Archive for October, 2018

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

A Glimpse of Starlings by Brendan Kennelly

I expect him any minute now although
He’s dead. I know he has been talking
All night to his own dead and now
In the first heart-breaking light of morning
He is struggling into his clothes,
Sipping a cup of tea, fingering a bit of bread,
Eating a small photograph with his eyes.

The questions bang and rattle in his head
Like doors and canisters the night of a storm.
He doesn’t know why his days finished like this
Daylight is as hard to swallow as food
Love is a crumb all of him hungers for.
I can hear the drag of his feet on the concrete path.
The close explosion of his smoker’s cough
The slow turn of the Yale key in the lock
The door opening to let him in
To what looks like release from what feels like pain.
And over his shoulder a glimpse of starlings
Suddenly lifted over field, road and river
Like a fist of black dust pitched in the wind.

From: Powling, Anne, O’Connor, John and Barton, Geoff (eds.), New Oxford English, Book 3, 1997, Oxford University Press: Oxford, p. 44.

Date: 1968

By: Brendan Kennelly (1936- )

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Clay-Land Moods by Reginald John “Jack” Clemo

There squats amid these pyramids
The Sphinx-mood of a Deity,
Unfelt until He bids
Sandstorms awaken and the choking dust
Drive me across the moors of barren trust.
Then I perceive the aloof grey shape, the scorn,
Quiet veiled cruelty of the watching eyes:
The grim mysterious Will all help denies.
The feet press out until my roots are torn,
Caught by the mauling claws. In silence He
Smothers and tortures me.

Here on the sharp clay-tip there broods
Olympian thunder, bold and swift,
Fiercest of all God’s moods.
One flash therefrom and peaks of vision seethe
With hostile potency: while wrathful vapours writhe
I creep down rain-grooves, cravenly slink to hide
In caves of the pit, and bruised with panic prayer
Unknown to Mammon’s sober workmen there,
I wait till lightnings, thunder-rasps have died
And God allows His terror-mood to lift
From off the senseless rift.

There is a certain mystic hour
When pyramid and clay-tip grow
Alive with darker power;
A mood unknown to Nature, a mortal mood
Caught up into His Godhead: taste of blood,
Anguish that makes each tip-frame a gibbet, bared
Until I feel on each the swing of my hand, a pale
Ghost-self of primal guilt that drives the nail.
And the Sphinx-mood is mercy, Olympus tame compared
With my deserts. Then I begin to know
Why I am tested so.

From: Astley, Neil (ed.), Poetry with an Edge, 1988, Bloodaxe Books: Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, p. 29.

Date: 1961

By: Reginald John “Jack” Clemo (1916-1994)

Monday, 29 October 2018

The Suicides by Janet Frame (Nene Janet Paterson Clutha)

It is hard for us to enter
the kind of despair they must have known
and because it is hard we must get in by breaking
the lock if necessary for we have not the key,
though for them there was no lock and the surrounding walls
were supple, receiving as waves, and they drowned
though not lovingly; it is we only
who must enter in this way.

Temptations will beset us, once we are in.
We may want to catalogue what they have stolen.
We may feel suspicion; we may even criticize the décor
of their suicidal despair, may perhaps feel
it was incongruously comfortable.

Knowing the temptations then
let us go in
deep to their despair and their skin and know
they died because words they had spoken
returned always homeless to them.


Date: 1967

By: Janet Frame (Nene Janet Paterson Clutha) (1924-2004)

Sunday, 28 October 2018

The Banshee Called for Me by John Alfred “Jack” Sorensen

I heard the Banshee call last night
The Banshee called for me,
Out where the shrouded clouds slain light
Patterned a bloodwood tree
She called twice eerily.

The wind gushed down from the Leopolds
To sunder the sullen night
With a song it learned in the mystery holds
That never knew light nor sight.
The voice of a mountain’s might.

With fright clutched throat and sweat-bathed face
I lay on my bamboo bed,
My hut was fey as is a place
Of the unforgiven dead.
But a voice within me said:

Her grim forbode in my native “Meath”
I well could understand
But she follows me with moan of death
To this carefree sun sweet land.
Then anger forced my hand.

I went forthwith to the bloodwood tree
And found her crouching there.
Raw rage was running red in me
My despair had mastered fear
As I grasped her wind-swept hair.

Wind flayed the staid Pandana Palms
(The wind is a frantic fool)
As I carried her with hate-steeled arms
To the bunyip-haunted pool.
She drowned in the waters cool.

The lilies closed above her head
But never a cry made she;
Then I sought sleep on the bamboo bed
In my hut near the bloodwood tree.
But ere dawn she called for me.


Date: 1949

By: John Alfred “Jack” Sorensen (1907-1949)

Saturday, 27 October 2018

The Phantoms of the Dark by Francis William Ophel

I hear them pass at eventide,
I hear the dead pass by.
Ever the long processions ride,
While sorrow’d night winds sigh.

Bright burns the camp-fire at my feet
White stars burn overhead,
Beyond the flame, in shadows, meet
The roaming, restless dead.

Dead bushmen go, in ghostly guise,
Unseen within the night
Save by the herds with startled eyes,
Stampeding in affright.

All night — all night — waked or asleep
The fall of hoofs I hear;
Softly the phantom horses creep
Past my lone camp — and near.

The champing of a jingling bit
Faintly insistent sounds;
With loosened rein wan stockmen sit
And ride their endless rounds.

Oh, shadow made their fences are,
Grey wraiths the flocks they see;
And Death has neither bound or bar
Except eternity.

Lured by the will-o’-th’-wisp’s pale fire
(Mock lights of hut and home);
Onward by spectral post and wire
Damned souls for ever roam.

Shrill comes a cry across the dark,
And weird — I know it well —
It is the lost who call. And, hark!
The tinkling of a bell.

A heap of whitened bones there lies,
And stands the dead man’s steed;
Though never may the rider rise.
Faithful he waits his need.

And when the winds the storm-clouds bring
And loud the tempest roar.
I hear the drover galloping
To meet his love once more.

Night after night, in wind and rain,
He rides and leaves his flocks,
And night by night he falls again
Over the fatal rocks.

And crashing through by bush and bole
In dread, and dumb, and straight
Goes one, sere-stricken to the soul,
And leaves a murdered mate.

At morn my sweating horses stand
Trembling in wild-eyed fright,
For they have seen the phantom band
That pass’d into the night.

Ever by my lone camp they go,
Nor heed the stars or moon.
I hear them always, and I know
That I shall join them soon.

For surely I shall ride away
To turn some midnight rush,
And, greeting Death, remain for aye —
A spirit of the bush.

From: Kinsella, John and Ryan, Tracy (eds.), The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry, Fremantle Press: Perth, pp.71-73.

Date: 1903

By: Francis William Ophel (1871-1912)

Friday, 26 October 2018

With Head Erect I Fought the Fight by John Philip Bourke

With head erect I fought the fight
Or mingled with the dance,

And now I merge into the night
With utter nonchalance.

From: Bourke, J. P. (“Bluebush”), Off the Bluebush: Verses for Australians West and East, 1915, Tyrrell’s Limited: Sydney, p. 16.

Date: 1915 (published)

By: John Philip Bourke (1860-1914)

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Quahogs by Frank Xavier Gaspar

It was for the wind as much as anything.
It was for the tidal flats, for the miles of bars
and the freezing runs between them,
blued and darkened in the withering gusts.
For the buckets, for the long-tined rakes.
For our skin burning and the bones
beneath, all their ache. For the bent backs,
for the huddle toward warmth beneath
our incapable layers, how we beat
ourselves with our arms. The breath
we blew, the narrow steam that spun away.
How we searched their tell-draggle marks.
Then the feel of them as we furrowed. Then it
was surgery and force together. Like stones.
Opal or pearl or plain rock, ugly except
they were beautiful, their whorls and
purple stains. The bucket’s wire cutting
with their weight. For the sky blazing, its
sinking orange fire. For the sky’s black streaks
with night rising, winter-sudden. Back,
shoreward, home, the tide creeping like a wolf.
For the little stove warming, its own orange fire.
The old pot, the steam, the air in savor,
the close room, the precious butter, the
blue fingers throbbing, our bodies in all
the customs of weariness, the supper,
succulent of the freezing dark sea come up,
and hunger, its own happiness, its own
domain immeasurable. It was for the hunger.


Date: 2016

By: Frank Xavier Gaspar (1946- )

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Sprout by Linda Parsons Marion

The gardener I never reckoned on, she sows
with the fire of a zealot—rows cowlicked
in garlic, snow peas fence-latticed, mounds
studded gold—my daughter bends to earth’s
pure bidding. She’s living up to her baby name,
called Tater for the sun-brown quickness on nose
and arms. She means to mine these coffers
for yields unborn, sequin the counter with
a gracious plenty. Her reach is the surest we know,
to feed and be sated, even as she nurses
a sprout on her belly’s milk, all of us waiting
for the fruit made flesh, for the muskmelon
to twirl its sweet mouth in pearlized clay
yearning toward first harvest.


Date: 2009

By: Linda Parsons Marion (1953- )

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Prayer for My Children by Kate Daniels

I regret nothing.
My cruelties, my betrayals
of others I once thought
I loved. All the unlived
years, the unwritten
poems, the wasted nights
spent weeping and drinking.

No, I regret nothing
because what I’ve lived
has led me here, to this room
with its marvelous riches,
its simple wealth—these three heads shining
beneath the Japanese lamp, laboring
over crayons and paper.
These three who love me
exactly as I am, precisely
at the center of my ill-built being.
Who rear up eagerly when I enter,
and fall down weeping when I leave.
Whose eyes are my eyes.
Hair, my hair.
Whose bodies I cover
with kisses and blankets.
Whose first meal was my own body.
Whose last, please God, I will not live
to serve, or share.


Date: 1998

By: Kate Daniels (1953- )

Monday, 22 October 2018

October by Harry Clifton

The big news around here is the fall of leaves
In Harrington Street and Synge Street,
Lying about in pockets, adrift at your feet
As you kick them away. The other news is the trees—
Their yellow, as I speak, is unbelievable,
Not that you need me to tell you. Everywhere
The house is falling down around our ears
And it’s wonderful, in the dry, spicy air,
How quietly it happens. Close your eyes,
Don’t think, just listen. Hear them fall, the years
We came towards each other, out of a sun
Already westering. Look at us, even yet,
Exchanging tree-lore, twenty years on
In a leafless cathedral—bride and groom, well-met.


Date: 2012

By: Harry Clifton (1952- )