Burn the Bridges

Lionel Fogarty
Australian
b. 1958

 

You are vulnerable as glass are fall to peaces
When toiled of the stripping of our prides

You are restless in life
When we’ve born another to fight

All the bridges of your music will burn as soon
As you walk to the centre of our problems

You might have moved to our sacred rights
But your price is high in

Interest rates and then you prowl around
Unrespectful to all black familys homes

You are the dat watch protect and
Laugh as the blackfellas rise

The waiting for the sunrise is like waiting for a past
Of people to come and proclaim the land

But sitting here blocking out the unjustifiable sins
Sins are what you are doing

The Bush Rangers

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 125th birthday.

Edward Harrington
Australian
1895 – 1966

 

Four horseman rode out from the heart of the range,
Four horseman with aspects forbidding and strange.
They were booted and spurred, they were armed to the teeth,
And they frowned as they looked at the valley beneath,
As forward they rode through the rocks and the fern –
Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne.

Ned Kelly drew rein and he shaded his eyes –
‘The town’s at our mercy! See yonder it lies!
To hell with the troopers!’ – he shook his clenched fist –
‘We will shoot them like dogs if they dare to resist!’
And all of them nodded, grim-visaged and stern –
Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne.

Through the gullies and creeks they rode silently down;
They stuck-up the station and raided the town;
They opened the safe and they looted the bank;
They laughed and were merry, they ate and they drank.
Then off to the ranges they went with their gold –
Oh! never were bandits more reckless and bold.

But time brings its punishment, time travels fast –
And the outlaws were trapped in Glenrowan at last,
Where three of them died in the smoke and the flame,
And Ned Kelly came back – to the last he was game.
But the Law shot him down (he was fated to hang),
And that was the end of the bushranging gang.

Whatever their faults and whatever their crimes,
Their deeds lend romance to those faraway times.
They have gone from the gullies they haunted of old,
And nobody knows where they buried their gold.
To the ranges they loved they will never return –
Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne.

But at times when I pass through that sleepy old town
Where the far-distant peaks of Strathbogie look down
I think of the days when those grim ranges rang
To the galloping hooves of the bushranging gang.
Though the years bring oblivion, time brings a change,
The ghosts of the Kellys still ride from the range.

After All

Henry Lawson
Australian
1867 – 1922

 

The brooding ghosts of Australian night have gone from the bush and town;
My spirit revives in the morning breeze,
though it died when the sun went down;
The river is high and the stream is strong,
and the grass is green and tall,
And I fain would think that this world of ours is a good world after all.

The light of passion in dreamy eyes, and a page of truth well read,
The glorious thrill in a heart grown cold of the spirit I thought was dead,
A song that goes to a comrade’s heart, and a tear of pride let fall —
And my soul is strong! and the world to me is a grand world after all!

Let our enemies go by their old dull tracks,
and theirs be the fault or shame
(The man is bitter against the world who has only himself to blame);
Let the darkest side of the past be dark, and only the good recall;
For I must believe that the world, my dear, is a kind world after all.

It well may be that I saw too plain, and it may be I was blind;
But I’ll keep my face to the dawning light,
though the devil may stand behind!
Though the devil may stand behind my back, I’ll not see his shadow fall,
But read the signs in the morning stars of a good world after all.

Rest, for your eyes are weary, girl — you have driven the worst away —
The ghost of the man that I might have been is gone from my heart to-day;
We’ll live for life and the best it brings till our twilight shadows fall;
My heart grows brave, and the world, my girl, is a good world after all.

Glencoe

Douglas Stewart
Australian
1913 – 1985

 

Sigh, wind in the pine;
River, weep as you flow;
Terrible things were done
Long, long ago.

In daylight golden and mild
After the night of Glencoe
They found the hand of a child
Lying in the snow.

Lopped by the sword to the ground
Or torn by wolf or fox,
That was the snowdrop they found
Among the granite rocks.

Oh, life is fierce and wild
And the heart of the earth is stone
And the hand of a murdered child
Will not bear thinking on.

Sigh, wind in the pine,
Cover it with snow;
But terribel things were done
Long, long ago.

Unsung

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 135th birthday.

Nettie Palmer
Australian
1885 – 1964

 

When shall I make a song for you, my love?
When you are nigh me?
Not so, for then the hours unnamed go by me,
Flocking like dove on dove.

When shall that song for you be found, my mate?
When I wait lonely?
Not so, for then am I a mourner only,
Begging without the gate.

Never in words that happy song will rise,
Yet you will feel it,—
Through days your love makes glad I shall reveal it,
Through years your love makes wise.

Dancing Boy

We present this work in honor of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Bobbi Sykes
Australian
1943 – 2010

 

You can see him every weekend
In the plazas in the cities,
His music box beside him
With its fast beat blazing out.

You would swear his body’s boneless
From the many shapes he twists it
And his elegance and grace
Are just superb.

The shy smile of concentration
As he goes through his manoeuvres
Speaks loudly of the painful hours
He has put in to rehearse.

So he pulses to the rhythm
Of a heartbeat very primal
And his Reeboks glide spectacularly
Across the ground.

He is on his back and spinning
With his feet towards the clouds
He is up and down and all-way-round
Then upright – to the roar of the applause.

In repose, his face hints tragedy
That drives his frenzied motion
He has given up his habit
And his feet now keep him sane.

Can he be there dancing for dollars
For the rent, in this city of plenty
Where others throw the coins
To show their joy?

Slow the tape and hear the lyrics
Of the music that propels him
Talking of a world of problems
Far too much for any boy.

Yet he carries this burden proudly
Though his generation’s scorned,
His dark eyes shine satisfaction
With his lot.

His little hat I overflowing
Though his fragile back is blistered
They’ll be noshing very well this night
At his makeshift home in the ghetto.

His Mother’s smile will warm him,
And young siblings, they’ll adore him,
When he walks in, pockets laden
– Backbone raw.

So his furtive fingers twist the button
To raise the volume of his music
While he keeps an eye out for the gungies
Who deplore the clutter of his crowds.

As people toss the lad a dollar
His eyes steadfastly ignore them
And they saunter off with joyful music
In their ears and minds.

The Return of Persephone

We present this work in honor of the 20th anniversary of the poet’s death.

A.D. Hope
Australian
1907 – 2000

 

Gliding through the still air, he made no sound;
Wing-shod and deft, dropped almost at her feet,
And searched the ghostly regiments and found
The living eyes, the tremor of breath, the beat
Of blood in all that bodiless underground.

She left her majesty; she loosed the zone
Of darkness and put by the rod of dread.
Standing, she turned her back upon the throne
Where, well she knew, the Ruler of the Dead,
Lord of her body and being, sat like stone;

Stared with his ravenous eyes to see her shake
The midnight drifting from her loosened hair,
The girl once more in all her actions wake,
The blush of colour in her cheeks appear
Lost with her flowers that day beside the lake.

The summer flowers scattering, the shout,
The black manes plunging down to the black pit —
Memory or dream? She stood awhile in doubt,
Then touched the Traveller God’s brown arm and met
His cool, bright glance and heard his words ring out:

“Queen of the Dead and Mistress of the Year!”
— His voice was the ripe ripple of the corn;
The touch of dew, the rush of morning air —
“Remember now the world where you were born;
The month of your return at last is here.”

And still she did not speak, but turned again
Looking for answer, for anger, for command:
The eyes of Dis were shut upon their pain;
Calm as his marble brow, the marble hand
Slept on his knee. Insuperable disdain

Foreknowing all bounds of passion, of power, of art,
Mastered but could not mask his deep despair.
Even as she turned with Hermes to depart,
Looking her last on her grim ravisher
For the first time she loved him from her heart.

Doubtful Dreams

We present this work in honor of the 150th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Adam Lindsay Gordon
Australian
1833 – 1870

 

Aye, snows are rife in December,
And sheaves are in August yet,
And you would have me remember,
And I would rather forget;
In the bloom of the May-day weather,
In the blight of October chill,
We were dreamers of old together,—
As of old, are you dreaming still?

For nothing on earth is sadder
Than the dream that cheated the grasp,
The flower that turned to the adder,
The fruit that changed to the asp;
When the day-spring in darkness closes,
As the sunset fades from the hills,
With the fragrance of perish’d roses,
With the music of parch’d-up rills.

When the sands on the sea-shore nourish
Red clover and yellow corn;
When figs on the thistle flourish,
And grapes grow thick on the thorn;
When the dead branch, blighted and blasted,
Puts forth green leaves in the spring,
Then the dream that life has outlasted
Dead comfort to life may bring.

I have changed the soil and the season,
But whether skies freeze or flame,
The soil they flame on or freeze on
Is changed in little save name;
The loadstone points to the nor’ward,
The river runs to the sea;
And you would have me look forward,
And backward I fain would flee.

I remember the bright spring garlands,
The gold that spangled the green,
And the purple on fairy far lands,
And the white and the red bloom, seen
From the spot where we last lay dreaming
Together—yourself and I—
The soft grass beneath us gleaming,
Above us the great grave sky.

And we spoke thus: ‘Though we have trodden
Rough paths in our boyish years;
And some with our sweat are sodden,
And some are salt with our tears;
Though we stumble still, walking blindly,
Our paths shall be made all straight;
We are weak, but the heavens are kindly,
The skies are compassionate.’

Is the clime of the old and younger,
Where the young dreams longer are nursed?
With the old insatiable hunger,
With the old unquenchable thirst,
Are you longing, as in the old years
We have longed so often in vain;
Fellow-toilers still, fellow-soldiers,
Though the seas have sundered us twain?

But the young dreams surely have faded!
Young dreams !—old dreams of young days—
Shall the new dream vex us as they did?
Or as things worth censure or praise?
Real toil is ours, real trouble,
Dim dreams of pleasure and pride;
Let the dreams disperse like a bubble,
So the toil like a dream subside.

Vain toil! men better and braver
Rose early and rested late,
Whose burdens than ours were graver,
And sterner than ours their hate.
What fair reward had Achilles?
What rest could Alcides win?
Vain toil ! ‘Consider the lilies,
They toil not, neither do spin.’

Nor for mortal toiling nor spinning
Will the matters of mortals mend;
As it was so in the beginning,
It shall be so in the end.
The web that the weavers weave ill
Shall not be woven aright
Till the good is brought forth from evil,
As day is brought forth from night.

Vain dreams! for our fathers cherish’d
High hopes in the days that were;
And these men wonder’d and perish’d,
Nor better than these we fare;
And our due at least is their due:
They fought against odds and fell;
‘En avant, les enfants perdus!’
We fight against odds as well.

The skies ! Will the great skies care for
Our footsteps, straighten our path,
Or strengthen our weakness? Wherefore?
We have rather incurr’d their wrath ;
When against the Captain of Hazor
The stars in their courses fought,
Did the sky shed merciful rays, or
With love was the sunshine fraught?

Can they favour man—can they wrong man—
The unapproachable skies?
Though these gave strength to the strong man,
And wisdom gave to the wise;
When strength is turn’d to derision,
And wisdom brought to dismay,
Shall we wake from a troubled vision,
Or rest from a toilsome day?

Nay! I cannot tell. Peradventure
Our very toil is a dream,
And the works that we praise or censure,
It may be, they only seem.
If so, I would fain awaken,
Or sleep more soundly than so,
Or by dreamless sleep overtaken,
The dream I would fain forgo.

For the great things of life are small things,
The longest life is a span,
And there is an end to all things,
A season to every man,
Whose glory is dust and ashes,
Whose spirit is but a spark,
That out from the darkness flashes,
And flickers out in the dark.

We remember the pangs that wrung us
When some went down to the pit,
Who faded as leaves among us,
Who flitted as shadows flit;
What visions under the stone lie?
What dreams in the shroud sleep dwell,
For we saw the earth pit only,
And we heard only the knell.

We know not whether they slumber
Who waken on earth no more,
As the stars of the heights in number,
As sands on the deep sea-shore.
Shall stiffness bind them, and starkness
Enthral them, by field and flood,
Till ‘the sun shall be turn’d to darkness,
And the moon shall be turn’d to blood?’

We know not !—worse may enthral men—
‘The wages of sin are death’;
And so death pass’d upon all men,
For sin was born with man’s breath.
Then the labourer spent with sinning,
His hire with his life shall spend;
For it was so in the beginning,
And shall be so in the end.
There is life in the blacken’d ember
While a spark is smouldering yet;
In a dream e’en now I remember
That dream I had lief forget—
I had lief forget, I had e’en lief
That dream with this doubt should die—
‘If we did these things in the green leaf,
What shall be done in the dry?’

In the Park

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 100th birthday.

Gwen Harwood
Australian
1920 – 1995

 

She sits in the park. Her clothes are out of date.
Two children whine and bicker, tug her skirt.
A third draws aimless patterns in the dirt
Someone she loved once passed by – too late

to feign indifference to that casual nod.
“How nice” et cetera. “Time holds great surprises.”
From his neat head unquestionably rises
a small balloon…” but for the grace of God…”

They stand a while in flickering light, rehearsing
the children’s names and birthdays. “It’s so sweet
to hear their chatter, watch them grow and thrive,”
she says to his departing smile. Then, nursing
the youngest child, sits staring at her feet.
To the wind she says, “They have eaten me alive.”

Let Go

We present this work in honor of Western Australia Day.

Jack Davis
Australian
1917 – 2000

 

Let go of my hand
Let me be what I want to be
Let go of my hand
The sands of time Are trickling before me
I have not yet Achieved
what I want to be
Let go of my hand
I want to stand alone
In a sea of words
Pluck out the phrases
Soar like a bird
I want to stand on a mountain
Wait for the dawn
Yet be aware of
The approaching storm
I want to fashion a rainbow
That arcs through the sky
And iron out the dilemmas
Between you & I