My father’s hands were strong and silent
capable, restless, methodical, worn.
Missing the tip of a digit or two;
able to mend shoes, carve the weekend roast,
mow lawns, grow vegetables
give out hymn books, shake hands after church,
make piles of the collection-plate coins
lay carpet, fix the car, drive to music lessons
make a new key to wind up my toy train.

His hands could claim me if the surf were too wild;
were strong to carry this broken-legged child
put metho on mozzie bites, dab soap on my nose
clap hands for the babies, and cheer when they smiled.

In this noisy shouting world with strident voices cluttered
hear the quiet words of love my father’s hands have uttered.

© Julie Thorndyke

Recently in Ribbons and Gusts


Sotto Voce

white on white
a snow-bound cottage
framed by bare trees
those elusive shadows hold
echoes of you and me

for the darker moments
when sunrise
is too far distant
for comfort

bold red to hold
an abstract canvas
in the eye—
the tricks we learn
to survive this life

a swirl
of ocean blue—
in the midst
of our turbulence,
the red flag of desire

colour and line
define our world—
we capture
one moment, and seek
to unlock eternity

an arc of blue
cuts this corner of canvas—
always the detail,
the sotto voce
that enthralls me

© Julie Thorndyke

12 July, 2015, Muse Gallery Cafe

First published in Ribbons 11(3) Fall 2105 p.53

Sadly, Muse Gallery and Cafe have closed their doors for the time being.Let’s hope that it won’t be a permanent decision. I enjoyed viewing the work of our local artists, and appreciated the impetus they provided for this tanka sequence.

A luminous painting in the gallery also prompted this tanka, that appeared in Gusts 22 Fall/Winter 2015 p.8:


pale leaves
dripping with light
the gentleness
of our first touch,
your fingers on my neck

© Julie Thorndyke




I feel that I understand nothing
I hold the key to the universe
I roar like a lion
I run like a mouse
the tide is way, way out
the beach holds the full sea
my faith is a tall tree
an un-germinated seed
but always

© Julie Thorndyke

first published in Studio : a journal of christians writing Number 103, 2006.


100 yrs school mag

world poetry day


Lemon tree, bumble-bee, lavender, sage
a pair of brown hunting dogs led by a page;
sunshine and winter fields covered in snow
these are the pictures my needle will show.

Turquoise and amethyst, bright emerald green
quilting a carriage cloth fit for a queen.

Filigree, fleur-de-lis, deep royal blue
doves in the dove-cote and fire in the flue
powdered wig, dance a jig, minstrels will bow
out in her play-farm the queen milks a cow.

Turquoise and amethyst, bright emerald green
quilting a carriage cloth fit for a queen.

Peacocks, white stallions, shy deer at the stream
pale silk like cobwebs embroiders my dream.
Pricking my finger in haste as I lean
close to the rush-light and sew the fine seam

red blood drops freely across my fine art
even my needle has changed to a dart.
Out in the square, see the tri-colour wave
these steady stitches shall keep my heart brave.

Turquoise and amethyst, bright emerald green
stitching a carriage cloth fit for a queen.

Wheels over cobblestones, hear the crowd cheer
blades, fine as diamonds, her neck will soon wear
peer through the window, the black-hoods are seen
raising a guillotine fit for a queen.

© Julie Thorndyke

school mag covers

I was fortunate to have this poem published in The School Magazine, Touchdown, October 2012. It was a great thrill to be published in a magazine I had read as a child, and in which so many wonderful writers have been represented.

The first draft of the Fleur-de-lis was written all in a rush one Easter. My family and I were at the beach for the weekend. It was a happy family time, but during all the walking, swimming and eating, there was a rhythm and a single line of poetry going around in my head: “quilting a carriage cloth fit for a queen”. This line became a repetitive element holding the poem together. The words evolved, fused with images of bright jewel colours and rich tapestry work. In a sort of poetic trance, I found a quiet moment and managed to scribble the lines down.

I was studying in the Master of Creative Writing program at The University of Sydney that year. I used this poem as part of my poetry portfolio, and read it at the end of year soirée. The rhythm and rhyme make it a good piece to present to an audience.

I hope the poem Fleur-de-lis will stir your senses and conjure up vivid images in your imagination.

Happy World Poetry Day! And congratulations The School Magazine on one hundred wonderful years.


100 yrs school mag

Milking Time

On a ship again, this time
the rocking makes the red gunshot
crevices in my torso quake and sting
with every pitch and dive. Seabirds
hover, like the maggies on the farm—
is it milking time?

The salt-harsh taste of bully beef,
the tepid tea, the damper bread—
in my mind’s eye, I see the flush
of mother’s cheek, as she pours out broth
and settles the little ones to their tea.
Is it past milking time?

Dusk, and in the greying sky
I hear an echo of the galah’s cry.
The cows will be coming up the hill
to stand in the yard, calm and still
with udders full and eyes soft brown—
They know it’s milking time.

Behind closed lids, I long to see the rush
of creamy white fall to the pail. But all
that comes is crimson rain that falls
and pools and comes again. I never thought
that Daisy’s teat would hold a memory so sweet
and make me long for milking time.

Young Bill, my brother still in school,
has risen early, retired late. He fights
his battle in the muddy paddocks of home.
Double milking, morning and night,
until I am home to do my share.
It is long past milking time.

© Julie Thorndyke

This Christmas


I don’t want anything new
or different, the latest
style or shade—

I want something old
and familiar, worn and wound
around my heart with strings
of rough wool, tugging
at memories buried beneath
the frost, barricaded by thorns
and brambles laden with blood-red fruit.

This Christmas I want the warm
rush of pleasure being reunited—
the moist eyes of family
remembering way-back-when.

The lopsided handmade star, the chipped
cup and tarnished silver tray; the whisky
cake, cheese ball and crackers; apple cider, lemonade and tinned fruit in the punch.

This Christmas, when I raise a glass
I expect it to twinkle with tears for the lost
and gleam with the reflected glances
of lovers’ god-blessed eyes.

© Julie Thorndyke


pedestrian crossing

central p

on this wet stave, our uncoordinated
footsteps strum a pattern of blues notes,
syncopated with raindrops, tuned

to the drip, drip, drip of water down our open
collared, dressed-in-a-hurry outfits;

counterpointed by your persistent kisses, my
slippery, hand-grasping fingers, reaching for
that dry-skin warmth of recent memory

for that under-the-doona closeness, left just
minutes ago for this dash out into the real
horn-honking, bus door-slamming, policeman-

shouting, busker-singing, ice-cream-buying public;
where the curled cord that connected us
to the thrumming power surge of love

is invisible, too short, unviable, and threatens
with sharp sparks to short-circuit as we
stand in a soggy line for raspberry gelato

and the only way to save our song
from certain extinction is to run
red-lipped back through the rain

fumble with the door key, slide
laughing over puddled floors

and dive back into
our final coda

© Julie Thorndyke

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