Poetry collection by   Anne McCosker

published   April 2017

by University of Papua New Guinea Press and Bookshop

Selection of poems

Home Again


Lion Man

Eastertide Rabaul  2007

Let Their Names Be


Provence Traveller

Dedication Service, Australian War Memorial, London


Images illustrating this poetry appear in:

Light Images



Home  Again! 


Home again! Down to the beach.
The tide is in
No foot prints seen. 

I can be myself, just go
By a shore
Swept clean.

Splash of legs through lacey waves,
Tang of salt, seaweed.
Toes sink and squelch in salty mud
Wriggle about warm water.
Tomorrow I will swim at home
Over there, between the flags,
Flip and flop, surf a bit,
Wash my face in foam.

Along the shore much more erosion
Some ti-tree, banksia fallen.
I reach the rocks, pass fisher folk
Sit in a little shade,
Lean back and let soft sand
Slip slowly through my fingers
Grain after golden grain,
Have happiness in hand. 

These islands, sand dunes, creek
Pandanus palm, Bay fig,
Tin roofs, galah, sea eagle,
Beacons, buoys, old jetty
Wrapped in glare of heat,
Part of and yet apart from
The Pacific Ocean,
Are so, indeed, familiar. 

The tide is going out now
Coral, shell
Lie here. 

Mixed with them along the shore
Foot  prints
Have appeared. 

They are stretching into haze,
Past jellyfish left dry
Poisonous blue-bottle.
By the water’s edge
In and out of years they weave
My childhood back
Marking with pain
A joyous creation. 

I turn, retrace my steps
Wondering at the will
That made much mischief,
Led me from the land I love
For such selfish motives,
And marvelling that I could
Leave, and yet still grow
Within my country’s spirit. 

Why is it each time I come
Home to my own
There is so much resentment,
Such determination
By my compatriots
To ignore, destroy all I achieve
Pretend I have no right
To be here, one of them? 

The sky now glorious colour,
Blue giving way to gold
Ochre and purple sunset –
This Beauty helps me heal
Even as attempts are made
To increase my childhood trauma.
No one, no thing, ever has
Stopped sense of my belonging.  

I have remained, remembered
in spite of human leaving,
This horizon mine. 

When I die I like to think
Duty done, my soul can come
Freely here through Time. 

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The poet compares Strathnaver in the Highlands of Scotland with Queensland, Australia. 
Some of her ancestors migrated from Scotland eventually to settle in Queensland. 
The poet herself first sailed from Australia to the United Kingdom 
on the P&O liner Strathnaver.


Broad the river, moving freely
Through a sunlit place
To the hazed horizon 
Where figures muster sheep.

Ancient rock, glint of gold
Nuggets about waste 
Fossicked by a hand
Used to hacking peat.

Rainbow hills, rising steeply 
Circle empty space
Cloud a speckled flight
Of seaward going geese.

Flame of rowan, burning heather 
Quickens here its pace
To bursts about the hearth 
Wilderness of heat.

Stone in bracken, moulding corner 
Patterns cut a face 
Harried past the sheiling 
To a busy street.

Softest echo, falling water 
Words scattered in haste
From a lilting accent
Form another speech.

Wide the loch, shining beauty
Mirror of a grace
Gathered into minds 
Willing to create. 

My kin,
Tossed away from here --------

So complete that leaving 
Now I stand 
In the Hills of my belonging 
A seer of shadows ---------

A returner knowing 
My home – their work – Queensland.

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Lion  Man  (about 40,000 years old)

On seeing the Lion Man statuette in the Ice Age exhibition at the British Museum.  London. 2013



Straight and tall he stands

Spirit alive,

Thinking, feeling

In Human imagery. 

With fingers, tools, a craftsman made

This marvellous model

That now gives me

Excited wonder.

I concentrate.


Here is no primate mind

Living in darkness,

No crouching creature

Caved visionless

Made this Lion Man.

An individual,  

Has with energy  

Humour, skill and pride

Carved this golden figure.  


Across soul’s timeless time

Eyes meet through glass,

See in the other

That essence of being,

The creator’s will

Working material.

I understand that maker

Feel his humanity


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Eastertide  Rabaul   2007


Palm  Sunday         Roads around Rabaul



Above me, beside me,

High in the sky

Low on the ground

Planted in rows

Placed by the road,

Palms everywhere.

Shell necklace round

Blue merie blouse

Hibiscus in hair

Smart shorts, lap lap,

Best clothes being worn

To honour our Lord.

All the way lined

Ribboned with fronds,

Long fingers weaving

Green into grace

Arch about grass

Craft from my past.

A shout from the crowd

Giggles, loud laughter,

Children cry out

Greet us with grins

Sing as we pass,

Palms everywhere.

Each corner a-shimmer

Of leaf swaying light

People with faith

Let earth decorate.

I too celebrate

A journey remembered,


Palms everywhere.  




Maundy Thursday         Namanula Hospital Gardens    



I am back where I began1

This life in Time,

Standing by a tree

Rooted amongst rubble

As mango leaves

Curl into concrete.

This man made block

Almost covered now

With shrubby undergrowth

And beak- torn seed;

So much work been done

For what purpose?


Gardens, buildings gone -

No hospital verandah

Where the cross became

One with ease from pain

And women wore starched aprons

To help a population

Through childbirth, malnutrition.

Here tropical diseases

Were skillfully recorded

Lik Lik doctors trained,

Then qualified, were able

To help on far plantations.


Feet and faces washed

Bodies cleanly bandaged

Food and drink provided

Hands touching Everyman,

Darkness put aside

As spirits came to see

Flesh healed.

In this community,


Patterned by Christ

Within His charity,

Worked for humanity.


Down there today,

In Rabaul

People are aware

And in the churches

There is preparation.

Bread made

Table laid

Cup ready.

No war, earthquake, eruption

Has taken it away

That sense of something good

Built on this hill.


And so I stand2   

Above a town

On my birth ground.

Across Blanche Bay

Along the shore

Waves filter light

Through my inheritance

As sails are seen

Moving silently

From a hot horizon

Over heavy seas

Towards the inner harbour.


I turn to watch the sun3     

Set over Namanula.

From shadow forms appear

Soldiers jostle near

A kiss, confusion.

One figure walks

Beyond the crowd

Past spiteful spears

And restless shrouds

Down through a garden4     

Where ashed names lie

To find His people praying.





 1  The poet was born in Namanula Hospital.

 2. There is a magnificent view from the Namanula ridge over the town, across Blanche Bay, out to islands and inland mountains.

 3. From Namanula Ridge, late afternoon, 22rd January 1942, Nobby Clark, chief civilian warden, hurried from his Lookout Post to warn many civilians waiting in the town trenches that the Japanese invasion was imminent – and that the military garrison had abandoned Rabaul.  Most of these civilians including Clark were to die as POW. Rabaul was totally destroyed during WWII, rebuilt, and then destroyed mainly by volcanic ash after the volcano ‘Tuvurvur’ erupted in 1994.  It has not been rebuilt.     

 4. Pre WWI, Botanical Gardens were created by the German administration along the lower slopes of the Namanula ridge. A track from the ridge went down through the gardens to the town.  



Additional poems from Eastertide Rabaul:


Good  Friday          Service at St. George’s Church 

Holy Saturday    Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery,  Bita Paka

Easter  Day      Service at  St George’s Church

Easter  Monday        Matala Journey




After  Eastertide      Drive from Rabaul around Blanche Bay to the airport.


Light across dark water

Sketches a town

In slumber,

Each lamp about the harbour

A sway of flame

Outlining installations.

Night wanders round and into cloud

A shadow over ships

That stand

Like shrouds

Anxious for morning.

Stars skip above a crater,

Dip and dance down to the ground

Die in shelled sand

Gathering great oceans.

Rabaul fades

Through moving glass

Blotched up with ash,

The past again.

Soon dawn will come

A fiery sun

Redraw Rabaul, reflect a face

Circled by palm, reefed sea, volcano,

For I, my life,

Has always been

About THIS place,

This hot-limbed land of sharp caress,

Nothing has changed, departure meaningless. 

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Let Their Names Be


Let their names be

Just let their names be

Carved into columns

Honoured in stone

They knew who they were

They knew what they did.

Covered by crosses

Resting with mates

Everyone counted

Secure in his place,

Faces reflecting all

Those who loved them

Can live easily

In kin memory.


Sudden disturbance, vision distorted

Shifting, shoving, false imagery,

Features pushed out of focus.

Pages are printed, history decided

With material used out of context.

Graves reopened as untrained minds

Peck like crows at veteran bones

And their close families.

Into remembrance a sharp laugh comes,

Shadows arise in the fields.


Leave them alone,   please let the men be,   just let the men be.



After reading an account of my uncle Lieutenant F.W.S. Martin’s background and war record in a ‘history’ of Australian men who fought in World War I.


My opinion is that any research undertaken without either personal knowledge of the soldier to be researched, or his background, or at least some academic training, should be most thoroughly checked before being published.  In my experience  Army records can be wrong, work done from census forms can give a laughably wrong impression, even photographs can be misinterpreted.


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Sixty years after the fire bombing of the city 


Through night the dead leaves fall

One upon one,

Cobbles have become a bloody coloured carpet.


Statues stand aloof

Hollow eyed,

Black flacks of fury cut into each heart.


A thousand candles etch

Face after face,

The 'balcony of Europe' blazes with elegance.


Overhead searchlights

Sweep westward,

Awful fingers flick remembrance from the pall,


Beams circle, pause, pass on

Gargoyles watch,

The sky is empty - now.


Darkness though lets grief

Choke throats,

Centuries have melted down to nothingness


A sound above jerks features up

Red wine spurts,

Heads twist to sight from alleyway and attic.


Tongues flare the furnace

Satanic sanity,

Makes all men mad.


Time destroys itself

Spaced pain

Can understand the grave


As round the Kruenkirche

Flesh terrified,

Turns spirit.


With day the sun will give


Beauty burnt to ashes a-quiver in the light.


The Frauenkirke is rising,

Art remains.

Trees grow beside fine palaces

Canna flames along the Elbe

Lantana flowers;

Plants from my own home town.


There, I heard an angry cry

My mother's,

For the 'enemy' - in Dresden.


I am a stranger here

The people

Live beyond me.

And yet - an early memory

My mother horrified,

Gives her to me - in Dresden.

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Provence  Traveller



1       Pont du Gard


A bright blue day and the mistral blowing,

We walk this monument

Prepared to be impressed

By Roman governance.


Even water channelled, organised, controlled!


Heavy stone

Dried thumb

Empty scroll

Grave bone.


Musty shade

Ashed tongue

Weary race

Dead state.


Every chiselled arch dusted down with mould!


A bright blue day and the mistral blowing,

Swallows dot and dash

Ignore this edifice

Catch insects for the nest.





   Cezanne at his Atelier             Aix en Provence.


I’ve imaged you through hours

Sure hand, sharp eye,

Busy with clouds.


I’ve hung Cezanne on walls

Strong form, clear light,

Breathe about halls.


Last year I went

To Aix where you painted  

Found your workplace

And there, by the stair,

Surely you waited

There, in that space.


For there, by your stair

I, rather tired

Suddenly smiled.

A second brushed still

As together we stood

Art everywhere.




3      Espace Van Gogh                    Arles 

The hospital gardens have been restored to match Van Gogh’s descriptions.  



Marigold and pansy, golden red together

Pattern out with petals an artist’s energy.


Sunshine in a garden mirrors where you walked

Desperately seeking something from this world

While all the time a warm light shone

Through your bandaged face.


Marigold and pansy, blue iris, lavender.




4        Avignon  

Description of a Mass as heard from an ancient chapel which was opposite the poet’s hotel room.  
The mistral was raging outside.     


Through a sea comes singing

Leaves become green spray

Within a mistral’s rage

Every tree a breaking surf

Pounded into pavement.


It has cleared the cloisters

That chant from distant ages,

Words are massed to water

Spin about with plastic

Flotsam in a wave.


Twigs jetting through the gutter -

One beggar blocks the way,

He huddles by the chapel

An island in some ocean,

This kerbside his café.


The mistral shrieks and whines

So much now to say,

Branches thrash around

A golden crucifix

Splintered off by rails.


Crashing over roof tops

Bells join in the fray

Willing all to pray.

That head has lost its halo,

Trembles in the gale.


Here the last ‘Amen’.

Will any one today

Fill the beggar’s bowl?

A shutter snaps and flaps

Christ’s congregation strays.



 5      Yesterday was Anzac Day.          Vauclause     


A voice behind me as I walked

Enjoying a street

Tree lined, cafed, crowded.


I heard my native accent

Someone from Australia

Spoke of London, poppies -

Yesterday was Anzac Day.


I stopped, turned, forgot

Tourist Europe.

“Were you there? “  I asked.


The woman smiled, said proudly

“My daughter rang and told me,

She was at the Abbey.

I feel I know about it”.


We spoke then of the service

Held every Anzac Day

When the Past could be remembered.


I stood there too, again

Watching my father

March through our town

In the Anzac Day parade. 

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Dedication  Service

Australian War Memorial London


11th November 2003 



Blood of my blood, living here still,

Matilda comes waltzing up Constitution Hill.


Cold the morning, grey the sky,

Sun muffled up in cloud



We stand in rows

Circling the world.

Dead men around us,

Patiently wait

For the word.


Faces are fading

Back into photos

Seen as a child.

Well known strangers

Now cluster in.


This reading of names, year after year,

This seeking some thing

Began long ago.


Why are we here?

Who was alive

When the first battle started.

Why shuffle and sigh

When banners unfurl?


Do we remember

To show how we care -

Just like to wave,

Want to be noticed.

Have guilt assuaged?


Damp the air, chilled the bone

Trees drift through fog,

Limbs cut. 


Young men are boating

Strolling the Strand.

Nearby they pass

Under this arch

Bright eyes delighting.


And then

Into death they go

Body left behind

Somewhere in the mud,

Living lost.


A whirl of smoke, beyond the crowd,

Silently searching

Dissolves upwards.


All those young men dying,

Did they find


In war

Light beside them.


A Presence, radiating  

Energetic calm

Ingathered to itself

Within and yet apart

From all the slaughter.


Did friend and foe,

Share in despair

Holiness of Being.   

Greet the Son 

With bloodied cloak.


The last leaf falls, fingers curl,

Wandering free

A sketch of skeletons


My father walked round here

Stood there,

Over there,

Looking up at gunners -

One of the 'fellowship'. 


Old man


His youth amongst the guns.

He moves towards a space

Curved  into stone.


There now he reads, carefully,

Where he fought

And his best mates fell.


My life

Formed by war, two wars,

Has become


Snapped today.


The film runs back

And forward.

Finite death

Opens out to Love

Infinite and always.


White the gull, wings outstretched

Earth is crossed

In sting of innocence.


For a while

I am

Where my nation is.

Dual life contained,

Crafted out by granite.


A little more of London

Is claimed now by its own

To be its own.

Anthem echoes anthem

In united prayer.


A-wallow in matter, fashioned to kill,

Might an age wait,

Wait for miracles. 


Is this the purpose?

Can hope come from dead men

Who, caring to be human

Gave Love in spite of Satan

Clawing at creation.


Far away youth pauses,

Perhaps its sacrifice

Will not be in vain.

All may yet understand

God's breath is everywhere.


Red the petal, black the core

Generations pass

Through a wreath of flowers.


Blood of my blood, living here still

Matilda comes waltzing up Constitution Hill

Circles and stops. A figure sits down

Content in the flame of a People's Will

To rest for awhile on hallowed ground.

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