Cliffs

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 80th birthday.

11-18 Rankin
Jennifer Rankin
Australian
1941 – 1979

 

Where the cliff cleaves up
clean into the sky
I see my day cut through

and again another cliff

and again

cleaving up.

Then it is the faulting
the falling in folds
the going back into the sea.

And this day and again this day
and again days.

Birds fly in formation.
They jettison space
while at the cliff line
a twigged bush thinly etches away
the hard edge.

Cliffs heave in blue air

heaving and faulting
rising and falling
bird flight, twig etching,

cleaving up and folding back.

Earth

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 140th birthday.

11-16 O'Ferrall
Ernest O’Ferrall
Australian
1881 – 1925

 

The patient Earth spins on among the stars
Like an old lady in the Halls of Space,
Whose candles – set on Heaven’s window bars –
Wonder and wink at her excessive pace.

She mends Time’s garments with her age-long thread,
And patches Knowledge with forgotten lore
Dropped on the threshold by the ones who’ve fled
Out of this life through the grave’s narrow door.

On, on she spins with dignity and grace,
Crushing relentlessly our faintest hopes,
Whilst grave astronomers examine Space
For explanations, with long telescopes.

The Wind at intervals on air will croon
For her to spin to, but she goes on still,
When all is silent and the clown-faced Moon
Gazes and gapes above a sleeping hill.

I’ve often wondered why she never tires,
And why her candles – high on Heaven’s bars –
Don’t go right out like ordinary fires,
Or cheap gas-stoves – or threepenny cigars.

Because

We present this work in honor of the 45th anniversary of the poet’s death.

10-15 McAuley
James McAuley
Australian
1917 – 1976

My father and my mother never quarrelled.
They were united in a kind of love
As daily as the Sydney Morning Herald,
Rather than like the eagle or the dove.

I never saw them casually touch,
Or show a moment’s joy in one another.
Why should this matter to me now so much?
I think it bore more hardly on my mother,

Who had more generous feelings to express.
My father had dammed up his Irish blood
Against all drinking praying fecklessness,
And stiffened into stone and creaking wood.

His lips would make a switching sound, as though
Spontaneous impulse must be kept at bay.
That it was mainly weakness I see now,
But then my feelings curled back in dismay.

Fallen

07-19 Cambridge
Ada Cambridge
Australian
1844 – 1926

 

For want of bread to eat and clothes to wear —
Because work failed and streets were deep in snow,
And this meant food and fire — she fell so low,
Sinning for dear life’s sake, in sheer despair.
Or, because life was else so bald and bare,
The natural woman in her craved to know
The warmth of passion — as pale buds to blow
And feel the noonday sun and fertile air.

And who condemns? She who, for vulgar gain
And in cold blood, and not for love or need,
Has sold her body to more vile disgrace —
The prosperous matron, with her comely face —
Wife by the law, but prostitute in deed,
In whose gross wedlock womanhood is slain.

The Rhymes Our Hearts Can Read

We present this work in honor of Western Australia Day.

06-07 Murphy
Edwin Greenslade Murphy
Australian
1866 – 1939

We are sated of songs that drone the praise,
Of a world beyond our ken;
We are bored by the ballads of beaten ways
And milk-and-water men;
We are tired of the tales the lovers told
To the cooing amorous dove;
We have banned the minstrelsy of old,
And the lyrics of languid love;
We are done with the dirges cut and dried
In the London square and slum;
But we’re ripe for a rhyme whose metres stride
Through salt-bush scrub and gum.
Sing us a song unsung by men
Of the narrow and cautious creed;
Write with a strong and strenuous pen
The rhymes our hearts can read.

While we stand where the ways of men have end,
And the untrod tracks commence,
We weary of songs the poets penned
In pastoral indolence;
The sleepy sonnet that lovers make
Where weeping willows arch,
Can not the passionate soul awake,
Of men who outward march.
Our harps are hung in the towering trees
And the mulga low and grey;
Our ballads are sung by every breeze
That flogs the sea to spray.
We want no lay of a moonlit strand,
No idyll of daisied mead,
For the rhymes that our hearts can understand
Are the rhymes our hearts can read.

We need no monody planned and built,
In the shade of an abbey grey,
But the pulse and throb of a lusty lilt
That quickens the human clay.
Tell us of men whose axes bite
The hearts of the mountain gum;
Sing of the pioneers who fight
To waken the desert dumb.
We want to hark to the heart within,
Of the men who feel and know;
For only the men who’ve sampled sin
Can write of its joy and woe.
Give us a ballad that swings along
With the bound of a striving steed;
Give us — whether it’s right or wrong —
The rhymes our hearts can read.

We want to travel from page to page
Through dusty drive and stope,
To catch the hiss of the rushing cage,
The roll of the winding rope.
Give us the rip-saw’s grind and scream
As it sunders the giant log;
The groan and the creek of the bullock team
As it flounders across the bog;
The swish and the crack of the stockmen’s whips
In the roar of the night stampede.
Give us the music that bites and grips —
The rhymes our hearts can read!

Sing of the days of hasty camps,
When Bayley blazed the track.
Write of the shining starry lamps
That beacon the wild out-back.
Sing to the soul of the hardest case
That bears his swag of sin;
Of nights of wine and the bold embrace
When revelry roped him in;
Tell of the times we’ve fought for fun,
A wearisome hour to wile,
And whether we lost or drew or won
Swung out with a cheery smile.
Write of the men for whom God waits —
Men of a Christ-like creed;
Sing of the mates who die for mates,
In the rhymes our hearts can read!

A Friend in Need

Louisa Lawson
Australian
1848 – 1920

 

Friends will quickly leave you
Slight you and deceive you,
Or will not believe you,
If you have a wrong.
Those who hurt will hate you,
Enemies will slate you,
And with crams disrate you,
If you have a wrong.
But if you are righted
Those who coolly slighted
Will be so delighted,
Said so all along.
But you then can show them
That you would forego them,
As too well you know them
Since you’ve had a wrong.
But your friends, God bless them I
Take their hands and press them,
You’ll cot have to guess them
If you’ve had a wrong.

Ruby Was Never Seen Again 25/9/03

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 60th birthday.

Lisa Bellear
Australian
1961 – 2006

 

Weep for this wounded desperate soul that never
seems to heal, alone, vocalising to any passer by.
Uncomfortable for some, they turn away, but that won’t stop
her swaying, or mend her destructive pain

Pray for this tired old and embittered lady
who fought courageously against the colonisers
classified as ‘tribal’ whose love across the
racial lines meant government sanctioned
interference: the Bullyman, welfare, local
school teacher – informant, would not relent
till Ruby was removed

Three long years of hiding from the
tentacles of institutionalised racism,
till a moments lapse and then she’s gone
Ruby’s gone, like she never existed,
nor was ever loved. Rocking to and fro,
she still dreams of little Ruby
and of that fateful day and wonders
what their life could’ve been
like without this government
sanctioned cruelty

Aboriginal Australia

We present this work in honor of ANZAC Day.

Jack Davis
Australian
1917 – 2000

To the Others
You once smiled a friendly smile,
Said we were kin to one another,
Thus with guile for a short while
Became to me a brother.
Then you swamped my way of gladness,
Took my children from my side,
Snapped shut the law book, oh my sadness
At Yirrakalas’ plea denied.
So, I remember Lake George hills,
The thin stick bones of people.
Sudden death, and greed that kills,
That gave you church and steeple.
I cry again for Warrarra men,
Gone from kith and kind,
And I wondered when I would find a pen
To probe your freckled mind.
I mourned again for the Murray tribe,
Gone too without a trace.
I thought of the soldier’s diatribe,
The smile on the governor’s face.
You murdered me with rope, with gun
The massacre of my enclave,
You buried me deep on McLarty’s run
Flung into a common grave.
You propped me up with Christ, red tape,
Tobacco, grog and fears,
Then disease and lordly rape
Through the brutish years.
Now you primly say you’re justified,
And sing of a nation’s glory,
But I think of a people crucified –
The real Australian story.

Witch of Our Wilderness

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 155th birthday.

Bernard O’Dowd
Australian
1866 – 1953

 

I know not why I love your baffling face,
Or, lonely, to your cold caresses steal,
Or what the charm persuades my wearied eyes
Follow the clues that gleam and, wavering, go,
Or spell the syllables of poems new
I fancy floating through your gloom or grace!
Sphinx of green riddles Time shall not unseal!
Mystical knot no stratagem, unties!
I do not comprehend you, but I know
I am not happy long away from you!

Ardent we come, but that averted gaze
Discrowns emotion, and your lips austere,
Native to one in whom the gods confide,
For us breathe only murmurs dim and lone
As are the lullabies of crooning dew
Or dwindling dirges of benighted fays
For queen marooned in a forgotten mere;
Yet though ’tis not for man your witch-words ride
Forsaken winds that know not why they moan,
I am not happy long away from you!

Do you ignore our presence, or disdain
Our pert intrusion on your fettered trees?
Is all our knowledge darkness to the light
That through their woody crevices you pour,
Garnered for them from suns we never knew?
Or can it be your brooding peace is pain?
Do sighs innumerable build the breeze
That mournful walks the soughing waste to-night?
But tell me why, if woe be all your store,
I am not happy long away from you!

You sprawl your reticence of green and gray
Over the no more mute basaltic deep,
Below the sister deafness of the sky;
Nor myriad boughs’ hypnotic undertones,
Shadows in orgy, nor haphazard hue
Of flower, nor green delirium will say
One shining word to beacon us who creep
Amid their bedlamry and forms awry:
Yet, Miser, though for bread you give me stones,
I am not happy long away from you!

Although we gather only in your glades
The tasteless berries of monotony,
Withering leaf, frustrated blossom, white
Skeleton eucalypt’s unmeaning woe,
Or wrack of huddled tea-trees, knouted all askew
To serve an old wind’s whim, yet from wan shades
Entities ambushed seem to bear to me,
On a rhythm craftsman never tameth quite,
The Song all poets soaring seek, and so
I am not happy long away from you!

Are you the long-forgotten hermitage
Wherein immortal cities crept to sleep?
And do their rooted folk unresting try,
With perfumes wild of some Atlantis old,
To link our dormant hearts akin anew?
Or young auspicious years do they presage
To something watching in me cradled deep,
That knows unknown to me the reason why,
m an orb’s dim throes, by iron stars controlled,
I am not happy long away from you!

Though fierce assault not pilgrim prayer avail,
Nor shall we glimpse, however far we seek,
The long importuned palace of your pride,
Yet you-if darkly-to my faith disclose
That duly will Hy-Brasil globe in view!
Ay, can it be that glinting is the Grail?
Do fairies gather ferns along that creek?
Is very God the Merlin that you hide?
Ah, can I wonder, necromantic Rose,
I am not happy long away from you!

We listen long for words the world awaits,
Nor quite lose hope that we shall overhear
Strange Huntsmen faint hallooing, or surprise
The filmy spears the dark earth-legions throw
Across the void against the retinue
Auroral of the solar potentates;
Yet, though your tongues betray the expectant ear
And dappled melancholy foils our eyes,
Your trees of whispering knowledge call me so,
I am not happy long away from you!