Archive for ‘20th Century’

Thursday, 23 June 2022

The Road North by Zbigniew Machej

We were driving north, to the sea,
through a land of dry lips and useless sweat.
All around were empty fields. Forests burned.
The sun stripped the ashen riverbeds,
the stones on the bottom white like bones.
Our hands stuck to the steering wheel, tar
to the car’s tires. The wrinkled air
throbbed with heat. Ahead and behind
the horizon blurred. On the radio
just news, ads, and songs
by Michael Jackson. By now almost everywhere
democracy had triumphed, but no one was
happy. The great furnaces had gone out.
Tankers brought water to the cities. Gas
had gone up again. Courage, of course, cost the same.
The authorities were patiently questioning
citizens. Doctors had discovered new, mysterious
infections. The bazaars were hopping, corruption
blossomed, there was an increase in assaults with a deadly
weapon, people told tales of the games
the mafia played. Olympic champions
were eliminated in the first round. In the stadiums
new messiahs worked cures, crowds sang.
Peasant prophecies of the world’s end
spread, not just among tourists.
The idolatry of computers compacted
with the superstition of satellite disks. Black icons
wept red tears and mice
fed on the epidermis of the faithful
who miaowed in the churches a miaow
of their own which wearied their God…

We were driving north.
And in the south the wars went on,
states fell apart…

When we got to the sea,
a hundred sailboats under a cloudless sky
sailed into the bay and from the forest onto the shore
the wild boar came
to lap, lap, lap
the salt water.


Date: 1992 (original in Polish); 2003 (translation in English)

By: Zbigniew Machej (1958- )

Translated by: Georgia Scott (19??- ) and David Malcolm (1952- )

Saturday, 11 June 2022

Made in Los Angeles by David Harold Rowbotham

The Matterhorn in Disneyland is melting
in the sun of Anaheim. Los Angeles
is a planetary city making perishable toys
from realities.

The black yankee doodle dandy dances
in the boulevard, which grows from glass to trees,
dawn grape to dusk persimmon,
and the beautiful moon is made in Los Angeles.

The Twentieth Century is made in Los Angeles.
The stars amass and suffer its novelties.

The pre-historic creatures at the tar-pits
are as still as Disneyland’s.
Which are the toys? The monsters reconstructed
from the bubbles? Or the city’s real gargantuan sprawl?

In his house over Woking Way, Disney invented
an animated world cartoon. My eyes
watch Hollywood as a white film from a height
out of fantasy.

Already I feel removed.
On a melting summit in the sun of Anaheim
or on Woking Way in a cinematic sunfall,
I’m filmed and foreign; and who’s the toy?

Man the mammal? or the tar-pit creature? hauled
up from the past by here’s Los Angeles.

From: Rowbotham, David, Poems for America, 2002, Interactive Publications: Carindale, Queensland, p. 2.

Date: 2002

By: David Harold Rowbotham (1924-2010)

Friday, 10 June 2022

The Soldier Speaks by Shawn Hamilton O’Leary

I cannot longer be as other men
Who trail from antic moment to event:
Who, frantic in their fever as the ant,
Clutch futile fingers at the hurricane
And, failing, find that they must make their run
Again. I who have seen the dragon’s teeth
Sown in sand, have known the clamorous crash
Of guns that garnished smoking holes with flesh,
Have seen guts ripped with shrapnel when blind faith
Was in men’s hearts and all they found was death…
I would be lost now in that other stream!
A ghost swift-walking in a windswept street
Would never the know the loneliness, regret
And grief that I would know like some dark crime
Encircling the memory in a frame.
Let me stay where the incense of the dead
Rises to the heraldic blaze of stars,
Or, private with the dog-black storm, knows wars
And a war’s ways; and at the end be laid
Softly down with the soil where the roots feed.

(But sometimes turning in the dark, I’ll start
And know an idiot spark burn the brain,
Burn the mind; and, sensing the silent groan
Of a dead comrade, wish again to court
A small space of living with the heart’s hurt.)

From: O’Leary, Shawn, “The Soldier Speaks” in The Bulletin, Volume 63, Number 3257 (15 July 1942), p. 4.

Date: 1942

By: Shawn Hamilton O’Leary (1916-1992)

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Narrinyeri Saying by David Unaipon

Like children at play we begin Life’s journey,
Push our frail bark into the stream of Time,
That flows from snow-capped Mountain.
With no care; Singing and laughing as our boat glides
Upon the tide wending its way through steep rocky banks,
And meadows with bushes and plants all abloom, with sweet fragrant flowers.
Until we arrive in the Great Ocean where we are battled and tossed by the angry waves. Onward and onward.
For three score years and ten. Then we are cast forlorn and shipwrecked upon the shore of a strange land.

From: Jose, Nicholas, The Literature of Australia: An Anthology, 2009, W.W. Norton & Company: New York and London, p. 320.

Date: 1929

By: David Unaipon (David Ngunaitponi) (1872-1967)

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

To the Reader by Leonard Mann

These times dictate our song;
Our words must reply to shells,
Our lines shall assault new ills
Entrenched in ancient wrong.

Yet standing to I’ve seen
The pale flower of dawn expand
Full blown from a darkened land,
Where day could show no green.

And I have heard left over,
When the morning strafe was done,
A bird like a violine
Stilled brass and bass discover;

Standing in trench of mud
A man saying with grim grin,
“As opposite to this sin
Perhaps this is a God.”

This then gives leave or duty
To sing of imagined good,
From the mask of fortitude
To give a voice to beauty.

From: Serle, Percival, An Australasian Anthology (Australian and New Zealand Poems), 1946, Collins Bros & Co Ltd: Sydney and Auckland, p. 288.

Date: 1941

By: Leonard Mann (1895-1981)

Monday, 6 June 2022

Today by Ethel Anderson

Present time is the omnibus,
The Frigidaire, the rustless knife,

We have no high-grade hates, no cheap amours,
No absinthe served with petits-fours,
Ours not the saved skin, the lost honour.

But the cute jupon
The cut coupon
The clean slate
A child’s estate.

No blunderbuss.
No old-world fuss.

Merely the rising tide of tears
For those returning with our fears,
The maimed, the halt, the blind, the shocked,
With whom our world is nobly stocked.

Loved ones.
Sons of guns.
Docked lives
Clocking in.

From: Macartney, Frederick T., Australian Poetry 1947, 1948, Angus and Robertson: Sydney, p. 11.

Date: 1947

By: Ethel Louise Mason Anderson (1883-1958)

Saturday, 4 June 2022

H.V.H.T. by Katharine Susannah Prichard

To you, all these wild weeds
and wind flowers of my life,
I bring, my lord,
and lay them at your feet;
they are not frankincense
or myrrh,
but you were Krishna, Christ and Dionysus
in your beauty, tenderness and strength.

From: Prichard, Katharine Susannah, Child of the Hurricane: An Autobiography, 1963, Angus and Robertson: Sydney, p. 261.

Date: 1932

By: Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883-1969)

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Perth in Morning Light by Mary “May” Amelia Doyle Kidson

(New Year 1925)

O! heavenly sweet the pearly morn,
With the still river fast asleep,
And all the youngling day unborn,
While fleecy clouds like flocks of sheep
Are straying by the raying east
And dawn makes ready for her feast,
The trees that fringe the river bank
Lie, too, beneath the crystal tide
As ‘twere some fairy artist sank
A perfect etching that defied
The river (as it laps and dips)
Unsmeared by the wet fingertips,
The Hills white veiled seemed bent in prayer,
Such little hills to climb so high,
Half circling in their garden care
The City ‘neath the leaning sky,
And still by bank and bole runs on
The river in the rising sun,
Nearby a Mill wan with the years,
And quaintly old is proud to stand
The legacy of pioneers
Sure of the future of the land—
A precious monument apart
Of virile men, of lion heart …
The river passes by the town
A mimic sea in morning calm;
Above a greening crest looks down
Beyond the circle of its arm,
Where cressets of the red gum blaze
And wattle lights her golden rays,
There King’s Park keeps her bushland still
(That every wilding flower dyes)
To frolic free by dale and hill.
And just below the City lies,
Where the smoke spirals, grey and blue,
Curl on the new day breaking through.
The town hall spire that is our pride,
Delicate, poised against the sky
The City’s mist doth override
And round it homing pigeons fly.
I stand a moment then apart
And seem to hear a people’s heart.
Aye! Well I know that dreams come true
When hand and heart and brain create
The larger vision coming through,
When strong souls serve and serving wait
The newer day that shall be born,
In the sun of another morn …
The placid river bears along
The freighted barges from the sea.
Singing afresh some matin song
Of days that were and days to be,
And when the breeze and river meet
The salt foam sprays the City’s feet;
By Blackwall Reach and Crawley Bay,
On the Swan River’s silvery breast
I’ve seen her white winged feet at play …
This stilly morning of the West
I sail my skiff of memories
Adown the river to the seas.
It’s New Year morn, alone, aloud,
Cathedral chimes are floating by;
Thoughts like to prayer about me crowd,
And all the silence underlie
That a fine people find their goal,
With heart steel-true and striving soul.

From: Kidson, May, “Perth in Morning Light” in The Sunday Times, Sunday, December 28 1924, p. 1.

Date: 1924

By: Mary “May” Amelia Doyle Kidson (c1858-1942)

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Reflections by Paul Hetherington

I stand by the river and look at the deepening sky
like thousands of people every day.
The water reflects me too but doesn’t show
who I am. I glimpse a hundred images.

The sky leans. All sense of what I am
dissolves. Crawling from the water
are worm-like words, frogs bleeding from the eyes.
I sink into the past as into mud—

children laughing, adults yelling voices
admonishing, neglecting me. I grab at the words
but they’re only bubbles of air. They placed me here

but have no substance. I am a tortuous lie,
a concoction of fantastic oddments.
Frogs sit on my hair, fish nose at my shoulders.

From: Hetherington, Paul, “Reflections” in Westerly, No. 1, March, 1990, p. 22.

Date: 1990

By: Paul Hetherington (1958- )

Monday, 30 May 2022

Rows and Rows of Rain Clouds (Yirra, Kuji, Yirra, Karti Ngayirrmani) by Yintilypirna Kaalyamarra

Cloudbank, rain, cloudbank,
row upon row of them.
The big upper-layer clouds are rising.
As a result of the host of little clouds
multiplying the country is heating up.

In the constant thunder it talks,
telling us it’s coming.
The downpour is drenching the countryside.
In the open country the raindrops are causing a soft
roaring sound,
as the swathe of the downpour passes.

Lightning is striking at the front,
the storm is causing the dust to swirl around.
Sudden silence! Splashing of falling raindrops.
Karnkulypangu* was the cause of this!

Yirra, Kuji, Yirra, Karti Ngayirrmani

Yirra, kuji, yirra, karti ngayirrmani.
Purntura ngarra maninyu.
Kapalya kurru marnanyurulu
ngurra parlangkarna-parlangkarna kamarnu.

Ngurntika wangka yulayinyu.
Ngurra kunti marnu ngurlungkangulu.
Parlkarranguraya kuji muurrkarra, jinyjirrarangka.

Ngari para pungarnu,
kurlurlu karti ngampurrjarli marnu ngurntijartulu.
Jamukarra! Warlpa warninyu.

*Rain was Karnukulypangu’s kalyartu (totem); he was therefore in charge of its increase, and so is considered to be the one responsible for this downpour. This song was composed in Ngarla, an Indigenous Aboriginal language spoken in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

From: Kinsella, John and Ryan, Tracy (eds.), The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry, 2017, Fremantle Press: Fremantle, WA, pp. [unnumbered].

Date: 2003 (published)

By: Yintilypirna Kaalyamarra (????-c1940)

Translation by: Brian Geytenbeek (1933- )