Search results for: "virginia lowe"

St. Petersburg Animals
by Virginia Lowe

It didn’t dance
this little muzzled bear
clung with real affection
to its carer
master, owner, handler
that all around the newlyweds
might pay to hold it
Fertility symbol
that it was

Baby bear —
yes I held you
and paid money for the privilege.
As I stroked your coarse brown fur
and restrained your struggles
to return to your only friend
I thought,
tears in my eyes,
where oh where
is your mother?
And where will you go
when you’ve grown?

Also represented
where the brides flocked
beneath the statue of the Emperor
on his rearing horse
were other animals
Dogs of various breeds
Doves hidden in long boxes
An elegant black stallion
wearing red leggings
led by a girl of eight.

As three musicians
(all brass) started up
Mendelssohn’s wedding march
over and over
to greet each new
bridal party
and Neptune posed
in full finery —
money changed hands
photos were taken
corks popped.
There were smiles all round.

To tourists elsewhere
the street sellers hawk
bags of tomatoes, socks (four pairs left)
and the ubiquitous
Babushka dolls all nesting.

But in the depths of the city
where tourists rarely go
is an underground pedestrian walk
lined with women
each holding
one or two subdued—drugged?
kittens for sale
Not for the tourist eyes. Nyet to photos

IMAGE: View of the monument to Peter the Great on the Senate Square in St. Petersburg, Russia. Painting by Vasily Surikov (1870).

Godot13 The_Bronze_Horseman_(St._Petersburg,_Russia)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Bronze Horseman is an equestrian statue of Peter the Great (1672-1725) in the Senate Square in Saint Petersburg, Russia, that opened to the public in August 1782. Commissioned by Catherine the Great, it was created by the French sculptor Étienne Maurice Falconet. The statue’s name comes from an 1833 poem of the same name by Aleksander Pushkin.

PHOTO: Equestrian statue of Peter the Great (The Bronze Horseman) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the city he founded in 1703. Photo by Godot13, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The statue of Peter the Great on horseback is the place where wedding parties go to be photographed in St. Petersburg. And there they are met by many people, many animals. Taxis pull up outside the square with giant entwined wedding rings on top, bride and groom within. This was the scene that met our eyes when we visited in 1999. I imagine it is still happening.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Virginia Lowe is an expert in children’s books, and helps people toward publication through her assessment agency Create a Kids’ Book . She has been a children’s and school librarian, and has lectured at university. She has been published in numerous anthologies including Mother Lode (2003), Poetry d’Amour 2017, and This is Home (National Library of Australia, 2019). A collection of her poems alternating with those of her husband, John Lowe, is Melbourne Poets’ Union Chapbook #27, Lines Between (2018).

PHOTO: The author with her husband John Lowe at their home in Australia.

doughnut and obscure
by Virginia Lowe

I wasn’t really lost
I was bored
Left alone yet again
this time I crossed the road
wandered through
an overgrown garden
in an open door
There were people
but as well a playful pup
just about the same
size and age as me
We chased one another
round the house
a house designed for this
Parlour to dining room
to kitchen, to hall
to front hall
to parlour again
then reverse as I chased
the pup – Lizzy

The people were worried
that I was really lost
They put me back
out the front door
It took me no time
to find the kitchen door
and join them again

When we had played
some more
Lizzy and I settled down
in front of the fire
I kneaded the carpet
while I had a comforting suck
of the end of my tail

Visitors arrived for dinner
One unceremoniously
turned me upside down
announced I was female
and, though only half grown
old enough to have kittens
This gave them pause
(and me paws…)

I stayed with them the night
and the next day
they went up and down the street
knocking on all the doors
looking for my owners
No one had lost the half grown
black and white kitten
they’d already christened
Doughnut – the round shape
Imparted by tail-sucking

So they went to the vet’s
and left me there
for a day and a night
In the morning,
the jovial vet
presented me back
to the family
saying, with a great laugh
I’ve got news for you
Now he’s dough
without the nuts!

It was several days
before the family
across the road
claimed me
but it was too late
My heart belonged
where Lizzy bounced
and waited.

Years later
the family’s children
persuaded a visit to the
cat show was in order

There was a hideous gold-plated
plastic award for
the Supreme Domestic
which was mine
I also won
Cat with the Longest Whiskers

It all made such
a good anecdote
They had watched me
sucking up to the judges
just as I sucked my tail
(sucking was my forte)
Extrovert, loquacious
I convinced them of
my Supreme status

The Award
in all its glory
sat on the mantelpiece
while the story
was replaced by others
They forgot the trophy
grandiose, ugly
sitting there
above the fire
as if in pride of place
When they realised
they hurried it away
to a far corner
never again
to be seen in public

But I knew I was Supreme
so did Lizzy
and later a new kitten
fluffy grey Obscure
And so did the family
who, in later less-lithe years
had the honour of holding my tail
to my mouth for comfortable
convenient sucking

AUTHOR’S IMAGE CAPTION: Doughnut and Obscure, a painting by Christopher Caitlin, about 1992.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is, of course, a true story. Doughy (as we usually called him) was a charming cat. I wish I had taken a photo of husband John in bed, cat on his chest, book in one hand, cat tail in the other, held to the cat’s mouth for convenient sucking. You never think about a photo of everyday sights until it is too late. Sigh!

lowe silver birch1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Virginia Lowe has run a manuscript assessment agency for 20 years. She previously lectured at university and was a school and public librarian. She has been writing poetry for about 50 years. Her autobiography in verse A Myopic’s Vision is ready for publication (one poem for each year to seventy), and she is working on two novels for children and young adults. She has had seven poems published on the internet by Silver Birch Press, others in Ekphrastic Review, Right Now!, Australian Children’s Poetry, and twelve others anthologised in print. She writes a regular column on children’s responses to books, “Two Children Tell” in Books for Keeps and her book is Stories, Pictures and Reality (Routledge). She was awarded the Leila St John Award for services to children’s literature in Victoria by the CBCA in 2016.

me black dress about 17
by Virginia Lowe

The four letter word
I knew it existed
I knew what it meant
but had never
heard it said
seen it written –-
Even asked directly
best girlfriend, boyfriend
could not bring themselves
to articulate it
in my presence –-
Railway station graffiti
seeing me coming
must have dropped it
from the walls

D H Lawrence I knew
poetry first
Snake and others
then Sons and Lovers
so when at work
I was offered a copy
–- still banned –
of Lady Chatterley
I accepted with alacrity
and read his sensuous descriptions
with delight
(I was not, in point of fact
so very innocent)
And of course
discovered too
the Mysterious Word

My mother
poor prim innocent
would not have known
the Word
would not have even known
or so I thought
of its existence
But she did know
and roundly approved
of censorship –
She was horrified
for my morals
and even more
for my good name –
Not, so much
that I had read the book
but that
–- Oh shame! –-
I had borrowed it
from a MAN!

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I was all dressed up for a school ball, and felt very glamorous and sophisticated in my first black dress. It is taken in our best room, with my mother’s Victorian furniture.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this piece about 12 years ago. I remember the incident vividly. The poem came to me while swimming in the local pool, which I do usually twice a week. I have a pad and pen in the car, for jotting ideas when I get back after the swim, so I don’t lose them on the way home (and that has happened, believe me).


Virginia Lowe
has been writing poetry for about 50 years. She has been published in various on-line journals as well as Silver Birch Press, and is working on an autobiography in verse, almost complete, entitled A Myopic’s Vision. She has been a librarian and a university lecturer, and, for the last 20 years, she has run a manuscript assessment agency Create a Kids’ Book. Her own book, based on a reading journal kept of her own two children from birth, 5000 handwritten pages, is Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell (Routledge 2007). She also writes a regular column ‘Two Children Tell’ in the British review journal Books for Keeps.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This was taken about three years ago, and represents my passion for picture books. The author of The Children who Loved Books, Peter Carnarvas, came through our service some years ago with his first book, and has gone on from strength to strength.

Hello Yellow
by Virginia Lowe

No yards of tulle
No orange blossom
No tiara woven of flowers

No floor-length gown
No satin no lace
No train or bearer

Not ivory or white
though silk it was
Sunny yellow

An impossibly wide
floppy straw hat
in yellow
No coy veil

A non-princess dress
On a day far too important
for playing dress-ups
Symbolising practicality
Portending happiness and contentment
for forty-seven years
with a beautiful partner

PHOTO: The author and her husband on their wedding day.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr Virginia Lowe has had poems published in seven paper anthologies, several journals and Australian Children’s Poetry, Write Now Magazine and Silver Birch Press. She has just completed her poetic biography A Myopic’s Vision, with one poem per year of her life. She has been the proprietor of a manuscript assessment service, for twenty years.

Red hardbacks
by Virginia Lowe

On my tenth birthday
my best present ever
all bound in red
The Australian Encyclopaedia
Ten volumes
packed neatly in a box
I’ll never forget the smell
the thrill

Now my favourite
is another bound in red
Red solid covers
but big, foolscap
and not even printed
My sloppy speedy handwriting
Volume twenty one
nineteen seventy eight
February to

Finally treated with respect
The reading journal
no longer in scrappy
ephemeral exercise books
Now solid, made to last
Two children to record
the responses of
and more and more
as they grew

Five thousand
handwritten pages
in twenty six volumes
Completely irreplaceable
My favourite possession
A labour of love
or just plain crazy
The reading journal
of the books we read
to our two children
from birth to eight
Their responses
meticulously detailed
Indexed under author
and theme

Blue ink for daughter, red for son
Now delightful thoughtful

A reminder
never to underestimate  —
development of mind

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Taken by my daughter of me with the red hardback, beside the other 25 volumes (September 2016).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The reading journal is eleven years’ work — or more, as I continued to keep it spasmodically up until the children left home at 19. It is the basis of my PhD thesis (1996, Monash University) and my book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell (Routledge 2007), also my numerous academic articles and regular column in Books for Keeps. The volumes are truly my most precious possession (given that I don’t “possess” lovely husband John, or the two children or the grandson, or the cats, for that matter), the only object that I would try to save in a fire. I thought it deserved a poem of its own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Virginia Lowe has been writing poetry for about 40 years, and is currently working on a collection — a sort-of autobiography with a poem for each year, tentatively entitled A Myopic’s Vision. She has been published in several anthologies and literary journals.

porch pic 2
Twenty-Eight Boxes
by Virginia Lowe

John had already left
our rural city
for his new job in Melbourne.
I waited with the toddler
and my parents
in the empty house.
Everything packed
and ready to go
Food, nappies
Nothing was left

A moving van
pulls up outside
Driven five hundred miles
from Melbourne
and overnighted
somewhere I presume
Right on time, but so small

Two jolly giants bounced in
ready to begin
Their faces dropped
as they surveyed
our possessions
They could clearly see
that as we feared
the furniture, the crockery
clothing and ornaments
just would not fit

Turned away shaking their heads
We knew no one could have
That many books!
But John, a librarian, had
just moved his library
to a new building
he knew exactly
and had filled it out
on the form

Two double beds
One sofa, one dining table
one cot, one washing machine
So it went on
And our two book collections
together made up
only twenty-eight boxfuls

they set off back to Melbourne
to return two days later
While we set to unpacking
the bedding, the food
the nappies
To survive living
another two days
in a packed up house.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The toddler and her parents on the veranda of the house we were moving from.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  When I was a child, we moved house every two years. I have lived in the present house for 42 years. We hope never to have to move, but in the first four years of our marriage we moved four times – moving here to Melbourne was the fifth and last. And who knows how many books we own now? Not only no more bookshelves, but no walls to put them on, either! It must be time to cull!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Virginia Lowe has been writing poetry for about 50 years. She has a PhD in children’s literature and her thesis has been published as a book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell (Routledge 1996). For 20 years she has run the manuscript assessment agency Create a Kids’ Book. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, adult grandson, two Devon Rex cats, and seven Isa Brown hens.

AUTHOR PHOTO:  The author today with a wild friend.

Forgetting how to ride a bike
by Virginia Lowe

My father loved the stars
In another life,
permitted education,
his facility with numbers
might have made him
a famous astronomer
instead of an accountant
See that bright one?
That’s Beetle-juice
I remember him telling
Yes, I’d say meekly
wishing to please
But I couldn’t of course
It was all just fuzzy blobs

See that milkbar on the corner?
No I said. Didn’t want to be sent
somewhere I couldn’t see
Stupid child! they thought
It never occurred to them
that I really couldn’t see.

So on my seventh birthday
a bicycle purple painted,
with Virginia
in gold down the crossbar
the most beautiful bike ever seen
I was terrified
to ride it, I couldn’t see
where I was going,
what was in front
I walked it to school
to Brownies after school
to have it admired,
to show it off
but I couldn’t actually ride it.

Six months later
my myopia finally spotted by a teacher
I learned to ride with my new glasses
I was never very good
never enthusiastic
never worthy of the bike’s beauty
The skill now long forgotten

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The family. I am about eight. Father looks like an accountant. How would he have looked as an astronomer?

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Being short-sighted from birth, and it not discovered until I was seven, affected my life in many ways. I’m sure that’s why I have face-blindness, for instance. The fascinating thing about poetry is that it gives you a new angle on the world. It has never occurred to me before that my father could well have been an astronomer, and I’m quite excited by this new thought.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Virginia Lowe has been writing poetry for about 50 years. She has a PhD in children’s literature and her thesis has been published as a book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell (Routledge 1996). For 20 years she has run the manuscript assessment agency Create a Kids’ Book. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, adult grandson, two Devon Rex cats, and seven Isa Brown hens.

eucalyptus tree
Eucalyptus Christmas
by Virginia Lowe

A huge gum tree branch
propped in a corner of the room
touching the ceiling
big enough to support the actual gifts
for everyone invited to the party
Decorated with the presents, ornaments and balloons
specially, a month early, for my birthday
It was satisfying, the hanging gifts brightly wrapped
Just like Dad’s family Christmases
the exotic translated to the native

But Mother disapproved – dropped leaves, twigs
there in her best room
Besides, originating with his family
a tradition not to be continued

It only happened once
but it was glorious

PHOTO: Eucalyptus Christmas tree found on

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Somewhere there is a picture of this very tree, but I’d have no hope of finding it (in one of four cartons, but I’d need to look through them all). Anyway the poem says it better, and I’m not in the photo. It’s a long time ago – I was seven or eight. It might have been 1952.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The photo is of me with my grandchild, about 1999.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Virginia Lowe lives in Melbourne, Australia. She has been writing poetry for at least 50 years (way before computers, so a lot of it is lost). She has had poetry published in several anthologies, and is working on a collection of one poem for each year of her life, as well as a novel, when not teaching people how to write for children, especially picture books.

GoremeFairyChimneysTriple (1)
Fairy Chimneys
Cappadocia, Turkey
by John Lowe

By rights they should not be,
basalt buds on stems of stone.

Why are acrobatic boulders “fairy”?
— Theirs is the domain of wonder,
with mustard seed and whales.

Holes of solidity bored up into air
make javelins to puncture normality
and tip us from our everyday divan.

PHOTO: Triple fairy chimney (Cappadocia, Turkey) by Niels Elgaard Larsen (2009), used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cappadocia is a historical region in Turkey that includes a variety of natural wonders, including fairy chimneys, also known as hoodoos. A hoodoo is a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland. Hoodoos typically consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements. They generally form within sedimentary rock and volcanic rock formations and are mainly found in the desert in dry, hot areas. Hoodoos range in size from the height of an average human to higher than a 10-story building.

john lowe

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Lowe has published poetry in various Australian magazines and anthologies, and jointly with his wife Virginia Lowe in the poetry collection Lines Between.  He will release a book later in the year (Houndstooth, Ginninderra Press), Covid allowing.

Last-Minute Bridal Veil
by Virginia Chase Sutton

Ordering flowers for my six bridesmaids, different colored
blossoms for each attendant wired on combs, I choose
a wreath for myself, white and peach roses like my bouquet.

Not a hippie wedding–I will wear a long white gown with
illusion sleeves, roses embroidered along the top, the bridesmaids
an array of color. Even clusters of blooms on the wedding cake

are piped cascades matching the women’s dresses. But
when the florist’s big boxes appear on my wedding morning,
the wreath is instead a wired circle of flowers. An error, fit

only for a young baby instead of my noggin. A headpiece
is required for church and a pinned on handkerchief will not
do. Please let me wear your bridal veil I beg my recently

divorced sister, her gown along with Juliet cap and veil trussed
in a huge blue box in the attic, preserved souvenir from her own
wedding two years before. Finally she agrees and I don

flowing layers, but not before first cutting away the blusher
with my shears. Now open, the box loses any charm and
my sister drags it into the trash. I am sad, not the edgy bride

I envisioned, but just a woman in white, topped with a Q-tip.
Ordinary, like every single bride in magazines I’ve been
reading for months. I want to be different but am forced

to settle for immediacy. At the church, I take my father’s
arm, march down the aisle; sashay back with my new husband.
What’s happened to your flowers he asks breathlessly

as we climb into the waiting car. My brand new brother-in-law
guns the engine and we take off for the wedding reception
a dozen miles away. Once at full speed I slide open the car’s

window, rip the bridal veil, which is not my own, and is not
really a gift, from my skull. Waving it in the sunny August
afternoon, it is like a puff of cotton candy, or the biggest

gone-to-seed damn dandelion ever. I hold it with two fingers
enjoying the breeze then let the wind rip it from me–the
expensive Juliet hat with attached tulle vanish. My

brown hair, styled this morning, churns in the breeze as I
power up the window, my new husband aghast at my solution.
It’s a crown of flowers or nothing I explain and finally he nods,

unconvinced. Let’s go back and find the bridal veil he says. Keep
going I shout to the front seat and we do, my bare head the only
solution to the heart-breaking loss of my unwearable wreath.

PHOTO: The author on her wedding day in her last-minute bridal veil.


Virginia Chase Sutton
’s third book of poems,Of a Transient Nature, was just published by Knut House Press. Her second book,What Brings You to Del Amo, won the Morse Poetry Prize and was published by Northeastern / University Press of New England. Her first book was Embellishments (Chatoyant). Her poems have won the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry at Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award. Her poems have appeared in the Paris Review, Ploughshares, Comstock Review, Quarterly West, among many other magazines, journals, and anthologies.Nominated six times for a Pushcart Prize, she holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has been a resident many times at the Ragdale Foundation and once at Vermont Studio Center. She lives in Tempe, Arizona, with her husband.