Stephen Chinnock
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Stephen lived in Conjola Park for over 30 years.  He is a retired School Principal. Stephen lost his home in the 2020 fires and is now living in Mollymook. Stephen has been writing poetry for many years and his latest poems have provided solace for many local residents affected by the fires. He is also known as "The Poet Laureate of Conjola."

A milestone

21 May 2021

I reached a milestone
In my troubled life today
There was settlement on my property
The block which burnt to ashes
All of my momentos gone

Should be a day of celebration
Money in the bank
New prospects to envision
But it’s not so easy you know
To let go at this final moment

There are still fingers of love and connection
Holding tight to that place
That defined me for decades
So many memories
Connected to place

It’s a battle Royale
To finally let go
And accept a new reality
Even when the new place
Is comfortable and well established
Nought to complain about

So eighteen months
After the Armageddon
That took such a price
On the lives of so many
I’m hoping that we can move forward

So much verse beautifully
And heart felt written
Moves us all to new horizons
Helping me to face
The new milestone !

Echoes

8 April 2021

What echoes reverberate
In my mind at times
Revisiting the verse of my Conjola soul mates
Wanting to borrow so many
Well turned and polished phrases
Too many gems to choose from

Such precise images painted
Unable to be printed with the click of a button
Translated on canvas by our painters
Forged in steel by our sculptors
Potted exquisitely in clay
Shown to the whole world in film

Some calm has settled long awaited
The bush regenerating
Along with our hearts so burnt
Creativity never relinquished
The Phoenix carrying us
On her splendid wings

May the Gods of all time
Drift down a smile
On those who hold up that mirror
Of broken bits
Being put back together
While our community heals!

Stock pot

21 March 2021

I made a pot of chicken stock
Last night
The perfect aroma
On a rainy day

It’s just that touch
Of star anise
That sets off
Tastes and aromas divine

That whole poached carcass
Will provide the protein
To a dish of fried rice
Complete with vegetables and herbs

It’s my way of seeking redemption
Feeding the family I love so much
After I have hurt others
That I sought to keep within the fold

To sit and eat with those you love
Is such a blessing
As the sound of surf
Reminds me of time passing!

How are you?

19 March 2021

They ask well meaning
I’m fine I lie
Hiding the truth
Of a heart shattered
Not only for the total loss
But what has driven me
To destroy a love
I had but now gone

That bloody PTSD leads
Down an unmanageable path
Hurting those even close and loved
Regrets piling up
To make a mountain of grief
Layer upon layer
Creating a mountain unassailable
Of terrible pain

All the blessings counted
Don’t seem to balance out
That madness in the mind and soul
The breathing in of the salty air
Provides temporary relief
But disappointing at every turn
While the heart burns

Guilt adding up
To create a huge stone
Too heavy to carry
Wondering why it has to be this way
Where to find the release
To let it all go
Hoping after troubled sleep
It will seem different in the morning????

Why does that pain continue

10 March 2021

Many months after the event
That so changed our lives
We have started to rebuild
Or moved on to greener fields

In my case i have so much
To be grateful for
A new house, a new car
Grandchildren blessing my days

But yet that spectre of Armageddon
Infuses my dreams
Leaves no peace
Of all that was lost

Daily triggers spark darkness
Even in a day of bliss
That library lost
Grandma’s bowls

The road to recovery
Seems so long
Will it ever end
Perhaps yes

Rebuilding a new reality
Will win in the end
New memories replacing the old
An album of new photos of now

The children will continue to grow
Amazing us all of their resilience
I’ll learn from that
Loving them as teachers!

The corn stalks

14 February 2021

Blowing in the breeze
Are growing higher than
The two metre fence
Planted with their sisters
Beans and squash
That miraculous combination
That fed nations so long ago

It’s my homage to them
While providing sustenance
For my family now
To forget ancient rhythms
Denies our future

So much of our nutrition and taste
Comes from the “ new world”
Beyond the boundaries
Of a greedy god centred European focus

So easy to forget
The consequences for them
While celebrating new wealth and knowledge
Stolen away without permission

We can sit here today
In our Eurocentric state
Believing that we introduced them to Jesus
That will cover our sins

I think not
We need to accept that they
In the “third world”
Saved our lives
While we slaughtered theirs!

Upon which floor shall I alight today

14 February 2021

In this multi-tiered life
The elevator is in constant motion
Never sure on what floor
I should alight next

The basement is where I reside alone
Even lonely, while trying to solve riddles
But then a bell rings
The kids are coming to play
And need to be fed the best of foods available

The soul elevator carries me up quickly
To the penthouse where my grandfather persona resides
He gets busy in the kitchen, cooks delights
Lays out the table for feasting
After much running around noisily
Those beautiful children settle at the table
Eat hungrily in between much talk and laughter

They leave with hugs and thanks for the dinner
We love you Tio
My heart is content
I’ve fulfilled that role well

The elevator doors open and wait
To take me down to another level
Where resides the broken heart
Of someone I loved so well
But hurt so badly
Through foolishness and unrelenting expectations
Cannot stay there beating myself
Black and blue with regrets

Ding goes the bell
There are other levels yet
And I enter into the blessed space
Of on line poetic conversations
Very comfortable here
I craft my words so easily
Others respond with such encouragement
And go on to craft their own stories
Openly and honestly written
Adding to our ongoing narrative
Of life after trauma

On that level exists a treasure
Of recorded heart felt truths
An archive of shattered hopes and dreams
Of anger, frustration and abandonment
But where the Phoenix flies through
Those corridors pointing always upwards
To new aspirations for now

The arts are flourishing there
In many diverse forms
So many new interpretations
Visually, in sound and on what was
Once paper but on screens now
That works for me

Ding again, the last bell of the night
Back to the basement to contemplate
Cogitate trying solve riddles again
But remembering that
The gods of all time
Have given me the blessing
Of seeing the kids again
Tomorrow morning on Mollymook beach!

I stand

13 February 2021

I stand on that jetty
Where i stood many times before
Fishing with little boys
Or just sitting soaking up the beauty

That view of beauty and peace
Is etched in my heart
Sustained my soul for so long
Was the very fabric of my heart
Friends and family too

When the indescribable fires came
Our hopes, our peace, our hearts
Were crucified
All turned to ashes
In that terrible conflagration

But out of those ashes
The Phoenix of our souls
Rose up to reconnect us
To love and compassion

The creativity inherent in all of us
Brought forward miraculous expressions
Of reflection and the way forward
We were not vanquished
But held out hands
Holding and making a barrier
Of protection as we continue
To rebuild our lives

The power of the arts
Has never been so evident to me
Whether it be through film or dance
Song, painting, pottery or poetry
It brings us all back together
To face the next battle!

In the zone!

12 February 2021

From reading
All the well penned verses
Of my poetry mates
It’s apparent to me
Although unexpected
We are all in that zone
Of a massive aftermath

I’m holding your hands tight
As you find anger, hurt yet
Disconnection from the land
Damage done to those close
Hearts still struggling to pick up
The pieces so shattered

Ive reached out for more help
From Shoalhaven Health Services
They are there for me
But overwhelmed
By the demand on the ground
Under staffed, underfunded
Where have we heard that story before?

Local psychologists needing
Group support
For the load they are carrying
There is a huge crisis of mental health
In our community so distressed still

And where are the responses from above
A blind chain of command and responsibility
While suicide rates , potential self harm
Dramatic escalation of domestic violence
Whole connected communities are suffering
What fate will the children suffer in this scenario?

No wonder people cry out in anger
Are we abandoned again?
While politicians play the familiar tunes
On their untuned fiddles
We’re ok in our bubble
And what about that beautiful lump
Of black coal
That great metaphor of your hearts!

Reaching out

6 February 2021

Reaching out
A large skink just passed by
In my food garden
An encouraging portent

The latest round of truly heartfelt words
Bolsters my spirit, my heart
Adds power to our collective contributions
I’d be lost without it
As i stand on the bank of the eternal river
Perhaps I don’t need to offer
The gold coin for the boatman

Holding hands across that chasm
Gives me courage to move forward
To a new dawn with the sun arising
Shining on the blessings in our lives
Challenging the losses

Brittle fragility I tell myself
Is not a permanent state of being
But can be sent away
As we grow and accept
That it was not our fault
We can mend in togetherness

The terrible pain of trauma
Will be carried away in the arms
Of loved ones
Especially the little ones
Who certainly don’t need
To carry our distress

I’ll try my best to become
Healed so that I can give love and support
To all that I love
And not be a burden
For the loss of material goods!

There’s so much more to life
Don’t you reckon?