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written at Life Before Death,  Poetry Workshop with Paul Collis, 17 April 2019

National Museum of Australia, Canberra


Dead possum

Dead thylacine

Dead people

How to be alive

even when dead

How to continue

with no story

no land

How should I bury

the dead possum

in my front garden

How to show respect

How is it that today

this very day

there is death at my door

and on the radio

a program on

environmentally appropriate burial

listening while on my way

to Life Before Death

a poetry workshop


We need to change everything

The way we live

The way we die

The thylacine

could not change

trapped by invasion

The koala

cannot change

trapped by deforestation

We are trapped

By coal

By corporate greed

By subservient politicians

We are trapped

But trying to break free


Young people on strike

Urging us to escape

To do so requires change

and the changelessness

of indigenous cultures

who lived

with the land

with the animals

with the plants

with the rivers

Too late for that

But we must break out

And go back down

Down down

into the deep past

Embrace the deep past

For a renewed future


I do not know how

to bury

the dead possum

in my front garden

Perhaps I will learn today

The thylacine will teach me

Thank you for the lesson

I hope I have learned

Dead possum found in my front garden


Musical instruments from Kenya

Post script:

I did bury the possum

I read this poem.

I dug a hole in my front garden.

I used music makers from Africa

to send the possum on its way.


Your comments are always most welcome.

Please check out my other blog about the

novel I’m writing.

Thank you!





29 June 2018


Carpet shampooing

brings change of venue

Moving furniture

to shampoo carpets

Spring cleaning in winter

to welcome VIP visitors

Son and daughter in law

coming from Kenya

Sitting in the kitchen

with my computer

Different outlook

than at my desk


Sometimes I ride the bus

to the Canberra CBD*

or the Kingston public library**

to write

Not for inspiration

but for change

of venue

of thought

If I set out to write

some place other

than at home

I am a writer


What has brought

the most change is

support from two women

in our writers’ group

AND writing the blog

Life Expectancy:

searching for reconciliation***

Reliving the time and travel

to research about my father’s life


Writing the blog

makes the story

the book

I am writing

Life Expectancy

come alive

I recognize

my own commitment

appreciate it

accept it

and will continue

My father W. Lon Hutchison as a young man                  
photograph with artificial colour added


*Central Business District

**Kingston is a neighbourhood in Canberra, Australia

***Life Expectancy is the title of the fictional book I am writing, based on some events in my father’s life

To be outside

one’s self


running water

screeching birds

machete chop


tall grasses

wild jasmine


white and yellow butterflies

fluorescent blue-green birds

Trying to remember

what you thought

you’d never forget

A stream in Nanyuki, Kenya


Welcome to feedback on my book of poems and drawings, Silence Spoken.


I am enjoying reading your poems and I like your sketches very much. You have experienced so much in your life. Your words are an eloquent expression of your suffering, joy, awareness and appreciation of the natural world. The book is very attractively designed and printed. Congratulations on publishing it!

Anne, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

You can purchase Silence Spoken at (discounted price) or on Barnes and Noble or Amazon.  Thanks!

1 March 2017

I remember.  The final day I had with you Mom.  1 March 2011.  I was there when you opened your eyes, looked at me and your grandson Nathan and then closed your eyes forever.  A few days earlier you had asked me if you were dying.  I said yes and that everything was taken care of, you could go in peace.  And you did.

Yesterday I got out your blue jean jacket with the patches from one of your trips to Africa.  You sewed all the patches and embroidered the outline of the African continent on the back of the jacket.

Mom's Africa Jacket

                     Mom’s Africa Jacket

I live surrounded by you.  Whenever I go out, I open up the drawers with your jewelry and choose something to wear.  Bracelets, necklaces, so many to choose from.

You are always with me and will be forever.

With love,



Below are comments from people who have read my book of poems and drawings, Silence Spoken, available on

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 11.44.14

The poems I liked best are those set in Venezuela, describing aspects of the environment and the sea and those set in Beijing capturing the impact of rapid change – for good and bad, especially “Observed:Beijing”.  It’s what I felt when in China, but succinctly and eloquently expressed.  I enjoyed the whole book, for what it expressed and also for what was left unsaid, or merely hinted at.

Mary, Canberra, Australia

Thank you very much for your awesome publication.  Sketches look lovely & will enjoy browsing too.

Khalida, Blue Mountains, Australia

There is another side of you, a contemplative one that I would not have guessed.  I am no poet and so can’t comment on the poetry but I like the sketches.

Anita, Canberra, Australia

2. Ink Tucacas Sea 3 web

I just browsed through it and your art work is powerful.  I especially like the brush painting from Pakistan. But then your “essentials only” style on Langata, Nairobi, Kenya is so spot on. I’ve read some poems too, but you know me, the art is so immediate.

Sheila, Berkeley, California, USA

Thanks so much for your book of poetry and illustrations!
It is really lovely.  Keep creativity alive!

Margot, Berkeley, California, USA

3. Pak Karkoram 772 webKarimabad, Pakistan

I have looked through it and read several random poems and David has spent much more time with it. We both are enjoying looking at these snapshots of your life.  Your drawings give life to your travels.

Linda, Baldwin, Kansas, USA

I am enjoying reading your poems and I like your sketches very much. You have experienced so much in your life. Your words are an eloquent expression of your suffering, joy, awareness and appreciation of the natural world. The book is very attractively designed and printed. Congratulations on publishing it!

Anne, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

7. Ink Nairobi Person webMan walking, Langata, Nairobi, Kenya

The poem Somewhere, snagged my eye. A knee jerk response to seeing my birthday near the bottom of the page. Reading it through I can only say, thanx for the birthday present.

The poem, Fishing at Sunset, I was timeported to Elk California doing that same such thing using carpenter’s line with old spark plugs on the end for weight. Holding the line for the twitch of the rockfish that might be dinner or dining on smaller fish if it slips the hook.

David, Baldwin, Kansas, USA



My delightful, creative friend, Tausi Kumbatha, died of stigma. We worked together in Nairobi, Kenya and in Somalia. Tausi was a very talented radio producer and trainer. We had so many great times together.

In late 2000, Tausi was working in Nairobi while I was in and out of Somalia and living in Watamu, on the Kenyan coast. Whenever I was in Nairobi, I tried to contact Tausi. Often Tausi was ill but she always said it was just another attack of malaria. I began to wonder what was happening. When I raised the possibility that Tausi was HIV positive, one of her sisters told me to stay out of their family affairs. I withdrew, but still tried to stay in contact with Tausi.

At the time, Tausi’s family and many people in Kenya, including the then President Daniel Arap Moi, were in denial about HIV/AIDs.

Paraphrasing what Nelson Mandela once said, more people were dying from stigma than from AIDs.

With prompt acceptance of Tausi’s illness, she would be alive today.

I regret that I did not persist.

Thinking of you Tausi.

Tausi is on the left with the glasses.  Our friend Nasra is on the right.  We were in Nairobi celebrating Tausi's birthday

Tausi is on the right with the glasses. Our friend Nasra is on the left. We were in Nairobi celebrating Tausi’s birthday.

Stories about Shoes


Shoe Liberation


Why do women,

especially young women

wear such stupid shoes?



Platform Shoe 1




can trip


twist an ankle

Bad for their calves



Achilles tendons


Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 15.17.58


Cannot walk properly

nor run

nor skip

nor hop

nor jump

Just take teeny tiny

hobbled steps


Comparable to foot binding

of the Chinese upper class

“Lotus foot”

Male foot fetish

My mother in law ran away

when they tried to bind her feet

Her mother pushed her feet

into shoes too small

Her mother illiterate

married into a wealthy landowning family

assumed small feet were necessary

to get married.


Walking through Kibera slum

in Nairobi Kenya

in front of me

A young woman in high heels

carefully lifting each foot

slowly putting each foot down

trying to make her way

through rocks


uneven unpaved paths


stepping over sewer water

Politely spoke to her

suggested that it would be better

to wear sensible shoes

walking through the slum

Bring other shoes if needed for her job.

Next day I saw her

wearing flat shoes.


When young

my mother tried to

feminize me

with girdles



high heels

Always the tomboy

I preferred playing

basketball or

baseball with the boys.


In later years

my mother introduced

me to super shoes




Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 16.13.44

Me and my super shoes

Bounded up and down

the hills of Kibera slum

in Nairobi,Kenya




slippery slopes

sewer water



dodgy youth

who followed me

one day.

No one could stop me

in my super shoes.


Under the overpass, Kibera

Under the overpass, Kibera


I would like to give a

Stupid Shoe Sticker

to every woman I see crippling herself.

This is why we fought for women’s liberation..

NOT to wear high heels

NOT to be objectified by the male gaze

And NOW??

Stupid Shoe Sticker


I am mystified as to why young women would spend their money on instruments of torture for their feet and their bodies.



Distorted Tree, Langata, Nairobi, Kenya

Distorted Tree, Langata, Nairobi, Kenya


hacked up

solitary trees

But still the birds come

Barbed Wire Langata Kenya

Barbed Wire Langata Kenya

Circles of barbed wire

anti -theft

atop the wall

But still the birds come

Apartment Langata Nairobi Kenya

Apartment Langata Nairobi Kenya

Apartment buildings


native forest

But still the birds come


For how long?


Our Street 10947

What is happening in Nairobi, Kenya and other very fast growing expanding cities in East Africa and beyond?

The place where I stay, Langata, provides some clues… What was an urban forest, Ngong Forest, not so long ago, has been taken over by apartment buildings and large houses, filling up the land with cement, leaving no space for trees, gardens, parks, or children’s playgrounds.

Behind the apartment where I stay there is an undeveloped open space. No one is allowed to build there because of a natural gas pipeline underground.

The open space is used for parking cars, hanging clothes, raising chickens and sakuma wiki, a local staple, a green leafy vegetable.

Children play in the rubble, the dirt and grassy areas. I sometimes drag a folding chair outside, sit with a book and a glass of wine – just to be outside and watch the clouds.

Home Made church near our apartment building, Langata

Homemade church near our apartment building, Langata

Not far from our building is a homemade church, made of corrugated iron. On Sundays it fills up with people singing and praying, amplified by a generator.

Further down the road, at the end of the paved section is yet another homemade church – also of corrugated iron sheets but painted.

Church near the end of our street, Langata

Church near the end of our street, Langata

At the end of the road are two Maasai manyattas where people live traditionally, driving their cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys into the forest and the grassy areas next to the cemetery daily then bringing them back home to their enclosures for the night.

Sheep and goats coming back to the Maasai manyatta

Sheep and goats coming back to the Maasai manyatta

When I am bored and tired of computer-based life, I walk to the manyatta and play with the children. Yesterday we played Skip to My Lou… skipping together in a long line, singing the song slowly, pausing, then speeding up. Everyone laughed. One tiny boy started crying because he couldn’t keep up with us. So I took his hand and we went at his pace.

Manyatta next to Cherryville apartments, Langata

Manyatta next to Cherryville apartments, Langata

Sketch of the Manyatta from balcony of the apartment building

Sketch of the manyatta from balcony of the apartment building, Langata


Last week, dirt and rubble were brought in by huge trucks, then graded to make a road through the area that is still not developed.

Yesterday a team was surveying the road. Soon houses and apartment buildings will fill up all empty space.

And the remnants of Ngong Forest?

Women carrying wood, trees chopped down in Ngong Forest

Women carrying wood, trees chopped down in Ngong Forest

Disappearing daily as people from Kibera, the nearby urban slum, cut down trees to sell for firewood, hollowing out the forest from the inside out.

Ngong Forest going...going..

Ngong Forest going…going..

Soon Ngong Forest will be no more.

Pile of cut trees Ngong Forest

gone…. trees cut down in Ngong Forest

Soon the Maasai manyattas will be no more.

All will be large houses, apartment buildings, concrete and cement.

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