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The Pietà - South Australian Creative Writers Women Writers database

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The Pietà

The mighty crowds surge in St. Peter’s Square,

The great dome rises in its splendour, there,

And on the balcony, now in full view

Stands Pope John Paul, in his regalia new.*

The tall, imposing figures of the Saints

Above Bernini’s columns tower against

A blue Italian sky, this summer day,

As people of all nations merge, to pray.
And as I scan the stately edifice

Of the Basilica, I know there is

(Now safe, behind impenetrable glass),

A sculpture that no man will e’er surpass,

Supreme concept of Michelangelo, -

The Pietà. Not many years ago,

I stood there, gazing, and I pressed your hand

Because I knew that you would understand

How moved I was. Your hand then closed on mine

With loving fingers; - for this was no time

To grope for words. We could communicate

Without the need to be articulate.


Such tenderness, in marble! Mary’s face,

Looking upon her Christ, was full of grace,

Despite the anguish that she tried to hide,

In seeing His poor body, crucified.


Enfield 28.8.78
*(The Pope who, tragically, died of a heart attack after only 33 days in his high office.)

Before the Recital

God, make these hands of mine, now pressed in prayer,

Thine instruments of love, soon to release

Such torrents of fine sound into the air

That will replace the strife I’ve known, - by peace.
The silent keys, pregnant with mighty power,

Yet capable of utmost tenderness,

Await my touch. I would be, through this hour,

Thy servant, to inspire, console, or bless.

Enfield 6.4.79

(On this night I gave a recital in the Joseph Post Auditorium.)
Printed in Vogue Magazine January 1988, and in my autobiography (Complete Accord).

Russian Vignette

No sound, no other human steps, - no breeze,

No word exchanged. We stood in silence, rapt

By the enchanted world that met our gaze.

The powdery snow crushed deeply underfoot,

Disguising once-frequented woodland ways,

And laced the tracery of winter trees

Against a pale blue sky. A palace stood

Straight from a fairy tale, with domes gold-capped,

And little door of red. Such peace celestial

Softened the turmoil of all things terrestrial;

And here, on foreign soil, in Novgorod,

We knew there was one universal God.
Enfield 6.6.79
(For Doreen Sinclaire, whose beautiful “slides” last night enabled me to see behind the “Iron Curtain”.)

The Last Red Leaf*

Come not wind, come not rain,

Come not bird upon my stem;

I, the reddest leaf of all,

Fear the moment of my fall.

Every morning when the sun

Beams above the cottage wall,

Here I cling, a blood-red star.

All the others of my train

Lie beneath the branches bare.

Soon I shall be cold, with them;

Winter days again have come.


Come not wind, come not rain,

Come not bird upon my stem;

And you, who love your garden so,

Do not puff your frosty breath

Too close, lest I should lose my hold;

I, like you, am growing old.

Though your heart glows with my glow,

I beg you, do not linger, - go

Before you see me fall to death.
Enfield 12.6.79 (* on our liquidambar tree)

Mephisto Waltz


For Greville Rothon

Calm as a mirror lay the little bay,

Clear in the sunlight of a winter day.

The crisp wind off the snow was not now stirring

To move the boats, unpeopled, anchored there

Like instruments left in the interval

Upon a stage, awaiting human touch

To bring them back to life. Only the ducks

Broke the reflections with their merging ripples

Or long-expanding V’s, when one would make

A mid-stream passage with continuous wake.
But Nature here, on this idyllic morn

Was soon to find her mystic silence torn

By two enthusiasts whose instrument

Was not to stay unplayed! – and soon the sounds

Of Liszt were flung into the bushland peace.

Soft notes, repeated, pulsing in the bass,

The twangy fifths, as piano mocked violin,

Resounding pedalled chords, menacing leaps,

A pungent rhythmic figure, cackling laughter

In dancing semiquavers, from the treble;

Bewitching, off-beat accents, moments tender

And trembling, that displaced one’s normal breath;

A nightingale’s cadenza! – alien sound

Among the bird songs in the banksias.


Silence again, - the pause, the one-bar rest,

And then the dizzy triple beat resumed;

The waltz in final frenzy rent the air,

For Mephistopheles was lurking there.


Enfield 4.8.79
*(After a discussion and lesson in Sydney on this work with Greville Rothon, assistant to Claudio Arrau.)

Moreton Bay Fig Tree

King of all growing things that I can see,

And casting one large circle of deep shade,

There stands in proud maturity a tree

Probing the soil, held fast by gravity.

I wonder by whose hand the seed was laid?


The sturdy trunk, with many a sinuous fold,

Not of great stature, but of massive girth,

With mighty strength its burden can uphold;

Tough leathery leaves of bronze and green and gold

On arms that radiate above the earth.
Perhaps a sticky fig was once dropped here

In passing flight of bird. When rain and sun

Conspired to make a tender shoot appear,

Searching for light, in some forgotten year,

This miracle of nature had begun.
Oh tree, - with such a regal presence, and

Invulnerable to all the whims of weather,

Brief is the interval my life has spanned,

And time runs out for me; but may you stand

As long as this old Earth still holds together.
Enfield 30.1.80
(By the northern fence of the Conservatorium, close to Government House gates.)



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