Poetry – Apparitions

Fatherhood, eh?

What a journey.

It should be clear to anyone playing along at home that I haven’t really had the time or the energy to write much poetry of late, but that’s not the only thing that’s been stopping me from writing anything for this blog. Well, at all really.

When I first started publishing my poetry I did so anonymously, and it had very little reach (I mean compared to now I guess, and even so it doesn’t really have a huge amount of cut-through which I am okay with honestly). I then started sharing on a Twitter account – follow me at @abitofpoetry if you want to support me there as well – and then to my personal Twitter and finally on Facebook to my friends and family. For most of my mental health journey (i.e. the main reason I really started to like poetry in particular as it is a wonderful tool to express the emotions I have been processing) I have really been dealing with internal stuff: my negative thoughts about myself`, working through my depressive episodes and anxiety attacks, worries about the future, understanding fatherhood when my dad hasn’t been around for most of my life, learning to have compassion for myself, accepting my diagnosis of ADHD, dealing with the trauma associated with being bullied, harassed, assaulted and so on throughout school… honestly I could go on for a long time.

Since my son was born however, things have changed a little (read: to an unfathomable extent); my priorities have shifted from dealing with my thoughts, feelings, and emotions for me, to dealing with them for my son and my wife. Both my wife and I have been exploring what it means to be a family, what it means to have family, what relationships are and which ones are worth actively maintaining, and how to make sure that we are put our relationship as a coordinated system before anything else. We have both had to deal with our own significant emotional struggles during this time and while it is not my place to talk about my wife’s experiences, I am not ashamed to admit that I went through a number of months of pretty deep-seated post-natal depression, and if not for my wife’s unwavering support and my already-established access to mental health professionals (shout-out to Melissa Ferrari in particular) I don’t know how I would have navigated it. My friends – from those I have had since before I had even entered my teen-years to those amazing peers, colleagues, and mentors I have surrounded myself with that journey through the education system – were and continue to be a huge support too, and along with the aforementioned these friends have helped me not only to establish myself as a better and more confident father than I had ever hoped I could be, not only supported me at my lowest moments, but have encouraged me to have compassion and patience with myself, and learn to back myself, rather than simply roll over and blame myself for all of the problems that occur in my proximity.

So what’s missing?

Well, without going into specifics so publicly, my newfound ability to define what is my fault, what is outside of my control but my responsibility nonetheless, what is not my responsibility, and what is the responsibility of others has caused some fractures in my close family. Some fractures are clear, and out in the air and some are unspoken. There are people around me who love me for who I am – who I apologetically am – and there are some who still want me to come crawling back to them, apologising for their own missteps, misunderstanding, apathy, and in many cases prejudice against me for my mental illness, including the traumatic experience of being diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder at the ripe old age of 28. Those who know me, not those who think they know me because they have known me for a long time and think I am the same kid I was ten or fifteen years ago, have accepted and embraced the person I am becoming. Unfortunately there are some people around me who expect this round peg (a more appropriate shape for my peg-type than square, I feel) to fit in a square hole because I used to damage myself just to fit into their conception of what and who I should be.

These poems are about them.

I write my poetry by hand first, and I will continue to sit here typing them while burning the proverbial candle and watching my son sleeping on the baby monitor. He is beautiful, even in the black-and-white of the night-vision that is being live-streamed to my phone. I would do anything for him.

One member of my family recently called me a narcissist and acted like they were doing me a favour by telling me. They indelibly accused me or apathy, paranoia, and self-absorption, enacting a one-person intervention-style attack on me that ended with the following words (note: I am paraphrasing here because it hurts too much to go back to that email to get the exact quote and because I don’t want to publish my wife’s or son’s name):

“You need to change. You owe it to your wife and your son.”

This person barely knows my wife, and has actively worked to clearly delineate the divide between my wife’s family and my own throughout the almost 10 years I have been with her. Sometimes this person has done so with a clear disdain for my wife’s culture. This person has never met my son.

This person, clearly, barely knows me.

I haven’t been able to respond to them personally, and I won’t – it hurts too much right now.

This is not a response to their actions.

These poems are not just about them.

These poems are surely going to upset people.

These poems are not for anyone but myself and those people who have tried so hard for so long, and upon reaching the top of one of the endless mountains we mentally ill must climb have had the people they trust most make it clear that they prefer you at the bottom.

They’ll kick you back down sometimes, but if you’ve climbed it without them before, you sure as hell can climb it without them again.

I have changed. I will continue to change. I am a better me than I ever have been.

You tell me to change for my wife and child? I beat you to the finish line before you even realised the race was on.

You don’t want me to change for them, you want me to change for you.

Enjoy the poem.


P.s. I honestly don’t know if these are any good – I am too emotionally attached to them. I feel like there is some good stuff here, but it is not consistent. Let me know what you think!



Is “I just don’t understand”
the best that you
can do? You roll
your eyes and turn
towards the other too
because the more you see the
refuse of my mind;
the more I hold my ground,
refuse (un)kindly sympathies and
living elegies to he
who died
the moment that I broke free from
your silken bind; the more
you see you cannot find
the person that you thought
that you had made,
the harder that you try
to punish me for
choices that
you made.

Remember that: they’re
choices that you made.

And I’ll recall
their choices too;
I’ll recall
your choices too.

I will remember this:
that they
are you.

And it is more than time
for me to see this through.


The other day, or thereabouts,
when shadows dusted earthy ground
the mirror-lake you led me to
began to sing a tune.

A tune of love, or quite alike,
did echo forth from out of sight:
you brought to me a siren’s song
to hold my gaze anew.

You see: that lake you gave to me?
It was the thing that set me free
from mind-forged daggers of your make –
it let me see my fate.

Beyond the cracks, beyond the glass,
beyond the freezing, painful past,
beyond the lies, beyond the proof,
is final, purest truth.

If this was love just as you say
you’d draw me closer day on day,
but as you think you rightly make
a martyr’s sacrifice

I’ll hold you to that Faustian pledge –
you tried to pull me to that edge
but with my strength I knew I could
resist the serpent’s wrath.

So when you throw me to the ground
and like a toy gods toss me ’round
remember this: perched on his throne
Narcissus dies alone.


If words are mirrors that we
hold up the the soul
then yours are broken:

those sharpened shards of
polished glass slide from
your shaking fingertips and
cross the aching space
between your now-clenched fist
and stone-cold

those pointed words of
loving-hate slide from
your shaking fingertips and
cross the aching space
between your now-clenched fist
and my long-pained

Entropic words have
silenced me, you’ll find, but in
their chaos they will
leave you blind
and lead me to the refuge
or my new-discovered mind
whose thoughts to which
in final ecstasy
I sit resigned.


The banquet hall is empty. He stands alone, entranced. Somewhere off-stage the actor for his wife – the Queen – falls to her knees. She’ll never rise again.

The theatre is silent, and he breathes shakily – alone and abandoned. His thanes have left. His wife as well.

He wasn’t ready. Not yet.

“It will have blood, they say.”

He walks slowly towards the audience and draws his sword. Someone in the front row whispers to the person beside them, “Gosh, that looks very realistic.”

He speaks again before wading into the crowd, sword-arm raised above his head.

“Blood will have blood.”

~150 hours later – Blog Post

Hey everyone,

I thought I might just spill some thoughts here about what has been going on in my life recently. In particular, the thing that has led to me working an extra ~150 hours at least in the last 6 months (or just under 4 extra working weeks) unpaid, and absolutely willingly.

The following blog post will be a tad self-indulgent, so bear with me.

About a year ago, one of my colleagues – my “work Mum” – decided she wanted to run a musical at my school for the first time in 25 years. I immediately jumped on board, and became the Assistant Director of the damn thing, and it began to snowball at an alarming rate.

In Term 1, we planned and got the teachers together, and that in itself was arduous, but then the came bringing the kids on board. Now, I teach at a fully-selective public school, and while my students are beautifully well behaved for the most part, the stereotype is that they are not particularly interested in the creative arts. Boy were we wrong.

70 students auditioned, and we picked around 20 students as performers. Rehearsals began, and went on, and on, and on, and the longer we spent with the kids, the better we all got to know them. We eventually got a band together, and (almost too late) after 7 days at school in the most recent school holidays, and every preceding Sunday 2pm – 5pm and Friday afternoon in the last 6 months (along with multitudinous before and during-school rehearsals) we had the performance ready to go.

By now, I had sat with and comforted the kids while they cried after forgetting their songs or dealt with friendship or family dramas, I got annoyed at them when they wouldn’t focus, and I bantered with them constantly to help keep the moral up. It was all very fun.

Now most teachers will tell you that “it’s about the process, not the product”, and I would agree for the most part – seeing and helping the kids learn how to sing and act was wonderful. But for me, the thing I will never, ever forget is the look on their faces after they came off the stage at the end of the universally sold-out 5-show run we did over 3 days. They had a buzz I had never seen in students – an innocent excitement that seems to have disappeared from my life. They looked like, for a moment, they might just pop. At the end of the last show, the air was quite seriously vibrating with the adrenaline, and happiness and melancholy of something that was over. I may have been exhausted (and I still am, the last show was at 7pm on Saturday and we didn’t leave school until 11:30pm that night) from doing stage-hand stuff and managing them so that they would be ready for the performance or the next act, but I know that I have given them something they will never forget. That is an indescribably feeling.

How can we do anything more special as teachers? More meaningful? More real? It’s not about the content for me, and it never will be. I might like English, but as far as I am concerned, it’s way more important to be able to give these kids experiences. Even if others will just write them off as “nerdy maths kids” who “can’t be creative”.

I may, and probably will, fade into obscurity for them. They may not remember my name, or the fact they called me their “musical Dad”. None of that really matters.

In the end, if you want to be a teacher, and not simply teach, then this is the stuff you do. It’s about them and it always will be, and if you can accept that, then you’re on the right track. But you have to accept that it shouldn’t be you they remember.

Having said that, the card and the flowers and the “Hulk” T-Shirt are all nice, and I will forever be graced with the memories of an amazing set of kids who had the commitment and the drive to put in ~150 hours to perform a show for fun and for each other; and even when the oversized XXL shirt works its way to the bottom of my dresser, the flowers die, the card goes into the “reasons I’m a teacher” box with all the others, and the kids have forgotten me, this will always be a reminder of why I do it.

For them.


Flowers from the kids

Bonus “Nala”, because she is cute.

Ruminations on Writing – Blog Post

It’s been a long time since I blogged rather than just wrote, but I had an interesting interaction with a couple of students of mine today, and I wanted to unpack it a little bit.

As a public school teacher born and bred (quite literally, both my parents taught in public schools, although while my mother became a Principal, my father didn’t like the idea of actually teaching students as he was one of the “flower-children” teachers that came out of the post-Vietnam period in Australia), I come across students of all descriptions, talented in a plethora of areas, and – if you give them the right opportunities – ready to absolutely thrive. The profession has its challenges, but it is essentially the best thing I could possibly be doing with my life, and it brings me absolute joy.

It was absolutely pouring down with rain this morning, but I had organised to have a chat during my morning playground duty with one of my more talented students (and when I say “more talented”, I mean a better poet and writer than I have ever been, and only 16) about a spoken word poem she’s going to perform at a big event coming up.

The poem is seriously amazing, and it’s a shame I can’t link it here, because it’s a pleasure to behold.

During this conversation, with the two of us shivering in the unseasonably cold wind and being sprayed lightly by the icy mist bouncing off the pebblecrete standard to an Australian High School walkway, she said a few things to me that stuck out, and while I addressed them with her, I thought it would be worth just exploring the ideas here as well:

  1. “Anyone can write a poem. Anyone can act. Anyone can write. It just takes practice. What I am doing isn’t special.”
    Sure, as a teacher I absolutely believe that. In theory, it’s true. I don’t believe there is a huge amount separating the Terry Pratchetts from the others, but the bit that is separating them is integral. That bit might be drive, it might be experience, it might be opportunity, and it might well just be practise. If you write, try and write well, and if you perform, try and perform well. But who cares? If it were that simple, wouldn’t everyone do it? She doesn’t realise it, but I think that my student proved how special her skills are.

    We say that those people who do things well make what they do look easy, and young people sometimes find it hard to separate this feeling from even their own achievements. I think it takes time and maturity to be comfortable with success. If we are special; if we stand out, then we have to do something with it.

    I want everyone to write poems, and act plays, and publish books, but the key factor is they won’t. Most won’t, and because they won’t, they can’t. It’s not an easy thing to put your soul on the line, and when you do, no matter what, that makes you special.

  2. “Why does it matter anyway? This stuff isn’t tangible. How do you even measure poetry? Shouldn’t I be doing something more important?”
    What is more important than storytelling? We tell stories to our children. Ourselves. Our loved ones. We tell them to create maths problems, and build stories to explain scientific phenomena. We tell stories about our days, our lives, our loves, our embarrassments.

    Jokes are funny stories. Elegies sad ones.

    Our lives are just stories that are being told to us, and will be enfolded into a larger cultural, experiential, and human narrative that can’t be broken, no matter how small a part we played.

    It’s stories, all the way down.

    At my school in Year 11 (the second last year before the end of High School) we teach a unit called “Narratives that Shape Our World”, and we look at a whole bunch of different ways that narratives are constructed. From campfires, to oral traditions, to Dystopias, to Documentaries – even just in the space that the English curriculum has cut itself into the broader education syllabus we have multitudinous ways in which we can engage with stories. We only started teaching this unit last year, and on the second run-through of it, I am really starting to see the importance of what we do as writers, poets, and storytellers.

    As I said before, we don’t all get to tell a story well – for whatever reason – but we’re drawn to them no matter what. As a storyteller, we can keep our stories to ourselves, and we can hide them away. They are mine, and mine alone, who has a right to experience them?

    No one. No one has a right. They never have and they never will.

    But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try anyway.

    These stories we tell, and read, and view, and hear, they are stories that may touch some eternal part of someone. They are unquantifiable and intangible, but I can tell you now that the stories my Grandfather told me are etched into my memory like they are my own. I have sat in the plane with Yossarian holding the guts of Snowden, and I have cried with him. I have waited for Godot with Estragon and Vladimir, watching Lucky with bemusement and Pozzo with disgust. I have travelled with Samus into the depths of an unknown planet, and felt her fear when Ridley almost got us. I have watched as Dagon rose above me in an ancient ocean hellscape. I have walked the streets of a city that doesn’t exist with Commander Vimes, and I don’t just remember the words, but I remember the streets. The sounds. The smells. Everything.

    When Sir Terry Pratchett died a few years ago, I sobbed for an hour for him, and then for another one for the people I knew from within the pages. Tiffany, Susan, Death, and Moist would never walk the Disc again. They had stopped. Their stories were over. And just as we have our memories – the stories we tell ourselves – the old stories still exist, but they will never change.

    How can something that has such a visceral effect be meaningless? Maybe we put too much stock in the tangible. The streamer, Vinny Vinesauce (I know, stupid name, but we live in the age of the internet so you’ll just have to get used to it), that I watch has the following statement in his rotation of memes: “words, man. We made ’em up.” I mean obviously, but the fact we’ve been able to ascribe meaning and value to what was once intangible says something about the act of telling stories.

    But we made up numbers too. And science and time and everything else. So why bother? Because the further down we go, the less tangible and measurable everything becomes.

    Maybe we need more of the immeasurable, and much more of the felt.

    If we just listened and experienced the stories of others, we wouldn’t hate each other so much.

    And if you can really give someone else a story, and place it in their memory and their heart and their soul, well that’s probably the most important thing of all.

  3. “My mum said to me last night: [Student], you were on your way to becoming a scientist, or an economist, something like that, but then you met these teachers and you want to be a poet or an actor” and “I don’t think I should do maths in Year 11 and 12, but my parents will probably make me anyway”

    Screw your parents.

    Listen to them, and consider what they say, and move on. Hell, screw me too. You may be a kid, but you know what you want now. Follow that, and see if it works, and if it doesn’t you have a story to tell, and have learnt something.

    We have almost no time on this planet or in this universe. We’re a coincidence: born from nothing and turning back into nothing, and we don’t have a right to anything we have, but we have it anyway.

    Who has time to waste our lives making other people – even your parents – happy at the expense of yourself?

That’s it for now.

I hope if you read this is will help you to understand my writing better, and maybe help you to find meaning in your own writing.

Thanks for indulging me, it’s been a pleasure.

Enjoy yourselves, and tell your stories.