We present this work in honor of the poet’s 180th birthday.
This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:— There spread a cloud of dust along a plain; And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince’s banner Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes. A craven hung along the battle’s edge, And thought, “Had I a sword of keener steal— That blue blade that the king’s son bears,— but this Blunt thing—!” He snapped and flung it from his hand, And lowering crept away and left the field. Then came the king’s son, wounded sore bestead, And weaponless, and saw the broken sword Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand, And ran and snatched it, and with battle-shout Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down And saved a great cause that heroic day.
Kisses don’t wither like the flowers of the malinche tree, hard shells of seeds don’t grow over my arms; I’m always flowering with this internal rain, like the green patios in May and I laugh because I love the wind and the clouds and the singing birds that pass overhead, even though I’m entangled with memories, covered with ivy like old walls, I go on believing in the secret whisperings, the strength of wild horses, the winged message of gulls.
I swear to you, Love, by your arrows, And by your powerful holy flame, I care not if by one I-m maimed, My heart burned, wasted by the other: However far through times past or coming, There never was nor will be woman Whomever of them you wish to name, Could know such sharpness, such devouring:
For there-s a virtue born from suffering, That dims and conquers the sense of pain, So that it-s barely felt, seems scarcely hurting. No! This, that torments soul and body again, This is the real fear presaging my dying: What if my fire be only straw and flame?
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.
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 100th birthday.
Once upon a time, son, they used to laugh with their hearts and laugh with their eyes: but now they only laugh with their teeth, while their ice-block-cold eyes search behind my shadow.
There was a time indeed they used to shake hands with their hearts: but that’s gone, son. Now they shake hands without hearts while their left hands search my empty pockets.
‘Feel at home!’ ‘Come again’: they say, and when I come again and feel at home, once, twice, there will be no thrice- for then I find doors shut on me.
So I have learned many things, son. I have learned to wear many faces like dresses – homeface, officeface, streetface, hostface, cocktailface, with all their conforming smiles like a fixed portrait smile.
And I have learned too to laugh with only my teeth and shake hands without my heart. I have also learned to say,’Goodbye’, when I mean ‘Good-riddance’: to say ‘Glad to meet you’, without being glad; and to say ‘It’s been nice talking to you’, after being bored.
But believe me, son. I want to be what I used to be when I was like you. I want to unlearn all these muting things. Most of all, I want to relearn how to laugh, for my laugh in the mirror shows only my teeth like a snake’s bare fangs!
So show me, son, how to laugh; show me how I used to laugh and smile once upon a time when I was like you.
We present this work in honor of the 405th anniversary of the poet’s death.
All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms; And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lin’d, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side; His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion; Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.