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

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



I picked some self-sown violets
from my driveway edge this morning
they were wet with rain

entwined with the stems
of wild sarsaparilla—
unopened buds purple at the tips

each year this vine re-grows
despite the pruning and digging
of heavy handed men

each spring
I recall a viewing of Dogwoods
the agent’s smile fading

as our faces dimmed
with the sad aura
of the musty brick villa

I stood in the doorway…
so few rooms—were they
as cold and stale then as now?

tessellated tiles on the verandah,
cracked and broken from years of riding
this travelling clay soil

wooden-framed screen doors
closed against insects
the faint echo of a wheeze

in the beige, fifties kitchen
where night by night the words of Tree of Man
struggled for air

twenty years before my teacher
tried to interpret the great grey ordinariness
in a hot concrete classroom

looking for plot
in the bushfire, the flood, the fortitude
of the Australian everyman

when all the time the action
was in the blade of grass, the milk bucket, the fly
and a thousand unseen stars

twinkling beneath a heaving ribcage
answering the flicker of their celestial counterparts
in the wheeling, uncommunicative sky

© Julie Thorndyke



She looked down at her hands,
which were itching as if swollen with fluid,
and calmly saw

that there were thick, green, finger-sized caterpillars
with pointy, raised, pale-yellow dots
protruding from their backs,

emerging from her skin,
rising like veins transposed into a different
key of flesh—

like drops of sweat
they formed,
rose and dropped away
from her wrists,
her hands and forearms,
only to be followed
by another,
and another,

until her whole arm
seemed to be nothing but

a fat squirming caterpillar and the room
in which she and the poet conversed
nothing more than a greenhouse

surging with foliage
and dripping
with the moisture
of primitive life.

Julie Thorndyke

Shadow Hunting


a sequence by Jan Dean and Julie Thorndyke

the road is long
the river wide, the sky high
no need to fear
life has many favours
when the wind is at your back

in this cave
there is no hint
of frost, sleet or gale
the fire heats my toes
and sends stories to tell            

fireside fingers
with wiggling toes cast shadows—
the first cinema
was a screen flickering
animals on a stone wall

horned monsters
shriek in the moonless night
she stokes red embers,
traces charcoal figures
of hunter and prey on limestone  

little remains
of their victory dance
beneath rubble
tangled hair, a bone gnawed bare
but thrills of a kill linger

sounds of footsteps
sliding over loose gravel
a reptile skin
dry and curled
too large for any snake              

muffled drumbeats
send warnings near and far
ignored by sly ones
a cape of scales comes forth
on the beast of prophesy

lightning comes
as if by his command
this night, children
pant with fear, women
look over their shoulders     

few understand
why men and women rise
again and  again
to defy their fate, leaving
torn petals, squashed seeds

on this voyage of life
together we may
travel even further
than we have dreamed              

Jan Dean and Julie Thorndyke 

first published LYNX 27:3 October 2012


2014-06-28 10.33.37

The beach has changed this year
tall dunes have washed away—
our rock pools dry and bare
… so fall the sands of time.

The surf club walls have lurched
foundations sink and warp
each window pane has cracked
to admit the sands of time.

The jetty timbers creak
and splinter with the tide
with every passing week
sink deep in sands of time.

The camping ground has closed
bright sign has fallen low
weeds thrive where children played
… so fall the sands of time.

© Julie Thorndyke
First published June 2014 by Australian Children’s Poetry

Sonnets From The Kitchen


I’ll write a sonnet built of liquorice tea
of almond flakes and sponge with raspb’ry jam
no one shall taste the meaning save for me –
it shall be hidden well in seasoned ham.
The bite of lemon on my eager tongue
sweet berries mixed with mascarpone cheese
I wipe away the sugar when I’m done,
leave to the sparrows crumbs that do not please.
Let sweet and savoury pies be rolled and filled
roast beef and parsnips, mustard, gravy boiled;
fresh lemon sole be caught and finely grilled
my fork with fettuccine nicely coiled.
My tonsils from their sweet hot cave rejoice:
the pastry chef has given me a voice.

I cut the grease with water boiling hot
detergent bubbling like a snow capped dome
I wash the words to see what they are not
and look for silver tines to take them home.
What shall the ending couplet now expound?
I’ve cleaned and polished language to the bone
fresh tastes, exotic spices rarely found
but still the sonnet leaves me not alone.
I search the cookbook longing for a taste
of wild plums that will raise my poem high:
why let the shortcrust pastry go to waste?
For even little Jack played in his pie.
I take my finger from the pot of jam
go out into the world, see who I am.

Julie Thorndyke

first published in Phoenix : The University of Sydney Writers Journal 2006 p. 108 

Nearly a decade since I wrote these “tongue in cheek” sonnets in Judith Beveridge’s poetry class at USYD.

They still make me smile 🙂