Wet Paint

i read:
do not read these words

too late

i read:
wet paint do not touch

too late

I read:
open your heart open your mind stop reading

just in time

MChallis © 2014

When the Sound of Life is Everything

When the sound of life is
before the music begins
before there is time to listen

a child coughs in the next room.
I wake carefully, pressing an ear
to the last beat of a dream,
and find you’re not here now
and you’re not in the next room.

Carriages of wind move past my window
move disturbance above the pool of the turtle
who periscopes to the surface,
expectant, in the least, for a gulp of air.
I swim somewhere beneath my ceiling
somewhere beneath the air I prefer to breathe.

You’re not here now
and you’re not in the next room.

When children sleep in the afternoon
when grey breezes whisper away the sun,
when an avalanche of crow-call murders the dove
perched on my sill, there is nothing and none to tell
and no circumstance worth repeating at a later time.

You’re not here now
and you’re not in the next room.



MChallis © 1998/2014

Naked on River Rock

The smooth force of virgin skin
carresses and moulds me in stone.
I stretch to the contour
groin the hollow
nurtured and naked
for sacrifice.

Grave friend, grey faced
steady eyed friend
shallow edge
great heart
melt with heaviness the torsion
in each of these limbs.

I surrender time to the mother of you,
dry tenderer, assauger of guilt, you
who holds up day, who lets down night,
who bundles and sprawls me
like a rough shouldered parent.

I search for the place of no light in you,
close my eyes to your dreaming
seek out eons you’ve sloughed off
and deeper, how your weight pulls the gravity out of me,

I surrender
and can fall no more into the rocking
rocking lap of you;
mother how can I fold into you
how can I surrender
how can I add my breath to the sigh of you?



MChallis © 2005/2014

Living for Successfulness

In this room at four a.m. where the universe sometimes meets, I cram some thinking time into the stillness that does not occur at any other part of the day. A wall clock scratchily taps its one-tone metronome in a time signature discomforting to noisy thinkers.

My quiet contemplation is possessed with a version of unkindness, arising out of unsteady dreams. In the most recent frame; invading forces stay out of sight to threaten as the unknown enemy. We burn candles for those who plead the safety of our dwelling. But suspicion becomes our ally and neighbours are offered no solace.

I notice a small moth as it circles a candle avidly craving the feast of light. I think of those who have struggled with a near-death experience. I’m told the dying enter a beautiful light when called to begin passage from this world to the next. Does the small moth feel the same sense of awe as it prepares to feed the candle?

The lifeless screens of television and computer, (sometimes channeling the universe into this quiet room) hold their square black mouths agape, but offer nothing more than mute obedience. The only living pixel in this room is worshipped by the fervent wing of a moth: and is unaware of being a metaphor.

I hear at distance, the first bus for the morning passing by, it is mostly empty of the silent ones it will carry later in the day. I wonder how many of today’s travellers will have been awake at this time, pondering fate and future in the shelter of an urban meditation.

The early hours of the morning, I’m told, are when most passengers depart for the next world as they sip or gasp a last breath.

Slipping by and above me, some adventurous souls are carried by a hot-air balloon: the rushing light and sound of the gas-flame is a jet of life which heats and sustains the commercial moon as it drifts by in close orbit. The balloon then changes metaphor and mimics sunrise.

Perhaps moth and balloon and empty screens are pre-cursors for all that is to come today: all that is furtive, all that is futile, all that pretends omniscience, all that is agape, all that is sufficient for those of us who assume we will live on and on and on. And for those of us who repeat each day secure, content and satisfied: completely taken by all the fuss and noise of living for successfulness.

MChallis 2005/2014

Morning Walk

Walking down the hill
I thought about the view

Walking up the hill
I thought about the hill

MChallis © 2014

Milk the Light

My father shouting at me
loud enough to wake my dead grandfather, the
red air is frightening I try not to tremble,
it makes him worse,
he hits me with a strap – but his anger soon passes

Tonight the moon seems old,
if it cries it can cry for me because
my sadness is deeper than tears and
the old man I will one day be will remember this.

My mother, happy in her freedom swims naked in the bathroom
Swims an olympic record from the tap end
to the end where we keep the shampoo.

Beneath the waves she can’t hear the
crashing and shouting from the next room.
The bathroom light is turned out,
the moon fills the bath with its soft-milk.

Sad is my sister crying tears like wet feathers.
Crying for a pain she wants to, but can’t feel. Her tears
are starved birds that never learn to fly.

My sister cries the guilt of an expert,
My mother tends herself with soft lotions,
My father, a helpless bystander to his own rage,
wears spectacles passed down by his father.

Tonight the moon is my quilt
Heart-beats are held and all is muffled
The rage is the sea
My skin milks the light now.



MChallis © 2014

Many Faces


a beach ball floated on the waves
it bobbed and rolled and went along
if i was fishing that day i would have seen it
– there on the beach
and above
a hang glider left the grassy cliff
to swing his feet in time with
sea gulls who never tired of laughing,
he saw their white wings and the crests of the waves beneath him,
they were one and they were many
but there was only one beach ball
floating and bobbing along. laughing
in many colours
at the fish in their sea
and the birds who looked like clouds


a happy face floats in the air
it has a curling ribbon tied to it
i think it is a balloon
a bright red balloon


crystal jar – tight sealed lid
full – full as you can be
bursting sometimes with colourful buttons
of all sizes
they are names, and when you call them
they dance
like fireflies scattering into dark places
they light the world with campfires
we are warm, apprehension runs away when you
sow these buttons and
we’re all well clothed
with garments so richly fastened


a feather brushes the nose
of the giant
will he sneeze
or carry the bird?


Excellent tennis is rare
I think of Wimbledon
the best of the best
the court divided
as are the spectators
they cheer, they sit in silence
they see you serve, they see you lob
they see you backhand a winner
they see the choice of the chosen
and when victorious
you acccept the trophy
and the defeated

Kat – again

ok you’re a bird
then fly
fly above the nets but
don’t stop for trees that
look like antennas
and when you pick through leaves on
the forest floor and
find the king of worms,
eat him slowly
he will feed you forever


The sharp sword cuts sweetly
it leaves a cool incision
knowledge is apprehended and
the red well flows over
fields are rich
strength knocking timbers
builds a house,
we live and eat well,
your house prospers
you are graceful
your love is light
and air is for breathing


MChallis © 2014

Farewell of Bells

Of chapel bells
and after day’s dry summer wind
chime’s angelic chorus
hang in lasting configuration

My father’s rye-grass covered hills
tremble with the breeze keeper’s song
as he gathers up his grief

Mother folds away her weeping
folds away her dreams
until they are still

Mourners soon move to chapel
to offer silent prayer
and glances from a distance

My brother
born yesterday, took no breath
from summer’s day

sang no breeze keeper’s song,
felt no dry summer’s wind,
yet heard
the farewell of bells

and dwelt there
in tintinnabulation



MChallis © 2014

Shadow Music

I am a craftsman. My hands are made of clay.
They’re soft and wet and mould silhouette.
The last I made were without shadow,
The next will be more musical.
They will be spin around me –
Chimes in a western wind. Chimes of a different figuring
perhaps to hang in branches, simply as decoration.

If I rest, there will be no forming.
I fear this.
I fear the unmaking and forever sleep.
The chimes will awaken me with their shadow-music.

Squalls and storm clouds move inside me.
I hear thunder. Some say
they see change coming.
I see constant weather. There
is purpose in their forecast,
no in-decision and in a precise moment
the exact snap of thin ice.

I awaken before a bridge – reaching far across a rocky canyon.
Going to the edge and leaning over I see
the darkness of endless sleep. I hope to hear
water song and the expanse of rain-dreaming.
I wait at the bridge for a traveller like me to pass –
I will ask him to describe his journey and
The way ahead which I have not yet seen.

MChallis © 2014

He Counts the Fish at his Toes

Weather’s coming up soon lad, talk is, three days,seafarer
no catch for a week then

Connors’ folk slough to the Arms
in the shape of four or five,
a tawny pint floats the hour,
and by seven the place is alive.

My father now by the edge of the groyne
is a gaze half mast at the sea,
as he sails himself to the brink of an isle
and turns a yard-arm to the lee.

He sets on his oars the cataclysm of waves
he casts the wind at his hair,
swears salt is the sword in the taste of this life
and not what falls with a tear.

He’ll treble a note in harmonica muse
and rustily suck a bone pipe,
spit saliva colder than frost on the grease
and never complain of the gripe.

Running the wind or roaring the cape
or rounding the sound of the wire
his name is the take of all seafarer kin;
the hearth, my heart and the fire.

My father the salt, the seafaring man
a wave in the seas as they glide
now found to the ocean,
a son to the sea
the son to the father; my guide


MChallis © 2014

Dark Rain

wet gutter stone

submerged in the rill

blackheavy and round

and the weight beneath me:

a smooth cold killer of light


night is a forest

wet banquet of noise

small epiphany’s happening at street lights

and wild-life electric


far off are the radios

the occasional violence

hits at the melancholy,

hangs with urban drifters

patches up a night sky


night is a forest, a jungle of audible character

damp activity

light and shape struggle to hold meaning,

yet momentary glimpses

glistening with hope

and capture an uncertain semaphore

MChallis © 2005