Thursday, 26 December 2019

Fathersong II. For Gina Sarina

The two-fold strength that joins in loving union . . .

As another year draws to its close, we once again celebrate Christmas together as a family and - for the adults of our household - continue with the well-established tradition of exchanging representations of each other rather than purchasing gifts.

Fathersong II is my Christmas offering to our older daughter Gina. It poetically reflects on the extraordinary privilege of both participating in the arrival, growth and maturation of a beloved daughter, and of witnessing the arrival of another generation as our own children enter into parenthood.

Fathersong II. For Gina Sarina can be streamed using the media player above. A CD quality mp3 file can be downloaded here.

The precious caul so prized by ancient mariners. . .


Fathersong II
For Gina Sarina

And then they came, descending slowly
The silent snows, heralds of heaven’s purity,
Soft sighs whispering their long-held welcome.
Within, you dreamed in warm and windless waters.
The waves arose, edging you closer to our world.
Your sail, soft shield against time’s hidden storms,
The precious caul so prized by ancient mariners,
Held well all through the strongly growing tide.

The morning light soft-touched your filmy face
Skilled fingers reached beneath your cherub chin
To raise the lucent veil, release the stream
Of living water by which you travelled here.
Soon came the smile, followed by the laughter,
The step that turned in time into a dance
That joyous whirled all through our waiting lives.
All these and more declared your soul’s vivacity.

Reaching to the life outstretched before you
You gathered feathers, twigs and shiny stones
All as friends, conversing one with the other.
And then came horses, firmly held and led,
Your gentle strength unawed by fire or size
While in your room, the heroes of the day,
Early lights that rose then fell within a breath
Pranced upon the walls, contending for attention.

What is it that endures, transcends all time
Beyond the transformations of the child?
Wherefrom the threads that draw us to our other
The two-fold strength that joins in loving union
That brings new life in to our waiting world?
Each new birth a gift of love repeated,
A mystic turning of the open page,
A tender touch beyond all comprehension.

Your wide and patient travels gave you strength
And openness to all that life accords.
Your heart has drawn the many to your side
To bathe in kindly light and breath of joy.
Your love is of the sun that freely shines
To warm and comfort all within its field.
For long the sons of heaven we have known
But now we see the daughters’ days begin.


1. Fathersong I. For Sofia Celestia

Fathersong I is my Christmas 2017 offering to our younger daughter, Sofia. It offers a poetic account of her remarkable entry into our lives on a star-filled night three decades ago, and is a celebration of her strength and courage in the face of life's unexpected visitations.

2. A Song for Emily

A Song for Emily was written and performed as my Christmas 2018 offering for Emily, our beloved daughter-in-law and mother of three of our beautiful grandchildren.

Friday, 8 March 2019

A Song for Emily

Liminal Reflections

The tapestry of family is woven slowly. Each new arrival brings her or his unique and unrepeatable essence to the play of light and dark, of smooth and rough, of defined and vague that progressively finds expression through the years, through the decades.

The tapestry of family broadens as each child in turn conjoins with their own beloved and the weave widens to encompass interpenetrating stories, interpenetrating lives by which each individual's experience is further nourished and enriched.

The tapestry of family reflects an endless generational renewal whereby our love continuously extends beyond itself to embrace, to welcome and to share in ever-widening circles of relationship.

As a family, the adults in our household have in recent years prepared and exchanged artful representations of each other - rather than purchasing gifts - when we gather together to celebrate Christmas. These have included drawings, collages, sculpture, music and poetry. A Song for Emily was written and performed as my Christmas 2018 offering for Emily, our beloved daughter-in-law and mother of three of our beautiful grandchildren.


A Song for Emily can be streamed using the media player above. A CD quality mp3 file can be downloaded here.

Production Notes

Doxent Zsigmond: Path of Glass
Nico Di Stefano:   Viaggio
(Remix: VDS)


A Song for Emily

When first you came into our lively lives
'Twas through the son who brightened by degrees
The muse of patterned sound and sounding harmonies.
Your eye was sharp and fine and imaged well
The fading shades well-veiled within the light,
The hidden life behind the outer form,
The artful beauty of a flashing glance,
The moment caught, revealed within the frame.

A bold departing drew you further on
Full at the wheel towards the northern skies
Among companions dear, and newly won
In fields of sound, and growing sympathies
Within a time of freedom and reprieve.
As two together joined in love make three
So too in time your family was to grow
On your return to more familiar ground.

The house beside the sea now left behind
A new abode in midst of forest airs,
Of many rooms and energies endowed
Where friends by night and day would gather, partake
In time together, cheered by bread and wine.
But every flock when nesting time begins
Disperses and divides in ones and twos
To find a home where two may come to three.

The soft and warming waters welcome gave
To one, then two, then three, now family fair.
And days and nights once free and unrestrained
Turned then to newer sounds and newer needs -
Though all in truth more ancient than the songs
Long sung in soft and lilting lullabies
To sooth the cry, to comfort and to hold
The precious love each new arrival brings.

The odyssey of love no soul may tell
Nor fathom its extremes, its secret depths,
Its promised joys, its hidden tests and stress,
Its call for mother's glow, for father's strength.
The ways of love will carry us beyond
All unexpected hopes and silent tears
To reach at last the treasure hidden still
Within the well of time, and family.


1. Fathersong. For Sofia Celestia

Fathersong is my Christmas 2017 offering to our younger daughter, Sofia. It offers a poetic account of her remarkable entry into our lives on a star-filled night three decades ago, and is a celebration of her strength and courage in the face of life's unexpected visitations.

2. After the Tempest (Finding Family)

This short poem builds on a personal reflection on the nature of enduring relationship during a time characterised by the prevalence of divided households.

The poem carries an acknowledgement of the tensions and the difficulties that inevitably arise within the context of marriage while also giving voice to the deeper treasures that can emerge in the living out of a sustained commitment to another.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

KEKULE'S DREAM. A Meditation at Twilight

This original piece was performed as one of the literary presentations at ClimArt 2018 held in the Wonthaggi Art Space, Victoria in late May 2018. It offers a poetic/philosophic/spiritual fusion of ideas reflecting on this time of escalating environmental, social and spiritual disturbance.

One of the key understandings carried in this poem is that our present circumstance has been brought about by a multiplicity of influences from both deep and recent history, and that the problem turns as much on how we see the world as how we treat the world. The steady increase in the earth's atmospheric carbon dioxide levels (over 410 ppm in June 2018) mirrors the increase of our own separation and alienation from both the forces that have given birth to the natural world and those that sustain our own natures.

This poem offers an holistic view that addresses the historical, philosophical, moral and technical dimensions that interpenetrate and condition this time of lengthening shadows.

Kekule's Dream. A Meditation at Twilight can be streamed using the media player above. A CD quality mp3 file can be downloaded here.

Production Notes

Doc and Lena Selyanina:  Steppe (from Songs of Vastness)
Lena Selyanina:  Sophie's Song

Alan McKinney:  Cold Howling Wind (Freesound)
Aifoon:  Danskanaal (Freesound)
Andrew Jones:  Owl (Freesound)

Vincent Di Stefano

The Poem

No harrowing howl of scarred sky here.
Faintest whisper, fanning plume of feathered vapour
Belie fierce thrust of power hard-hurled through distant blue.
The snake, long coiled and fixed in ancient waters
Unmouths its tail, spits forth its guilty fragments
As fumes of broken chains entrain a growing fire.

In days beyond all human reckoning
Soft fury of the sun was tethered in ancient canopies.
It dwelt long within the earth, beneath the sea,
Until prying mind drew forth the ancient blood
Fashioned and forged in tectonic presses,
Now pumped through the metal hearts of strange machines.

And far from what is seen and what is heard,
The breath of frozen marshes escapes its icy cages
Gathering and fuelling a growing tempest.
Our freedoms, now enslaved to reckless will,
Have rendered mind impervious to draining colours,
To failing forests, to dying waters.

Minerva's owl takes flight over a battered history,
Wings through ash-strewn tailings of five chimneys,
Views gnarled skeletal girders of old Dresden,
Shadows seared on walls by fractured atoms,
Wheels through napalmed forests, tear-gassed fields,
Wails through blinding dust of fallen towers.

There is more at play in the thickening of earth's vapours
Than can ever be caught in the calculus of old carbon.
Our self-theosing masks a growing babble
As we reach the new Golgotha, where fates are fixed
And innocence laid waste under a freighted sky
To rest, before the earth reclaims her gentler rhythms.

And when the smoke has cleared and daylight's rays
Renew the hidden life within the death,
And waking mother sings her lullabies
To comfort and console the children's tears,
'Tis then that newly rising blades of green
Will wave in time, and herald winter's end.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Fathersong I. For Sofia Celestia

In the morning light. Inverloch, September 1988

For the past three years we have, as a family, dispensed with giving each other purchased gifts at Christmas - apart from the grandchildren of course. We have instead exchanged artful representations, such as drawings, collages, symbolic portrayals of each other. This year, much to the delight of those of us less adept in the skills of line and colour, the nature of our offerings has been extended to include songs, stories and poems. 

Fathersong is my Christmas offering to our younger daughter, Sofia. It offers a poetic account of her remarkable entry into our lives on a star-filled night three decades ago, and is a celebration of her strength and courage in the face of life's unexpected visitations.

Fathersong. For Sofia Celestia can be streamed using the media player above. A CD quality mp3 file can be downloaded here.

Production Notes

Harmonic backing track
Nico Di Stefano
Vincent Di Stefano

"Oh the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no man fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there."
Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1885


For Sofia Celestia

What is it then, to change our worlds, to leave the crimson field
That glows behind thin eyelids closed?
Depart the smooth-walled cave that yields and bends
With each new flexing, each new turning?

When that first wave washed gently through the living room
From which your first breath would be drawn,
Your mother gathered cloths and candles.
I took some rest in preparation.

Your angel knocked and drew my thread towards the now-clear door.
Such strength, such depth of presence held her there.
And as I fascinated walked, the dream-thread snapped
And I awoke, my body all electric thrilling.

What is it then, to change our worlds, to knock upon already-open doors?
Your mother's door now open wide, but we alone.
The midwife's skill behind the wheel in former days
Fast spun her to our doorstep

And moments later, there emerged your wondrous, tiny baby face.
Well-practiced hands revealed the living twine that held you fast.
With one swift cut, and cord uncoiled, then free you slid
To waiting hands and wondrous murmurs.

Soft song of welcome sprung from smiling lips, filling breasts.
We marvelled all that bright-star night
Then woke anew in father's day,
In miracle of family way.

What is it then, to change our worlds, from innocence of childhood days
To number and weight of fuller years with all they hold and carry?
We live within a greater dream and range beyond familiar ground
To tread old paths undreamed and unexpected.

(And though that greater dream be hid from sight and sense
It beckons on to paths ne'er seen before, yet strangely known.)

To walk the mountain trail with clouds below is given to but few,
Yet this your courage did embrace and overcome.
The tempest came. The tempest passed, and back on level ground again,
The time invites a softer step, invokes a gentler course.

Remember this. Our words like seeds will often dormant lie
And seasons turn according to their time.
But where the soil is rich, the soul brings forth a great abundance,
The promise of its birth, the promise of its ceaseless striving.

Your soil is rich in strength of heart and mind.
Your sky is clear when to those heights you reach again.
Your self well formed in love and overcoming.
Your angel ever-present through your days.


1. In Search of the Deeper Healing

"The healing intention has taken many forms throughout history. It has been voiced in the prayers and invocations of countless generations of priests and shamans. It has been carried by the men and women who sought out the substances present in nature and those produced by human ingenuity that help to ease the pain of sickness and hasten the return of health. It continues to find expression in the skill and precision of those dedicated surgeons who daily exercise their art."
(Introduction: "Holism and Complementary Medicine. History and Principles", 2006)

2. Canto Celeste

This earlier Dante's Ghost post reflects further on a number of the themes touched upon in Fathersong.

3. After the Tempest (Finding Family)

This short poem builds on a personal reflection on the nature of enduring relationship during a time characterised by the prevalence of divided households.

The poem carries an acknowledgement of the tensions and the difficulties that inevitably arise within the context of marriage while also giving voice to the deeper treasures that can emerge in the living out of a sustained commitment to another.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Dancing Dust. The Song of a Dying Warrior

This original performance piece brings together both shamanic and Taoist insights. It offers a reflection on earlier perspectives that viewed the microcosm of the individual and the macrocosm of the world as being intimately connected.

One of the more obvious characteristics of the present age is the dominance of highly destructive technologies. Bombs of devastating power can be remotely "delivered" across thousands of kilometres. The furious energies within the atomic nucleus can be both constrained and unleashed at will.

Yet the world is moved by more than technologically mediated power. This has ever been understood by the poet, the prophet, the saint and the shaman.

Dancing Dust. The Song of a Dying Warrior can be streamed using the media player above. A CD quality file is available here.

Production Notes

B.O. Rasch (Asaguare):   Peyoth Aluz

Rhapsodize: Crickets (Freesound)
nicStage: F-16 Flyby (Freesound)
ryansnook: Nuclear Explosion (Freesound)
Erdie: Mega-Thunder (Freesound)

Vincent Di Stefano

Ivy Mike Thermonuclear Fireball, Enewetak Atoll, 1952

The Poem

Dancing Dust. The Song of a Dying Warrior

We stood in the light of day
Now we sit in the darkening night
Awaiting simple presence
And a return to the very moment

From this small cell
The day seems too hard driven
By those of might and power

But listen still

Soft footsteps fall upon the dust
And stir a gentle storm
That slowly gathers force

And as the drums beat louder still
The soft footfall more fierce becomes

The earth can shake when men do dance
And call upon the Hidden One
As surely as it heaves and quakes
When atoms fuse and atoll breaks

Beat the drum my stalwart men
And fill the night with pulse and promise
Bring to heel the sacred force
Bring to hand the living light

Sing the song and dance the story
Call the tune and turn the earth

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Expanding the Poetic Field. From Ford Madox Hueffer to Kate Tempest

I have for many years now held a deep fascination for Ford Madox Hueffer's Antwerp, a poem as little known as the man himself, a poem written in 1915 that vividly recreates the horror of the war fields of Europe during the so-called Great War and the even greater horror of mothers waiting at Charing Cross station for sons who would never return.

Antwerp ostensibly gives voice to both the mythic heroism and the wanton sacrifice of Belgian soldiers who, supported by British and French troops, instrumentally obstructed the German advance towards France in the latter months of 1914. In this unparalleled poem, Heuffer succeeded in accomplishing within himself what a short two years earlier he had sought to activate in other poets:
"Modern life is so ordinary, so hazy, so tenuous, with still such definite and concrete spots in it, that I am forever on the look-out for some poet who shall render it with all its values. I do not think that there was ever, as the saying is, such a chance for a poet. . . . . I am aware that I can do nothing, since with me the writing of verse is not a conscious art. It is the expression of an emotion, and I can so often not put my emotions into any verse. . . . I have been unable to do it; I am too old perhaps or was born too late - anything you like. But there it is. . ."
Soon after writing this lamentation, the harrowed and harrowing Antwerp poured out of his quill in a gesture that revealed that one is perhaps never too old, that one is perhaps never born too late. What came between Hueffer's short essay Impressionism - Some Speculations (from which the above quotation is drawn) and Antwerp was, of course, the war. And the anguish, the pain, and the senselessness of it unleashed torrents of emotion within him that washed aside all poetic conventions. They brought forth what T.S. Eliot was later to describe as "the only good poem I have met with on the subject of the war."

Hueffer's essay is an unlikely and generally unacknowledged manifesto that called for the transformation of poetic expression from the occasionally elegant (and often pretentious) formalism that characterised much of the poetry of his day:
"For a quarter century, I have kept before me one unflinching aim - to register my own times in terms of my own time, and still more to urge those who are better poets and better prose-writers than myself to have the same aim."
Heuffer called for a movement of the waters of poetry into the stream of life itself, into the messiness of urban realities, the tenuousness of human relationships, the irruption of chaos into history. He urged the attention of poets to be re-directed to the ordinary, to the under-stated, to the over-looked, to the vulgarised, to the ever-present:
"Love in country lanes, the song of birds, moonlight - these the poet, playing for safety, and the critic trying to find something safe to praise, will deem the sure cards of the poetic pack. They seem the safe things to sentimentalise over, and it is taken for granted that sentimentalising is the business of poetry. It is not, of course."
T.S. Eliot's epochal poem The Waste Land, where the ordinary and the extraordinary are interwoven as a fractured mosaic mirroring the profusion and the diffusion of early modernity, seemed to arrive on the scene soon after as a direct response to Hueffer's call.

As the moral and structural decay of industrial/technological civilisation began to manifest ever more strongly in the latter decades of the twentieth century, the poetic spirit quickened with a greater urgency and a greater poignancy in the chthonic tribalism of hip-hop artists who spoke life as it is lived both at ground level and within the elevated towers of corporate and political meddling.

If Ford Maddox Hueffer were a young man today, he would probably be completely at home among the courageous and energised hip-hop poets who call it as it is in all its pathos and all its passion.

One such poet is Kate Tempest, who in her powerful piece Europe is Lost, howls as a storm through the chaos and the excess of this time of troubles. The video clip below offers a dramatic portrayal of what not only Europe, but much of the rest of the so-called civilised world has become.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Lines from the Edge of Darkness

We who live in regions of relative stability and prosperity in the so-called developed world and who are free of the uncertainty and the unpredictability that are part of daily life in war zones will occasionally be startled out of our false sense of security and certainty. Such occasions though generally rare, will often have a transformative effect on our lives. Yet we seem to maintain our sense of privileged steadiness in the face of a constant stream of disturbing images and reports that fill the electronic and print media. Such images remind us daily of the reality of ongoing wars, the horror of terror attacks, and the despair of vast numbers of families and individuals who have left everything in order to seek refuge from violence and danger, from ruined streets and houses, from bombs and bullets.

The psychic numbing we collectively experience is a peculiar aspect of contemporary reality. Images of cars and trucks crashing through crowds of people, smoke and flames issuing from the explosion of precision-guided missiles and cluster bombs, grief and carnage from the acts of suicide bombers in mosques and churches, though ever-present on our screens and in our printed media, are all somehow strangely distant. It was therefore as a great personal shock to witness at close range the immediate human anguish of catastrophic injury in a young man from a nearby town.

While waiting to be discharged after recently spending a day in the emergency ward of a regional Victorian hospital, I became aware of unusual commotion outside the double doors that separated the ward from the outside world. The doors suddenly sprung open and a young man in his middle to late twenties, barefoot and dressed only in a pair of shorts burst into the main corridor in extreme distress. He repeatedly called for help and in his agitation, ran straight past the monitoring station where several doctors and nurses were quietly gathered. I noticed that shards of skin were hanging from one of his arms, and that both of his legs and much of his torso were bright red in colour. A doctor asked, "What happened?" Between his anguished calls, he cried out, "Petrol fire! Petrol fire!" I heard someone say "Get him into a shower" and two doctors sprinted after him as he headed towards the main body of the hospital.

Some ten minutes later, he was escorted back into the emergency ward and led into the cubicle alongside the one in which I was situated. I could see that much of the skin from one of his arms had been stripped from his flesh. He was still in a state of extreme distress. Between barely muted screams he continually called out, "Help me! Help me!"

Among those present was the head of the Emergency Department, a senior practitioner who gently and firmly reassured the young man that the situation was well in hand. He calmly and repeatedly drew the young man's attention to his breathing while simultaneously instructing a younger doctor to slowly administer a 10 cc injection of ketamine quietly adding, "You may need to do this four or five times" while continuing with his quasi-hypnotic instruction to breathe slowly and deeply.

My thoughts were then overwhelmed by a flood of images, many of which had been dormant for decades. I recalled a young Vietnamese girl who had been caught up in a napalm attack running naked down a dusty road. I saw a Buddhist monk determinedly sitting within a storm of raging flame. I remembered the flayed inhabitants of Hiroshima and Nagasaki wandering dazed and despairing through their smouldering streets. Then came memories of the fire-bombings of Dresden and Tokyo, of the chimneys at Auschwitz, of the vast charnel grounds that Europe had become during the first and second World Wars. And then came a further wave of images of the children of Gaza, of phosphorus bombs streaking through a UN compound, of furious explosions in Kabul, Baghdad, Aleppo and Mosul. And I recalled the vast arsenals of stored nuclear weapons with which the earth is so heavily seeded.

I thought again of the extraordinary privileges and the freedoms that we who are strangers to the terror of war zones and the horrors of extreme poverty, drought and famine take so much for granted.

At a time when military planners gradually intensify their demonic work of softening the world up for a normalisation of the use of tactical nuclear weapons in the ever-growing fields of war, let our hearts more fully awaken to the pain of the world and to the pain of those innocents caught up in war and preparations for war.

This post introduces Lines from the Edge of Darkness, a selection of thirteen original poems written over the past two decades reflecting on war and its consequences.

The Poems

Glowing Cores
Golden Prison (The Curse of Tyranny)
Burning Horizons
In Memoriam
Terra Calda
Falling Veils
Georgius Rex
Desert Storm II
Ramallah (Remembering Rachel Corrie)
Dancing Dust
Sisters True
Careful Now
It all Depends on Who You're Fighting

A PDF copy of Lines from the Edge of Darkness can be downloaded here.

Vincent Di Stefano M.H.Sc., D.O., N.D.
Inverloch, April 2017


1. The Devil's Century

This Satan's Cauldrons post offers a reflection on the nature and the degree of military violence that was unleashed during the 20th Century, culminating in the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the establishment of a worldwide nuclear project that has poisoned the future of unborn generations and created arsenals of tens of thousands of nuclear warheads.

2. Blood on the Sand, Blood in the Sea. Of Courage and Treachery on Libya's Shores

This Integral Reflections post details the catastrophic litany of errors in the Middle East that resulted in the formation and the spread of the so-called Islamic State through Iraq, Syria and Libya. It offers a remembrance of the fate of 21 young Coptic Christians, who were caught up in events not of their own making. The post also carries a short video clip which is a highly moving collage of news reports, still images and edited excerpts from the video circulated by ISIS soon after their murder.

3. Slouching Towards Gaza

This Integral Reflections post offers a 5th anniversary commemoration of the highly destructive assault by the Israeli military on the people of Gaza during December 2008 and January 2009. It carries a substantive essay, And What Rough Beast Slouches Towards Gaza? "Operation Cast Lead" and the Dismembering of a People, detailing the events that led up to the tragic and highly consequential Israeli attack upon Gaza. The post also carries a 60 minute Integral Reflections audio production, Slouching Towards Gaza, which recounts pivotal events in the history of Israel/Palestine from 1947 to the present through the reflections of a number of informed and articulate commentators.