A sample of writings from
Ice Skating in the Taj Mahal

Kindness is a Guinea Pig

A lady at the bank lets me go first in line –
a guinea pig jumps through my chest
and snuggles in, softening
my cold, calculating heart.

A man I’ve never met before
compliments my new shoes –
a guinea pig hops into my sock
and starts nipping my heel
until I giggle like a three-year-old.

I run into an old school friend on the street,
she hugs me so tight
I can feel a whole family of guinea pigs
leap onto the back of my neck
and run down my spine.

If these little bundles of warmth
are shared around
they breed like crazy!
And I’m convinced
you can never have too many guinea pigs
huddling in the hutch of your heart.

Kindness is a guinea pig.

I Want to be an Activist! But…

I want to be an ACTIVIST
but I think I’m allergic to confrontation –
I break out in rhymes.

I want to be an ACTIVIST
but holding up banners
is hard work for the musculature of an artist;
and shouting out slogans offends my need for originality;
and protests are full of people,
and I don’t like noise or body odour or public displays of aggression.

I want to be an ACTIVIST
but I don’t really cope when things get heated;
when emotions burst through;
when people actually say what they mean – and really mean it –
with red faces and spittle in the corners of their mouth.

Sometimes I have to watch emotional TV moments
through my fingers;
sometimes I hum to myself in the cinema
when there’s a massive argument up on screen;
sometimes when there’s just too much tension and intensity…
I just have to make toast.

I blame it on my schooling!
I blame it on my churching!
I blame it on my parents
(that’s always a bullseye in some way).

I want to be an ACTIVIST
but only if I don’t have to leave the house,
or write a letter, or fill out a form,
or post a postcard, or work out how to fill out an online petition.
That could take time,
and time is money, and I don’t have much money.
The best sit-in protest
(in my imagination)
is in my very own lounge chair.

I want to be an ACTIVIST
but I’m a passivist.
I don’t mean I’m ideologically opposed to war,
I’m just passive.
Being active makes me all sweaty and weary and hungry.
I don’t like it – it’s weird – it’s un-artistic.
And when I get all stressed and clammy
and I just want to tell a joke, or change the subject.
Hey, what about this weather!
Look at that cloud!
It looks like a puppy!

I want to be an ACTIVIST, honestly,
but I don’t like upsetting or offending or uncomfortable-ing people.
I just want to be liked and like-able;
I just want to be friendly and friend-able.
Is that so wrong? Is that so bad?

Niceness? for everyone?
Just sometime, when it’s convenient, if that’s ok…

I want to be an ACTIVIST
but I’m an introvert;
I’m not smart enough;
I’m not brave enough;
my memory’s not good enough to quote stats and facts;
my stories aren’t persuasive enough to win over factions and followers;
and I’m just not able to live like a monk or a nun or a hippy or martyr.

I will never be an activist.
but maybe, I could be, a CAPTIVIST!
Capturing subtle truths and hidden hopes.
Capturing the value of the vulnerable
and the person-ness of all people;
Capturing hearts and minds and dreams and visions – in words!
I can do that.
I can be a full-on, full-tilt, full-time CAPTIVIST.
Yeah, that’s what I’ve got to offer.

Bubbles and Breath

A bubbly little boy
is floating around the edge of the room,
keeping his distance.

In this secret place,
an AIDS day centre
in the midst of a crazy-busy Indian city,
we struggle to connect
with this little crowd
of mothers and children.
We smile,
we sing…
nothing’s really working.

But then Jarrod starts blowing bubbles!

Streams of sparkling spheres
shoot into the air.
And all the kids start clustering
like froth at the base of a waterfall.

And that bubbly little boy
drifting on the fringe,
he’s slowly drawn in
to the fun, frothing frenzy –
laughing and chasing
the water on the wind.

And then he gets his turn –
puckers his little lips
and blows through the soapy plastic ring.
A huge bubble
bulges into existence
and breaks free
in a sudden gust of laughter.

It takes his breath away.

And I see
in that moment,
sitting on that dusty floor,
we are all little more than bubbles –
fragile, fleeting bearers of breath,
this boy more fragile than most.

His shimmering ball
right across the hot, stuffy room
until caught in the down-draft of a ceiling fan
it sweeps lower,
lower to the floor, closer,
closer to me.

And in the palm of my hand
I catch his breath.

Give a Man a Fish – Remixes

  1. Give a man a fish
    and he'll eat for a day.
    Teach him how to fish
    and he'll eat for a lifetime…
    he's a vegan, in the desert, without any bait.

  2. Give a man a fish
    and he'll eat for a day.
    Give a WOMAN a fish
    and she'll feed the whole family for a week!

  3. Give a man a fish
    and he'll eat for a day.
    Teach him how to fillet, marinate, fry and garnish
    then he could be the next big celebrity chef!

  4. Give a man a proverb
    and he’ll muse for a moment.
    Teach him to find the verb in every proverb
    and he’ll walk in that wisdom for a lifetime.

  5. Give a man a fish,
    and a kettle,
    and he may never feel its HIS kettle of fish.
    Teach a man to fish around for his OWN kettle,
    and that’s when you get a tasty home-made fish soup
    that everyone can enjoy!

  6. Give a man a teacher
    and he'll learn many a thing.
    Teach a man to learn
    and he'll learn from everything.

  7. Give a man a fish.
    It's a great gift –
    a low maintenance pet
    with a very short memory.

  8. Give a man a fish
    and he'll eat for a day.
    Teach him how to fish
    with the right line,
    the right bait,
    at the right time of day,
    at the right sort of spot,
    and if he has the right recreational or commercial licence
    he may, with practise and experience,
    actually be able to feed himself and his family for a lifetime.
    And that
    is something worth fishing for!

…from Chapter 4: Dear Timor-Leste:

Dear Chalk,

May your dusty whiteness
keep cutting through the blackness
of unknowing
in every classroom,
in every student.
Even when the
numbers and letters,
drawings and diagrams
have long since been erased
in blackboard-minds
and white-chalk-thoughts:
writing and rubbing,
scribing and scrubbing
a thousand times a second.
Chalk, you may think
you make your mark
for just a moment
your white trails
can stretch on for a lifetime.