fourw-twenty-sevenMy copy of FourW twenty-seven arrived the other day, and I was really pleased to see ‘A daughter’s dream’ – one of the songs from Lullaby & Lament: A Song Cycle – published inside its pages. FourW is an annual anthology of poetry and prose produced by Booranga Writers’ Centre in Wagga Wagga. David Gilbey and the rest of the Booranga team have done a fabulous job with this year’s edition, and I particularly love the cover.

‘A daughter’s dream’ is one of my favourite songs from the cycle, and the lyrics are about my father’s death. He died alone, in a hospital room on the Gold Coast, while I was in Armidale. I was planning to visit him the next day, and if things had turned out differently, I would have done all the things I dreamed about in this song:


A man, he is dying

in a room all alone

his body decaying

his thoughts not his own.


His daughter is dreaming

in a town far away

of the things she will do

of the things she will say.


She will tackle her fear

she will look death in the face

she will sing to her father

she will do it with grace.


She will wipe down his body

she will kiss his soft cheek

she will place his hands gently

on his chest, as in sleep.


She will do all of this

and then she will weep.



… I had to spend my first day as writer-in-residence wandering around downtown Wagga waiting for the exhaust specialist to replace the front and rear muffler on my car.

… I walked around the Charles Sturt University campus and was attacked by noisy miners on several frightening occasions.

… a rabbit-shaped rock outside the verandah fooled me every morning.

… I went downtown and had a haircut which caused me to avoid all mirrors for several days (it’s not such a bad thing to avoid mirrors – at my son’s school, instead of a mirror above the hand basin they have a sign which reads: You are beautiful).

… I had to give a reading at the Historic Council Chambers straight after my haircut, but the audience were so appreciative that I almost forgot how bad my hair looked.

… I caught up with Joan Cahill who I once met at Varuna – I bought her newly published collection of poems and was surprised (and pleased) to see my name in a poem titled ‘Hubris Halved’.

… I felt alone and lonely and happy to be alone – and recognition of these feelings came upon me at various times throughout each day.

… I bought a $3 saucepan at a second-hand shop in Wagga, and later realised it was from Baccarat’s stainless steel range and worth $150 new (this discovery helped me feel a little better about my haircut).

… I went to the Write Around the Murray festival in Albury where I gave a memoir workshop, spoke on a panel discussion and met some wonderful writers – like Sue Gillett, Benjamin Law, and Biff Ward.


… I followed some tracks that ran along the steep hill behind the cottage and came across the largest kangaroos I’ve ever seen.

… I joined David Gilbey’s book group one evening and drank wine and ate delicious cheese and heard many interesting things about The Turn of the Shrew by Henry James.

… I read through a memoir manuscript that I wrote years ago and realised how very hard that time of my life was.

… I treasured the moments the sun shone on the verandah.

… the contracts were finalised on a wonderful old house I’ve just bought in Armidale.

… I heard some sad news about a friend’s daughter which put all my problems into perspective.

… I read through past copies of fourW and loved many of the contributions – especially the work of Alison Eastley.

… on my last day, I gave a memoir workshop and was astounded by the wealth of talent in the room.

… I remembered – once again – that I am a writer.

Thank you Booranga!


For the next two weeks, I’m a writer-in-residence at Booranga Writers’ Centre in Wagga Wagga. The drive from Uralla was very long. I mostly followed a flat straight ribbon of a road that ran past glowing fields of canola crops which gave the landscape a strange, surreal Wizard of Oz look. Many creeks and rivers were overflowing from the recent rains and parts of the road were covered with water as well. David Gilbey, president of Wagga Wagga Writers Writers, welcomed me on arrival and I am now comfortably settled in the writer’s flat. Tomorrow, I’m heading off to the ‘Write Around the Murray’ festival in Albury, where I’m giving a memoir writing workshop and appearing on a panel discussion – ‘Mother Lode’ – with Biff Ward, Benjamin Law and Sue Gillett. I’m really looking forward to both of these events and also to attending a host of other sessions at the festival.

The writer’s flat in the old Booranga House is simple and spacious, and the acoustics in the kitchen are wonderful. The best thing, though, is the side verandah, where I enjoy the morning sun while I have a coffee. It’s a good place to stare absently at the bush and the rocks and listen to the birds. I am slowly shaking off the demands of normal life.



There’s a black cat – “Puss” – that lives under the verandah on my side of the house. Although Puss is a very shy cat, she has gained some notoriety over the years, and has featured in a number of poems by visiting writers. Sandra Treble and Kate Dunn, also part of the Booranga team, care for this black cat with a lot of love. Anyway, Puss reminds me of my own black cat – Sooty – who died last September. I wrote a song about Sooty’s death for Lullaby & Lament: a song cycle. Here are the lyrics:


A first lesson in death

Death lies on the road

in the shape of a cat,

in the glare of the headlights

life ends, just like that.


A boy weeps loudly

like never before,

a mother cries softly

as she opens the door.

With her parcel of grief,

her parcel of death,

her thoughts all jumbled,

she is filled with regret.


Yes, it was only a pet,

it was simply a cat,

but the weight in her arms

is heavier than that.

For her boy, lost in tears,

a first lesson in death.


She cradles the cat,

still warm in the night,

calls her boy to her side:

‘Come, say your goodbyes.’

Black Cat, how we loved you,

we teased you and hugged you,

we fed you, we raised you,

and now we farewell you.


Yes, it was only a pet,

it was simply a cat,

but the weight in her arms

is heavier than that.

For her boy, lost in tears,

a first lesson in death.


Death lies on the road

in the shape of a cat,

in the glare of the headlights

life ends, just like that.



Some welcome news … the wonderful team from Booranga Writers’ Centre in Wagga Wagga have invited me to be a writer-in-residence for two weeks in September later this year. I’m really looking forward to spending some dedicated writing time in such a beautiful rural location … apparently the writer’s flat overlooks the Charles Sturt University’s winery, grapevines and olive grove, so it’ll be almost like going to Italy! I’m also really keen to meet the local writing community, give a workshop and some readings, and explore the region. Thank you Booranga!