May 2005  | This Issue

Martin Challis

Touching Water

In considering what thoughts to share with readers this month I am turning to poetry, or perhaps I should say returning to poetry.

Choosing a topic each month is usually motivated by and through my artistic practice and in that sense everything is based in autobiography and reflection. Having recently been inspired to return to poetry as a means of expression it seems appropriate to share this with readers of Scene4.

All these poems have been written this month and in that sense reflect current thoughts and meditations. I am most grateful to the Editors for their encouragement and support and to be given this forum as a means of sharing these words.

Wapengo Lake
Cold Clear Sky

Who Just Sat and Listened


Royal Visit

Our Poem

The Young Concretor


Wapengo Lake

When all the light
(and I mean all)
comes to this sea

the wind from the north
a gentle message
in a clear sky

we see the shimmering
the silver
in riches

Cold Clear Sky 

A change
of light
a conflagration.

A celestial breath
in the firmament,

it is possible to hear
the sound of stars
in winter.

Who Just Sat and Listened 

On the 4th of September 1995
I returned to an empty house,
a wall of anger ran through me and around me.

It took a week for the wall to crumble,
standing at the cash register at work
the sobs rose up from a well way down low.

For 4 hours I sobbed and howled
in the office out back of the store,
Evelyn the manager came and went
and when she could - just sat and listened.

3 days later my mother and father arrived
for 2 weeks they stayed
their child, the grown man needed care

mother cleaned all the shelves and cupboards
cleaned all the clothes and ironed shirts
father tried to find me answers
but in the end - just sat and listened.

After they went home, the house slowly lost their comfort,
shelves and cupboards returned to slight disorder
one by one ironed shirts were worn, never again to feel the same.

Hanging in its place I left one shirt untouched,
now and again I would open the wardrobe
to feel my mother in the sleeve.


10 years later we are speaking
on the phone about the children,
all of them young men now and mostly independent

you talk about wanting to see them more often
but it痴 hard to arrange, you tell me about your new man
and how things are working out.

In a moment of candour you speak of the past
confessing it should never have happened.

Who would have thought that in the end
it would be me, who just sat and listened.


A change of mind
a change of heart
a step this way
or that
a moment held
or given
a step away from light
naive or dark.

Is choice
an invitation
and if so
by whom
or what -
to dine on evidence
of others who致e -
made their bed to lie.

Those millions -
thoughts that lead to actions
now or
down the track -
and then this
what if that
to pick up
to put down
to left to right
to leave to stay
and on until
a path or paths are found
or trod
or followed.

If everything is choice
what is not
- to step from instinct to intuition
- to love my wife
- to love my children
- to love the god of life
- to say this.

The barometer of
the judge and jury of
the mind
the guides
the angels
and the thoughts
that tend to lead
to actions
that tend to lead
to feelings
that tend to lead to
thoughts which sometimes
are discoveries
that tend to lead
to choices
down the track.

The map of my life
can only be seen
by turning
my head to the south
and with the benefit
of hindsight
I see I am and have been
passenger and pilot
messenger and message
drawing and the drawn
but with this
I must ask
is it that I am also
a choice
and if so
by whom.
Royal Visit 

We were sitting in the study in the wee hours
you on the couch
me leaning back in the office chair
our speech soft and humble.

I could see through the hall to the kitchen,
into view stepped the King of Rats
he halted when our eyes met
holding for some moments.

Snake-like, his tail wrapped several times around the room.
His gaze regal, considered me with no trace of fear
while mine was possibly one of surprise
and slight supplication.

Unhurried he stepped off
left the room and went on up the hall
- I did not follow.
You asked me who I壇 seen
yet in yours eyes I saw you knew the answer.

Later, servant like - I mopped the floor
as if, on his return - chambers would be ready.

With each sweep of the mop I could hear them building;
a rifle-crack of hardened wire
a snap of small bones breaking
an aftermath of silence

the sounds of uprising.

Our Poem 

I woke at 2.30am and left you sighing gently as you slept,
checked the trap but found only droppings on the floor
I set it again and hoped the rats would leave
- I would prefer not to kill anything.

The dog mawed and moaned at fleas, rubbing its back against the rail on the verandah,
it settled when I whished it back inside to sit (my mouth made that wist noise,
the one you know the dog will hear but won稚 wake the sleeping).

I lay on the red couch in the study and read Ray Carver.
A return to Carver simplifying me.
If not by sleep I was comforted by his weave of innocence and knowledge.

Ray started writing poetry in the year I was born (1957),
I don稚 know why I mention this, perhaps I feel him like a kindred
spirit and am impressed by even the slightest connection.

Between the living and the dead are the sleeping. But being at rest
is no excuse for ignorance. Ray is at rest - some 18 years.
But his poems like me are alive and breathing.

The magpies begin their morning carol as I return to bed just before dawn.
Your breath and skin have waited for me.
When I wake again
I am grateful our poem continues.

The Young Concretor

His fixed black eyes,
like a womans turned to their sorrows -
eight metres down in a hole
dug for concrete.

His workmates calling from the rim
see and hear
only his nothingness
澱ut he was just here a second ago".

His neck a broken spirit,
fingernails torn away
where he flayed against the earth
falling infinitely for one and half seconds.

The young concreter,
his glide work carefuly finishing
the edge of the slab - stepped back to admire
the reflected perfection of the sky.

His mother will receive the news before the slab
is no longer a mirror,
she will see him falling
and think of the last time he called,
澱ut I only spoke to him yesterday"


where cedar creek
love of river rock

my gaze follows
one wayward drop
sent further
by the breeze

the story
of this place
is kept by the rill
and told by
who chorus in screams

she sits
slightly away
I see her back and
her hair

and the delicate way
her feet
touch the water


©2005 Martin Challis
©2005 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Martin Challis is an actor and director
in Australia. He recently  commenced
a coursework Doctorate in Creative Industries
developing projects such as The Raw Theatre
and Training Company. He's also the director of
the Studio For Actors and Ensemble Works.

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