Tag: memoir

New year pastoral

Loose udders and mucus plugs

signals new life on the grass and clods of dirt.

Lilies dance on water the way flies hover over fresh meat.

A heifer drops its snout into the trough to drink –

not greedily, but more delicately,

sucking on the water in a docile way – fickle for a beast.


Pebbles, clumps of wild grass and cow shit

pattern a track to the paddock where a sabre calf

feasts on the berm of the grid;

lifts its head, turns towards its tail, then stares at me.


Unsteady of his feet, he ambles to his mother

her cries echoing through the valley –

carrying that sound like some heavy burden.

From the verandah, I hear the shaking of wooden spoons in pots.

It’s time for breakfast – sweet, sticky black rice.

Being woken at the gates of heaven

Candy in a bag –

recollections of a need

when my mind was an unswept room,

my body a husk, full of holes so thick

I thought I would leak.


Needles in my bedside drawer,

ampoules ready to be

snapped off at the yellow line –

that crisp and thrilling pop.


No greater satisfaction,

nor ever surpassed.

Then the plunge of a needle

into flesh, digging down into muscle.


The other night, my body stockpiled opiates.

Nurses artfully depressed a syringe of Narcan

to bail me out of a deep unbreathing.

Two breaths a minute – my lazy lungs.

Nurses in a U shape around my bed –

‘you’re having some trouble breathing, love.’

Hell, I was between worlds dreaming about

tangerines and the biting aroma

of vodka, parcels and angels milk.

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Learning to Die: my TEDx talk

Yesterday my TEDx talk went live on TEDx Brisbane’s YouTube channel, and I’ve had an almost overwhelming response about speaking about my life (and deaths), and my beliefs and truths about death and dying. Here it is – Learning to Die.

I’ve been bathing in the beautiful waters of Death Walking training over the last two days, the last of which is today, and being able to come together with other ‘deathies’ has been such a gift; so serendipitous in its timing. When I looked at my phone at morning tea, I couldn’t understand why I had a flurry of messages, though it soon registered when friends and strangers alike were reaching out to congratulate me. Mission accomplished! And so here it is. It’s been released to the the world, and it’s there for people to do with it as they wish.

So make yourself a cuppa or an espresso or whatever your poison is and sit down to hear what I have to say. And please – let me know what you think. Comment, share, repost. I’m feeling happy and grateful that my words can be heard should you so desire to listen, and if just one person walks away – or leaves their desk or kitchen table – a little more fluent in the language of death, then my work here is done. Peace.

Regime #4 gets a smashing review (as does my poem)

I am, at my very core, a poet. Along with memoir, it was the first form of writing I chanced upon as a child. I wrote my first memoir when I was six – cute and heart-heavingly sad. I still have it – or at least my Mum does. HB on foolscap. Illustrated.

But this post is about poetry – not just my poetry, but the work of the wave of new Australian poets sweeping through the poetry arcadia like Michele Seminara, Philip Ellis, Nathan Hondros, and Stuart Barnes – all genius poets and what’s more, my friends.

And so we were reviewed by highly respected Blue Pepper – a poetry blog I’ve long admired – http://www.bluepepper.blogspot.com.

My poem ‘Primitive’ received the following praise – And the sheer exhilaration of Carly-Jay Metcalfe’s “Primitive” was a true revelation. It is the exception that proves the rule regarding the longer poems, a cinematic rollercoaster ride of a poem that set this bruised old heart racing with lines such as “Eating from the hands of the land,/summer steals in”.

And this – it is the thrill of such chance discoveries that make publications such as Regime 4 so invaluable to the literary wealth of a burgeoning culture. Such serendipity has long been leached from the pages of more august publications in this country, where the same old names from the same old generation continue to pepper the indexes as though “Oz lit.” were in perpetual holding pattern. For such serendipity and courage, Bluepepper dips its hat to the editors of Perth’s Regime Books.

I am beyond thrilled – not just with the generous review of my work, but with the love the other poets in Regime #4 received. Thank you for reviewing us, Blue Pepper. I’d really like to extend my gratitude to Nathan Hondros for showing true courage in believing that the printed book STILL matters. For me, it will always matter. You can’t dog-ear or write in the margins of an e-reader or revisit the page over and over until it’s that little bit flimsier than the rest because you have loved it so. There is nothing like holding the spine of a book in your hands as it hovers above you in bed; that heady smell of print so close to your face.

When I pick up a book, I smell it. Strange? Not as odd as you think. It’s a comforting scent for me, because between the covers of a book, there is someone else’s story. I remember when books would arrive for me in hospital as a little girl; books I’d ordered from the book shop or books from the library. I wouldn’t and couldn’t wait to split their spines for the first time where there would be other worlds, characters that stayed with me for the rest of my life, and stories that grabbed me by the throat and refused to let go.

I have some ridiculously exciting poetry news to share soon, so stay tuned.

I’m going to be a TEDx talker!

I have super exciting news. Yesterday, I was asked to speak at Brisbane’s TEDx event in October. In case you haven’t heard about TEDx, click here to find out what an inspiring global platform where people such as Bill Gates, Liz Gilbert, Jane Goodall and Al Gore have shared their ideas.

The 2014 speakers have been announced today on the Weekend Edition. I am equal parts excited, terrified and honoured to have been invited to speak at such an exciting event. I knew this year was going to be big, but this? I’m still pinching myself …

Am I nervous? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. I’m speaking alongside people like Samuel Johnson and Bob Downe (I can’t wait to do my impersonation of him to him), as well as brilliant game changing Professors and artists!

So what am I going to talk about? Life, survival, writing, death and my journey to becoming a spiritual carer. You can register for tickets here. I hope to see you there!

Here’s a likeness of how I looked when I got the phone call, except I was at home …

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sweet and sour lullabies

A long time ago, someone asked me why I write so prolifically about death.‘Why do you write about death all the time?’I could have appeased them; given a simple answer like, ‘write about what you know’, but I didn’t.I see dead people.

Not ghosts or spirits, but every day I see my friends, some of whom have been dead for fifteen, twenty years. Their presence has not faded with the passage of time. Instead, today – right here and now – they are more alive in death than they were earthbound. Memories bite and they bite hard. They cut through me like a bitter wind making it far more trying to forget than it is to remember.

Some days I feel like I am nursing the dead; ferrying them around with every thought and intention. Sometimes I invite them, other times they invite themselves, shadowing me.

They come with sleep.

When I wake, they stay with me; scattering my thoughts where my day is wrought with details – their rituals, clothes, smell, their cough and their laugh, their beliefs, the families they never wanted to leave behind. I am reminded of them with food, film, books, music. Especially music.

I wait to sleep again to fall into a different dream.

They can be all consuming; the people in them so real I can almost touch them. But I miss them instead. Some more than others, but I mourn them all the same. It’s as though a chunk of my childhood has died with these people and a cavernous hole has been cleaved into my history. Death is a physical experience for me because I feel a little emptier with each loss. I think everyone does.

There are mornings where I wake with my lips upturned from a sequence where Melinda and and I have squirted ampoules of saline into a sleeping Paul Greenfield’s crotch. He wakes in fright and embarrassment, then tells us to go and fuck ourselves. We laugh and Melinda turns blue, but we don’t care.

Others leave me feeling scattered; dislocated from other people and from the day itself. Are these dreams a platform between living and dying, or are they just memories worming through my sub-conscious, locked up in what we call a dream?

Maybe they’re nothing at all.