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The seven seas aren’t what we thought they would be
packed to the gunnels with rum and rebellion.
Our tall ships fly home, flat tack in the wind.

We’ll alight and seek life in the tussocky rocks,
seek fewmets and footprints and niblets of spoor.
With no forest for shelter we’ll bivouac in the wind.

Tough trees lie flat; they clutch at the cliffs,
the grasses grow grasping and desperate —
nothing withstands the impact of the wind.

We grab hands and race for the deepest cave
hoping to lie in the light of our warmth
with the ghost of our hope left intact by the wind.

But gone means gone — we can’t sail back on the wind.

The black dog’s ears go flat in the wind.

[First published in The Ghazal Page, 2012(1).]


Mary Cresswell is a poet and science editor who lives on New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast.  Originally from Los Angeles, her writing has been published widely in New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, US and UK literary journals. Her poetry collection Trace Fossils (first runner-up for the inaugural 2008 Kathleen Grattan award) was published by Steele Roberts in 2011 and her collection of satiric verse, Nearest and Dearest, in 2009.  Mary was also one of four poets who co-authored Millionaire’s Shortbread (University of Otago, 2003).

This week’s poem is a ghazal (sounds like guzzle) – originally an ancient Persian form.

The Guardian has this to say:

“The strict ghazal is composed of five or more regular couplets. The couplet is called a sher, and must be self-contained. The second line of each ends with a refrain of one or a few words, known as the radif. This is preceded by the rhyme, the qaafiya. In the first couplet both lines end in the rhyme and refrain, so the rhyme scheme is AA BA CA, etc. The last sher contains the poet’s signature, his name or a variant thereof.”

Modern poets writing in English have experimented with the form (Mary’s is a tercet ghazal with a deliberately empty line in the last stanza) but it’s probably fair to say that most consist of self-contained couplets, often exploring themes of love and mysticism.

Mary is editing the next issue of The Ghazal Page  (see her Call for Submissions which I posted recently).

More Tuesday poems here, where you can also watch the jointly written third birthday poem unfolding.

Ghazals are welcomed for a special challenge issue of The Ghazal Page (ed. Gene Doty) ( on the theme WATER. Guest editor for this issue is Wellington poet Mary Cresswell; 15 April – 31 May 2013 submission dates. Please use the journal’s contact link (see below).

Mary says:

Look for inspiration from water, wherever it is, whatever it’s doing and who/what it’s doing it to – storms, glaciers, ships and steam engines, boiling into an undersea trench, springing from desert rock, falling as snow. Big surf. Tears. Dark streaks down the sides of subway tunnels. If water could speak we might know why it’s always moving… Perhaps use water-words as a radif – perhaps tercet (rather than couplet) ghazals – consider Arabic as well as Persian forms. Ghazals can be unpublished or published (give details of previous publication as well as permission for use).

To prime your skill with the ghazal form, check through the excellent collection of essays and articles on the The Ghazal Page website. Also see Carol Rumens’ Guardian article, introducing ghazals by Mimi Khalvati. To see how the form can vary, read Natasha Trethewey’s ‘Miscegenation’ ( ) and Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Mother Mourns’ ( ).

Please submit ( information/submitting.html) between 15 April and 31 May 2013, and follow the journal submission instructions. Subject line: “Water issue”.




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December 2020

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