1. Three with the Moon and My Shadow

2. Watching My Father Stitch a Wound

3. The Russian Train Employee

4. Summer, Balingup

5. Autumn Ventriloquism

6. Postcard from Balingup

7. Swan River Winter

8. Drinking Alone on Cold Mountain

9. Breath Poem

10. Koto Music

11. Lady Midnight’s Songs

12. Beauty

13. Wind-Spooked

14. Night Rain at Karasaki

15. Autumn Moon at Tama River

16. The Year of the Snake

17. The Year of the Monkey

18. Ode to the Hills Hoist


See also biographical and bibliographical information further down this page.


Three with the Moon and My Shadow


‘I am three with the moon and my shadow,’

Said old Li Po, traversing the countryside

With responsibilities close on his heels.

The moon and a shadow – company enough

For any traveller who hopes he has not

Yet seen all the world has to offer.


Who can know the pleasures of longing’s

Painful tendrils who has never departed,

Never been banished? Who can know

How the dew grows on bamboo in moonlight

Who lies abed with a blanket on his dreams?


Strolling, then, the stars their only streetlights,

A frail moon, a smiling poet and his

Spindly shadow, to where the night ends,

Arm in arm like any three friends

After a revel.


          from Shadow Behind the Heart

          © Shane McCauley




Watching My Father Stitch a Wound


As if under interrogation, the hand

Something pale and supine, its mouth

Speaking blood.


Other hands explore its territories,

Fingers tracing a tear in the map.


Skin is drawn together like the neck of a bag

And shudders out a little blood

As if my father is a tender strangler.

Suture revealing a crooked smile.


My father daubs and binds

The black barbed wire of this

Practised healing, releases

Fingertips to test their possibilities


And lets his own hands drop

To look as disconcertingly ordinary

As any other hands.


          from Shadow Behind the Heart

          © Shane McCauley




The Russian Train Employee


I am a conveyor, she said (when

Interviewed for a documentary

On the Paris to Moscow express)

But I want to grow flowers.

Flowers that I could sink into

And disappear


The grey-green landscape

Of eastern Europe cossacked by

A window, red tulips bulged

In the vase beside hen

Yes, I take flowers on every journey.

But there is no future in this job.


Perhaps at the end of my days

I will grow many flowers, she said.

And watch from a great distance

This train of my life

Passing by.


          from Shadow Behind the Heart

          © Shane McCauley




Summer, Balingup


It is the hammering of the summer cicada

That says you are here then, at last.

Here in the smoke drift and blue haze

That frames December, presenting it


Like an unexpected return of youth.

Some picture of childish vigour exertion.

An end to a year providing the final

Piece of symmetry…


And what an abundance of percussion!

Academies of colour infused with this

Ticking, drumming, strumming, knocking,

God’s ten billionth symphony, wrought


Of things we are only now learning about.

Confusing balance of life’s tuneful justice.

Its blaring, fly-black, tuneless artlessness

That makes us poor reeds for decipherment.


The cicada of summer hammers on.

Demented full-circle into sanity

Under a Delacroix sky, blue as

The Virgin’s skirts, accelerating, endless …


          from Shadow Behind the Heart

          © Shane McCauley





Autumn Ventriloquism


My tree has taken on the voice of black cockatoos

As they fill its branches and become

Its high-pitched tongue. Winter, then,

Must come soon and lie like a cold blade

On each dark leaf, each flightless feather


          from Shadow Behind the Heart

          © Shane McCauley




Postcard from Balingup


The ice of white wine in the public room

of the sun goes to the heart of it,

this place where any amount of innocence

could be pleaded, and believed,

especially now that spring has cast off

winter’s dressing-gown and emerged

noticeable as a prima donna, a white

house on a hillside, a dazzle of lilies,

a blackbird against a painted cloud.


In the valley’s most secret heart a fuzz

of blossoms, myopic tableau, the blink

of an eyelid like a pink petal’s falling,

a clock of chickens, cows on a slope

solemn as a haphazardry of chess-pieces,

sunlight outpacing them, bulbous fruit

about to pout from branches, undulations

making fun of ambition, life but

a shiver on the mirrors of streams.


And the day like a dancer, practised

and perfect, words but a nesting of

hidden birds, bubble in the throat

of the spawning frog, the honk of cattle

like overfed geese, jaunty satisfaction

of blowfly rubbing its limbs, rooster’s

far triumph aloft on the wind, the

heart can be bidden and here will

respond, rested as grass or roots of the vine.


Hidden perhaps the hand that graces,

that paints green and yellow the burst

of loquats, that gnarls these limbs

like the trunks of elephants, that bids

sleep to the mists of morning, arousal

to the bull on its highland, though

the pattern that lingers is in the hunger

of wild things, in the scatter of leaves,

change of seasons that quenches, relieves.


For what is the apex of this zestful

tranquility but a dream of seeming

when the blood dries out and the

nexus is ending? A halo of clouds

around the sun at its zenith,

a ribbon of trees adorning the roads,

a maze of jetsam far from the beaches

reaches into the presence that no-one suspects

and re-creates voices into murmurs of praise.


          from Glassmaker

          © Shane McCauley




Swan River Winter


At Ascot across the water

a horse is put through its paces

steaming through the early morning

dub-dub-dubbing into distance

leaving a faint scent of turf

to mingle with vague miso of the river.

An oblivious pelican rides small

crests to shore bobbing and smooth

as an over-inflated child’s toy

that drifts directionless as lost intent

mirrored murkily in khaki surfaces.

Hunched or purposeful the walkers

follow peripheral paths while the canine

entourage zig-zags from one smell

to another bounding and boundless

until wound back by a command.

Sandpipers and moorhens rush across their

damp savanna alone knowing and

searching for what hides beneath.

Patient as a tree a crane stares out

beyond its sanctuary while in the shallows

worms dally by stone and stumbling leaf

It is what some might call peace

or a simple form of release. Over the bridge

and beyond the tiny humming traffic

the city grey and white glitters

momentarily as if sketched quickly

by a vacationing sun that highlights

only verticals against a mush of cloud.

But from here lacy breeze is flute-song

that travels on from this riverside

to the other incognito as that tortoise hope

dawdling perhaps with its will to strive

yet sure no less that it can and will arrive.


          from Glassmaker

          © Shane McCauley



Drinking Alone on Cold Mountain


Spring’s morning cold is my blanket

and a jade hard breeze

lifts up my white hair

like the last pale flames

of a dying fire.


Sorrow, says the earth.

Sorrow, says the sky.


And yet as time creeps upon me

least fickle of lovers

I whistle my own lute-song

talk to my haphazard shadow

lift my cup to the wiser sun


not knowing which one

is me: swaying grass-stalks

these wind-smooth stones

these rasping words

that I would exchange

for any soaring bird?


My jug empties

until it is almost as empty

as my heart.


          from Glassmaker

          © Shane McCauley



Breath Poem

In at least one Inuit dialect the same words mean both “to make a

poem” and “to breathe”.’ – Ruth Finnegan


There is a hole in the ice

and you wait patiently

making clouds with your own



You draw out with the vapour

such a song, of birth

and hunting, the white intense

depth of the sea, how small

and lonesome it is to be.


Inhale: a great bear

has reached your island,

Exhale: the fish has accepted

your hook.


A seal twists into shadows

of ice. Stars tumble

over the snow. Each breath

enlarges the sky.


Gather your joy into

stanzas, chant. Feel songs

like bubbles in your blood

rise up and overwhelm you

in their ecstatic flood.


          from The Drunken Elk

          © Shane McCauley





Koto Music


It is a stream


by stone fall


a stand of bamboo


by the wind


a snow-covered


glanced at by lightning


a day indoors

when strings of rain

are played against stone


an empty castle

full of ghosts



a butterfly on a leaf


by nothing


a long climb

up worn stairs

to reach an iron door


a sleeping kitten


into a bow


a quiet brush

of cloth

as knees touch the shrine floor


a child’s laugh

when it is not sure

there should be laughter


a single coin


into a lacquer bowl


a cobweb


by a stag’s antler


a distant boat


by the horizon


it is a stone fall


by a stream.


          from The Drunken Elk

          © Shane McCauley




Lady Midnight’s Songs


Make summer heat

at midnight

under the blanket.


Let the coarse breeze

lift a skirt

to the brazen sun.


Let the women of Wu

sing of love

to babies at their breasts.


My ‘Yes’ wafts

like plum blossom

in silken air.


In darkness what should

I hope of you

but that you are still here.


Lie in the long grass

after harvest

make this passion last.


Taste the lake

that love has brewed

of each other’s sweat.


The galloping horses

in your chest

stampede over me.


You know that we

cannot sleep or rest

while limbs entwine.


Drink the dark wine

of our eyes

deep until we are drunk.


Let the day

boast in trivial light

its calls to duty.


Clasped hip to hip

heart to heart

duty has no place at midnight


          from The Drunken Elk

          © Shane McCauley





(after Kalidasa)


Blue as an endless sea

your eyes.


Mouth red as fire.


Teeth small flowers whiter

than jasmine.


Breasts soft as petals

strewn over gardens.


Why then did the Creator

who can do all this

my darling


leave your heart stone?


          from The Drunken Elk

          © Shane McCauley




Startled mid-stride
by this icy gust
the returning cat
black-arrows through
tunnel of its sudden fear
is chased along
the leaf scattered path
of inelegant anxiety
scoots past reaching branches
and all the claws
hidden in the hunting cold
until escapes scurry
in the brain and it
unhurriedly sloughs off
the moment
and steps calmly
from the rain.

………..from Ghost Catcher & Trickster
          © Shane McCauley



Night Rain at Karasaki


No-one is visible
under the perpendicular strokes
of summer rain.
We must imagine them huddled
in that little inn
or sheltered near the bobbing boats.

Ascendant trees in the island’s centre.
Wood. Stone. Air. Water.
Grown used to it by now
grown used to that so steady falling
some sleep almost perfectly
until the white dawn

lifts the rain gently back
and so softly into itself.

………..from Ghost Catcher & Trickster
          © Shane McCauley



Autumn Moon at Tama River

It is as if the willow
has joined silent fishermen
casting out branches
as they set nets
in the hush of evening water.

Night’s slow curtain
is descending
and the moon blatant
and full as a drunkard
rests on the tree-top.

Light leaves gradually
like a dignified actor
and wind speaks softly
in the reeds
until the stage is bare.

………from Trickster
         © Shane McCauley



The Year of the Snake

Your fortunes are as feathers
on the wind. Some fly higher
than others.

You may find tranquility in new
cities or watching fruit ripen.

In matters of the heart
make no departures.

You will meet many new people
and hear murmurs
from their lives.

And you will taste honey
fresh from many hives.

………from Trickster
         © Shane McCauley




I thought of a ghost monkey—
a cymbal-banging monkey
that was a first birthday gift.
Lone gone, but I still mistily recall
the small triangular key in his back.
A few twists to prime him
into a clatter of miniature percussion.
On his head a red hat like Big Ears.
Why just now should I hear him
applauding down the long years?

from Sweeping Away the Mandala
        © Shane McCauley




Now that you are
(much) older I have
to crank harder
to elevate the sheets
into the whipcrack wind
to see them floating
like flags like smiles
like great handkerchiefs
like signals like icebergs
like abandonment itself
the hoist flexing
metal muscle
an Olympian
famous Australian
athlete of the backyard
silver simplicity
decorated for the neighbours
to see
old towels blouses cobweb
underpants mismatched or
lonely socks
an accumulation of apparel
beneath the whitest light
the washing now done
and gleaming beneath
an Antipodean sun.

from Sweeping Away the Mandala
        © Shane McCauley




Three of Shane McCauley’s poetry collections can be purchased online —  Trickster from Walleah Press, and The Drunken Elk & Glassmaker from Sunline Press. Click on a book cover to buy a book.





Shane McCauley was born in England in 1954 and has lived in Australia since the age of five. A graduate of the Universities of WA and Sydney, he has had many poems, reviews and stories published in Australian and overseas journals. He has published eight volumes of poetry. In 1993 he was the recipient of a Senior Writers’ Fellowship from the Australia Council. He has won many awards, including the Poetry Australian Bicentennial Prize, the Max Harris Poetry Prize and, most recently, the 2014 Poetry d’Amour Prize.



  • 1987 – Deep-Sea Diver, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, ISBN 0 949206 15 6
  • 19?? – The Chinese Feast, Fremantle Arts Centre Press
  • 19?? – The Butterfly Man, Platypus Press
  • 1996 – Shadow Behind the Heart, Platypus Press, ISBN: 1 875321 35 7
  • 2005 – Glassmaker, Sunline Press, ISBN: 0 9579515 4 X
  • 2010 – The Drunken Elk, Sunline Press, ISBN: 978 0 9806802 1 8
  • 2012 – Ghost Catcher, Studio
  • 2015 – Trickster, Walleah Press, ISBN: 9781877010408





Shane McCauley is Andrew Lansdown’s friend. You can contact him through Andrew. Send an email to Andrew and he will forward it to Shane.


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