Poems by Les Murray
Going to the City, Karachi 2010
As the tractor-exhaust
vistas of desert sky
resume the south ahead
the farmer and his family
are moving to the city
in debt and crusted cloth
at the river’s speed
close but not together
going and reappearing
under the raft of noon
moving to the city
When Two Percent Were Students
Gorgeous expansion of life
all day at the university —
then home to be late for tea,
an impractical, unwanted boarder.
When rush hours were so tough
a heart attack might get stepped over
you looked up from the long footpaths
to partings in the houses’ iron hair.
Hosts of depression and wartime
hated their failure, which was you.
Widows with no facelift of joy
spat their irons. Shamed by bookishness
you puzzled their downcast sons
who thought you might be a poofter,
and you’d hitch home to run wild
again where cows made vaccines
and ancient cows discovered aspirin,
up home, where your father and you
still wore pink from the housework
you taught each other years before,
then the card-shuffling steam train
would dream you back to lectures
or to sleep in your brothel-creepers
under a Film Soc projector.
[An earlier version of this poem was published in Quadrant]
Fawn high rise of Beijing
air conditioning on each window
and burglar bars to the tenth
level in each new city,
white-belted cylinders of dwelling
around every Hong Kong bay —
Latest theory is, the billions
will slow their overbreeding
only when consuming in the sky.
Balconious kung fu of Shanghai.
A nineteenth floor lover
heroic among consumer goods
slips off the heights of desire
down the going-home high wire —
above all the only children.
[Previously published in The Spectator]
Sex is a Nazi. The students all knew
this at your school. To it, everyone’s subhuman
for parts of their lives. Some are all their lives.
You’ll be one of those if these things worry you.
The beautiful Nazis, why are they so cruel?
Why, to castrate the aberrant, the original, the wounded
who might change our species and make obsolete
the true race. Which is those who never leave school.
For the truth, we are silent. For the flattering dream,
in massed farting reassurance, we spasm and scream,
but what is a Nazi but sex pitched for crowds?
It’s the Calvin SS: you are what you’ve got
and you’ll wrinkle and fawn and work after you’re shot
though tears pour in secret from the hot indoor clouds.
[from “Subhuman Redneck Poems”]
Les Murray lives in Bunyah, near Taree in New South Wales. He has published some thirty books. His work is studied in schools and universities around Australia and has been translated into several foreign languages. In 1996 he was awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry, in 1998 the Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry, and in 2004 the Mondello Prize. His most recent collections of work include The Biplane Houses, Fredy Neptune, Selected Poems, Collected Poems, Killing the Black Dog
and Taller When Prone
(2010). Les Murray’s website at http://www.lesmurray.org/
includes poems from various of his books.