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Best Famous Les Murray Poems

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by Les Murray | |

The Mowed Hollow

 When yellow leaves the sky 
they pipe it to the houses 
to go on making red 
and warm and floral and brown 
but gradually people tire of it, 
return it inside metal, and go 
to be dark and breathe water colours.
Some yellow hangs on outside forlornly tethered to posts.
Cars chase their own supply.
When we went down the hollow under the stormcloud nations the light was generalised there from vague glass places in the trees and the colours were moist and zinc, submerged and weathered and lichen with black aisles and white poplar blues.
The only yellow at all was tight curls of fresh butter as served on stainless steel in a postwar cafe: cassia flowers, soft crystal with caraway-dipped tongues, butter mountains of cassia flowers on green, still dewed with water.


by Les Murray | |

Aurora Prone

 The lemon sunlight poured out far between things
inhabits a coolness.
Mosquitoes have subsided, flies are for later heat.
Every tree's an auburn giant with a dazzled face and the back of its head to an infinite dusk road.
Twilights broaden away from our feet too as rabbits bounce home up defiles in the grass.
Everything widens with distance, in this perspective.
The dog's paws, trotting, rotate his end of infinity and dam water feels a shiver few willow drapes share.
Bright leaks through their wigwam re-purple the skinny beans then rapidly the light tops treetops and is shortened into a day.
Everywhere stands pat beside its shadow for the great bald radiance never seen in dreams.


by Les Murray | |

Performance

 I starred that night, I shone:
I was footwork and firework in one,

a rocket that wriggled up and shot
darkness with a parasol of brilliants
and a peewee descant on a flung bit;
I was blusters of glitter-bombs expanding
to mantle and aurora from a crown,
I was fouéttes, falls of blazing paint,
para-flares spot-welding cloudy heaven,
loose gold off fierce toeholds of white,
a finale red-tongued as a haka leap:
that too was a butt of all right!

As usual after any triumph, I was
of course, inconsolable.


by Les Murray | |

The Harleys

 Blats booted to blatant 
dubbing the avenue dire
with rubbings of Sveinn Forkbeard
leading a black squall of Harleys
with Moe Snow-Whitebeard and

Possum Brushbeard and their ladies
and, sphincter-lipped, gunning,
massed in leather muscle on a run,
on a roll, Santas from Hell
like a whole shoal leaning

wide wristed, their tautness stable
in fluency, fast streetscape dwindling,
all riding astride, on the outside
of sleek grunt vehicles, woman-clung,
forty years on from Marlon.


by Les Murray | |

To Fly In Just Your Suit

 Humans are flown, or fall;
humans can't fly.
We're down with the gravity-stemmers, rare, thick-boned, often basso.
Most animals above the tides are airborne.
Typically tuned keen, they throw the ground away with wire feet and swoop rings round it.
Magpies, listening askance for their food in and under lawn, strut so hair-trigger they almost dangle on earth, out of the air.
Nearly anything can make their tailcoats break into wings.


by Les Murray | |

On The Borders

 We're driving across tableland
somewhere in the world;
it is almost bare of trees.
Upland near void of features always moves me, but not to thought; it lets me rest from thinking.
I feel no need to interpret it as if it were art.
Too much of poetry is criticism now.
That hawk, clinging to the eaves of the wind, beating its third wing, its tail isn't mine to sell.
And here is more like the space that needs to exist aound an image.
This cloud-roof country reminds me of the character of people who first encountered roses in soap.


by Les Murray | |

Predawn In Health

 The stars are filtering through a tree
outside in the moon's silent era.
Reality is moving layer over layer like crystal spheres now called laws.
The future is right behind your head; just over all horizons is the past.
The soul sits looking at its offer.


by Les Murray | |

Bats Ultrasound

 Sleeping-bagged in a duplex wing
with fleas, in rock-cleft or building
radar bats are darkness in miniature,
their whole face one tufty crinkled ear 
with weak eyes, fine teeth bared to sing.
Few are vampires.
None flit through the mirror.
Where they flutter at evening's a queer tonal hunting zone above highest C.
Insect prey at the peak of our hearing drone re to their detailing tee: ah, eyrie-ire; aero hour, eh? O'er our ur-area (our era aye ere your raw row) we air our array err, yaw, row wry - aura our orrery, our eerie ü our ray, our arrow.
A rare ear, our aery Yahweh.


by Les Murray | |

The Images Alone

 Scarlet as the cloth draped over a sword,
white as steaming rice, blue as leschenaultia,
old curried towns, the frog in its green human skin;
a ploughman walking his furrow as if in irons, but
as at a whoop of young men running loose
in brick passages, there occurred the thought
like instant stitches all through crumpled silk:

as if he'd had to leap to catch the bullet.
A stench like hands out of the ground.
The willows had like beads in their hair, and Peenemünde, grunted the dentist's drill, Peenemünde! Fowls went on typing on every corn key, green kept crowding the pinks of the peach trees into the sky but used speech balloons were tacky in the river and waterbirds had liftoff as at a repeal of gravity.


by Les Murray | |

Cockspur Bush

 I am lived.
I am died.
I was two-leafed three times, and grazed, but then I was stemmed and multiplied, sharp-thorned and caned, nested and raised, earth-salt by sun-sugar.
I was innerly sung by thrushes who need fear no eyed skin thing.
Finched, ant-run, flowered, I am given the years in now fewer berries, now more of sling out over directions of luscious dung.
Of water crankshaft, of gases the gears my shape is cattle-pruned to a crown spread sprung above the starve-gut instinct to make prairies of everywhere.
My thorns are stuck with caries of mice and rank lizards by the butcher bird.
Inches in, baby seed-screamers get supplied.
I am lived and died in, vine woven, multiplied.


by Les Murray | |

Pigs

 Us all on sore cement was we.
Not warmed then with glares.
Not glutting mush under that pole the lightning's tied to.
No farrow-shit in milk to make us randy.
Us back in cool god-shit.
We ate crisp.
We nosed up good rank in the tunnelled bush.
Us all fuckers then.
And Big, huh? Tusked the balls-biting dog and gutsed him wet.
Us shoved down the soft cement of rivers.
Us snored the earth hollow, filled farrow, grunted.
Never stopped growing.
We sloughed, we soughed and balked no weird till the high ridgebacks was us with weight-buried hooves.
Or bristly, with milk.
Us never knowed like slitting nor hose-biff then.
Nor the terrible sheet-cutting screams up ahead.
The burnt water kicking.
This gone-already feeling here in no place with our heads on upside down.


by Les Murray | |

Late Summer Fires

 The paddocks shave black
with a foam of smoke that stays,
welling out of red-black wounds.
In the white of a drought this happens.
The hardcourt game.
Logs that fume are mostly cattle, inverted, stubby.
Tree stumps are kilns.
Walloped, wiped, hand-pumped, even this day rolls over, slowly.
At dusk, a family drives sheep out through the yellow of the Aboriginal flag.


by Les Murray | |

Amandas Painting

 In the painting, I'm seated in a shield,
coming home in it up a shadowy river.
It is a small metal boat lined in eggshell and my hands grip the gunwale rims.
I'm a composite bow, tensioning the whole boat, steering it with my gaze.
No oars, no engine, no sails.
I'm propelling the little craft with speech.
The faded rings around the loose bulk shirt are of five lines each, a musical lineation and the shirt is apple-red, soaking in salt birth-sheen more liquid than the river.
My cap is a teal mask pushed back so far that I can pretend it is headgear.
In the middle of the river are cobweb cassowary trees of the South Pacific, and on the far shore rise dark hills of the temperate zone.
To these, at this moment in the painting's growth, my course is slant but my eye is on them.
To relax, to speak European.


by Les Murray | |

Comete

 Uphill in Melbourne on a beautiful day
a woman is walking ahead of her hair.
Like teak oiled soft to fracture and sway it hung to her heels and seconded her as a pencilled retinue, an unscrolling title to ploughland, edged with ripe rows of dress, a sheathed wing that couldn't fly her at all, only itself, loosely, and her spirits.
A largesse of life and self, brushed all calm and out, its abstracted attempts on her mouth weren't seen, not its showering, its tenting.
Just the detail that swam in its flow-lines, glossing about-- as she paced on, comet-like, face to the sun.


by Les Murray | |

On Home Beaches

 Back, in my fifties, fatter that I was then,
I step on the sand, belch down slight horror to walk
a wincing pit edge, waiting for the pistol shot
laughter.
Long greening waves cash themselves, foam change sliding into Ocean's pocket.
She turns: ridicule looks down, strappy, with faces averted, or is glare and families.
The great hawk of the beach is outstretched, point to point, quivering and hunting.
Cars are the stuff at its back.
You peer, at this age, but it's still there, ridicule, the pistol that kills women, that gets them killed, crippling men on the towel-spattered sand.
Equality is dressed, neatly, with mouth still shut.
Bared body is not equal ever.
Some are smiled to each other.
Many surf, swim, play ball: like that red boy, holding his wet T shirt off his breasts.


by Les Murray | |

The Sleepout

 Childhood sleeps in a verandah room
in an iron bed close to the wall
where the winter over the railing 
swelled the blind on its timber boom

and splinters picked lint off warm linen
and the stars were out over the hill;
then one wall of the room was forest
and all things in there were to come.
Breathings climbed up on the verandah when dark cattle rubbed at the corner and sometimes dim towering rain stood for forest, and the dry cave hunched woollen.
Inside the forest was lamplit along tracks to a starry creek bed and beyond lay the never-fenced country, its full billabongs all surrounded by animals and birds, in loud crustings, and sometimes kept leaping up amongst them.
And out there, to kindle whenever dark found it, hung the daylight moon.


by Les Murray | |

The Meaning Of Existence

 Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time know nothing else.
They express it moment by moment as the universe.
Even this fool of a body lives it in part, and would have full dignity within it but for the ignorant freedom of my talking mind.


by Les Murray | |

The Aboriginal Cricketer

 Mid-9th century

Good-looking young man
in your Crimean shirt
with your willow shield
up, as if to face spears,

you're inside their men's Law,
one church they do obey;
they'll remember you were here.
Keep fending off their casts.
Don't come out of character.
Like you they suspect idiosyncrasy of witchcraft.
Above all, don't get out too easily, and have to leave here where all missiles are just leather and come from one direction.
Keep it noble.
Keep it light.