What is to be Learnt From a Cat?


Today matters most.
Sit in the best place;
if you don’t,
some other cat will.
If you want food,
smooch for it.
If you don’t like being
in the car, miaow.
Miaow. Miaow.
Good looks get you
lots of attention.
If it rolls, chase it.
If it dangles, bat it
with a testing paw.
Fish is good.
There is always time
for a thorough wash.
A box is a very
good place to be.
Anywhere high up
is also good. So put
me in a box and send
me to heaven…

© Julie Thorndyke

The Ghost Ponies of Coopernook


All along the Manning River where the timber-getters call
Where the whipbird sounds, the bellbirds chime and cedar trees grow tall
There’s another sound that echoes round and makes the lizards run
But you will not see these horses ‘til the setting of the sun.

You will hear the hooves a-pounding in the dusky gathering gloom
And the rhythmic, ghostly galloping will pull you from your room
As the moon above is shining with an eerie trembling light
So the ponies of old Coopernook go searching in the night.

From the farmland to the seashore where the waves are foaming high
They are searching for their loved ones, listening for each deathbed sigh
Long ago a fire stole them from the riders they held dear
Now their restless, hopeless galloping will echo in your ear.

They are seeking, they are crying, they are waiting for the sound
Of their masters’ dying exhaled breaths to free them from the ground
Of this mortal earth, whose grass they’ve trod, with ne’er a moment’s rest
Waiting for the sweet reunion with the riders they loved best.

It was Christmas: and the gathering of folk at Orchid Hill
Meant that no one saw the bushfire come, or smelt the smoke, until
Fire had engulfed the stables, every trapped horse shrieked with fear,
People ran to save the ponies, but still no one could get near.

Red the flames shot up and heavenward, the sparks flew round about
Children cried, the men cursed, women sobbed: “Oh, get the poor things out!”
But the smoke was thick, and heroes few, and nothing could be done
But escape towards the river, and mourn in the rising sun.

It was Bill who saw the first ghost, as he lay beneath the tree
That had fallen as he cut it, and had trapped him at the knee
The bay pony that had borne him o’er bushland and the dale
Had arrived to see him safely to the land behind the veil.

Listen carefully as you wander by the river and the sea
For one day a sweet grey dappled mare will come to carry me
Far away from earthly cares and woes to see my old mate Bill
And at last the fields of Coopernook will all be quiet and still.

© Julie Thorndyke

First published in Does a Lyrebird Fly?
FAW Shoalhaven Literary Competition anthology 2004
(Highly Commended)

Sea Chant


When all the world has cancer
black dog has gnawed the bone
last bell has rung, fat lady’s sung
and everyone’s gone home

when night comes creeping deeper
as a leper all alone:
then listen dear, come dancing where
the sea chant waltzes on.

The greening sea, the keening sea,
the wheezing, dreaming, beaming sea
will lull us all along.

© Julie Thorndyke

100 Tanka by 100 Poets

100 poets COVER_low res

cows queuing
for the evening milking
no one home
but me… too young
to even light the lamp

© Julie Thorndyke

published in
100 Tanka by 100 Poets of Australia and New Zealand, 2013
(cover by Ron Moss, reproduced with permission)
also Carving Granite 2011, Eucalypt 9 2010.

Like most tanka, this comes from an actual experience, but in this case not mine. My mother told me of a time in her childhood when she was alone on the dairy farm, waiting anxiously for her delayed parents to come home. The cows, waiting to be milked, darkness falling…and with no electricity, without the comfort of light because she was forbidden to strike a match for fear of fire.

Lion and the Lamb


liable to bang inharmoniously
on dusty piano keys,
sing a loud operetta, tie
a ribbon in my hair, tell
a lie, steal a flower, or a
lion from the zoo

catch a ferry
to the quay, munch oysters
and roar in concert with that
toothless, rangy old cat as
we lie on the rocks at Mrs
Macquarie’s Chair, and watch
the sun cast his afternoon salutations
over our golden pelts, and we
wave like royalty to passing

and cast
our crowns
into their wake

© Julie Thorndyke

I Met Miles Franklin Shopping For A Blue Dress

miles F

I met Miles Franklin shopping for a blue dress.
Her snub-nose turned up at the pink and the green:
she wanted blue, only blue, the unclouded colour
of the Australian sky on a clear autumn day.

I followed her, unnoticed, into the change-room
and watched as she undid her nineteenth-century laces.
She threw away the corset her feminist friends decried;
slipped into a nylon jersey evening dress, electric blue

with matching feathers. The sweeping scarf
hanging from the halter-neck-line swirled and flirted
as she twirled, and rose into the air, like the riding crop
of Brent of Bin Bin, dancing over the plains of Brindabella.

© Julie Thorndyke

first published in Five Bells 2010

Morning Song


Within the muesli box
within the fridge
within the wholemeal loaf
within this egg.

Within the honey jar
within the marg
within this dream of life
imagined large.

Within the coffee pot
within your cup
within each melted drop
your toast mops up.

Within the Wednesday rush
within your kiss
within each measured word
our story is.

© Julie Thorndyke

first published Islet  2010

Sleepless Sonnet


Some run their restlessness into the ground
along a stretch of tarmac or a hill;
on surfboards, will allow the waves to pound
their strength and anxious thoughts at last to nil.
A prayer will work for some, and I have tried;
or stitches slipped along a needle sure
a rosary their worried hands to guide
who gather bands of wool for homeless poor.
My running shoes, these words upon the page;
relentless metre is my churning sea.
I save the knitting for my lonesome age
for poverty, alas, will always be.
I stretch my lines to find a small escape
and give our common enemy his shape.

© Julie Thorndyke

Another sonnet from the archives!

First published Ilumina : poetry unlimited journal 2007 p.186