We present this work in honor of ANZAC Day.
1933 – 2017
Made ghosts in all their country’s wars
they come, the young men in my dreams with shattered skulls, intestines trailing in the sand, the mud, the stuff the TV doesn’t show unless it’s Africa. Or someplace else where colour doesn’t count, democracy a word they carted like a talisman, a passport to the candles, bells of sainthood.
Restored to wake indoors alive, blanketed,
dreams fallen away like ash in birdsong, sun filtering the blind slats, I’m reprimanded. My ghosts keep talking: “You thought you knew it all. Tonight maybe your book and candle, night light burning infantile, shoes tucked neat beneath will douse your eyelids closed with ash, shut them down for good. Our dreams were yours.
You’ll sleep all right with us
and never never wake. Night lights, books and candles lost the war against our childhood, growing, long ago, their power to charm away the everlasting dark a myth: silence lasts forever. Listen, while you can, to unseen saplings somewhere falling. Young men, you dear young men, I’m listening.
In honor of Canberra Day, we present this work by one of contemporary Australia’s most notable poets.
On someone else’s place
it seems to him the land slings distance way out the dirt is dead and the sky seems twisted the beat of the stones is wrong he doesn’t know how to say it there are no words no opportunity and anyway what would you say that you’re a stranger and this doesn’t say it at all
he walks with his weapon through the town
and from time to time he sees the luscious curl of intimacy the uncommon common life it’s dressed differently he can’t understand the language rasping and gargling another time he’d be an interested tourist now he’s a hunter and the hunted
soon they say
he’ll be freed to retreat home where the earth is vein deep and when he puts his hand on the ground he’ll feel it beating but now he can’t remember home though he knows the words well enough back paddock Steve’s paddock the yard it’s just words but now the imam calls and winds a veil around his senses and sometimes he thinks he’ll never get back to where he belonged
We present this work in honor of the 120th anniversary of the poet’s death.
Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant
1864 – 1902
Oh! the quiet river-crossing
Where we twain were wont to ride, Where the wanton winds were to sing Willow branches o’er the tide.
There the golden noon would find us
Dallying through the summer day, All the waery world behind us – All it’s tumult far away.
Oh! thoe rides across the crossing
Where the shallow stream runs wide, When the sunset’s beams were glossing Strips of sand on either side.
We would cross the sparkling river
On the brown horse and the bay; Watch the willows sway and shiver And their trembling shadows play.
When the opal tints waxed duller
And a gray crept o’er the skies Yet there stayed the blue sky’s color In your dreamy dark-blue eyes.
How the sun-god’s bright caresses,
When we rode at sunet there, Plaited among your braided tresses, Gleaming on your silky hair.
When the last sunlight’s glory
Faded off the sandy bars, There we learnt the old, old story, Riding homeward ‘neat the stars.
‘Tis a memory to be hoarded –
Oh, the follish tale and fond! Till another stream be forded – And we reach the Great Beyond.
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.
John Shaw Neilson
1872 – 1942
Your voice was the rugged
old voice that I knew; I gave the best grip of my greeting to you. I knew not of your lips— you knew not of mine; Of travel and travail we gave not a sign.
We drank and we chorused
with quips in our eyes; But under our song was the meeting of sighs. I knew not of your lips— you knew not of mine; For lean years and lone years had watered the wine.
We present this work in honor of Australia Day.
Mary Hannay Foott
1846 – 1918
The horses were ready, the rails were down,
But the riders lingered still One had a parting word to say, And one had his pipe to fill.
Then they mounted, one with a granted prayer,
And one with a grief unguessed. “We are going,” they said, as they rode away “Where the Pelican builds her nest!”
They had told us of pastures wide and green,
To be sought past the sunset’s glow; Of rifts in the ranges by opal lit; And gold “neath the river’s flow.
And thirst and hunger were banished words
When they spoke of that unknown West; No drought they dreaded, no flood they feared, Where the pelican builds her nest!
The creek at the ford was but fetlock deep
When we watched them crossing there; The rains have replenished it thrice since then, And thrice has the rock lain bare.
But the waters of Hope have flowed and fled,
And never from blue hill’s breast Come back – by the sun and the sands devoured Where the pelican builds her nest!
Dame Mary Gilmore
1865 – 1962
Botany Bay; stiff in the joints, little to say.
I am he
who paved the way, that you might walk at your ease to-day;
I was the conscript
sent to hell to make in the desert the living well;
I bore the heat,
I blazed the track- furrowed and bloody upon my back.
I split the rock;
I felled the tree: The nation was- Because of me!
Old Botany Bay
Taking the sun from day to day… shame on the mouth that would deny the knotted hands that set us high!
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 80th birthday.
Jennifer Rankin Australian 1941 – 1979
Where the cliff cleaves up
clean into the sky I see my day cut through
and again another cliff
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.
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 140th birthday.
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.
We present this work in honor of the 45th anniversary of the poet’s death.
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.
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.
John Le Gay Brereton Australian 1871 – 1943
“Our loss was light,” the paper said,
“Compared with damage to the Hun”: She was a widow, and she read One name upon the list of dead Her son, her only son.