Two Poems|Stephen House

built to offer


wherever i stop my wandering

to stay for a stint in another place

be it new room or share house

caravan park or tent site

or in the bush alone away from others

whatever country i’m currently in

i create a sort of shrine or altar

outside my inside sleeping spot


during morning walks and swims

i collect rocks and stones and shells

driftwood and dry sticks and bits and pieces

of natural materials washed up or fallen to ground

as long as they’re not living for i won’t ever kill

and i add the treasures to a pile over a week or so

until i know somehow the structure is complete

standing approximately half the height of me


from then on whether for weeks or months

i worship what i call the Supreme energy

ultimate destroyer of illusion

all that is and was and will always be

what remains when all else has vanished

that within everyone and everything

creator of the environmental elements

through the deity object built to offer thanks


people have watched my constructions form

over many years in countless places

some with curiosity or displeasure

others with interest and delight

and i’ve been questioned and accused

by sceptics and atheists arguing its existence

but i’ve also seen others place offerings

of incense and flowers as i do each dawn


i’m not religious or of any one faith

and many observers have asked of my practise

it is the collection of materials found with love

placed with care and upmost respect

to somehow represent nature and the gift it is

the wonder of each breath and glimpse

and this is my decades approach to worshipping

the Supreme through a created configuration




for thirty years wattlebirds have lived

in four sprawling grevilleas

i planted

when i bought a small house

in a big city


my contribution to native birds

i realized over time

through their come and go presence


they swoop and dive

perch and flutter

feed on nectar of flame red flowers

that blossom when they do


he crows complex call at dawn

patient wait

changes rhythm

until she coos soft response


as i lay awake in my dim room

window open wide

absorbed in outside courtship games

and song


they mate and nest

share offspring joy with me

sense i am their friend

they must know i keep prowling danger away

watch me

as i spray hunting cats with water

to say our garden is not for kill


i feel my home has seen many generations

of the same flying family

they show territorial ways

allow some in to share the trees

build on familiar limbs

sing and mimic repeated songs


but how can i know

they are birds and i am man

separated by our species

but together

in our pocket of shared urban nature

on our still surviving planet

as decades soar fast by


a union

of four growing grevilleas

wattlebirds who need them

and me


Photo by pooya ramezani on Unsplash


Stephen House is an award-winning Australian playwright, poet and actor. He’s won two Awgie Awards (Australian Writer’s Guild), Adelaide Fringe Award, Rhonda Jancovich Poetry Award for Social Justice, Goolwa Poetry Cup, Feast Short Story Prize and more. He’s been shortlisted for Lane Cove Literary Award, Overland’s Fair Australia Fiction Prize, Patrick White Playwright and Queensland Premier Drama Awards, Greenroom best actor Award and more. He’s received Australia Council literature residencies to Ireland and Canada, and an India Asialink. His chapbook “real and unreal” was published by ICOE Press Australia. He is published often and performs his work widely.

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