You were never mine—

how I swam your blue.


Upon your fin,

blades of grass penetrated my soul


I was, as if, tree—


and my roots – like waves –

reaching for my sure.



An unsuitable mentor.

I ring the bell and you greet me kindly at your golden door, I sense opulence. Invited in, I enter, slip off my ankle boots; hoping you will not notice where the stitching is unravelling, side of the right suede boot.

Along your halls are framed tickets of accomplishments, they are impressive, mostly for the colour-coordinated touches. I love colour, drown in hue, but you wouldn’t know that.

I wonder about your secret side: we all have one.

You offer me some tea from your most recent travels, ask of my own. Truth is, of late I am on foot! The wings of a plane seem a stretch when I am so.

I won’t let you guess at that.

So here we stand in your kitchen, we form an interesting juxtaposition; you thought we had much in common as on the phone I was all ears and soaked up your knowledge. Now it is just us, face to face, are you waiting for the secret intellectual? She isn’t coming.  I sense that you sense it. I am awkward now, doing my best just to block my soul’s transcript.

We gaze, half smile, I turn my head to the side and say, ‘I like what you have done here.’

You offer the story of three pieces of furniture, your voice is low, and I am thinking:

You are so humble when you are gentle,

You are kind enough, I know that without doubt,

You are open to me; I understand…

So, where to from here?

And can you tell me—

if you saw a grass parrot stunned, broken wing twitching, would you stop? Would you wrap that bird in the warmth of your best jacket and call your local wildlife rescue? Tell me: when you envisage the future is it bathed in more gold? Or music that fills the spaces left by the frogs and birds?

Tell me how you determine worth.

Please understand, I am not decorated in such famed tickets. My accomplishments are secret and cannot be measured to fit a frame. Does this bother you?

And so, where to from here?




Emma Burgess-Gilchrist


Published in Painted Words, 2017 and soon to appear in my first poetry collection ”Freedom bird.”

Blue Balloon

In memory of JD.

‘A peaceful warrior’


My friend left his body on Wednesday,

I did not notice.

I was caught in the colours of my graduation gown,

the one with the two yellow stripes;

an angel on my shoulder was smiling,

on occasion I like to please her.


Later that evening

I walked his street with my daughter,

we took turns carrying a blue balloon.

We were only three blocks from his house,

I did not notice he was missing.


It was Sunday,

I logged on to the Face registry

there was a post from his sister that read:


He was dead.

Never have words leapt from the screen like a punch.

I buckled,

I could not breathe.

Oh, his precious heart.

Moments later, a rare sun shower

I knew it was him.


So I went to my secret box,

found his letter—

his magical love letter.

Upon the tea-stained page,

the ink and the sentiment—

untouched, despite fifteen years.


And that night ‘his song’

played twice over the radio

as the bats put on a show

before several swooped into the pear tree.


The signs came all week:

‘his’ song concluded the festival

and the whole crowd sang along.


In the crematorium I felt a hand upon my shoulder—

I knew it was him.

I waited to say the final goodbye.


And a little voice inside urged me to floor it as I left the cemetery.

I knew it was him, by my side.

The passenger seat appeared empty

still I smiled for him,

asked him to stay,

understood that he couldn’t

plus, that would be selfish.

Then I felt him leave.


It was his love for me that kept me from him,

I will spend the remainder of my days with this knowledge.


I have read his letter so many times

and all I can do is think of that damn blue balloon

and how it floated in the hall

before popping.



This poem featured in Painted Words, 2017.

Dandelions on fire.

Ether slip: playground of light

Existence rule book: “when you blow out the candles do not announce your wish.”

No-one ever questioned the logic: very superstitous


When I was a child wishes came via dandelions

but now, as all the dandelions are on fire—

my wishes are prayers

to no God.







Emma Burgess-Gilchrist


Human windmills

Human windmills in earth liquid

we swim the billabong after dark,

clanking through,

hydraulic operations of the heart—

excavating every misery of flesh.


Big kids with twenty-nine-year-old bones
whooping, splashing under stars,

the mud inches under each nail until

our hair is caked.


Three eyes open

under a January moon,

full of noise and moan

we rave.


First published in the BKI anthology ”Painted Words, 2016”

Lady Rosa

Lady Rosa: lady of the garden

her scent—

olives, fresh bread, a summer afternoon in Crete.

She leads to water,

flowing aqua,

quartz fountain—

where every bird meets for bath or hymn.

Lady Rosa whispers

beyond roses, thyme and constellations.

I never catch what she says yet,

I always remember the meaning.

Lady Rosa is a friend among dreaming–
she is ghost and song

plucking at the guitar,

perhaps whispering “patience

Lady Rosa: sky sailor

and queen of all garden folk!

We plough the dirt,

Zeus fills it with rain

I build a moat, we sail away

to the land of Lady Rosa;

where as birds, we frolic

in garden, sky, or shallow swim

then at night, sing—

Lady Rosa is the day of the morning;

the midnight of afternoon. ”


Emma Burgess-Gilchrist

Published in the BKI anthology ‘Painted Words, 2016’