Recent Poems

These poems are from Les Murray's latest poetry volume, Waiting for the Past which was published in March and April 2015.

High Foliage

Leaves absorbing light
steep it in syrups down
into the buried world.
Leaves of the forest
feasting for the Sun.

Mind assembling below
in a language of levels
strung through soil, roots, grit,
chemistries being messaged
across moist fungi web.

Foliage is loose flight
around the top of orders:
a branch to wither,
a giant fig to fruit,
flowering to be started.

Greenest in blue and red
leaves tread on the sky
lending light its flavours
as the blind computer plays
between core and star.


One who’d been my friendly Gran
was now mostly barred from me,
accomplishing her hard death
on that strange farm miles away.

My mother was nursing her
so we couldn’t be at home.
Dad had to stay out there, milking,
appearing sometimes, with his people,
all waiting for the past.

Hiding from the grief
this day, I dropped off a verandah
and started walking

barefoot through the paddocks
until the gravel road
gave me my home direction.

Cool dust of evening,
dark moved in from the road edges
and the sky trees, penciling
across the pale ahead.

Bare house lights slowly passed
far out beside me.
No car lights. No petrol.
It was the peak of war

but no one had taught me fear
of ghosts or burnout streaks
from the stars above my walking.

Canter, though, gathered behind
and came level. The rider
pulled me aloft by the wrist
Now where are you off—

Back where a priest had just been
cursed out of the morning room,
I was hugged and laughed over
for the miles I’d covered.

Years later, it would come down
to me that Grannie’s death had
been hidden away, as cancer

still was then, a guilt in women.
One man was punched for asking
Did Emily have a growth?

Eating from the Dictionary

Plucked chook we called Poultry, or Fowl,
a meat rare in our kitchens, crepe-skinned
for festivity or medicine.

As Chooks alive, they were placid
donors of eggs and mild music.
Perches and dark gave them sleep.

Then came the false immigration
of millions crying in tin hell-ships
warmed all night by shit-haloed bulbs,

the coarsest species, re-named Chicken,
were fresh meat for mouths too long corned.
Valleys south of ours deigned to farm them.

When our few silver-pencilled Wyandottes
went down with a mystery plague,
their heads trailing back on their wings

no vet could diagnose them.
Chickens don’t live long enough
to get sick, laughed battery keepers.

Much later, when all our birds were dead
a boy of eleven who kept
name breeds said they had suffered

spinal worm. And was there a cure?
Sure. Garlic in their drinking water.
He named a small ration per year.

His parents vouched for him. No need.
We’d seen his small flock, and the trust
that tottered round him on zinc feet.

I Wrote a Little Haiku

I wrote a little haiku
titled The Springfields:

Lead drips out of
a burning farm rail.
Their Civil War.

Critics didn’t like it,
said it was obscure—

The title was the rifle
both American sides bore,
lead was its heavy bullet,
the Miniť, which tore

often wet with blood and sera
into the farmyard timbers
and forests of that era,
wood that, burnt even now,

might still re-melt and pour
out runs of silvery ichor
the size of wasted semen
it had annulled before.

Goths in Leipzig

Black was pouring out
of the Kaiser's mighty station,
kohl mingling with floral:
it was the Goths, dressed not prole
but precarian, crossing
sunken tramway of the Platz
in balmoral and crinoline
besoming the pavement up
into the city's Kultur precinct,
Goths of half Europe,
clad in gilet and swart ruff
leading small chimney children,
bolero and culottes and
gold-buttoned mariachi pants,
nothing military or uniform,
chest hair T-shirted in voile
strolling in the rung clangour
of Sankt Nikolai post Mass,
Goths, parading not marching
a funereal insouciance,
older tourists silencing qualms
at any European unison.

© Copyright 2015 Les Murray. All rights reserved.<>