Giles Pickford, Published Poems

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1.    Paroo, Bokhara, Warrego, Irrara

2.    Seven, Eleven, Nine

3.    A Haiku on People who are Always Complaining

4.    Just as Well

5.    A Nonsense Rhyme for a Senseless Time

6.    Haiku for Taiwan

7.    Sedition is Curved

8.    On the Unlikely Possibility that there are First Causes in the Universe

9.    On the Unlikely Possibility that there are First and Last in People

10. Seventeen Questions without Answers

11. The Ballad of Old Kirrawee

12. Two Sonnets: Age Observed from Without, Age Seen from Within

13. A Handful of Symbols

14. Random Patterns on a Screen

15. Cain

16. Haiku for Eve and Pandora

17. Faith, Hope and Love

18. Things you will never ever know

19. Leviathan, Ziz and Behemoth

20.  The Angle of Repose

21. Ode to Christchurch

22. Numbers after Heisenberg, 1927

23. The Snake Replies

24. The Soul

Paroo, Bokhara, Warrego, Irrara

Green flash of parrots through the gidgee,
Red glare of sun off the claypan floor,
Cold stars shine, night sounds quiver,
fire in the grate at the homestead door.

Dusty-breasted and perilous her loves
On the long rubble of the Yantabulla Road.

Lousy Jacks whoop on the Yellow Box twig
While red fox slinks below.
Wild boar roots near twenty-mile drain
Out back in the Brigalow.

Loving and dangerous she combs her hair
On the long dust of the Yantabulla Road.

Smoke in the eye, dew on the nose,
The sun rises slow on the edge of the world.
Ring around the Moon, rain on the gilgai,
These are the gifts of her love unfurled.

Patient, all-knowing, lonely she waits
On the long mud of the Yantabulla Road.

Bleached skull winks and willy willy laughs
In the barbed wire heat of the furnace days.
Iron lunged wind from the Bulloo overflow
Dries blood spit and tears in the noon day haze.

Lose her, and she will never find you
On the long dust of the Yantabulla Road.

Paroo, Bokhara, Warrego, Irrara,
On the long straight curve of the Yantabulla Road.

Bush Glossary


A type of mulga in the family Acacia

Lousy Jack

A pied Currawong prevalent on the North West Plains of NSW: Family - Artamidae; Order- Passeriformes


An area of flat ground that is under water when it rains. Try to drive across it then and you will sink to the axles. Walk across and you will sink to the ankles

Willy Willy

A tiny tornado only a foot across which can take your hat off and suck the tea out of your cup if it comes across you in the heat of the day.

Giles Pickford, 1988 Winner of the Traditional Bush Verse section 1990 Binalong Banjo Paterson Poetry Prize


Seven, Eleven, Nine

We eat and drink each day, for
Hunger obscures the pointless
Repetition of it all.

But there is a thirst from which
The untouched moment arrives,
Unknowable except by

A general assent amongst
The munchers and slurpers
That suddenly they are in

Unexplored territory.

The fog of sameness lifts and
we inhabit a new place.

The voices change and the faces are suffused
With the same light that saw Burke gazing on the Gulf
Or the wonder of Giles at the western end
Of the strata of colour beneath the blue.

This place can also be found solo.
But only out-of-doors when in the
Company of the many eyes that
Watch us when we eat beside the fire:
On the edge of a wild place, alone.

Giles Pickford, 23 October 1993 Published in the program for the 1993 ANU Poets' Lunch The obscurity of the title lifts when the number of syllables to the line is counted.


A Haiku on People who are Always Complaining

Man standing still accuses,
But running man excuses.
Man needs momentum.

Giles Pickford 2002


Just as Well

It's just as well the sea
Will not rise over me;
Though myriads will flee
Poor Bangladesh and Zuyder Zee

It's just as well the drought
Won't see the winter out
At our resort-strewn coast;
But burn wheat farms to toast.

It's just as well pestilence
Will meet with much resistance
From our well-fed immunity;
But smite the poor community.

It's just as well the quake
Won't shake us all awake
Though mothers' hearts may ache
In Bam and Sharm el-Sheikh

It's surely just as well.
But is it just, as well?

Giles Pickford, 2004 Published in the 2004 ANU Poets' Lunch


A Nonsense Rhyme for a Senseless Time

"That is the problem with governments these days. They want to do things all the time; they are very busy thinking of what things they can do next. That is not what the people want. People want to be left alone to look after their cattle."

Mrs Ramotswe of Botswana in 'The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' by Alexander McCall Smith

The people of Botswana thought
That the Minister ought to do nought
For grinding the cattle
And pounding the pratal
Were all that the good people sought

The Tsunaminous Minister fought
To change all the rules which he thought
Were 'holding us back
And creating a crack
In the Botsweconomic Report

All herders were turned into clowns
All verbs were changed into nouns
All customs were cancelled
All missions enhancelled
All caps were strategically crowns

The Minister got what he wanted
All bridges were slowly disponted
The cattle ungrounded
The pratal impounded
The Botswanites sad and garronted

Although the Botswanites mourned
The Minister's face was adorned
On History's fair page
For age after age
While his subject's belongings were pawned

Giles Pickford, 2005 Published in the 2005 ANU Poets' Lunch


Haiku for Taiwan

1. For Mandy Lin
Taiwan dreams like an opal
Hidden in the China Sea
Beautiful is she.

2. For Professor Pierre Yang
Guns across the Strait we hear
Thunder from the Silent Zone
But can they hear us?

3. For Carlo Chen
Quietly they gather the
Two-leaf tea in Alishan
In a golden bowl

4. For Madame Pao-Chuan Chang
Danshui on the river mouth
History is in your bones
Children take your gift

5. For Stephen Liu
Teeming Taipei bursts with noise
But in the Martyrs' Shrine is
Silence of lost lives

6. For Lian-Cherng Tang
In Towradgi you found me
By the great blue southern sea
My eyes have opened

Giles Pickford, December 2005, after the Ceremony at the Fort San Domingo Museum, Taiwan


Sedition is Curved (Given at the 2006 ANU Poet's Lunch)

The trial of Charles I (1649) was a momentous event, and not only for Britain. After thirty years of continental war, the kingdoms of Europe had, by the Treaty of Westphalia in October 1648, given some guarantee of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities within their domains, but as sovereign states that would police themselves. It was fundamental to this treaty, the foundation of international law, that a prince could not be overthrown for violating the liberties of his own subjects. But the most important thing about the Treaty of Westphalia was that England was not party to it. Just a few months later, John Cooke (the Prosecutor of Charles I) devised a way of ending the impunity it guaranteed to sovereigns, crafting out of the common law and the law of nations and the Bible a theory which could bring hereditary dictatorship to an end. This message, filtered through the philosophy of Locke and Montesquieu, provided inspiration for the French Revolution and the War of American Independence: we can see it now as the precursor of a much more recent development which began at Nuremberg, namely the use of criminal law to punish heads of state and political and military leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Cooke's charge began with a fundamental proposition: the King of England was not a person, but an office whose every occupant was entrusted with a limited power to govern 'by and according to the laws of the land and not otherwise'. It had been with the criminal object of securing unlimited and tyrannical power that Charles I had levied war against Parliament and had set out to destroy the very people whose life and liberty he was obliged to preserve. To bring home his guilt for the crippling loss of English life on both sides in the war he had started in 1642, Cooke invoked the doctrine which is called, in modern war-crimes courts, 'command responsibility':

"By which it appears that he, the said Charles Stuart, has been and is the occasioner, author and continuer of the said unnatural, cruel and bloody wars and therefore guilty of all the treasons, murders, rapines, burnings, spoils, desolations, damages and mischiefs to the nation acted and committed in the said wars or occasioned thereby."

From The Tyrannicide Brief by Geoffrey Robertson Q.C. ISBN: 0701176024

The universe is curved and so is endless time.
The Earth's road is curved and all creatures walk this way.
There is something in it which hates a dead straight line.
So nature's lovely, curly, random shapes hold sway.

But there is one deadly straight unnatural force
Which shows its hatred for the universal curve.
Tyranny drives with great speed in linear course,
Piercing the rib cage of freedom. It does not swerve.

Sedition bows humbly to unnatural power.
Appearing bent, recalcitrant, with curled lip; it would
Resist tyranny at every turn, hour by hour
Until the universal arc of all that's good

Bends arrow, spear, sword, cannon, each linear thing
Into a rounder shape. Thus the great circle of time
Completes its perennial quest, eradicating
Old tyranny, the most unnatural crime.

PS. John Cooke was executed after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, proving that all straight Tyrants will never learn from curvaceous History.


On the Unlikely Possibility that there are First Causes in the Universe
If something has no end, then can one suppose that it has no beginning?

If there is no beginning
Then ending is done
A circle is endless
Beginning is none

Eternal desire precedes
Cause and effect
It yearns for our love
Which we dare not reject

We are its reflection
It is our perfection
It reaches far back
Before the first night

Before the first light
Before the first sin
A world without end
Has no origin


On the Unlikely Possibility that there are First and Last in People
Some people see themselves as first and some as last. But there is no difference. Money distorts their perceptions, acting like a curved mirror.

First will be last
And last will be first
An atom divides
A drink from a thirst

What is the difference
Between tycoon and bum?
One takes Gin, the other Rum
One a loaf, the other, crumb

The rich and the poor
Are joined at the hip
There's interdependence
In the rise and the dip

Wealthy and prisoner
Suffer rigidity
Both have to live in
Gated aridity

Giles Pickford, April 2007 Published in the ANU Poets' Lunch 2007


17 Questions without Answers
Written for the 2008 ANU Poets' Lunch which has the theme "Poetic Licence"

Who allows those two addicts to have
that bright-eyed unwanted child? Who permits
the child's teacher to abuse a position
of trust? Did both create the arsonist?
And was his hangman duly licenced?

Who licences Scrooge to grind the faces of
the poor? By what right does the Warder
curtail the liberty of the oppressed?
Who authorises the purblind torturer?
What principle permits the just war?

By what authority does the polyp
make a reef? What guides the rambling vine?
What force informs unravelling history?
What anvil forges the incandescent Tiger?
Is blind nature licenced or unlicenced?

Who licences Poets, who are "the mirrors
of the gigantic shadows which futurity
casts upon the present"? Was it Shelley?
Who licences the giver of licences?

All poets are licenced; but, are some
more licentiously licenced than others?

Giles Pickford, January 2008


The Ballad of Old Kirrawee

This is the Ballad of brave Faherty
Who loved a fair maiden in Old Kirrawee
Up on the moors he bended his knee
And offered his troth beneath a green tree

Maeve was her name, her hair was jet black
It fell in soft waves all down her sweet back
Her eyes were deep blue, and she had a knack
Of driving men wild by selling them Smack

A hooker was she, a pusher as well
Poor brave Faherty was going to Hell
When for this wild maiden he stupidly fell
No matter what happened their love didn't jell

Up on the wild moors of Old Kirrawee
He tied a strong rope to the same green tree
Where he'd declared his love on bended knee
Thus ended the life of poor Faherty

Those who pass by the moor are taken aback
By the Ghosts of both lovers up on the track
He with the rope hanging from his poor neck
And she with the blue eyes selling him Smack

By Giles Pickford
Assisted by Bruichladdich Islay Malt
Boxing Day 2007


Two Sonnets
Dedicated to the members of the ANU Emeritus Faculty

The first sonnet depicts age as it is seen by the young.
The second is the view from an old person looking inwards.

Age observed from without

Derelict age with mottled scaly skin
With fading rheumy eyes, limping and thin
Unsteady of stance with balance denied
An open mouth with dribble at the side
Colourless thinning out of falling hair
The day-long occupancy of the chair
Aching joint, gnarled knuckle and tired bone
The vacant stare of one all ways alone
Listless, joyless, poverty-stricken age
With random outbursts of impotent rage
Breathless, toothless, pointless, quiet despair
Prosthetic, pathetic, going nowhere
The musty rancid smell and rattling breath
Marks the long lonely intercept with death

Age seen from within

The shimmering view from the mountain peak,
The immensity of past time loved and lost,
Such abundance of memory must speak
From its great fullness. Love won at such cost,
The brawling careless days of long ago,
The sappy happy rambling days of old,
The rise of love and children that follow,
Then that fever called work which the honest hold
Hard, but is held easy by the hollow.
At last when the harvest is in and done
Debts are paid, children grown, working no more
He moves quietly by the sea in the sun.
He hears the curved waves drumming down the shore
And treasures the beauty while his time is run

Giles Pickford February 2009


A Handful of Symbols

The first finger points and accuses
Second is longest: its gesture is obscene
The third bears the ring of faithfulness
The fourth is prayerful and serene

Strong thumb is one and all alone
And for ever will oppose them

Giles Pickford June 2009


Random Patterns on a Screen

My darkened computer screen looks back at me, empty.
Droplets from past sneezes are dotted across the dark.
The random pattern they make does tempt me
To see the arrangement of galaxies and stars.

Looking at the random pattern I hit upon a wheeze.
Is the scatter of the far-flung stars
The result of a colossal cosmic sneeze?

Giles Pickford January 2010



Born in the first unwanted pregnancy
After the eviction from paradise
Cain arrives with a rock in his hand
To smash the skull of the favoured child
And become the first murderer in the land

Giles Pickford March 2010


Haiku for Eve and Pandora

According to the Torah, the Bible, and the Qur'an, Eve was the first woman created by Yahweh, God, and Allah. According to the Greek Myths Pandora was the first woman on earth. Both women were set up to take the blame for everything that has ever gone wrong: an idea which is rebarbative in the present age. My mother was born in 1907 and was one of the first feminists. She gave me a point of view which is expressed here.

Eve in the Garden
First woman, primordial one
She the innocent

Pandora, doomed one
Intellectual enquiry

Pandora and Eve
Spirit of discovery
Both wanting to know

Eve and Pandora
Both born in the human spring
Scapegoats framed for us

Both take all the blame
The evil that from them came
Allocated shame


My wife rails at me
"It's your fault all this went wrong!"
Eve takes her just revenge


Pandora with three boxes

Description: Defiant

Defiant Eve


Sad Pandora or Eve

Giles Pickford January 2009

Written for the 2009 ANU Poets' Lunch which has the theme "Pandora's Box"

Pictures printed with the permission of the Author's granddaughter, Madeline Gass, who is now a charming young woman of nine and likely to take after her great grandmother Rosamond from what I have seen so far.


Faith Hope and Love

There are faith hope and love
Love is the greatest of these.
There are love hope and faith
In faith we face the unknown.
There are hope faith and love
Without all three we're alone.

But hope must be the stone
On which the foundations rest.
Bereft of hope, love and faith
Are birds without a nest.

Giles Pickford
Easter 2010


Things you will never ever knowInspired by Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty

The moment you are born and first see your mother
The moment when you die and last see your lover
The moment when sleep shuts the curtains of your mind
These are the moments you will never ever find

Nor will you ever know the nature of time
Nor the depth of space, nor the number nine
The Quark and the Lepton will not be understood
Nor will you comprehend the nature of The Good

Some people know that they are always right
That certainty is real does not cause them fright
But some are relaxed to know it is also true
The sum of one and one is approximately two

Giles Pickford
St George's Day 2010


Leviathan, Ziz and Behemoth Published by the ANU Poets' Lunch 2010
The waxing waning wayward moon looks back from the horizon
Her shining path sprinkles across the vast gulf of water.
Two eyes are shining like arc welders. See, it is Leviathan
Glaring back from the edge of the globe intent on slaughter

His bowels house his motive force fed by the yellow rock whose
Hideous strength knows no containment. High on his shining back
He carries the many manifestations of Ziz: awaiting their cues
A buzzing fury of wasps and hornets impatient to attack

On the distant shore the massed herds of Behemoth graze and sleep
A dispersed force of a trillion parts driven by one mind
Whose piercing eye is aware of what approaches from the deep
Whose spies watch every street, whose hidden hands touch every kind

We sacrificed to them; we gave them our gold and our young ones
We poor weak creatures who scurried around their legs fed this fear
The feverish nightmare has persisted down through all the aeons
Existing now in the massed military demigods of land, sea and air

Description: Leviathan, Ziz & Behemoth

The writer acknowledges the author of The Book of Job 41:1-34 for the inspiration.


The Angle of ReposeJanuary 2011

A talus slope achieves the angle of repose
The younger the slope the steeper
The older slope has a much milder incline
Its mildness betrays that it’s deeper

It takes a long time to reduce the incline
Memories go back much longer
Not on the move, the rocks rest in their groove
Immobile, they know they are stronger

Young rivers fly like arrows down their slopes
Impatient to rush through the scattered moraine
Old rivers, unhurried, find what they seek
Meandering carefully all over the plain

To live forever is to know more, not less
To arrive there we must be motionless

Talus slope, Isfjorden, Svalbard, May 1997

Description: Talus slope


Ode to Christchurch

Christchurch people for day after day
Have suffered shock and grief so bitter
For months they’ve been shaken like the prey
In the jaws of a grim predator 

The Earth heaved and seethed like boiling water
It melted like butter in the sun
There was little unbroken in Bexley
Bromley or Sumner once the quake was done 

Their lives can never be the same again
Uncertainty lies beneath the ground
The bonds between women, children and men
Are all that’s left which are strong and sound 

But like light from a far off beacon
The distant sweetness of hope is found
Christchurch was and will be again
New Zealand’s most beautiful town 

Giles Pickford and Tom Gregg
March 2011


Numbers after Heisenberg, 1927

A number is an unsteady measure
Heisenberg told us so
Because nothing is still for a second
A snapshot is too slow

 Some things move at tectonic speed
Some move faster than light
Accuracy is impossible
When a blur is in your sight 

Australia moves north each year
At the rate that toe nails grow
But you set the whole room in a spin
With positional vertigo

That a number can be exact
Is a useful abstraction
Multiplication and division
Addition and subtraction
Momentum and position
Are rocks in liquefaction 

Giles PickfordJanuary 2012Published by the ANU Poets Lunch December 2012


The Snake Replies

Submitted to the 2013 Poets' Lunch at ANU which has the theme "Cold-blooded Things"

The author has explained that snakes always speak in blank verse. Rhyming is too far off the ground and it makes them giddy.

   Me? Cold-blooded? Nonsense!    III
I am the temperature of my ambience.  III
   I lie on a hot rock an I am 40 degrees.   III
       The temperature drops and I sleep.    III
   You would die on the rock and freeze at night.         III
I have no limbs.    III
And so have no circulatory disorders.    III
   I only need to eat twice a week.    III
      I have only one enemy: you.    III
   You are surrounded by enemies.    III
I would never swap places with you.   I


The Soul

A baby sparrow fell from its nest.  I was 6.
We took it in and fed it with an eyedropper. 
We called it Cherub.

It snuggled into my cupped hand
Sleeping with its chin on my thumb

I am now 71 and remember Cherub
It resembles a soul in my mind.
It has no weight, it is hungry and it is helpless.

Thousands don’t believe it exists.

But I have held it in my hand and cherished it.

It exists across the entire universe.
It has no weight, it is everywhere and nowhere.
It is hungry and helpless.

Thousands are wrong.  It exists.

Giles Pickford
May 1947 and May 2013

Giles Pickford | Website created by Michael Pickford