Uncollected: Lunch & Counter Lunch
Lunch & Counter Lunch was a landmark collection for Les Murray. Peter Porter wrote in a letter to the poet of 1975, "I want you to know how much I admire the poems in Lunch & Counter Lunch. With this book you become the best poet writing in Australia and one of the best anywhere in the English-speaking world."
All but four poems from Lunch & Counter Lunch make it into the New Collected Poems (see Bibliography). These are all included on this page, together with some useful Notes on five of the collected poems. Bikini and After Lunch, were originally published under the title "Four Senryu", appearing in that order between "Company" and "On the Wreckage of a Hijacked Airliner" (both collected; an earlier collected poem called "Senryu" appears in the New Collected Poems).
As I walked in Garema Place
I met a man with shining face
who cried I am not In The Know!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
All the rabbits that the myx-
omatosis did not fix
are now breeding in the hedges
round the Parliamentary edges
of Lake Burley freezing Griffin
and by night may be seen sniffin
g at the corridors of power:
No man knows the day, nor hour.
Citizens live in peace and honour
in Pearce and Higgins and O'Connor,
Campbellites drive Mercedes Benzes,
lobbyists multiply in Menzies
but why not name suburbs for ideas
which equally have shaped our years?
I shall play a set of tennis
in the gardens of Red Menace
Shall I scorn to plant a dahlia
in the soil of White Australia?
Who will call down Lewis Mumford
on the streets of Frugal Comfort?
O buy in Gorton and be content:
Guarded drinkers in the Wello
on the point of growing mellow
sometimes whisper to the Press
facts which could not matter less.
Mow the parklands
gild the Mace
keep our capital
The interstate driver soon discerns
that twelve identical statues of Burns
are unlikely even in this braw town
and that there are Circles, interwound
to test, by his cunning and his mettle,
whether he shall go home, or settle.
The Canberra Cop is tall and lean
with his chrome breast tag and his hot machine
and the Canberra court has marble cells
where prisoners waken to muted bells
and breakfast on croissants and honey.
It costs us all a heap of money.
A China Coast veteran once told me
a tale I thought exemplary:
The Dragon Emperors had long gone
but one gowned official lingered on,
his emblem of office a lengthy, slick-
ly polished bamboo timing stick,
his task, on Shanghai's riverbank
to open the nightsoil merchants' rank
wheelbarrow vessels, stir, dip deep
and judge, from the flow or lascivious creep
of the product down his staff, its grade,
origin, purity . . . A whole trade,
eater to carter to shipper to farmer
depended on this morning drama:
landowners planning next year's crops,
green faces of European cops,
the Analyst crying: First Grade Rich Quarter
or: Fifth Grade Coolie, plus tapwater
As I listened, servants of the Crown
and media staffs all over town
minutely assessed the GNP
and cash flows, and liquidity.
But Canberra's neither cold nor soulless
(except to those unsold, or coalless)
she has her delightsI won't distort 'em
wide embassies of Spring and Autumn.
It was all vivid. The Southern Cross passed M. Bleriot
and his rain-squall-cooled engine. A red Fokker conjured the Luftwaffe.
Wings creaked over oceans, Lindbergh chasing them sideways
the Flying Doctor aligned on folklore's two-legged windsock.
It was death and adventure. The interrupter gear fired through it.
Even when bombs screamed Guernica, and Rotterdammed Europe
and more than Europe, it sparkled. The rotors shoaled upward.
Boys worshipped SAC and June Allyson, beta rays in their bones.
And then it sagged. Even as paddies doused napalm
and robots, of flesh and metal, impinged on the moon
the records were fading to paper, the Boeings to buses
and people were starting again to dream of flying.
The painter sat close to tears. The wall he had worked
was a river of surface bearing his clean wings away.
The machines shaped like power and prayer had lost that balance
deeply. It was all mastery, and all mastered.
Greying men praised piston fighters: They were the sweetest
bone meat of man's estrangement. We outftew it in them.
But boys rose into the sky, heads sheeted in flame
and the ruined ones dived on sitting rooms worse than on mills.
In that strange time, the painter started trying
many things on the air: wheels, mountains, picnic parties,
the underside of ploughing; shares like reversed steel fins
streamed the furrow layer. And then he depicted the dead
with silver faces, and broke through on wisdom. He made them
mix with the living in all the streets of that weather
forgiving and boasting. The living asked questions and cried.
Men wiring a rocket stage looked up, sensing something.
But even their ground was bound by unravelling winds
to the great earth herself, the flyer among flyers.
Only the forceful and the despairing people
now bet on the wall being thick, opaque or endless
and not a surface for art (there is no other)
the everywhere door of the dead, and love's sheer standard.
The planet was worked with cities and oceans and stems
and though on a globe, the fields rose and fell, with horizons
so wonderful was the workmanship. I saw children
planting out delicate seedlings to learn engineering.
Steel and acanthus were longing to marry again.
A man in that city worked on growth-rate figures:
Somewhere between these and the earliest weapon, he said
is the Enemy. We thought he had holed up in incest
a dead airman told him Watch out for the hun in the Sun.
The painter's brush danced like the spirit of detachment
and its every touch was a human figure of calm
free readiness, at the meeting place of now wings.
Here I went into the wall, the dimensionless judgement.
The last I saw of the foothold earth, it was flying,
a faithful Dakota, a vibrant Spad, a royal Zeppelin
with its Walrus islands and scuffed Friendship towns
on sidereal course, the sun on its upper ice planes,
stunting Hercules-ward at some immense but not ravenous
speed that might silver its colours off. The bombs
in its concrete bays were dying of power and stance
but those who praised Udet and Hinkler, they glittered like grains.
I went with no ripcord and was among friends forever.
THE LIPS MOVE DURING ANOINTING is based on the common road hauliers' legend of the motorcycle policeman who harasses truck drivers until one night, when he is riding close behind a speeding truck, its driver tramps hard on the brakes. In many versions, the policeman's head is torn off by the truck's tray, or by a load of sheet iron.
JÓZSEF. halevai: a Yiddish exclamation, actually part of a longer Hebrew phrase, and signifies "It should happen to you!" Bird's milk (Hungarian: Madártej): a rich egg custard speckled through with globules of meringue. Also called gojahép (stork's down).
THE BREACH. "Ware" is Special Sergeant Harry Ware (1897-1970), founder and first Officer-in-Charge of NSW Police Cliff Rescue Squad.
CYCLING IN THE LAKE COUNTRY. Lionel Brockman is an Aboriginal West Australian who escaped from prison and vanished in the back country of WA, sparking off the largest and most expensive manhunt in the State's history. Recaptured, he escaped again a few months before he was due for release.
THE ACTION. The Kyle (from Gaelic caol: narrow) is a small heavily forested range of mountains on the lower North Coast of NSW. Most of the rivers which feed the Myall Lakes rise there. The star-names in the poem are from Scottish Gaelic: Great Bluff (Ruaill Mór) is called Sirius in English, the Five Hounds of Oscar (Coig Gadhair Oscair) are part of the constellation we call The Plough, the High or Upper Lazy One (Leisgag Ard) is Altair, and the Lower Lazy One (Leisgag Iosal) is known to us as Vega.