Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Election night and the results in Melbourne

Once again, a big "thank you" to all those who helped during our campaign for Melbourne, and all those who voted Green.  

As at Wednesday 1 December,  I have received slightly more than 31% of the votes in the seat of Melbourne.  This is the highest Green vote of any seat in Victoria and is a swing of around +3.8% - very strong considering the big swing to the conservatives across the State.

Even with the Liberals supporting Labor, the seat remains a Green/Labor one, with the margin now over 7%.

You can check the latest count here.

Please note that there are still many postal, absentee and early polling centre votes to count so these numbers are not yet final.

The decision by the Liberal party to direct preferences to Labor ahead of the Greens resulted in Liberal preferences re-electing Labor's Bronwyn Pike.

For many, this election was about preferences, hung parliaments, and fear. For us, it was about principles, policies and inspiration.

Looking back at this experience, the journey was well worth it. I would always have regretted it if I had not stood, and I learnt so much along the way, and gained so much from the many people I met.

Let's hope we'll be able to surmount the larger hurdle of overcoming the combined Liberal/Labor vote next time, and here's to the promotion of Green values.

Here is my speech on election night.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The last day of the campaign and the power of voting of Green

Today is the last day of my campaign for the state seat of Melbourne.  I have had a great time and met lots of people throughout the electorate.  I would like to thank all the volunteers who have helped me so much during the campaign.  I couldn't have done it without you.

Chatting to an inner city local at Lygon Street

From the feedback I have received from residents, it is clear that we need to make big improvements in public transport, public housing, planning decisions and childcare.

Your vote is powerful.  If I get elected I commit to pursuing these and other improvements with a vigour that the major parties choose not to match.

I did my last radio interview with Jon Faine on ABC 774 radio this morning. After the interview I chatted to some locals in Lygon Street who were born in Italy.  They were all interested in voting Green as an alernative to the same-same policies of Labor and the Coalition.

Chatting with Lygon Street locals

At 12:30 I attended the last event before the election with all the Greens MPs and the inner city candidates on the steps of parliament.  You can watch the video below.

I also joined with the protesters from the Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) who are demanding that Wards of the State to get justice and redress from the victorian government.

Supporting the Care Leavers Australian Network protest

Its over to you the voter now.  Remember that its your vote and your preference, you don't need to follow the how-to-vote cards of any political party.

If you vote 1 for me (and number all the other boxes) and I get elected, the state seat of Melbourne will change for the better.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Real Forest Debate - protecting our native forests and jobs

I attend the Real Forest Debate at RMIT in Melbourne last night.  It was great to see so many people at this important event.

Here is video of me speaking.

Science has found recently that Victoria’s native forests are among the most carbon dense in the world.  Our forests produce most of our water, and contribute to the oxygen we breathe.

We appreciate their rich biodiversity and their beauty.  In short, they are unique and wonderful. Yet in 2010, we still clearfell and burn them.

Labor has broken their 2006 election promise to “protect the last significant stands of old growth forest available to logging”.

Brown Mountain and other old growth forests were recently logged. The Brumby government is actually in the logging business via their agency VicForests.  The Supreme Court found this year the Victorian Government to be in breach of the law for not ensuring threatened species surveys were conducted prior to logging.

Only about one quarter of the paltry 40,000 hectares the Labor government eventually protected this year is actually old growth.

Logging in Victoria's water catchments also continues despite clear scientific evidence it is decreasing water supplies across the state.

It is worth noting that most of our native forests logged, around 80%, ends up as low value woodchips, not timber. Less than 2% is furniture grade.

Despite the ongoing logging of our native forests, jobs have dwindled in this sector.  Three decades ago there were around 40 sawmills operating in Gippsland.  Today there are only 6 or 7.

Only this week, Bob Humphries from the Cann River saw mill said "The writing is on the wall - we are not going to survive"

Yet the best John Brumby and Minister Jennings can do is to offer to facilitate "peace talks", while the Liberals have committed to continued logging that will destroy our remaining forests.

Labor and the Coalition have both abdicated responsibility to save our forests despite overwhelming community support for this.

Its no surprise then that support is rising for the Greens as we are committed to an immediate logging industry transition out of native forests to plantations.  There are enough hardwood and softwood plantations for this immediate transition to occur. This transition is 10 years overdue.

We need action on protecting our remaining native forests, not more broken promises and subterfuge from our governments.

This is the UN International Year of Biodiversity. We the Greens will protect our remaining native forests from logging so that their biodiversity, the carbon they store, the water they produce is safeguarded.

We will promote a vibrant jobs-rich timber industry based on existing hardwood and softwood plantations that are available right now.  Our vision is for East Gippsland’s forests to be protected and part of World Heritage area with long term prosperity from nature-based tourism.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Level-headed leadership – not logging and desal

In a time of crisis, common sense and strong leadership are vital. Victoria is facing a water crisis, yet the Labor government is failing on both counts.

The 2007 government decision to build a desalination plant at Wonthaggi short-circuited the community consultation process and by-passed cheaper, more sustainable water conservation methods, arriving at an expensive, inefficient and environmentally unsound solution.

Early in the crisis, common sense prevailed. The 2002 report, 21st Century Melbourne: A WaterSmart City, identified that an end to logging in Melbourne’s water supply catchments would yield, on average, an additional 20 gigalitres per annum. It makes sense when you think about it – new plants transpire more water than mature forest. Water yield drops by 50 percent, and returns to normal about 150 years later.

By October 2006, the government’s Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy was still on the right track, with plans to increase production of recycled water at sewerage plants, to increase water reuse and to improve the efficiency of water usage, storm water harvesting and rainwater tanks. Public comment was invited, submissions received and reviewed. An independent panel assessed the strategy and found it “to be an impressive first step towards rigorous and effective planning to ensure the long-term sustainability of water resources in the Central Region”, that region covering an arc around Melbourne.

Desalination was also recommended for consideration, but the panel expressly warned against “hasty decisions based on incomplete analysis”, fearing this would lead to wasted investment, lack of community support and adverse water resource and environmental outcomes.

Nine months later, without offering the public a glimpse of background analysis – complete or otherwise - the Labor government announced plans for the $3 billion (now closer to $5b) Wonthaggi Desalination Plant.

That was in June 2007 and debate still rages over many aspects of the desal plant’s development, not least the choice of location. Wonthaggi’s sewerage effluent outlet is located 3km from the desal intake, causing risk of contamination. Prevailing Bass Strait currents are being cleverly utilised to provide ‘fresh’ sea water to the intake and flush away the salinated output, except for those months every year when the currents reverse, short-circuiting the process and reducing plant efficiency.

To achieve the ‘carbon neutral’ label, the plant’s sizeable greenhouse gas emissions will be offset with the purchase of renewable energy – a cost passed on to the consumer in water charges.

The plant is being constructed by the private consortium AquaSure in a public-private partnership (PPP). In September this year it was revealed in Parliament that the PPP includes ‘water security payments’ to AquaSure, even if Melbourne’s reservoirs are high enough not to require desal production. That is, consumers will be paying for water that is not being produced, as fixed charges on their water bills.

A gantry offshore associated with the Wonthaggi desalination plant

Added to this, the normal privacy rules don't apply to PPPs, as they are not public agencies, and we have seen secret memoranda of understanding between police and the developers to share private information about potential protesters, and now spying on the workers on site - including passing on tax file numbers.

Over the past decade, the Labor government has had ample opportunity to show its true colours in a crisis, to demonstrate strong yet fair leadership and a level-head approach in dealing with water security. It began with a nod to preserving water catchments and making smarter use of the resources we already have. It ended with Victorians paying for water that may not even be produced, in a deal they were never asked about.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

South Kensington station needs more trains

I have visited several railway stations during my campaign. Its a great opportunity to meet and hear from locals on their way to work and to highlight the many opportunities to improve our public transport system.

At South Kensington, accompanied by my partner Sally, daughter Georgia and volunteers, we had a pleasant morning handing out information to commuters.

This busy station is now unstaffed, and the "hole in the wall" vending stall - along with all the facilities - toilet, office and kiosk - are permanently closed. It would be great if you get a coffee, a croissant and a newspaper on your way to work.

There are too few trains stopping at South Kensington, even during busy commuting times. This means you need to plan your trip to avoid a lengthy wait, rather than just go to the station and get on train within a few minutes, as you can in London, Paris, Milan, Rome and Zurich.  

There was a better service at South Kensington 80 years ago. In 1929 Melbourne's population was less than 1 million, and there were 16 trains on weekdays between 6:54am and 9:03am - an average of one every 8 minutes

In 2010 (with our population over 4 million) there are just 10 trains over the same period - an average of one every 12.7 minutes.

After 9:05am there are trains every 20 minutes.

This is not good enough. In Parliament, I would work for a better public transport service.

There were also many cyclists riding past the station using Childers St as a transit route, yet there is no bike line or route markings for what is obviously a popular bike path. I would work to make Melbourne a more bike-friendly city.

Afterwards, breakfast in Bellair Street, Kensington.

My campaign car - a Blade Electron Mark V electric vehicle


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Giving taxi drivers a fare go

Taxi drivers protest outside Flinders Street Station

They form an integral part of our public transport workforce, yet their working conditions, safety and welfare are largely ignored. They work in a multi-million dollar industry, but regularly take home less than the minimum wage. Welcome to the world of the Melbourne taxi driver.
The taxi industry has been in the spotlight in recent years, not least for the 2008 Flinders Street station protest when, following a violent attack on one of their own, drivers stopped work and removed their shirts to bring attention to their plight. As a result, driver safety was improved with the introduction of security screens and pre-paid fares.
But the story doesn’t end there. Recently, I met with a large number of taxi drivers to gain a first-hand account of life as a Melbourne cabbie. The picture is bleak.
Drivers often work 16-hour days and, depending on demand, can take home less than $7 per hour. There’s no holiday pay or sick leave. They fund their own uniforms, clean up after drunken patrons, and pay the fare when a passenger does a runner.
Perhaps the most critical issue, though, is that of insurance. Third-party insurance is not mandatory for taxi cabs, and is expensive because mainstream insurance providers refuse to insure taxis. Many taxis operate uninsured and if a driver causes an accident with another vehicle, he or she is personally responsible for the damage. Bankruptcy beckons.
Melbourne’s drivers have little power in the taxi game. They sign unregulated bailment agreements with operators, with a recommended 50-50 fare split. Thus they become independent contractors, looking out for themselves in an industry where taxi licences change hands for up to half a million dollars, but little filters down to the driver.
Taxis are an essential part of Melbourne’s public transport system and taxi drivers deserve fair treatment, just like bus, train and tram drivers.
The taxi industry needs reform to ensure a more equitable distribution of income and to ensure safe and reasonable working conditions for drivers. It’s only ‘fare’.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Let’s do public transport properly

Waiting for a better public transport system - PTUA photograph

The seat of Melbourne is home to some of Victoria’s most critical – and iconic – public transport lines and hubs including Flinders Street Station, Southern Cross Station, the City Loop and Melbourne’s famous tram network.

But even within the Melbourne electorate, the public transport system is running down. At Newmarket station in peak period there were 18 trains to the city in 1929, and today there are 12. At South Kensington there were 16, but today there are 10. That pattern of rundown and neglect is true across the network.

The woeful state of the current system is unacceptable and immediate action is required. We need a public transport system that can respond to a growing population and offer a real alternative to car use.

The Greens have a six point plan to fix public transport:

  1. End the failed privatisation experiment

Under privatisation, costs have dramatically increased, performance is appalling and planning is chaotic. No one is accountable for the system as a whole.

  1. Establish a powerful, accountable Public Transport Authority (PTA)

The Greens will create a publicly accountable PTA modeled on successful agencies like Translink in Vancouver, ZVV in Zurich and Australia’s own Transperth.

  1. Fix urgent problems

Expert task forces will act now to increase capacity, review ticketing, plan for expansion and establish the PTA.

  1. Make public transport safe

Staff all train stations from first train to last, bring back tram conductors, fence rail lines and fix level crossings.

  1. Extend rail and tram systems

Urgently extend the rail line from South Morang to Mernda, and tram routes to East Malvern Station, Doncaster Shoppingtown and Knox City. Double-track key lines, order more trains and make better use of the existing tram fleet.

  1. Introduce ‘Swiss-style’ public transport for regional Victoria

Reform V/Line, order more high-speed trains, devise an integrated rail-bus network connecting regional Victorians to local, inter-regional and metropolitan destinations.

Public transport should be in public hands for the public good. The new Public Transport Authority will have the skills and experience needed to build great public transport. With a new agency, we can cut through the byzantine bureaucratic mess public transport users currently deal with, abolishing:

  • Director of Public Transport and the Public Transport Division of the Department of Transport
  • Transport Ticketing Authority
  • VicTrack
  • Metlink
  • Public Transport Ombudsman
  • Public Transport Customers Charter Consultative Committee

The new PTA aims to be small, smart and transparent. Public transport experts will be recruited from the best-performing agencies around the world, instead of re-assigning staff from the existing, failed bureaucracies. Based on the experience of Perth, Vancouver and Zurich, around 60 staff are required, including a dozen public transport experts. The PTA will hold public board meetings and seek community input into its plans. Public accountability is key.

Victoria has the potential for a world-class public transport system. It’s time to get started.

External Links:

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Cycling and the City

With a Greens cycling group opposite the Windsor

Although I often drive an electric car and catch public transport, I'm a regular and enthusiastic cyclist. At this time of year, it's a pleasure to pedal around Melbourne on two wheels, taking in the sights and sounds of the city at her best. The Melbourne electorate is one of the most convenient to navigate by bike, but my aim is to make it even more cycle-friendly by working to resolve the issues repeatedly raised by cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. There are some general issues which usually involve the disappearing bike lane - whether because of a parked bus, road works, or just bad planning. But there are several specific issues which can use some attention. Here are my top ten:

1. North bank of Yarra River
Like Southbank, there is now a good pedestrian route along the North bank of the Yarra. However, there's no specific provision for cyclists, who often use this route to avoid pedestrians on Southbank. A safe cycling route east-west though Melbourne along the north bank of the Yarra is urgently required.

2. Albert St 'Copenhagen' bike lanes
Melbourne City Council has provided Copenhagen-style bike lanes along Albert Street, East Melbourne, greatly improving safety and convenience. Although some industry groups such as VECCI have campaigned against these bike lanes, they retain my full support.

3. "Parkiteer" cages at Southern Cross
Southern Cross station does not have simple and secure parking for bikes - even though it services regional Victoria as well as suburban Melbourne. We should have proper bike cages here for storing bicycles between train rides.

4. Swanston Walk
Swanston Street is the busiest cycle route in central Melbourne. Cars are banned but commercial vehicles, buses and taxis clog up the route when they park, particularly when trams go through. A cyclist was recently killed by a bus this route. Better support for cycling here is important.

5. Crossing Curtain, Lee and Princes Sts on the Canning St bike path
The passthroughs of bollards at Lee and Curtain Streets are dangerous. Some bollards have a spacing so narrow that being 15cm off line at 25 or 30 km/h will result in a nasty crash. Cyclists have marked these up with reflective tape. The Princes Street crossing has a wait of about two minutes - far too long. Too often, cars stop in the middle of the intersection, blocking cyclists.

6. Moonee Valley Creek Trail
This is a good trail, but at the southern end has no clearly marked and safe route into the city. This is urgently needed.

7. North Melbourne station
Cyclists and pedestrians need a way to cross from North Melbourne to Docklands without passing through ticket barriers.

8. Pedestrian and cycling access blocked
VicUrban recently blocked pedestrian and cycling access to Village Street from Village Place in Docklands, putting up hoardings around the South end of the Goods Shed and offering no alternative access.

9. Carlton Gardens
Cyclists use this green space as a route between Canning and Rathdowne Streets, partly because of dangerous cycling conditions along Rathdowne Street, creating a source of friction for other park users. I'm working with local residents, the Council, and Bicycle Victoria towards a positive solution.

10. Pin Oak Crescent and Eastwood Street
This route beside the railway line is popular with cyclists but has no marked bike lanes. It's time it did.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

A Day in the Life of the Campaign

Picture in the Oz

I thought I'd give you some insight into life on the campaign trail. This has been my day today.

At 6 am I listened to the news which mentioned that the Greens had done well in the latest Newspoll. I was pleased but did not take too much notice because you can never be too sure if this will play out over time.

I left home before the paper arrived to get to Kensington Station before 7. First I unpluggged the electric car, then rolled up the power cord, put it in the boot, and glided quietly out into the traffic.

I was going to meet a team of volunteers to hand out flyers to commuters.

Before I could get out of the car the phone rang - Steve Price on MTR. Would I do an interview after 7? I sat in the car and did the interview. I was told again that the Greens had polled 19% in Victoria - way above our 2006 vote. It seems incredibly high, but I'd much rather have that poll result than a worse one.

Was I confident? The pundits said I had a good chance, but it would be up to the electors on polling day. I was told that Helen Kroger had attacked the Greens in the Herald Sun. She said that a vote for the Greens was a vote for euthanasia and gay marriage and higher taxes. Was this right? I said she had two out of three right - we support dying with dignity legislation and same sex marriage legislation and would do all we could to bring that legislation about.

There were other questions about Hazelwood, about the margin in Melbourne (only 600 need to change their vote from last time).

The interview over, I joined our team in beautiful weather outside the station, and we had a very friendly reception from the people of Kensington as we chatted and handed out flyers.

Marian - my campaign manager - had printed out the online version of an article about the Greens in the Australian, complete with a photograph, which I read in between greeting Kensington folk.

At about 9 am we ran out of flyers and walked across the road to Luncheonette (which just about seems like a branch office) for breakfast (I had waffles with walnut and rhubarb).

While waiting I went to the newsagent and bought the papers. I read the Herald Sun first. A huge debate in the Liberal party about whether to preference us over Labor. Was John Howard really attacking us? How hurtful! And saying our policies were "worse than Labor's".

Then I realized my photo was on the front page of the Australian. It seemed slightly surreal.

We had a cheerful brekkie and then into the car to the North Melbourne office to unload the equipment. Todd (who is working with me through the campaign) and I walked through Flagstaff Gardens to my chambers to meet some potential consituents on several important issues.

After the meeting I tried to keep up with emails - a losing battle - and made and fielded numerous phone calls on campaign issues.

At 12.30 I raced with Todd to Victoria Market. There I met Kathleen Maltzahn, Cyndi Dawes and Anne Martinelli - Greens candidates for Richmond, Brunswick and Northcote respectively - for a photo shoot together for a newspaper. Together we are standing for the lower house seats the afficianados say could be won by the Greens in a month's time.

The photographer satisfied, we had a hasty but happy lunch together in the sun at the Market before going our separate ways. We've been campaigning together for over a year now, and there is a strong bond between us.

Back at chambers Matt, a photographer from the Leader, turned up for a further media shoot. I sat at a desk and then went outside and took various poses as directed while he snapped away.

Todd and I hurried out to catch a tram up to Parliament House. On the tram the phone rang for another interview with a journalist. Engrossed in answering the questions, I missed the stop and had to walk back to Parliament House.

I went through security and I felt a strange sensation as my belt buckle broke - into the bin with it. I waited in the parliamentary foyer listening to John Brumby addressing a gathering in Queen's Hall through the doorway.

I was there because Sky TV wanted to film a debate between the candidates for Melbourne in the Legislative Assembly Chamber on issues related to the Melbourne electorate. Soon Luke Martin (the Liberal candidate) joined me and we were escorted into the green chamber, where chairs were arranged for the interview. Bronwyn Pike (the Labor incumbent) had already arrived. We sat in a row and were questioned for half an hour or so on public transport, planning, violence, and our vision for Melbourne.

I came out into the broad sunshine of a glorious spring afternoon, and Todd and I walked down to Elizabeth Street together. He headed off to uni and I caught a tram to the North Melbourne campaign office.

There I caught up with a series of phone calls. There were more media interviews - and I was on the phone trying to give sensible answers to questions when volunteers began to arrive. Finally I got off the phone and we sat around for a meeting about doorknocking and posters - in between some more phone calls to the media.

After the meeting Marian asked me to proof read some documents I had written for distribution.

Out to the car. I began driving and the phone rang. I pulled over. A long call. Then another one before I could take off.

I arrived home at 8.15 just before my friend Lynda arrived to cut my hair.

Georgia and I (the only ones home) had tea together, and I went to the computer to check on a legal submission for the Tyler Cassidy inquest. I rang my junior in the case and discussed it for a time.

There was a text message inviting me to breakfast with Bob Brown at 7.30 tomorrow morning, and I've accepted. I have a few other things to do, but it's nearly 11 and it will soon be time to hit the hay.

That's my day.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Docklands meet your state election candidates session

Brian is speaking at this public meeting organised by Docklands News for the Greens, Labor and Liberal candidates to meet the Docklands community.
  • Date: Thursday, October 21, 7:30pm
  • Location: Harbour Kitchen, under the Bourke St NAB headquarters on the Victoria Harbour side.
The candidates will each speak for 10 minutes and then answer questions from Docklands voters. The subject will be strictly about what each candidate can specifically do for Docklands.

Docklands Harbour
The candidates at this event are:
  • Greens – Brian Walters
  • Labor – Bronwyn Pike (sitting member)
  • Liberal – Luke Martin
More information: Docklands News

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Invitation to a Melbourne local bike tour and BBQ

You are invited to come on a bike tour this Saturday to meet Brian and visit some locations and sights of interest in the Melbourne electorate, including parks, local developments and bike paths.  Details are:
  • Date: 23 October · 11:00 - 13:00
  • Start at:  Kensington Railway Station
Starting at Kensington railway station, this family-friendly bike tour will visit sights in Flemington, Royal Park, the Windsor Hotel and Parliament and will finish at 1pm with a BBQ in Yarra Park near the MCG. Salads will be provided; BYO the rest.

Cyclists on Canning Street bike path
We will use bike paths and bike lanes for most of the route.

Come along and learn about opportunities to improve safe cycle routes in Melbourne, and to make Melbourne greener.

See also Facebook event

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

2010 Vice Chancellor's debate on Asylum Seekers at Monash University

Brian speaking at the 2010 Vice Chancellor's debate on Asylum Seekers at Monash University. Brian spoke as the 3rd speaker for the affirmative.

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Senator Bob Brown launches the Melbourne Campaign

Inspirational Greens leader Senator Bob Brown launched Brian's campaign for the state seat of Melbourne on Monday 11 October at the Auditorium, Melbourne City Conference Centre.

Trent McCarthy was Master of Ceremonies. Adam Bandt (Greens MP for Melbourne), Brian, and Senator Bob Brown spoke at the launch.

We've already shown what we can do at the Federal level with strong grass roots campaigning, and commitment to values like compassion, equality and sustainability. We heard that Melbourne is very close, and everyone's vote will be powerful.

Brian Walters

Senator Bob Brown

Adam Bandt MP - federal seat of Melbourne


Local people explain why they are voting for Brian

A good turn out
Adam Bandt MP, Melbourne (federal)

Brian Walters

Adam Bandt MP, Brian Walters, Senator Bob Brown

Sally Polmear and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

Senator Bob Brown
Photo credits: Peter Campbell

More photos

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Brittle Dark

Paintings by Jo D'Hagé on display at Fortyfive Downstairs

Last night I attended "The Brittle Dark" - a poetic and musical soirée at Fortyfive Downstairs.

Leading up to the premiere of Hugh Crosthwaite's new string quartet - which was wonderful - a number of people read poetry. The poetry readers were:
  • Terry Lane (broadcaster, journalist, author and prominent free speech advocate);
  • Barry Heard (Vietnam veteran and author of "Well Done, Those Men" and other books);
  • Barry Jones AO (Australian intellectual, former parliamentarian and minister);
  • Julian Burnside AO (barrister, patron of the arts, and human rights advocate);
  • Rod Quantock (comedian and activist);
  • Mary Kenneally (comedian and activist);
  • Sam Zifchak (professional poet, and events co-ordinator at the Australian Poetry Centre - part of the Wheeler Center).
I also read some poems, and I've been asked to post them. Here they are:

The first poem is by former poet laureate of the United States, Billy Collins:

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

The next poem is by the 13th century Persian poet and mystic, Rumi:

The flute weeps to the pacing drum.
The drunken camel staggers to his knees
and tugs at the rope of reason.
The little bird in the heart’s cage
puts out his head on this side and that.
The flood fills the ancient river bed
and once again the river banks are green.
The falcon hears the royal drum
and circles seeking the wrist of the king.
The musk deer smells the lion
and her haunches tremble.
The madmen have seen the moon in the window:
they are running to the rooves with ladders.
Somewhere tonight
a dervish cries:
“It was my soul in the wine!
It was my soul.”

Then I read this poem which I wrote in Provence a few years ago:


No, no, never, never –
do not ask again.
Day has slipped from gold to blue
and night falls fast.
The cup is dry
The hour is spent
The blushing glass is drained.
The whiff of wine is old and stale –
faded, drab and stained.

Well. Well. Maybe, waiting –
Who can say for sure?
Summer’s past. The autumn’s here.
With fogs and busy harvest.
The bounty’s rich
The grapes are good,
The gold-hazed air is bracing.
I may grow cold, with warm days gone,
But still my heart is racing.

Yes. Yes. Always, ever –
Earth and sea and sky.
The faith to build,
The hope to bond,
The love to bind together.
Good endures and evil withers
Fades and rots like straw.
But life will give – and give again –
And giving, find still more.

Finally I read a poem by the US Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.