take it past tomorrow.
I look now and see it in the depth of winter.
No foliage softens the pattern of its turning.
The sap deeply stored
In the base of the mother tree.
I trace the pattern, unsure of what I see
I sense inside it there, a relaxed tension
Within the iron fretwork encumbered
Sinews gathering strength stretch out
Encircle and embrace the beginnings
Of an early Spring — a growth of faith
That warms your heart and lets us share
The memory of a smile.
So if for some reason
We become separated
Let this one image be a bridge between us
The boughs of the Curling Tree
Reaching out dissolving the distance
Removing the partitions
Separating you and me.
Unrestricted by the seasons
The margins and the knotted branches
The meandering, gnarled bark —
The mother nested in the warmth
Of new seasons, new hopes
New dimensions of our being
And a caring warmth for a shared
Vision and the love of our futurity.
By John Hall


To Danielle

Between the Silence

When you have been to the mountain
You have to be careful with what
You leave behind as much as
With what you take with you
When you return to the world again.
Heat rises invisibly
Like a blow of frustration
Etching distorting patterns
On the ceiling
Slowly leeching the energy
Achingly tardy in its progress
Lethargic in its deprivation.
In this I know
The distractions will drip from me
Leaving islands of ridged harmony
Breaking through to a final awareness.
There is a small satisfaction
In the retreating limpid pools
That weigh upon our thinking.
Your back speaks eloquently
Of this shared moment of anticipation
I am tempted to reach out and brush
Your hip and cup your thighs
Gently in the compass of my arms
But the heavy dampness prevents me.
We are completely sapped
Unable to move
Too absorbed in our inability
To reach, caress or share a smile.
Yet within this emptiness
A common restfulness
A comfort which remains
As we drift in and out of
Torpid drowsy inactivity.
I know that with the coming rain
Outlines will be etched in the soil
Mist from the mountains
Covering the heavens
Will become spotted pooled
New patterns forged
Bridging what was with
What is yet to be.
Sometimes I think we are hybrid beings
Trapped between two worlds
Grey curtains
Which exist between us.
You murmur something
In your dreams and turn to me
Your face framed within
Tantalizing dark uncertainty
Smiles that lift and titillate
Are replaced with a clenching frown
Not all is happy in your world of shadows.
For a moment I am tempted to reach out
Caress and reassure you
But constrain myself
Unsure of what my motives truly are.
The curtains begin a gentle dance
Breaching breezes cooling glance
Release us from the tedium of stillness
You dive back into your inner realms
Your face empty and at peace
Your mouth slightly open
Hair loosely cropped
A cap of dampness
Disturbed at last by the faintest snore.
By John Hall


Copyright – John Hall 13/2/04

Dream Dancing

The river of music
Flowed through and around him
The face twisted in recognition
The figure becoming more visible
A rising irritation of his awareness
A reminder of dreams left undone.

The veil lifts slowly
A mirage of mystery
Deep in his memory
A promise waiting to be fulfilled
An uncertain beginning
Lost in the rope of the universe
Filled with the curling rhythm
He began to open
His mind and body
Releasing the tension

The veil lifts slowly.


In the centre, the very beginning
In the seat of passion
The centre of his awareness
There is a willingness
To explore, to accept horizons
Of wonderous adventure
With no expectation or limit
To play openly within the possibility
That this or that may or may not be.
All will be permitted.
All will be received
Nothing need be disputed
No one will be deceived.
There will be a divine balance.
Now I am become death the destroyer
Of worlds. Dance Kali. Dance Shiva.
Bring to the High Lords the fruits
Of your endeavours.

There is a dragon dancing in my dream
At the apex of the mountain ice capped
In the mystic blue, this arctic existence
Cannot restrain his belching antic flame.
Ahura Mazdah contains his wisdom
Observes the coming of the sun
The forces of coriolis will open
The season of Mithra in glory
Born of the stones that formed the anvil
Of all beginning. See him come forth
And make his stand. The mighty dragon
Sheathes his claws and dances
Moving his head from side to side
With gnashing teeth open wide
With spitting of blood, smoke and fire.
But these two are brothers.
They dance in cadence
Without need for conflict or conflagration.


The dying light from the flickering candles
Illuminates the gentle dessert of the night
Across lines of camels kneeling in defense
Of keening gusts
Cutting winds which gather
To drive the sand
Bitingly into the depths of darkness.
Each man contemplating
The colour of his sins
Prays to his god for understanding
Or at least forgiveness.

The storm gathers
Gripping the vault of heaven
AN, god of the air and sun.
Great father of all
Thrusting through determination
Twists in sinuous perplexity
Drowning all in dark curtains of grit and sand.

The great mother goddess Ninhursag
Closes her face in a veil
Listening for the song of Ishtar
Taught at the knee of
Nanna the moon goddess.
For the children of Sumer
Are no stranger to the dance
Some of them turning and swirling
In dervish trance
In their patterns of worship
To Tesup the Lord of the Storm.
So come all ye mighty Lords
Of Nefut and Niger
Fall down before him
The leader of the Dance.

The rain falls in a heavy blanket
All is covered — all leaves and trunks
And bush beneath
Fronds and vines the lush growth
Of the living forest
Extends its arms to embrace
The coming of the rain.
The trees form a mighty canopy
A leafy roof which extends, covers
Even the village by the path
At the edge of the layers
At the edge of where it ends
Where the jungle becomes a margin
Where it begins to die.
As the dancers gather
As the prayers begin
They turn their faces
To Old Babalue
Babaluaye for wisdom
Healing the wounds
To help find a direction.
To Abasi, You creator god
Lord of the Sky
Listen now hear the rhythm
The rhythm of the drum
As they sway and call to Domfe
He who brings the wind and rain
The seed maker
He who lets the forest live again.

Now the drum and the wind subside
The rain ceases and so ebbs the tide.

The river of music no longer flows
The face begins to lose its shape.
The figure begins to subside.
Into sleep into solitude
The dreams fade with the setting sun.

The veil sinks slowly
The mirage diminishes
A vision that dims
The echo of a distant hush
A promise unfulfilled
Lost in the tenuous universe
His body rhythm slows
Turning to contemplate
The end of his dream
Easing the tension

The veil sinks slowly.
By John Hall


Copyright – John Hall 13/8/04

Eyes of Innocence

Some stories lend themselves
To the telling with the ease they
Sit in memory.
It is like listening to a violin play
Deep in the night
With the wind carrying the harmony.
I wish — how I wish that this day was couched
In such a frame of happy thoughts.
Without the echoes of madness
That seemed to follow us everywhere.

It was Autumn and
Mild for that time of year.
We had chosen to travel down the river.
Stepping out so tranquil and so still
No ripple extending out before us
Glass like sky painted on the water
Brilliant blue tumultuous to infinity
Veined and scattered with cloud white
Vastness stretching as far as we could see.

Between us was the knowledge
That the next day you would leave
Bound for that God forsaken
Place where you would once more
Try to stem the tide of destiny.
I in my heart wanted to be with you
But in my soul knew that it could not be
The moment less than hopeful
Dashed by circumstances
Deadened by reality.
On either side
We were bracketed by the trees
Clasping each other on the shore
Standing sedate in their placid dignity
Clad with ancient armour pock-marked skin.
A memorial to survival defiant they stand
Despite storm and fire
Here a scar from some violence long gone.
There an empty hollow where once a branch
Reached out to salute the heavens.
They survive for now at least, towering
Like some exotic brotherhood
Spaced out together
Framing a sky above
And one below.

We cannot escape
Haunted by the faces
Worn to
Silence in despair.

Like some extravagant adventure
Behind us in an intimate fantasy
The incredible unrolling of a vista is
Left in the wake of our passing.
We did not speak as we went.
You immersed in the blanket
Of your thoughts buried in the fragile
Depth of intimate mourning
Mysterious in the distant echo of your passing.
I with no understanding of your driven intensity
Content to watch you in your private place.

Our blades dipping into patterns of memory.
Shimmered sunlight keeping us
Suspended in our focus
I aware of nothing but you before me
Taking each moment as it came
Watching your shoulders
Swinging in symmetry
Your hair tightly drawn
Beneath the shade of straw
The hint of your breasts
As your torso bends to sway
To take us further on our journey
On our way to our hidden destination
Beyond the final bend in the river
Before it reaches out
To try to become the ocean
When the day ends
When tired sinews
No longer stretch
Relaxed in the bell like tones
Of evening.

But before we can retreat
To the purple night reaches
We must reconcile these fragile
Dreams of dark eyes saddened
By their grief.
Deafened by their silence
We must face our own eminent separation.

I wonder at the empty promises
Craven to the extent of blindness
Framed in a litany of alibis
A covenant of convenience
Hooded broken promises and lies
Devoid of hope
Devoid of meaning
Hollow in their extremity
Empty of conviction.
Without expectation
Black echoes of perpetual grief.

So as the sky begins to deepen
And we turn towards the west
Embracing familiar waters — safe harbour,
I reach out
To try
To open
To find some other door to hopes horizon.
With the faint background of gulls cries
Rolling across the muddy flats
The miasma from wild flowers
Tempting with their fragrant promise
As the tempo slows and we travel
Separate but together
Joined by the almost silence
Gliding towards the darkness
To a well earned rest.
By John Hall


Copyright – John Hall 13.10.04