Paul Kelly
Riddle Poem Two from the Kelly-Hoard

Hello again – the answer I had for last month’s riddle poem was “A tree (deciduous)”. Fixed in one place I’m always on the move./ Sometimes I blush but not when I’m naked./ No mouth have I but many songs/ And often moan at midnight./ Without my hidden life I would die.

Leaves turning red – before they fall and expose the branches – are the blush, birds make songs, winds make moans and roots are the hidden life.

However, I received an answer from a friend – “A deciduous forest” – that I think is as good or better than my original one. A forest has many birds. And midnight winds make more of a moan in a forest than in a single tree. So it’s true, as I mentioned last month, that some riddle poems have more than one answer.

Some lines from Omar Sakr’s poem last Saturday have the flavour of a riddle poem:

Fellow flotsam, what makes a person a
person? The animals are asking.

Friends, what makes a citizen a
citizen? The people are barking.

I keep going back to this poem, circling it. Perhaps many poems have something of the riddle about them. Intimations that are hidden at first but emerge after the reader does some work.

I only have one answer in mind for this month’s poem but perhaps there are more. Good luck. Don’t peek straight away.


I’ve been shut up a long time in a dark place,

Flung from my fellow.

Once we roamed the neighbourhood and beyond.

We showed off on planes!

All the while someone big and careless

Lorded over us.

God knows where my twin is.

We were shaped to care.


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Paul Kelly is an Australian songwriter with more than 30 albums to his name. He has published a “mongrel memoir”, How to Make Gravy, and an anthology of his favourite poems, Love Is Strong as Death.

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