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Predawn in Health

Les Murray, 1 June 2000

... The stars are filtering through a tree outside in the moon’s silent era. Reality is moving layer over layer like crystal spheres now called laws. The future is right behind your head; just over all horizons is the past. The soul sits looking at its offer ...


Les Murray, 16 August 1990

... Brutal policy, like inferior art, knows whose fault it all is. Ariel Upward, cheeping, on huddling wings, these small brown mynas have gained a keener height than their kind ever sustained but whichever of them fails first falls to the hawk circling under who drove them up. Nothing’s free when it’s explained ...

The Statistics of Good

Les Murray, 8 August 2002

... Chaplain General (RC) Archbishop Mannix of Melbourne, he who had a bog-oak footstool so his slipper might touch Irish soil first, when alighting from his carriage saved, while a titular Major-General in the Australian Army, perhaps half the fit men of a generation from the shrapnelled sewer landscapes of Flanders by twice winning close referenda against their conscription ...

Brown Suits

Les Murray, 23 October 2008

... Sorting clothes for movie costume, chocolate suits of bull-market cut, slim blade ties ending in fringes, brimmed felt hats, and the sideburned pork-pie ones that served them. I lived then. The right grade of suit coat, unbuttoned, can still get you a begrudged free meal in a café. But seat sweat off sunned vinyl, ghostly through many dry-cleans and the first deodorants ...

Words of the Glassblowers

Les Murray, 31 August 1989

... In a tacky glass-foundry yard, that is shadowy and bright as an old painter’s sweater stiffening with light, another lorry chockablock with bottles gets the raised thumb and there hoists up a wave like flashbulbs feverish in a stadium before all mass, nosedive and ditch, colour showering to grit, starrily, mutually, becoming the crush called cullet which is fired up again, by a thousand degrees, to a mucilage and brings these reddened spearmen bantering on stage ...

Accordion Music

Les Murray, 11 January 1990

... A backstrapped family Bible that consoles virtue and sin, for it opens top and bottom, and harps both out and in: it shuffles a deep pack of cards, flirts an inverted fan and stretches to a shelf of books about the pain of man. It can play the sob in Jesus!, the cavernous baastards note, it can wheedle you for cigarettes or drop a breathy quote: it can conjure Paris up, or home, unclench a chinstrap jaw but it never sang for a nob’s baton, or lured the boys to war ...

The Greenhouse Vanity

Les Murray, 18 May 1989

... Sea-perch over paddocks. Dunes. Salt light everywhere low down just like the increasing gleam between Bass Strait islands nine thousand years ago. In an offshore tidal town the Folk Museum moans of a stormy night, and shrills: You made the oceans rise! Rubbish, it was you! The Pioneers Room and Recent Times are quarrelling. By day the flannelled drone: up at daylight, lard and tea, axe and crosscut till black dark, once I shot a ding- o at the cradle, there at fifteen, the only white woman ploughing by hand, parrot pie, we sewed our own music – Recent Times blink and hum; one bends to B-cup a pair, each point the rouge inside a kiss; one boosts the tape-deck till coal conveyors rattle and mile-high smokestacks pant Beige! beige! on every viewscreen ...

Two Poems

Les Murray, 16 February 1989

... On Removing Spiderweb Like summer silk its denier but stickily, o ickilier, miffed bunny-blinder, silver tar, gesticuli-gesticular, crepe when cobbed, crap when rubbed, stretchily adhere-and-there and everyway, nap-snarled or sleek, glibly hubbed with grots to tweak: ehh weakly bobbined tae yer neb, spit it Phuoc Tuy! filthy web! Dog Fox Field The test for feeblemindedness was, they had to make up a sentence using the words dog, fox and field ...

Blue Roan

Les Murray, 8 November 1990

... for Philip Hodgins As usual up the Giro mountain dozers were shifting the road about but the big blue ranges looked permanent and the stinging-trees held no hint of drought. All the high drill and blanket ridges were dusty for want of winter rains but down in the creases of picnic oak brown water moved like handled chains. Steak-red Herefords, edged like steaks with that creamy fat the health trade bars, nudged, feeding, settling who’d get horned and who’d horn, in the Wingham abbatoirs, and men who remembered drought-time grass like three days’ growth on a stark red face described farms on the creeks, fruit trees and fun and how they bought out each little place ...

The Billions

Les Murray, 21 April 1988

... At the whizz of a door screen moorhens picking through our garden make it by a squeak into the dam and breasting the algal water resume their gait and pace on submerged spectral feet, and they nod like that half-filled Coke bottle we saw in the infant river as it came to its affliction in the skinny rapids. There it made a host of dinky bows, jinked, spun and signalled till it was in the calm again ...


Les Murray, 29 September 1988

... Tiles are mostly abstract: tiles come from Islam: tiles have been through fire: tiles are a sacred charm: After the unbearable parallel trajectories of lit blank tile, tile-figures restore the plural, figuring resumes its true vein. Harm fades from the spirit as tiles repeat time beyond time their riddle, neat stanzas that rhyme from the middle styles with florets with tendrils of balm ...

Robert Fergusson Night

Les Murray, 4 January 2001

... for the commemoration at St Andrews University, October 2000 All the Fergussons are black I’ve heard said in the Outback. Sub rosa, the Scots empire ranged wide. I hope Scotland proportions her pride now to the faith her lads kept with all the subject folks they slept with. I know for you this wasn’t an issue. Madness made a white man of you disastrously young ...

Two Poems

Les Murray, 8 March 1990

... Aircraft Stressed-Skin Blowout Mid-Pacific The miles-high bubble civility ruptured, and instantly the tear stormed with a jetlike volatility of baggage shoes people into air darkly white and shrilling as the pole that every unbuckled thing was whirling to. Windmilling toward seats already nowhere a member of the cabin crew was going with the West out the hole when legs in a scissor lock around her and male hands in her clothes before the blue absolute mastered it, raped her of fall then, under restored equal pressure, gestured in a tear-halo with joking humility ...

Two Poems

Les Murray, 29 October 1987

... The Tin Wash Dish Lank poverty, dank poverty, its pants wear through at fork and knee. It warms its hands over burning shames, refers to its fate as Them and He and delights in things by their hard names: rag and toejam, feed and paw – don’t guts that down, there ain’t no more! Dank poverty, rank poverty, it hums with a grim fidelity like wood-rot with a hint of orifice, wet newspaper jammed in the gaps of artifice, and disgusts us into fierce loyalty ...

Australia strikes back

Les Murray, 13 October 1988

Snakecharmers in Texas 
by Clive James.
Cape, 373 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 224 02571 6
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... Among Australians, there are punishments for making one’s career abroad, just as there are for living and writing at home. Few of these punishments have come Clive James’s way. His poetry used regularly to be left out of Australian anthologies, but that is an old bad habit we may have grown out of by now. Mr James’s name attracts far more affection than odium, and he gets away with astounding things on his return visits ...

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