Our family c. 1964/5

The day is done, the night has come
Our home no longer in the sun.
So quiet and still, the body fades and folds
Sweet as that old brown river’s black soil plains.
We slept—we did—on hot summer nights
And talked and stirred the coals and looked and knew
We were loved, so loved.



On a green hill we joined our son
With a princess
Around flames of burning/turning bright night.

Warm hearts on cold nights
We all need as the years go
And the tears.

Will they remember?
Will they take this?

Warm drink body/flesh
And let it be one/done
‘As it was in the beginning, and now
And always, to the ages of ages?’1

On a green hill with a princess
Around flames of burning/turning
We all need as the years go
And the tears.

On a green hill
We joined our son
With a princess
To the ages of ages.

1 The Gloria Patri (ancient Latin doxology)

Heart of My Hearts

Heart of My Hearts

When stone blocks fall from the great grey sky
And the earth splits open in the heart of my hearts
And fire flows freely across the land.

I take a long drive and I don’t come back
Till the mother of love and the father of joy
The river of mud and the barking dogs
The laughing brothers with the shining eyes
And the old mountain tank with the clean white rock
—that rock.

Are rolling around in the heart of my hearts
And the deep blue flows through the back of my days
And makes me sing till the lights go out
Till the lights go out

The mother of love and the father of joy
The river of mud and the barking dogs
The laughing brothers with the shining eyes
The old mountain tank with the clean white rock
—that rock.

Rolling around in the heart of my hearts
The deep blue flows till the lights go out
In the heart of my hearts.

And fire flows freely in the river of mud
With the barking dogs
And the laughing brothers
And the shining eyes
Where the deep blue flows by the old mountain tank.

In the heart of my hearts
The deep blue flows.

Love It All

Love it

The lips, the eyes and the hands are all parked
The feet asleep
The people that walked, now in sheds—counting sheep.

But lounges are ready to leap to life
Musical instruments waiting for strife
For humming and wife.

Just love these mornings of watery sun
Washing all over everyone
Making me small and happy to be — in quiet.

Before all awake and the lounges are full
Of movement and haste
And the ways of the whorl unfurl.

The days all return, the lounges are quiet
The feet away in their sheds
The lips, the eyes and the hands are in beds.

And it’s all just love
Just love it all
Love it!

(Peter Volkofsky – Newcastle – Spring 2014)




Quiet early morning birds talking—cool new day
Kitchen clock ticking—happy old floor boards
Far away friends—visiting laughing
Old friends close by—walking together grace
Wall paintings by daughters—singing daughters
Expensive guitar leaning—son’s playing
Never before heard voice—new granddaughter not far away
Bedroom wife sleeping—child whisperer woman
Imagine that!


The Dog, the Sun and Me

The machine is full of wet clothes
Time to hang them out
Out there is the sun and the dog.

The dog smiles at me and says, ‘Look at the day.’

She aways says that and so does the sun
Unless one of them has eaten something they shouldn’t have
Like a carcass far too rotten—in the case of the dog, which is pretty rare
Or too much entropy—in the case of the sun, which hasn’t happened yet.

Anyway, there they both are, waiting for me so the three of us can go out.

They wonder why I don’t go out a lot more
There’s so much out there
But most of all there’s me, according to the dog, which the sun is okay with.

A Heaven To Shun

a heaven to shun

‘The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action: and till action, lust
Is perjur’d*, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight;
Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait,
On purpose laid to make the taker mad:
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof,— and prov’d, a very woe;
Before, a joy propos’d; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

Sonnet 129 –William Shakespeare

* (of evidence) involving wilfully told untruths.

Movin’ As Beloved


A fella’s out there in that there man-cave playin’ pool by himself
With fellas like that next thing there’s gonna be a gun and trouble big time
They damn well do it when they’re about robbin’ a bank or killin’ some guy.

Should I go see what’s up?
He needs some time to get his thoughts just thinkin’
Bout the cost of things and the way things are.

I say he’s moved by love
Some girl out in the country that he’s got
Tough thing about love that comes at you like that
They even say the sun moves “As beloved”*
Towards that fount of every blessing**.

Just like the fella at that there pool table
Out and about it goes
Lookin’ for that love that moves all things
Yearnin’ for the love like all of us
In our prayers n’ talkin’ to ourselves n’ stuff.

Even them that don’t pray, pray in their own way
Just like the sun, movin’ and movin’ still
The lazy-eyed stranger checkin’ out the girl but sayin’ he ain’t.

Baskin’ in those golden rays like a bloody great tom cat
On the warm verandah of this place they make their songs about
So glad there ain’t no fount of love they tells us all
And the fount don’t seem to mind
God bless him.

He knows they’re gone in love, just can’t admit to it
Breaks his heart to see us when we get like this
Shout’n and rant’n and curse’n our love
God bless us all.

(Peter Volkofsky Winter 2014)


** from the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, a Christian hymn written by the 18th century pastor and hymnist Robert Robinson.





The girls are here making the house their home
Laughter and screams and all those things
That give me hope there’s a heaven that hears
Such lovely noise.

‘Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon,
East of the Sun.’ ― J.R.R. Tolkien


Elizabeth (by Penelope Volkofsky)

Preface to Elizabeth

A young art teacher alights from a train in western NSW in a floral dress and long white gloves. She has come to find her man in the outback. They marry and have four sons. She battles a spinal disease and becomes quadriplegic.

For five years she is confined to a wheelchair as a mostly silent mum on our sheep station. She loves it when we brush her hair. I usually see it as a chore but sometimes I catch myself looking at those lustrous black locks and want to run my fingers through them.

Our homestead is planted on a purple ironstone ridge. We are in the heart of forty-six thousand acres of box trees, hop bush and mulga scrub near a tiny village called Byrock. To the west is a small mountain peak. Long droughts scorch the earth into powder. When good seasons come the land is a waving blanket of corkscrew grass.

As a young boy, a favourite summer thing is to lie in bed at night and listen to the wind in the leaves of an old box tree outside my bedroom. A favourite winter ritual is to get up at dawn, walk across the frosty grass of our back yard and through the orchard of orange trees to our back fence where I watch the sun rise and pray for mum. The prayers grow, and I find myself praying for all of us.

I’m unable to look at mum’s face anymore—the verdict is too obvious. I look at her fingers instead. In them I imagine healing colour and life spreading back up into her face. But they’re only swollen. She dies in the Bourke Hospital in my first year of high school.

This woman had a sweet defiance. In her slow, deliberate way, she spoke to us often about faith, hope and love. Like the beautiful, wild and frightening world around her, she became a treasure.


Thank you for a home
Where there was soft powdery red dust
And a mountain peak for the sunset at dusk.

A cool summer
With a bedroom near a box tree
And the moonlight watching over me.

The silver music
Of box leaves dancing as they will
Under the stars in the summer while I am lying still.

But now a deep purple chill
Over an ironstone ridge horizon
Brings a new day with new surprises.

A huge red sun blazes and burns
Defiant in brilliant blue
Singing the hopes and dreams of the mother you gave me to.

But that purple ridge of earth
Now wears her silver coat of ice
Of shimmering corkscrew grass.

For this is a frozen season
With the crunch of ice under my feet
As I walk through a dark green grove of orange trees.

The sun sets.
A cold wind blows
Even the stars in heaven seem to know.

That the mother you gave me is frozen too
In a wheelchair of despair
And I am brushing her shiny black hair.

I hope to rescue her with hope and hope and prayer
Look! … I’m sure
The ice in her fingers is starting to thaw.

But no! … she rescued me
Just like the soft powdery red dust
And the mountain peak for the sunsets at dusk.

She kept my sanity
When the world was a very dark night
Like those silvery dancing leaves
Of the old box tree in the moonlight.

She blazed and burned
Sweet defiance in brilliant blue
This mother you gave me to.

Her golden beams
Over a purple ridge shot past
And found me at last.

Your flower
That only grows in the dungeon of despair
She found me while I was brushing her hair.

(Peter Volkofsky)