Series Editor - Jim Bennett

Introduction by Jim Bennett


Hello.  Welcome to the next in the series of CITN featured poets.  We will be looking at the work of a different poet in each edition and I hope it will help our readers to discover some new and exciting writing.  This series is open to all to submit and I am now keen to read new work for this series.


You can join the CITN mailing list at - http://www.poetrykit.org/pkl/index.htm and following the links for Caught in the Net.





All European settlers here, it seems,

are driven by the urge to lie in the sun

and tan themselves. Elm leaves

are no exception.


                 from; Autumn in New England by Joe Massingham






     To see oursel’s

     Mining Memories

     Poem for a Courtesan

     Temple Dancer

     Tintern Abbey

     Tewkesbury Abbey


     Autumn in New Englland

     Albert Ross

     Aussie Man Dies




1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Joe Massingham


Joe Massingham was born in the UK but has lived the second half of his life in Australia.

Major employment has been as a Navy officer, university student from first degree to PhD, tutor, lecturer and Master of Wright College, University of New England, NSW.

He has run his own writing and editing business but retired early because of cancer and heart problems and now spends time waiting to see medical practitioners, writing poetry and prose and smelling the roses.

His writing covers a wide range but he has a particular interest in migrants’ experiences and views, especially relating to resettlement in Australia.

He has had work published in Australia, Eire, India, NZ, UK, and USA.






To see oursel’s*

 (Robbie Burns, ‘To a louse’)


Introspection, I suspect, is

what we turn our mind to when we’re

in Death’s antechamber and can’t

find an old Reader’s Digest to

thumb through to read helpful hints on

how to live life to the fullest.

And although I’ve been in that place

once or twice, I’ve never looked at

or examined myself before.

Now, confronted by myself through

another’s eyes I am bemused.

I see a stranger, not myself,

even if some parts, like the nose,

seem familiar. The sparse hair,

the dewlap cheeks, hidden eyes are

not what I see from here inside

and though my memories are always

with me they mostly stand in the

 shadows, waiting to be called, not

 run and play in day’s clearest light,

open to any viewer’s sight.

Then there are those things I hold most

dear that are here not seen at all.

Do they really have no place in me

or is it that the artist doesn’t see

them waiting quiet in the shadows,

constant in attendance on my needs,

adjusting their lives that I may

do the same, to some extent, with mine





Mining memories.


It’s still dark o’clock

and fumbling fingers of recall

fossick through the rubble of remembrance

searching for stones of colour that might

polish up to give some value to yesterday.


But in the night light

textures tell more than colours

and I feel the happiness of other times

when we searched together for the tint

 that might glint in each other’s heart.


Those mines are empty now

our picks and sieves abandoned.

You settled for an easier life where

 you can choose the jewels you wear.

I kick green stones disconsolately.






Poem for a courtesan written on behalf of a  fuel-selling girl*



Your silk is black by choice,

black as the stone from Xiang-Xhou

that the foreigners put in the handle of their swords

when they came to buy earlier spinnings.

And mine? Mine is black from the peat I carry

From the Yangtze’s side

That you and yours may be warm in winter

 and me and mine may just survive.

The coins your coolie tosses me

Buy rice and thin cabbage soup

To keep us going till Spring’s warmth

Heats the air and lifts the smoke to Heaven.


But still I would not change with you.

My love is real and true;

 like peat and kindling we are warm together.

Our breath forms clouds that rise

whether Spring comes or not.

No emperor tosses coins to buy our pleasure and,

 when we have finished and we lie together,

 we are as one,

sleep dreamless sleep and, unlike the peat

and you,

 our flame will burn again.


*The title is from a 7th Century Chinese poem







 Temple Dancer


Centuries of seduction,

suggestion rather than certainty,

sewn into

the unseen essential

cotton petticoatt and bodice.

The inviting and suggesting

sari and skirt are silk

sussurating, swishing,

cinnamon and scarlet,

richer ones inlaid with

threads of gold.


Sensuous, sinuous dancer,

hair raven black, shining, cascading

down her back,

eyes unfathomable,dark brilliant pools.

Toes and fingers decked with rings,

ears, nose and eyelids studded brilliantly.

She slithers, snakelike, to the sound

of tinkling bells and cymbals,

tambourines shaking in the background.



The scent of seduction,

invitation in the air

as she whirls and struts.

Strumming sitars setting

the pace, bangles betraying it,

moving to the rhythm of

Insistent, insidious invitation.


Only the beads of sweat

 along her upper lip

belie the apparent ease

 of her performance.

A sunshine spotlight

singles out the dancer

and suggests sustained applause

would be in order.





Tintern Abbey


Silent Cistercians shuffling in the shadows,

 softly whispering orisons,

sentinels standing looking westward

out across the Wye

from land sold them by Henry Somerset,

  approved and then denied by Henry Tudor.


Cassocks, surplices, soutanes,

Swishing, susurrating, rustling,

shuffling, scuffing sandals,

chanting chorus, simple men.


These ruins now stand testament,

the skeletons of men who kept their faith,

obeyed their king though they denied his claim

and ever after eschewed his name.


We stand listening to the silence of the outcome;

yet in the background can still be heard

the murmuring voices of honest monks at prayer.

You’re sure that as you stand and listen

an approving God is here.


And on this grey and gloomy afternoon

mist imitates the monks,

comes down the dormitory steps

to join brothers waiting in the choir

ready to sing evensong

if any bird will give them the note to start.


And those who’ve worked the fields

shake the water from their hair

hearing, in the pattering of the rain

and the sighing of the wind,

that peace is here with them;

            God’s servants, simple men.








A lark’s voice calling,

a silver trumpet trilling, thrilling,

a trumpeter, triple tonguing,

lifting liquid silver to the ceiling,

passing stone deaf gargoyles in its flight

through the tongueless tower

out into Severn’s heaven.

Then having offered itself to God

returns to give its benediction

to us visitors to this place,

chilling the spine, filling the heart,

making the kneeling knight start up

as if to greet his Lord,

lifting the soul,

so that we go out,


into the workaday world.







In kitchens on the properties

stand pine or eucalypt, sturdy and square,

scrubbed daily to a soft silk surface.

In grander dining rooms, here and there,

red cedar stands, carved after Sheraton

 or Adam, polished as red

as Empire once was on the maps.

And after dinner gentlemen converse

whilst they help themselves

from sparkling glass and polished box

set out on side tables made from claret ash.


In the towns the merchants

have desks of silky oak

at which they make their modest fortunes.

At weekends their families forgather

round the drop-leaf elm

to take part in that most old English of rituals,

 Sunday lunch:

roast meat, and two veg, followed by

a custard covered pudding,

even on the hottest day.


In the city we buy our heritage,

paying usurious prices to a dealer

for a walnut, oak or other imported bargain,

or make do with oregon and veneer,

a skin put on to make things look respectable,

much as we put on our manners when we come to table.


Author’s note:  ‘The Tablelands’ (properly the New England Tablelands) are in the north     

                         of New South Wales, Australia)






Autumn in New England


All European settlers here, it seems,

are driven by the urge to lie in the sun

and tan themselves. Elm leaves

are no exception.

Late in March, though not too late

for the sun to have some warmth,

they drift to the ground and lie there,

like folk at Bondi,

turning a delicate brown

(superior to the oak and maple

whose leaves burn different shades of red)

whilst waiting for melanoma,

hypothermia or exposure

to carry them off

and so make room for others.




Author’s note: The New England in this poem is Australia’s New England, not America’s.





Albert Ross


An ancient mariner, scavenging for cigarette butts

in the litter left by ships that passed last night.

If he spots a group of likely birds

he’ll have a go at stopping one in three

but won’t be at all surprised if

the best he gets is a look that kills.

He’ll rummage on, trailing those

eating breakfast on the run,

hoping to swoop on krill,

discarded shreds of a Macca’s bun.

He looks an ungainly bundle

when he squats on some seawall

But then he stretches out

and looks almost majestic, spreading arms

until he looks a bit like a grey avenger

swooping down around the neck

of some unsuspecting shipmate.




Aussie Man Dies


                        He was always king of the keg back home                   

with a curled up lip and jeering command.                    

He stood at Gallipoli, not alone;                                   

he was blind-eyed in Gaza. In his hand                         

Samsonite suitcase stuffed with VB’s own.       

                        Now a wreck in the desert laid he dreams,                  

legless in Luxor, brought down by flat beer.      

A luggage label round his neck proclaims                                                          

his name, Kev Stone, from Newtown way.                     

“I’ve brought me trusty Esky, never fear,        

things aren’t near half as bad as they may say.          

Though the keg is empty, do not give up,                      

a fair few ales are in there, stashed away.”                      

 In his dreams the Rabbitoh’s held the cup                    

whilst stretched out on Bondi beach he lay,         

                         his despairing wife vainly waiting up.    



(With a ‘dip of me lid’ to my old mates Perce Shelley and Jack Milton.)         




3 - Publication Details



To see oursel’s                       Atlanta Review, Fall 2011: International Merit Award

Mining Memories                  Writing.ie 

                                                Ethel Webb Blundell Literary Awards, 2011 Commend

Poem for a Courtesan           Bruce Dawe National Poetry Award, 2003, H.Commend

Temple Dancer                      Not previously published

Tintern Abey                         Salopian Poetry Sciety Mag, Spring 2011,  Published

Tewkesbury Abbey               Salopian Poetry Sciety Mag, Winter 2010,  Published

Tablelands                             Not previously published

Autumn in New England     Message in a Bottle, October, 2011, Published

                                                Falling Star, 2011 (forthcoming), Published

Albert Ross                            Not previously published

Aussie Man Dies                    Not previously published



4 - Afterword

Email Poetry Kit - info@poetrykit.org    - if you would like to tell us what you think.  We are looking for other poets to feature in this series, and are open to submissions.  Please send one poem and a short bio to - info@poetrykit.org

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