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Pick Up the Pearl


pick up the pearl


a suite of tai chi & martial art poems,

the wudang sonnet series,

& set of haikus on the yi jing.




pat mcgowan mca (creative writing)






Other works by the same author



Ride A White Mare

Jade is My Stone

Mostly Friday Nights

Splitting Apart

The Shades of Paracelsus

The Drain Brains



TAO: Total Person and One World

Tales of the Dragon, the Bear and Other Wondrous Creatures






fomelhaut publishing 2016 sydney

© copyright pat mcgowan

typeset by pat mcgowan

published by fomelhaut publishing, 2016

with the assistance of lulu.com

Inquiries: [email protected]

twitter @maigaowen

isbn 978-0-9925812-4-4


copies available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/fomelhaut

& www.Shakespir.com


visit blog at pjmcgowan.com






thanks dorothy cui for cover photo taken on zhongqiu festival 2016






to my tai chi friends

where ever you are







Table of Contents


fu xi

sonnet to simon


david carradine

boxer rebel 1

boxer rebel 2

lou reed

yang the invincible

uncle lu

bruce lee

a fighter

dragon slayer

the pa kua teacher


the judoist

the tycoon


yang wu dui

tai chi hermit

online master (junbao)-found poem

gu ruzhang (1893-1952)


the cabbie



hello ms dolley (found poem)

the one and only

over his head

the pastiche goes on

that mancunian humour

thank you, champion volanko

what do you do?

wudang journey


mountain walking

zhang san feng

tian zhu peak 1

tian zhu peak 2

tai chi

to the mountain

haiku homage to the yi jing

introduction to prose works of pat mcgowan







This collection has grown organically over years. Many poems are the result of my creative writing study at the University of Wollongong in 2008-2010. The big exception is the haiku collection I wrote in 1999 while living in Moscow & whose inclusion makes this themed collection more complete.


When it comes to the Asian martial arts thing, I am a product of the 60s and 70s. I remember how, in the 60s, we were captivated by the Japanese TV series, Samurai, and The Phantom Agents. My father even took me to the Sydney Stadium to see the Samurai stars on stage. But it was the 70s show Kung Fu that lifted my interest to another level. This series was written by Ed Spielman who also wrote The Mighty Atom: The Life and Times of Joseph Greenstein, an exceptional book. All these shows spoke of a special personal power and skill that resonated with so many of us at that time.


It was a few years after the Kung Fu series that I went to a tai chi class. It had a dramatic impact on me and I found it easy to include the daily regime of tai chi into my lifestyle. In a way, it’s a bit like the empty cup that Lao Zi writes about: we make a cup from pottery but it’s the empty space inside the cup that we actually use. In the same way, the tai chi I explore every day is an empty cup but, over time, it can deliver so much in the way of health and wellbeing. We become stimulated to share only the best of what we know.


I named the collection after a tai chi move called ‘pick up the pearl from the bottom of the sea and lift it up to the boat’. I know there’s not much information online about this move but I’m sure it can speak for itself.


Pat McGowan

Loftus 2016






fu xi

From this mountain,

I watch Atlantis,

a wounded champion,


crash into the sea,

swirl and sink,

rare bubbles escape.


As the shock waves disperse,

I look to the future,

with blueprints,

penned in the blood of the past,


how to farm,

how to cook,

how to find peace in the pre-sent,



for the one and the many,

until it’s their time

to return to the sea


(fu xi is the legendary author of the Yi Jing Book of Changes)



sonnet to simon

Sorting and sifting for supreme ultimates,

in a hand’s wave, he draws the wind out of winter,

massages the sun into summer’s deep heart.

One poem is the inverse of so much prose, but with

nouns to announce and verbs to vibe, we may start.

Life is meant to be Lao Zi but not lazy, he says

in a voice that resonates right round the room.


Mixing a new batch of the most precious idea:

try, aspiring teacher and healer, to centre

and open beyond thought, word or action.

You must feel it. Let’s be easier on our selves.

Come to a conclusion of yin and yang yet?

He is the pieman, simple Simon and

in the end, as we always knew, the end is never nigh.




My first tai chi lesson,

so strange,

we move and stand still.


Movement in quietness,

quietness in movement,

we breathe out to our feet,

hands and top of the head,

half feel and half imagine.

hands tingle, synapses spark,

energy babbles

through the creeks of our body.


He says it brings us into alignment,

in big and small ways.

I understand:

no more crooked men, crooked miles,

sixpences and stiles.


Walking back home, I see flowers

poking through wrought iron fences,

and crumbling sandstone walls.


In my lounge-room, some MTV star

throws laser beams from his hands

and I know I’m lined up

with the whole world.



david carradine

“When you can walk the rice paper without tearing it,

your footsteps will not be heard.” – Master Kan (Kung Fu)



Walking barefoot,

Once upon a time, I, David Carradine,

across America,

dreamed I was Kwai Chang Caine,

with a bamboo flute,

drifting happily here and there,


enjoying life,

from hollow wood.

without knowing who I was.

Flashback to a student

Suddenly I woke up

in a temple learning

and I was indeed David Carradine.

the way of the immortals.

Did David Carradine dream

Flash forward to news reports

he was Kwai Chang Caine,

of an actor died of asphyxiation,

or did Kwai Chang Caine dream

in search of one more orgasm

he was David Carradine?

before morning



boxer rebel 1

At fifteen, he drifted alone, after the flood

stripped him of family and home,

his village washed away in one dark, gushing night.

He housed an anger that banged on his liver,


and a fear his country would go the same way,

that’s why he started life as a Boxer,

a promise and a pledge to put the world right.

When they danced in a frenzy and fell on the ground,


Kongming, his ghost teacher, whispered to him,

till he jumped in the air, and rushed up for battle,

knowing no weapon could break his skin.

The flood went away and then came the drought.


He didn’t hate Christians or straight eyes as such,

but believed ridding them off was their magic way

to make the rains come. He still thought that as he fell

under a gunpowder shower of cannon balls and bullets.


(Kongming, aka Zhu Ge Liang, brilliant military strategist from Han Dynasty novel ‘Romance of The Three Kingdoms’)




boxer rebel 2

To be a Soldier of Justice and Harmony,

my childhood desire, rescue my country,

badly bent over from drought and old age


At twelve, I started Plum Blossom Boxing,

in one family for nine hundred years,

we flourished in every village and town.


I next followed a heaven-sent teacher

of an art known as Great Dream Boxing,

he taught us to see all things as light.


One summer, we flocked to the Spirit Boxers,

our bodies but clothing worn by the gods,

prepared for the fight to glorious death.


Officials, dumb like chickens,

kowtowing to foreigners, put up posters,

called us Bandit Boxers, to be slain like dogs.


Wounded but breathing, I mysteriously

survived, and took up Yin Yang Boxing,

to recover my health.


Now an old man, wrinkled with experience

and a long list of titles, I tell my grandchildren

stories of valour in those old Boxer days.



lou reed

Lou Reed knows

how to stay cool on stage,


not like the The Beastie Boys

who keep a stripper in a cage.


Lou takes his tai chi teacher

as part of each show.


They work unhurried,

as an unfailing rule.


Once in tune, the feelings

soon flow, freely unfurl.


As each stands alone,

they seek and they find.


For them, it’s freedom,

terra firma and friends.


A little from here, a little from there,

fitted inside this funny fling.


It’s a fuel, it’s a gas, from empty to full.

As it finally falls, they’re fast on their way.


We watch and we play,

the fool of no fool.



yang the invincible

A busy office in Guangzhou.

At the weekly meeting,

local staff sit,

their backs straight, like ancestral tablets,

awkwardly dismantle every word

as I go over our client service charter,

performance agreements,

even a video of the laoban in Australia

untangling our tagline: people are our business.


And yet, day after day,

face to face, and on the phones,

we struggle with those clients,

too many who rage behind the plate glass barriers:

too many red voices, loud faces.


One meeting,

I tell them about Master Yang Lu Chen,

who taught tai chi to the Manchus,

a short man with a watchful eye,

the manner of a reluctant guest.

With nets set up behind him,

he invited opponents, hour upon hour.

Challengers bristled in queues

waiting for their chance to dislodge him,

(reminiscent of our clients

around to the lift well outside our waiting room).

He leaned forward to meet some of his opponents

before steering them into one of the nets.

Others, he let them come to him,

and with a twist of his body,

flicked them backwards through the air

to be caught by those same nets.




he became known as Yang The Invincible.

The staff listen,

and relax.


I see service improve

and my tai chi expand.



uncle lu

On a day of cicada song and scents of dry grass,

the villagers sit motionless in the shade of their huts.

Older Brother, in tattered shorts, leaned against the front wall,

turns his head to announce: ‘Everyone! Uncle Lu’s coming.’


Meimei, in a rough stitch red dress, jumps up and hoorays,

‘Yay! Uncle Lu, he brings us cakes and tells us stories.’

She scuffles down to join her brother at the gate.

The neighbour’s dog bristles and scrambles after her.


They watch the dog scoot down the dusty road barking

at Uncle Lu who stops and laughs up to the sky.

The dog snarls and bounds in, for his Achilles tendon.

Yelping, it quickly turns, and disappears into bushes.


Older Brother, solemn, folded arms, drawls:

‘See that. Uncle Lu used chi to repel the dog’s attack.

That stupid dog knows who the master is now.

Come on. Let’s help him with his bag.’


Soon Uncle Lu sits at the table with a cup of tea.

Meimei is crowding him: ‘What did you bring us,

what did you bring us from town, Uncle Lu?’

The whole house shakes as Lu laughs again.


‘One, moment, Little Mei,’ he says, making space

to lift his left foot up onto his knee. Searching

the skin near his ankle, he pulls out a tooth,

and thinks of that dog in need of more training.



bruce lee

‘Walk like a cat.’ Wu Yu Xiang


Bruce Lee, in a black Chinese suit,

prances around the ring like a panther,

it’s 1964, Long Beach, California.

He’s about to unveil the one-inch punch to the West,

a call to a new generation of dreamers:

they can be Superman too, with a little training,

plus it’s a finger wave at the USA’s military backswing.


The sparring partner, in white, stands tall and waits.

Lee rocks into position,

his fist one inch away from that partner’s chest,

he focuses, suddenly, a ruffle:

the partner is blasted backwards across the ring.


The television booms with too much bass.

Behind a haze of cigar smoke, Papa Sierra grates:

‘I’ll put my money on American might any day.”

His mouth, uneven, like a broken fence

lining a frontier farm in some B grade Western.

“Besides, it’s our boy, Cassius Clay,

who’s the heavyweight champion of the world,

Cassius Marcellus Clay.’



a fighter

Yeah sister, I grew up in Adelaide,

My father did the odd labouring job.

He couldn’t read or write and had no trade

but wasn’t one to sit around and sob.

There’s many ways money can be made,

so he could feed his wife and the rest of us mob.

That’s why he took to bare-fist fights

behind the hotel. Saturday nights,


the stadium ran a program of boxing.

Once that was over, the crowd hurried out,

made its way down to the carpark clearing

to get money on before the first bout.

Barefoot, singlet and jeans, he’d be waiting,

deaf to the cruel taunts and angry shouts

They wanted to see him knocked off his feet.

He copped many blows, never defeat.


I’d walk him home, the eldest kid.

Swollen face, troubled limp; he never spoke,

any discussion was strictly forbid.

By the corner store, he’d light up a smoke,

pull out his notes and hand me a quid

for the next day’s ice cream and coke,

Not far from the house, he’d break his taboo:

‘I love your mother, what else can I do?


(first published in Tide at UOW in 2010)



dragon slayer

She stands at a distance,

veiled loathing eyes.

Students, cross-legged at his feet,

shower in droplets of greatness

blissfully soaking them up

as he spouts on how to kill dragons.


She studied with him for ten years,

was his best student,

she knows every guile of the dragon

and the very best way to disable one.

Alas, she cannot find a dragon,

never found one yet.

He tells them it’s an art, it’s a science,

he sees out of the corners of his eyes,

eyes which radiate, as he waves his arms

webbed to his body by bands of energy,

and his body movements seem finely balanced

by an invisible tail.


Aha! At last,

she has found her dragon,

and relishes her first kill.



the pa kua teacher

‘It’s that killer instinct and it’s one thing we have got to get better at.’ Michael Voss, coach, Brisbane Lions


He hovers and swivels in all eight directions,

one or two strikes, a body is shattered,

a fight with him lasts a matter of seconds.


He’s fixed in his circle, pursue over there

what ever you wish, but cross this line,

invade his space, and he’s ready to pulverise you.


Already ninety and his health is good,

though his eyes are weak due to those months

when he stared at the sun, not blinking once.


Life on this fine edge is how he has thrived,

his record, so far, is fifty-five fights,

and fifty-five dead men he’s left behind.


It started with a contract his teacher and he signed.

Stay for twelve years, no leaving early or

teacher claimed the right to kill off the art,


an art that goes back to the book of I Ching,

the missing pages he knows by heart,

he’s both a cool scholar and a mad monkey.


His students train six hours per day,

crosses on the fence, lines made of sweat

as arms chop, like blades, this way and that.


Some leathered thug visited his house: ‘Old man,

I hear there’s a great teacher nearby.’ ‘I‘ve no idea…

…you fat slug,’ he murmurs, slamming his door.




I posted a parcel to Elizabeth, packed

inside was a city of words,

it dangled from the stars,

it tip-toed the earth,

like a UFO, draped with unknowns,

but with roads leading anywhere

you wanted to go.


After she opened it, she went all ape,

coffee cup, cutlery, table and chairs 

flew across the room, as she

crazily complained about some pot-hole

patched with a tai chi symbol,

for her a conspiratorial masonic mash-up.


Sadly she missed

the eye of my creative delight, so

I’m not sending her

any more cities or worlds,

she can live inside

her pot-holed side street

with her stinky tai chi symbol

for as long as she likes.


The city can sit and wait.



the judoist

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin,

about to open his pale, pencil-lipped mouth,

not dreaming of his fairy tale path to the Kremlin

or of desires to deliver the bedevilled people,

he’s thinking of his next class of judo,

gentle sport of life, with his beloved teacher.


A little naive, though not far from the perfect teacher,

for sure, he had more talented students than Putin,

he found himself jousting with new levels of judo,

a subtle art transmitted by word-of-mouth,

one-on-one, though not the chop for most people,

when he drew the ire of hawks in the Kremlin.


A Byzantine, sestina-like outfit, the Kremlin,

heard whispers in Petersburg of this teacher,

after the decision of the people

to turn a little known man into President Putin,

the minders were shocked, wide open-mouthed,

as he pinned Putin’s virtues solely on judo.


‘Let’s use this obscure Olympic sport, judo,

to reach behind the walls of the Kremlin,

we’ll tell the story from the horse’s mouth,

an extended interview with the President’s teacher:’

said the media in pursuit of fresh angles on Putin,

a desire to shift power back to the people.


Lacking that X-factor in the eyes of the people,

plus his odd pronouncements on life beyond judo,

the whole matter loomed as a crippler for Putin,

thought the savvy spinmasters back in the Kremlin.

He was, no doubt, a skilled martial arts teacher,

but best saved for instruction via hand to mouth.


‘Vovka, we’ve gotta shut his fuckin’ mouth:’

said these slick judges of the Russian people.

‘He’ll bring us to our knees, your teacher.

Can’t you see the judo hall is the best place for judo?

It’s your image we care for here in the Kremlin.’

With gall, they eyeballed President Putin.


He mouthed the word ‘silence’ like a deft move in judo:

we have enemies wanting to bust us back in the Kremlin

The teacher went silent, after those few words from Putin.



the tycoon


White Crane

Opens the Wings,

we explore movement

up and down.

As the body sinks,

knees bent,

arms gathered,

lift one foot

to kick,




rise like the crane,

wings outstretched,




on the

other foot,

now do it again,

up to down

and down to up,

making a circle.



Al’s got his own tai chi,

it’s called currency trading.

After tai chi class one evening in ‘87,

over a Lebanese coffee in Rozelle,

his news that he lost eight million dollars that week,

puts us into a freeze frame.

‘Ah, it’s nothing,’ he says.

‘It’ll come back again.’


I visited Al in England

five years later.

Bloomberg blasting over breakfast,

we were talking about train times to London

when Al mentioned

he made six hundred thousand dollars the night before.

‘Anyhow, let’s get the bikes,

and we’ll pedal up to the village.’


Was that

a white crane

flying past

my window.





Young Arto studied a martial art,

the greatest thing any man could learn,

his teacher, Joko, claimed to impart.


Joko’s eyes scared all in his class,

they’d heard stories of him punching cows,

with an explosive strength none could surpass.


One day Joko pushed Arto into a routine.

Arto tried hard, but made one faux pas,

Joko slapped him for an ugly scene.


Arto told his grandpa, Kakek, a man of tai chi,

who got so upset. After stroking his beard,

he decided to confront this bully.


Next afternoon, Joko, in a booming shout:

‘What do you want, silly old one?’

‘If you apologise, we’ll have no fallout.’


Joko’s response reeked of venom.

but Kakek was in no mood to argue,

he had another stratagem.


‘Master Joko, that pen in your pocket.’

Kakek leaned forward, his goal not the pen,

but to press one finger on Joko’s heart.


Once Joko got home, a paralysis grew,

the corners of his mouth started to foam

and his skin went darker shades of blue.


The condition progressed, he lay on his bed,

they’d heard of Kakek, but never believed,

his friends and neighbours saw problems ahead.


‘You must see Kakek!’ All of them pleaded.

‘Get out of here!’ was Joko’s reply.

Early next morning, they covered his head.



yang wu dui

I saw it happen at Prince Duan’s Court,

the day Yang Wu Dui came to the capital,

as all in our school clambered to challenge,

Duan singled out his strongest man,

a boxer, a fighter of national fame.


Settled in chairs, the two agreed

to pit their right fists against each other.

I’ve studied the art, I know what goes on,

one less experienced sucks in the chi

and pumps out to the fist, with the aim


of dissolving his opponent’s resolve,

but Yang was skilled to such a degree,

still as a lake on a windless day, waiting

for the boxer to defeat himself: first, beads

of sweat showed, then his chair creaked.


When a piece of wood popped,

Yang calmly spoke up:

‘Indeed this man is a master, though sadly

his chair is not as well made as mine,

how about we all go and eat?’



tai chi hermit

All of them,

the whole hundred schools,

clutch at yin-yang like a pair of second hand crutches,

spin and get spun by the five transformations,

could never cover the oceanic gaps

that reach out in the eight different directions.


And twelve houses won’t ever be enough.


I laugh at their numbers and names

of schools, postures, masters

and random pet things.


Hackers, all of them!


No match

for this one

supreme ultimate fist.



online master (junbao)

Tim, Thanks for the interest. My tai chi

is First Generation teaching from China.

While it does lead to serenity in

the mind, it can only do so after

quite a bit of practice. What I’m saying

is, there is quite a bit of sweat involved in

learning (real) Tai Chi. We build a foundation

of stretching and strengthening the muscles

and extremities to improve balance

and circulation. This is turn leads to


confidence, health, and long life. Western thought

has turned Tai Chi into a more mystical

practice, seen by westerners to be a way

to connect with the energy and peace

of the universe. This is not so in China.

To practice Zen, go to a monastery.

The name “Taijiquan” in Chinese translates

to “Grand Ultimate Fist”. Tai Chi is

and always has been a martial art.

That is the way I was taught it, that is the way


I teach it. While we practice the form slowly

in “tai chi time”, the applications

in real time are swift and exact. To quote

the Tai Chi Classics, “Do not worry

about speed or power. When the moment

needs it, there will be no fear of slip

or falter.” That being said, the practice

of Tai Chi is addicting. The body

begins to ache and bog down from lack of

practice. After a while, it is not a chore


to practice mid-week, it becomes a necessity.

As the body’s extremities begin

to “glob up” with stale Chi and stagnant

nutrients, it remembers Tai Chi from

Saturday morning and begs to be renewed.

The renewal circulates Chi, blood and

oxygen to the far reaches of our

extremities, filling them with spritely

quickness and life. Who hasn’t noticed

the curious feeling an hour or so


after class when you notice your body

feels alive, fresh and renewed?

This is what Tai Chi does.




gu ruzhang (1893-1952)


Homesick and tired of mushy burgoo

scraps night after night, money spent on whores

and coarse wine in Canton’s foreign quarter,

on their fifth or sixth loathsome lap

of south China, the exiled Russian circus

troupe cooked up a new enterprise.


The moustachioed ringmaster offered a prize

of one thousand pounds (his face red with ague,

and each second word a Tatar cuss)

to one who could bear three kicks from his horse.

Urgers waved passersby through the tent flap,

stragglers from every Canton backwater.


A slim, bare-chested man, in three quarter

length trousers, set off the gossipries

after stepping forward to a hearty clap.

He hailed from Song Mountain, this Mr Gu,

Iron Palm Kung Fu his one hobby-horse.

‘First, some conditions I wish to discuss…


…if after three kicks, I don’t concuss,

may I slap your horse on the hindquarter

in lieu of the loot?’ The Russians went hoarse

with laughter at how these Chinese comprise

such tragic folk. Without any argue,

they nodded ‘yes, yes, yes,’ plus a backslap.


These two on stage with nil overlap:

proud Arab blood horse and this hocus pocus

man, short, wiry, and so out of vogue.

The first kick landed. He gave no quarter,

as a few Russians whimpered with surprise.

But this was course one, the hors


d’oeuvre. As if but another of his daily chores,

Gu absorbed the next thunderclap

without much ado. The squeamish prised

open their eyes to see a hibiscus

bruise on Gu’s chest, the hoof’s hard quarter.

The third kick likewise failed to move Gu.


The horse owner stood cockily amid the ruckus,

Gu took a breath. One slap on the hindquarter,

the horse fell, eyes closed, her heart turned to goo.




He studied Chinese medicine in Alexandria,

once hallowed home of learning and knowledge,

and there became handy with the art of wu shu.

His writing was still an oracular dream.


After the Jesus years, he visited Rome,

sight of his signum ring, Caesar’s rare gift,

gave this man entrance through many doors.

A clutch of wrestlers, on hearing his laugh,

beckoned him to challenge. Without raising breath,

he put them to dust. Defensive or dumb,

none showed interest in his peerless skill.

It was later he drifted back to his book,


a book translated so many times,

you won’t read a word between the lines.


(wu shu is a generic term for Chinese martial arts)



the cabbie

The son of Mediterranean migrants,

black, curly hair and soft, dark eyes,

he pushed a squeaky newspaper barrow

along Redfern streets, after school.

He soon got tired of being rolled

and robbed, for a handful of coins,

dropped on his arse too many times,

one weekend he enrolled in karate class,

to stand up for himself and be strong.


As the inner city school years hurtled by,

his fearless front-footed style

took him to the national championships

and gained him a student following.

This martial passion stayed a hobby,

as he drove taxis in town through the day,

unfazed by the fools, in singlet or suit,

who, when they misread those soft, dark eyes,

thought they sat with some dumb wog cabbie.




Brandon followed his father,


a man who once described his own fighting style

as if he was water

filling an empty cup,


but too soon his body filled

a hole in the grounds

of Lakeview cemetery.


Brandon, still following,

talked about life as dealing with

one blockage after another.


It was on the film set,

when the gun jammed

before the murder scene,


(so let’s go over this again)


thinking they’d emptied the bullets,

one still stuck in the barrel,

when the director said ‘Shoot!’


Brandon took the hit

and made the move

to Lakeview too.





A drive of five hours, from airport to town,

I’m honoured as driver

to our guest gong fu teacher,

Frank is his name,

a man of high rank,

multiple national champion,

breaker of bricks with brawny bare hands,

a warrior who travels incognito.

We choose a truck stop café,

my car buried behind a line of B-doubles.

Square-body truckies clomp in and out,

open shirts, grizzled faces, missing teeth.

A bucket of ice water

wouldn’t break the cabin stupor of some.

Others shout across to old mates,

as we order our food and drink.

Frank tells me a little

about his family: his father, his brother.

We sit at a bench in high chairs,

eat, drink and catch up.

Meanwhile the café fills, is crowded.

A towering truckie with a sandstone face

grabs Frank by the shoulder.

‘Out of my way. I want to sit down.’


Frank, composed, flows with the throw,

stands next to me, continuing his story

about his sister’s success on piano.

The truckie glances at him, like a dog

by the road he thought he’d run down.

Frank ignores it, finishes his burger

and soft drink, gives a slight nod to leave,

sparing his art on the likes of such losers.



hello ms dolley

When an intruder broke into a woman’s home

he met more than he bargained for —

a combat fighter and roller girl,

who pummelled him into submission.


Karen Dolley, known as Foul Morguean

in the Naptown Roller Girls team,

was asleep in her home in Indianapolis, Indiana,

when woken by the sound of a male voice.


Dolley, 43, who is 168cm tall,

jumped out of bed,

turned on the lights

and saw an intruder standing in her living room.


Dolley, who learned medieval combat fighting

in the international organisation The Society for Creative Anachronism,

attacked the intruder, punching him about 10 times

and pinning him in her bedroom.


She reached for her gun in a nearby drawer

but accidentally opened the wrong drawer.

Dolley then grabbed a Japanese-style sword called ninjato

she kept by her bed.


She kept the intruder, 30-year-old Jacob Wessel,

cornered with the sword

and dialled for the police,

who duly arrested Wessel on arrival.


“I didn’t think I was getting good blows in

but my knuckles are bruised today.

Hitting someone like that,

it isn’t like the movies.


You’re expecting it to be louder

and see people jerk around,

but that’s not how it happens

in real life.”


As Dolley and the intruder waited for police to arrive,

he reached into his pocket.

She applied more pressure to the sword

and told him to stop moving.


“I’m really, really glad

I didn’t have to do anything more,” Dolley said.

“I know I could,

but I don’t want to do that.”


She learned how to use a sword in unchoreographed fights

using rattan swords

and fought against men much taller

and with 20 years’ experience.


“I definitely don’t need to work on my aggression, I guess,” said Dolley.



the one and only

He wanted a crowd, this wrestler,

for that implied money.


So his path to the ring was hewn by police escorts,

valets in bow-ties and suited bearers,

strewn with rose petals and ostrich feathers

and puffs of Chanel #10

(two bottles of #5 as he took no half measures),


With platinum blond curls,

and a body draped in sequins and velvet capes,

as the caller pinned him with titles like:

‘the sensation of the nation’

and ‘the human orchid’,

his entrance often lasted longer than the fight.


And when the crowd wanted more,

he started with words:

If I don’t win tonight…

if he messes up my lovely face..

I’ll cut off my hair…

I’ll crawl on my belly…

I’ll go and live in Russia…


The Gorgeous George extravaganza,

from pansy to Panzer,

was born in quieter moments, as a boy,

when he sensed his own greatness

despite lack of earthly evidence,

nothing but a feeling,

an invisible vision he could not then convey.


One day at a radio station, as he ranted and raved,

a shy young performer, who too sensed his own greatness,

sat puzzled at this oddity,

this man who strutted outside the box.

The wrestler, through glass, winked at him

and waved his finger

as he mouthed the words:

we’re making it come alive, my boy.



over his head

This George was Karen’s boyfriend,

a solid build, popeye arms and long legs

he always seemed toey, itching for a fight.

He jumped right in up the deep end.


The greatest sport of all, for this George,

was to wander down to Hyde Park late at night,

find a group, without any effort, and start a fight.

Never afraid, he’d take up to three at a time.


And there was the road rage incident

with the truckie, who chipped George on his driving

so George confronted him, rammed a beer can

into his face umpteen times.


We were unsurprised when we heard George died,

drowned after he dived from the bridge

along the main road in Kangaroo Valley,

George was in, way too deep.



the pastiche goes on

to Randolph Stow, student of Tao



The loved land breaks into beauties, and men must love them with tongues, with words. Their names are sweet in the mouth.


But the lover of Source is wordless, for Source is nameless:

Source is a sound in time for a timeless silence.


Loving the land, I deliver my mind to joy;

but the love of Source is passionless, unspoken.


Nevertheless, the land and Source are one.

In the love of the land, I worship the manifest Source.


To move from love into lovelessness is wisdom.

The land’s root lies in emptiness. There is Source.



The spaces between the stars

are filled with Source.

Source wells up

like warm artesian waters.


Multiple, unchanging,

like forms of water,

it is cloud and pool,

ocean and lake and river.


Where is the Tao of it?

Before God is, was Source.



that mancunian humour

Pommy Pete was a reasonable man,

he prayed and he practised christian virtues,

was mostly good-humoured with his human fellows,

kept his british belligerence bridled,

tucked away, buried in memories of other places.


It was a halfway house in Wollongong, St Vincent de Paul’s,

a refuge, a respite for those men who’d strayed

way beyond the reflector strips lining life’s highway.

They were mostly compliant in their various measures of misery,

appreciative of a feed and a bed to sleep in,

even as they adapted to the air, stuffy and stale,

reeking of cheap aftershave and sour odours from the kitchen,

with doors slamming, television blaring,

water clanking in ancient pipes,

they sought to re-establish order about themselves,

an order which had deserted them, but yet they believed in.


Big Riz had to be pitied,

the way he rebounded between inside and outside,

for him, laws were trees to be shaken and uprooted.


‘What do you mean I gotta shift beds?’ Riz raged, one night,

dropping his shoulder into one of the meek

who was trying to slink past the conversation.

‘Riz,’ Pete explained. “It will be better if you move over there.

It’ll be more peaceful. For all of us.’

‘So I gotta repack my bag. And then unpack it again?’

‘It won’t take long, we have the time.’

‘Fuck you! This place is shit!’

It was less than an hour since Riz’s most recent tirade on the food.

‘I refuse to move.’

He dropped his arms, eyed Pommy Pete intensely.

He kicked the bedside cupboard over.

‘It’s your problem. So you fix it!’ Riz shouted.

This was all in a night’s work for Pete until…

…until Riz pushed Pete in the chest.

Pete steadied. Raised a hand, appealing for him to stop.

‘Riz, hang on. I want to show you something.’

‘Show me what!’

‘I want to show you how we used to solve problems back in Manchester.’

‘Okay! Come on!’ He stared. ‘ Out with it.’


Pete clocked him in the nose.

Riz slumped on his bed, numb to the world,

as he had long wanted.



thank you, champion volanko

in memory of Joseph L Greenstein


Volanko, chiselled rock, sat in the chair,

trimming his moustache, a black handle-bar,

in his own tent, a kerosene lamp-lit affair,

circus sounds afar, his steel eyes fixed the mirror

as he hummed a home tune which helped him prepare

for his next show as strongman, a champion, a star,

when, outside the tent, he spied a hand movement,

bloodied and bruised, an urchin boy in torment.


Yoselle, fourteen years old, was a tragic case.

The doctors, that day, had advised his mother,

he would not live to see adult days,

having the lung disease that killed his father.

Born three months premature, he was menaced

his whole life with illness. ‘Don’t bother

much,’ the doctor advised. ‘Give him a happy

childhood and soon he will join his pappy.’


Yoselle and his mother, from the doctor’s,

walked past the Russian circus and saw the sign,

a special show by Durov, the dog-tamer.

But soon, the boy wanted more than a canine

act. He joined those crawling under the tent-liner

for the next show, till a boot found his spine

and his head. Volanko couldn’t rest till justice

was delivered for this act of cowardice.


Volanko, back in the tent quizzed Yoselle

who shyly replayed the doctor’s advice.

‘Those bloodsuckers!’ His angry face swelled.

‘They tell everyone that. This is their practice!

Look at me. Once I was sicker than what you’ve told

me about yourself.’ He softened his voice:

‘Now, do you want to live, boy? If the answer is yes,

I’ll train you to be strong, but first I will show you

how to eat and exercise right.’



what do you do?

Patients come from afar to see Mr Chen.

Ever deferential,

he asks them to sit in his chair

and place their wrists on the table.


He listens with tear-drop fingers,

checking each pulse,

as he steadies himself,

a fighter ready to defend his crown.

He frowns, he smiles,

a composer rescuing lost songs,

often nods to himself,

a mathematician about to solve an equation.

At the end of the consultation

he gives his patient a list of herbs, some advice.


No one really knows what Mr Chen does,

he says it’s an internal art.

A sign on his wall reads ‘fee by donation’.


To make money,

he sells watches on weekends at the markets.

People like his watches,

they keep good time.



the wudang sonnets



wudang journey

This Australian read some amazing news

about Wudang’s tracts of unblemished green,

once home to the immortal tai chi muse,

paths rise through trees to blue vapour scenes.


It starts with intention, want to be there,

like a seed’s desire for alignment and light.

Got no idea how, or even what year.

Ready the mountain to enter my life.


I slept on the plane, I squeezed on the train,

moved madly along on a bouncing bus,

and that heavy climb, sweat-soaked and in pain,

gives way, at the peak, to huge wingspans of bliss.


Each journey’s two aspects, let’s make them clear;

start with the end, and the means will appear.




I question the art of poetry

as a way to convey experience.

Why does the wordmonger even try,

wouldn’t smiling in silence make more sense?


If an atom of time is a continent,

can a handful of words, scrabbled and stirred

get to the essence of one single event

so the pure voice of that moment can be heard?


Watch this wistful art blather like young vines,

one day we’ll have litres of wine to share.

Now, closing my eyes, I recall a few lines,

smile in my knowing that place is still there.


Poetry is alive while the poet gives,

ready to thrive once the reader arrives.



mountain walking

At the base, they face the mountain stair,

I stand in worn boots, by the inn’s shadow,

groups gather, friends, breakfast together,

I chatter and joke with my own echo.


Walks with others can be a distraction,

this is the place for cool contemplation,

not one to say no to good company,

I sip tea with a hiker named Connie.


I often converse with mountains I climb,

I listen to the wind, and love to reply,

the wind plays on my face, it revives me,

thicker with nature than in a long time.


I savour this friendship each hour it skips,

my walk with the wind as she darts and dips.



zhang san feng

Long live Zhang of the three mountain peaks,

leisurely roaming unfenced lands where

vagabonds lug their homes on their backs, and

civilisation in the palm of their hands.


Long-haired nobleman with mezzanine eyes,

re-turned to nature, the realm of the real.

He taught and he healed and he harmonised,

clutched letters marked with the emperor’s seal.


Strange tales of Zhang still abound today,

nitpickers of truth get awful irate,

they can’t appreciate the freedom and play

one gets twirling this ‘cultural agglomerate’.


True, we may never know what Zhang truly said,

his message lies buried in the unworded.



tian zhu peak 1

You can visit Wudang for days or weeks,

treasures cohered over thousands of years,

across its array of thirty-six peaks,

each breath, we reach out to further frontiers.


Springs babble, shutters click, vendors haggle,

voices, left side and right, laugh, sigh and sing,

feet shuffle and step, and plod bedraggled,

dotted by sounds of me rustling my maps.


‘Golden Hall’ lookout crowns Tian Zhu Peak,

translates as Pillar Propping Up the Sky.

Four characters in typical temple-speak:

‘Golden Rays of Light to the Whole World’


This place is home to citizens of dao,

in actionless action, gliding the now.



tian zhu peak 2

Summer on Tian Zhu Peak attracts big crowds.

Gazing at purple clouds, I wonder what’s up there,

lift myself up onto this short fellow’s head,

wriggling like a vixen into her lair.

I stand and stretch and skip over clouds.

Somersaults and rolls, I’m feeling so free,

no time to look back, and dare not look down.


Some white-haired man begins signalling me,

says he’s collecting a special cloud herb,

he asks what I’m doing, if I’m an immortal.

‘No, but living here would be so superb,

Any word on how this might be possible?’

He turns, with his herbs, and says: ‘don’t ask me,

you’re in control of your own destiny.’



tai chi

See its seeds, circling points of laser light,

in a luminous flesh, dense and dilute,

flesh coated by skin so soft but upright.

Zhang style tai chi is Wudang’s finest fruit.


A flower whose roots reach back to the source,

it lives by the phrase: yòng yì, bù yòng lì,

a mantra perhaps, use mind and not force,

like mind over matter, but gradually.


Strength through softness sounds decidedly odd,

odd for a culture committed to might,

but the soft and slow and continuous plod

is the path to tai chi’s highest delight.


two kids on a see-saw, formless and form,

one hundred and twenty-eight moves to perform.



to the mountain

The mountain ranks as the eighth symbol

in the pre-historic ‘Book of Changes’,

a sign for late winter, called Keeping Still,

it’s hunchbacks, castles, apartments and tables.

Let’s celebrate mountains and their rare airs,

once places of worship, now climbed for fun,

let’s build our own mountain, and see who cares,

we can scale the heights of co-creation.

Build it on qualities like abundance,

beauty, clarity, delight, and energy,

freedom, grandeur, highest intelligence,

joy, kindness, love and magnanimity…

Now add to this list, amass more and more,

express superlatives, straight from the core.


haiku homage

to the yi jing


house of qián (the creative)

1 qián

guided by heaven

you can handle the power

give it all you’ve got


44 gòu

first hints of darkness

I meet them as if followed

by the black of night


33 tún

a backwards movement

to take a safe position

and launch an attack


12 pĭ

not much happening

as inferiors ascend

I guard my true worth


20 guān

we can see afar

astride a wooden platform

and also be seen


23 bō

fruit falling to earth

breaks open with a thud

the seeds remain whole


35 jìn

sun above the earth

rising easily and swiftly

enlightening all


14 dà yŏu

realise your dreams

as stars in the night sky shine

human achievement



house of kăn (the abysmal)

29 kăn

danger all around

can you play the ferryman

till the shore is reached


60 jié

this bountiful life!

and oh, the different forms

always dressed in forms


3 tún

in the beginning

when chaos reigns all about

work on the essence


63 jìjì

we’re really cooking

as the pot bubbles away

on this endless task


49 gè

in revolutions

execution is the key

without losing hearts


55 fēng

with light in your heart

and the way of good measure

you have abundance


36 míng yí

dark winter nights

I kindle the inner light

with sparks here and there


7 shī

ready to attack

a powerful army waits

hidden in the grass



house of gĕn (keeping still)

52 gĕn

a sobering thought

we must scale the mountain

step by step, alone


22 fèn

a small fire below

can reveal the whole mountain

in all its beauty


26 dà chŭ

within these mountains

stores of heavenly treasures

let’s share what we have


41 sŭn

more to the top

is well and good for some, but

it weakens the base


38 kúi

two sisters at war

biting, scratching and kicking

under the same roof


10 lü

with right intention

treading on the tiger’s tail

will cause you no harm


61 zhōng fú

the unknown force acts

as wind blows across water

-a truth to live by?


53 jiàn

gently and firmly

trees growing on a mountain

no sudden movements



house of zhèn (the arousing)

51 zhèn

no warnings given

claps of deafening thunder

he pauses, reads on


16 yü

people are enthused

hearing familiar tunes

good leaders know this


40 xiè

movement from danger

a wave of relaxation

now, get on with it!


32 héng

working together

thunder rolls and the wind blows

the same as always


46 shēng

with force of no force

a shoot breaks open the earth

seeking out the sun


48 jĭng

the unchanging well

no increase and no decrease

take care of the jug


28 dà guò

close to breaking point?

work your load to the centre

there you can manage


17 suí

his thunder at bay

he defers to all her needs

and she follows him



house of sùn (the gentle)


57 sùn

without resistance

the wind’s soft, gentle manner

enters all spaces


9 xiăo chŭ

the promise of rain

take success where you find it

till the big one drops


37 jiā rèn

family building:

clear relationships within

influence without


42 yì

increase by sharing

thunder and wind are alive

arousing each other


25 wú wàng

living naturally

as per heaven’s direction

like rolling thunder


21 shì kè

when you must succeed

it’s like biting through gristle

remain clear and strong


27 yí

his mouth open wide

seeing what enters and leaves

you know what he is


18 gŭ

the art of healing:

your energy flows freely

and you are settled



house of lí (the clinging)

30 lí

the flames are dancing

clinging to their source of fuel

in formless beauty


56 lü

fire on the mountain

flaring up big, then nothing

like the wanderer


50 dĭng

wood turning to flames

warming sacrificial food

life given to Life


64 weì jì

with utmost caution

the fox crosses the thin ice

will his tail keep dry?


4 méng

when needing to know

first become still and humble

and then you may seek


59 huàn

a warm breeze blowing

breaking ice, dispersing rain

here lies the oneness


6 sòng

whether early or late

they can resolve their conflict

or destroy themselves


13 tóng rén

something all can see

fire rising to heaven

uniting mankind



house of kūn (the receptive)

2 kūn

a slow moving cow

who looks and listens with care

yet is never cowed


24 fù

the winter solstice

as darkness reaches its peak

we celebrate light


19 lín

meeting with greatness

the king approaches his people

with joy and devotion


11 tài

take two opposites

turn them into each other

and what have we got?


34 dà zhuàng

when bursting with strength

and you are unstoppable

don’t forget justice


43 guài

this hexagram guai

it’s a handbook on success

in six simple steps


5 xū

clouds turning to rain

rain becoming clouds again

all in the right time


8 bĭ

water on the earth

in numerous streams and pools

obeying one law



house of dùi (the joyous)

58 dùi

a beautiful lake

such fun swimming and sailing

careful not to drown


47 kùn

facing oppression

water sinks below the lake

spare your words, be strong


45 cùi

live in harmony

devoted to inner peace

sharing joys without


31 xián

the game of courtship

Mountain takes Lake by the hand

maybe forever


39 jiăn

a difficult stretch

between a cliff and a rockface

no fight and no flight


15 qiān

you’ll find modest ones

amongst kings and generals

not only the lowly


62 xiăo guò

a bird in the sky

we all need to keep going

but can’t do much now


54 gūi mèi

walk upon your path

as a marrying maiden

your end clear in mind






Introduction to prose works by Pat McGowan

Ride A White Mare (2016)

Marco Gentolini first discovers jade when he visits a Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Bendigo. This place houses the largest carving of a single piece of gem quality jade in the world. The jade was imported and Marco is curious why Australian jade wasn’t used. As a student journalist, he decides the story behind jade in Australia may be worth telling. Australia is said to have only low quality jade: black and dark green, with no translucent green or white which Asians value most highly. So the experts say.


On his way to the jade mine in Cowell, South Australia, Marco takes on Tom Owen as a passenger, a fellow down on his luck, mostly self-made, though a person with lots of quirky stories. Tom is a lot more cautious in his approach to life compared to Marco, a typical Gen Y-er who knows what he wants. As Marco and Tom seek out key people and key places in the jade game in Australia, they hear whisperings that naturally occurring white jade may indeed exist in Australia. Their quest soon becomes far more earnest and their odd chemistry allows them to follow a trail of clues towards a supposedly impossible goal. They meet dead ends and false trails, but between the two of them, they refuse to give up.






Jade is My Stone (2014)

Shipton Kingsgate of Riverwood is on a quest for his own special piece of jade, a stone with an illustrious history, even as the world challenges him in every way to discover the difference between true and false in jade, and also in people’s hearts.


While this text reads as a novel, its thirty chapters are also a collection of stories about jade, its beauty, its history and its addictive charm. The book itself is much like the box of jade pieces, both carved and rough, which Shipton at home likes to open and fondle from time to time, for the pleasure it brings him.


An odd collection of characters inhabit these pages. Some of them are in Shipton’s own family, plus his neighbours, and his mentor, jade connoisseur, Harbie Throwley who was taught by a blind man to appraise jade.


This book is a rendition of jade into words, of which even Shipton can never get enough, though of course, he can’t ever rest until he finally has the real thing in his hands.






Mostly Friday Nights (2013)

What happened on Friday nights in the Sydney suburbs in the seventies? Read these stories about Campbell and his mates from Campbelltown, told in the style of The Adventures of Don Juan though with not so many heroes. Most of the characters in these stories are preoccupied with getting out of it. If you weren’t out of it, you just weren’t there. That was the whole idea! Here is a set of stories that examines the powerful asking made by your average teenager in the suburbs back then, told lovingly from the perspective of one who lived to see the expansion of life in these places as an answer to so much asking.


WARNING: These stories contain references to the use of illegal substances, underage drinking, burglary, suicide, prostitution, illicit sex, gang rape, mental illness, domestic violence, bingeing on big macs, and sex in the back of a butcher’s shop. Read at your own risk.






Splitting Apart (2012)

The year is 2019 and the 83 regions of the Russian Federation are splitting apart. A team of six in a Canberra office have been asked to provide an urgent report on the issue for their Minister. As they strive to meet their deadline, the story of an office itself fracturing into pieces, as personal histories surface, unfolds to echo the crisis they are being asked to report on.


Best described as a discontinuous novel, this is a story told in six parts. Each part is told in first person by a different member of the team in Canberra preparing a report on the international geopolitical crisis of the break up of the Russian Federation. Nev, team leader, is ex-army, with a fixation on language for its own sake, and not real good at politics as it’s played in the public service. His number two, Vic, is an ambitious, career public servant who goes after what she wants. When Nev blocks Vic’s request for a transfer, she thinks she has some dirt which will put Nev in his place. But Nev falls back into old habits of no-holds-barred behaviour. The story begins with Taz, the youngest in the team, and the most unstable, in hospital after a workplace related injury. We also have Sammy, an F2M transgender, wanting to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, to support her family. Quinn, a former musician who joined the public service by chance works closely with Wes who is dealing with some sort of chronic fatigue syndrome. They all have to work together. They are all living in their own world. These worlds blend together to relate a bigger story of the splitting apart.






The Shades of Paracelsus (2011)

A young adult drama set in Wollongong, Australia, this novel is about how the innocence and optimism of youth can be treated so shoddily, so contemptuously by the darker forces that sometimes drive big business today. Can winning ever only be about holding back the inevitable? This is a question both the good and the bad may like to ask themselves in their quieter moments.


Anna Waters, 17, is a smart girl from a good home who has a passion for natural medicine. Inspired by a medieval miracle worker, she wants to bring the people of her town to healthier ways of living.


Al Flanagan, 24, a smooth talking and super ambitious businessman who works for a multinational pharmaceutical company is not going to let some reckless young schoolgirl threaten his market share or career path. But how far will he go to protect his patch?


We all wish every David could overcome their Goliath. But let’s not get too romantic about this; sometimes the Davids of this world are just not patient or clever enough, or perhaps the Goliaths are just too strong. Hmmm. The Shades of Paracelsus is also a novel about place. It explores the Illawarra region of Australia, a place where the abrupt and unarguable logic of the escarpment meets the tireless expanse of sapphire waters of a pacific ocean. See how this place shapes the thinking of its people.






The Drain Brains (2007)

The darkies: untold kilometres of storm water drains under the town. With special places like the Cathedral and the Concrete Palace, it’s a world of mystery and wonder for kids who love to explore.


The Drain Brains: a secret gang of high schoolers who seek their adventure in the darkies. But they never go in there alone. And never when it rains.


Fish: the most unpopular member of the gang. Sometimes he can be a real idiot. He breaks every rule you could imagine and soon ends up in deep trouble. Can Fish be saved? Or will he pay the ultimate price for being an idiot?


Can the Drain Brains remain a secret as they struggle to save Fish? And can they win against the vile and evil thing they call the Bog Monster? Read the Drain Brains!


Pick Up the Pearl

Pick up the Pearl is a collection of martial arts poems by a long term tai chi enthusiast. Noticing that those with a passion for tai chi and related arts are so deeply involved in their subject, so immersed in their study, so in love with where their art is beckoning them, they often forget that others on the outside know so little of what they are doing, of how rich it all is, so Pat McGowan decided to capture a few of these moments and experiences in verse form. You don’t have to love poetry and books to appreciate the mystery of how a character and story can be sketched in a mere one ot two hundred words and convey such timeless moments and experiences in new and surprising ways. And why not not use our language, put it to work and communicate better with those around us, not just information, but lovely thoughts, ideas, concepts and spaces. So this is a book for the lifetime tai chi and martial arts enthusiast, and also the idly curious. it examines a range of martial art applications and exponents, including karate, boxing, street fighting, kung fu, ai ki do, judo and ba gua quan. Pat McGowan is a tai chi enthusiast. He began his tai chi study in Sydney in 1980 under the renowned teacher, Simon Lim. With Simon’s encouragment, he completed an honours thesis of 'Tai Chi and the Best of All Possible Worlds' at the University of Sydney in 1983. He has continued with his tai chi to the present day. He also enjoys writing poetry and prose fiction as you may have seen in the front of the book. Tai chi is a physical expression of tao philosophy, it is all about connecting to the great source of all things which is our natural birthright and our natural way of being. Alas, many people disconnect themselves from source through resistance as if it’s some sort of virtue which they strive to impress on others. The fact is we only need to stop resisting, allow more, and our wondrous birthright will show itself to us as having been here all the time.

  • ISBN: 9780992581251
  • Author: Pat McGowan
  • Published: 2016-12-02 13:35:14
  • Words: 9436
Pick Up the Pearl Pick Up the Pearl