My Words


The following poems were written by a MUCH younger version of myself. They haven't been edited or revised in any way for more than 10 years. Step carefully and don't hurt yourself laughing!

After the poems, if you're interested, I've added a more recent addition of mine, The Vietnam Tale. It consists of various memories from my youth, namely the time my parents spent performing with their band in Vietnam.

This is my city.
With its obscure towers,
its screaming signs
scheduled showers
and literate minds,
it breathes with life.
From its pavements of ages
and underground cages
come kinds from all classes
that make up the masses.
These are my people.
The boy with the scratches
from too many matches
with men who are older
and wiser than he.
The girl whose only
claim to fame
is jeans with
someone else's name.
The bum on the corner
with hand outstretched
and hopes of a saviour
ahead of a keeper,
just someone out there
to delve a bit deeper.
And then there's me;
unclassified and plain
who lives for life
with nothing to gain
from stepping on someone
or snubbing a foe
when life doesn't go
the way that it should.
Who knows how it should?
Not I.

The pictures I paint
with my words,
to me.
You say they're great
and you appreciate
how hard some lines can be;
how some sweat must fall
for a thought to seem
as easy as catching a moonbeam.
But all I ask
is that these words
touch you somewhere
you never knew
before now.

You may think your words
go in one ear
and out the other,
but they don't.
You say you can't write
your words down,
I wish you could.
'Cause I'd love to re-read them,
and find you.

It's times like these
when the world is cold
and what I need
is someone to hold.
People try
to ease my mind;
Bless 'em
'cause they're not unkind,
just hard to find.
And you may not say, "I love you"
and you probably never will.
But I know you care
'cause you're standing there
with my empty space to fill.
And it isn't fair to judge me
by the things I say or do,
or the friends I leave behind me,
for right now I need you.

(my first and only attempt at a song)

The child within me
doesn't know
how to see you;
are you my saviour,
or destroyer?
The woman within me
takes you
for the moment,
then leaves you.
The writer within me
keeps you
in her words.

I've faced death in the strangest places;
cars, buses,
alleyways and
your inevidable airplane.
Although we've never met,
I feel I'm ready
for it
when it hits.
I'm prepared
for the pain
or pleasure
of the end.
But, not now,
not now Lord.
I haven't danced in Paris
nor kissed in London;
my heart
hasn't really been broken,
although, at times, it felt like it.
So, please Lord,
just one more day.

(you'll be pleased to know that since this was written
I have danced in Paris and kissed in London)

This blank paper screams at me,
"Write something about him,
be it clever or witty,
sentimental or cute,
let your feelings be known!"
But, what ARE my feelings?
After all this time
I still can't tell
how I feel or felt for you.
I miss you
and need you to fill these holes in my life;
I long for your touch
but must contend with memories
of us.
I can easily say, "I love you",
although I never have,
but I don't mean "love" as the world knows it;
'til death do us part.
I mean "love" like a brother,
yet more so.
I can't explain the stirrings in my heart
or loins when I reminise
of us.
That's what we were, "us",
not "you and me", but "us";
I like that.
Will we ever be that again?
The postal system will keep us
for now.
I love you.
(for David Milgaard)

The night, I believe,
is my friend
and lover.
We wouldn't survive
one without the other.
Each of us exchanges gifts:
I have met my share
of men of midnight,
but more often than not,
the night and I
depart from these journies
We have each other's shoulders to cry on,
if need be
as it often is.
As I step into evening
I feel the night's arms enfold me.

You are
beautiful in your simplicity.
That may not sound as
as I would wish it,
but it's true.
You play no games,
erect no barriers,
nor paint any faces
for the world
or me to judge you by.
Loving you is easy.
It's not something I work at,
or try to perfect,
it's just there.
I offer you no castles
as I am no fair maiden;
I offer no curtain calls
or even applause,
I offer only me.
Is that enough?

Eyes should never met
in public.
More than two seconds
looking at each other
is forbidden.
Such intimacy
should be saved,
for candlelit darkness
and privacy.
What if you've never
It's something I only
dare to dream about.
Candles have burnt for others,
not me,
So, I practice,
looking at strangers,
preparing for candlelight.

What do the eyes of the dying see?
What secrets can be found in my lovers' eyes?
Are the smiles in yours for me alone?
Or do you share your glances
with strangers on the street?
Don't be afraid to look up
and meet their stares.
A whole new world
can be found
in a strangers' eyes.
A wink from across
a crowded room
or street
can change your day.
What mysteries can
unfold with a glance?
A lifetime's
maybe more.


If my senses were to be taken
one by one,
I'd plead my sight
be taken last.
Without hearing,
you can mouth
your love for me...
without touch,
I would know you
by your scent...
without taste,
your kiss
would be just as sweet...
without my sense of smell,
your body would still be
But, without sight,
I could not see your eyes,
watch you move
nor wonder at you from afar.
I ask only that,
senses gone,
I can touch your mind.

That curl
right in the middle of your forehead;
Big, sad, brown eyes,
sensing tears in others,
peer out at a cruel world.
If were up to me,
my prince,
thou world would glitter and sparkle,
like thine eyes.
The world is not ready
for my man-child.
His vision
has been scarred
by man's indifference
to man.
Take me back to Eden in your arms;
let me lie
among poppies
and float to Oz.
Hear the ringing in the distance?
Tinkerbell appears,
laden with dust.
Fly away,
my prince,
dream of Paradise:
Before the sand slips away...

I remember the first,
and so far
I flew a kite,
through a long, hot Boston summer
that lasted day-to-day.
I also remember
searching out four-leaf clovers
that same summer.
You'd kneel in the grass,
patiently picking through all the useless
two or three-leaf clovers.
I even started to think
that maybe
some other face-less child
had been before me
plucking off the fourth leaf
in spite...
I found one, though.
My pot of gold, my unicorn.
I slipped it in the back of a library book
to be safe from harm,
forgot it
and returned the book.
It, like so many other prizes
slipped away.
I keep renewing my library card,
just in case...

I sense a kindred spirit
within your soul
my partner
at some other point in time
a meeting of lives again
I thank you
for memories I will guard
in the crystal archives
I hide from the world
I cannot recall a time
when conversation flowed so smoothly
or easily
to wrap in words
the ray of comfort you brought
into my shattered world
a seed sown in the name of friendship
which will endure
the passage of time.
(for Kevin and a friendship which has lasted more than 20 years)

The Vietnam Tale

Back in the '60s and '70s, my parents were in a band,
The Four Ways, that consisted of my mother on lead vocals, my Dad on bass guitar, a lead guitarist and a drummer. They were billed as an Australian show band as they performed a few comedy routines along with their repertoire of songs and they did 2 tours of Vietnam, from September to November of '67 and the same time frame in '69. They had to audition for a panel of judges in Saigon beforehand and the average price for a four-piece band at the time was $400 a show. They passed with flying colors and ended up getting $450, or as my Mum recalls, about $150 after the agent got a hold of it! The shows were already half-sold on the basis of being an Australian band, something a bit different for the troops. They never got a chance to work the USO tours with Bob Hope as they usually booked American acts on the bill as opposed to Australian, so they were never asked. What follows are various memories from those days.

They were always on stand by for whatever vehicle they could get, usually Hueys or Chinooks, and my mother was terrified of the ones with no doors. She's logged more airtime than anyone I know and still has to have a stiff drink as soon as the airplane's in the air. Travelling by open-air in Vietnam scared the you-know out of her!

She remembers standing on the roof of their agents' villa in Danang and "watching the war" which seemed so close but yet so far away. They spent some time, any R&R they could get, in China Beach and I remember when the TV series of the same name was on how impressed Mum was with the way they portrayed it.

The agent cancelled one gig due to reports of snipers being seen along the route. The agency sent another group in their place, Someone and The Bubble Machine, a group of female singers, the bubble machines were all the rage at the time. They were all killed en route.

They got fed up with the agent's schedule at one point and got lost on purpose somewhere in the central highlands of Vietnam, just wandered around some American camps and played for food and lodgings. They did 2 shows a night for 3 days, handed the hat around after the show or received chickens, powdered milk, potatoes or booze, all delicacies at the time. And the times they played for the take in the hat, they averaged much more than the agent ever gave 'em, that's for sure.

In yet another agent-related tale, the band were all jailed for 72 hours in Bangkok, Thailand and fined 500 baht (about 25 US then) because the agent didn't renew their visas. The "working ladies" in the jail were fascinated by Mum's wig, especially when she took it off and hung it on a coat rack. Wigs were just too much of a luxury for most people then, even the working gals, most of them had never even seen such a thing at the time. One of the cops pulled his gun on it when he entered the room.

One major faux pas which may have caused an international incident occured at an Officer's Club in Thailand. Whenever they did a show at one of these clubs, the VIP tables were marked with a small US flag so Mum (or any performer) knew not to approach that table during one of their routines (she used to scan the crowd to find a "healthy" looking man, as my Mum was not a small woman, and sit on his lap while he helped her sing a song with the band, "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport"). So, this one evening, Mum goes into the audience, finds a candidate with no flag on the table, sits down and tries to engage the man in the song. He keeps saying, "No thanks, really, please go away." Most of the time the men would jokingly refuse at first and then join in, but this man made it clear she was to leave and she was getting looks from around the room telling her to back off so she did. After the show, someone apologized for not putting the flag on the table, the man was Captain Ernest Medina, the commanding officer of the unit charged in My Lai. He was on his way to Lieutenant William Calley's court martial. Probably not really in the mood to be singing about kangaroos.

A more harrowing and sobering experience occurred in Dong Ha (sp?), a mere 7 miles from the DMZ. A stage was built in the middle of nowhere and the audience numbered around 400, all of the men dressed in full combat gear. The band arrived via a one-engine helicopter, maybe a Osterdehavilland or Austerdehavilland, I can't be sure as I'm not familiar with 'copters, but it was one that didn't have a radar on board (important to the tale shortly). The show was a rousing success and the men asked if they'd like to stay for a cookout, but the helicopter pilot had been warned of an incoming storm so they had to leave right away. They did receive gifts of fresh chickens and powdered milk, something they hadn't seen in weeks. They departed with a heavy heart, everyone wanted to stick around and enjoy some downtime. With no radar on board, the 'copter had to fly below the gathering storm clouds and follow the coastline back to Danang, flying approx. 200 feet above the China Sea. Long after they landed safely they found out they had about 10 minutes worth of fuel left. Much later, they discovered that the trees surrounding the stage had been full of Vietcong snipers. All during the show they just sat in the trees watching, then opened fire about 15 minutes after the helicopter left. Not one member of the audience survived.

She remembers being in Saigon and meeting some soldiers just back from R&R in Australia, the first ones to go abroad after the Tet Offensive. They were all treated like royalty, she was told, and one black soldier said it was the first time he "forgot I was a black man." Not trying to make trouble here, just passing on memories.

The Americans and Aussies may both speak English, but the Aussie tongue can get in the way sometimes. They arrived on one base hours before showtime and Mum needed a rest so you asked a soldier to have someone "knock me up about 5", meaning to wake her up, of course, you naughty people :-) It was the talk of the base, the boys cracked up over that one.

They had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner in Takhli, Thailand, the menu alone was an adventure. Mum recalls how strange "pumpkin pie" sounded to her then. A whole pie made out of one vegetable? How odd. The band performed before the meal and enjoyed everyone's company during the meal. That night, one of the soldiers was shot down and, as they'd been instructed, stayed exactly where he landed, a tree. He spent the night hanging in this tree with a broken leg and a broken arm. In the morning's light he saw where he was ... about a foot off the ground. Mum visited the hospital tent the next day and saw him sitting in his cot wearing headphones and listening to a reel-to-reel tape player. He looked up at her and his face lit up. Without saying a word, he removed the headphones and handed them to her. He was listening to the tape someone made of their show from the night before. She's never forgotten how touched she was that this man found some kind of relief and release in her voice. Another soldier she recalls, Captain Irv Levine, who may have been at the dinner, handed my Mum a song called, "Bunker Number 3", and while she loved the song, they never got a chance to use it. It's long gone now and she's always regretted losing it.

I can vaguely recall another Officer's Club in Thailand where we spent Christmas of 1969. An officer gave me a hand-made doll which I dragged around Asia for a while and I sang "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" for the crowd of home-sick men. Not a dry eye in the house, of course, I was just 5 years old at the time and represented all the kids these men had left at home.

From Vietnam, they travelled to Hong Kong where I was staying with a family friend and they played the Playboy Club in Kowloon, a standing gig they had for a few years. Cute little picture of me dressed in a bunny suit NOT available by email ;-) From there they went to Australia to pick up a cruise ship, The Ocean Monarch, where they shared the bill with a bunch of other bands. They ended up doing 2 shows in the 2-week period and I got to revel in a cruise ship's glories but that's another tale along the riverbank. Soon after this voyage, they opened for The New Seekers, a HUGE gig at the time and later shared the bill in Okinawa with Johnny Cash and Roger Miller. The poor man's gone now (Roger Miller) so we won't mention him falling off his barstool ;-) Anyway, just wanted to show how life went on, one week in Vietnam the next on a cruise ship. From the ridiculous to the sublime indeed.

Johnny Cash deserves his own paragraph here. Six years after they performed together in Okinawa, they met up again in Salem, Ohio and his drummer remembered the show, which was a huge compliment. And a few years later, Don Williams and Johnny Cash were in our agent's office in Nashville when the demo tape for the one album the band released (later nominated for a Juno Award, Canada's version of a Grammy) was playing. One of the songs, "The Shelter Of Your Eyes" was written by Don and we needed his permission to release it, which he gave, saying it was written for a man but he really liked my Mum's version. Johnny Cash made a point of saying, "if that little lady's ever in Nashville, you tell her to look me up, she has a big future." Just a proud daughter gushing, forgive me.

We attended a wedding at the Cliffside Hotel in Guam, I still have pictures of the gorgeous ice sculpture swans surrounding the pool. On the guestlist, the Marcos', Ferdinand and Imelda. All my Mum recalls is that Imelda changed shoes three times :-)

They were heady days indeed, travelling from country to country with the band, making friends we still count as precious gifts and learning first-hand what went on outside our backyard. I wouldn't trade a day of it for a million bucks.

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