Uncollected: Poems Against Economics

Poems Against Economics was published in 1972 (see Bibliography). "The volume consisted of three sections: the Cook Prize-winning 'Seven Points for an Imperilled Star', which subtly raised questions as to what kind of country Australia was, and where it should be going; 'Juggernaut's Little Scrapbook', which pressed sharp spurs of satire into the national hide; and 'Walking to the Cattle-Place, a complex and learned series of meditations of the significance of the cow-culture in which Murray had been raised, and which drew on his curious and varied knowledge of other cattle-cultures, ranging from Celt to Sanskrit to Zulu." (Peter Alexander in Les Murray: A Life in Progress)

A Helicopter View of Terrestrial Stars appeared as the final poem of "Seven Points for an Imperilled Star"; the others are found in the New Collected Poems preceding the "Walking to the Cattle Place" series.

Only one poem from the "Juggernaut's Little Scrapbook" makes it into the New Collected Poems, "Incorrigible Grace". The others are In Australia They Spare Only the Kulaks, The ASIO Bug, Sunday, Having Read My Sheets and Dependence. The section had a caustic epigraph:

For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.  PROVERBS 1:32

Middle Earth appeared as one of the "Walking to the Cattle Place" series, between Beöpis and The Pure Food Act. The Boeotian Count included a helpful footnote on the last line ("where Khama is Līlā"): "Līlā (Sanskrit): play, disports."

 Collected Poems from Poems Against Economics

 Other Uncollected Poems





A Helicopter View of Terrestrial Stars

Turn slowly in fields
And there is a star all around you.
Even out in wide country, the bush gone back miles,
In the angle of paddock and fence-line, the embayments of light
It is the old star of settlement
That will dilate, or contract perhaps, in your time.
Back just at the edge of memory, it was not there.

And rising up
In our forward posture
Under a palm-tree of blades above stelliform cities
Memory is strengthened regarding the human task, seeing
Asia below,
The river-plains thronged with the tenant constellations
That fall back from gravel, from height
Like Saxons from heather
Till each middle kingdom appears in the light of cleared space
A tissue worthy of language,
A pulse among stems.

Beside some of these
The shield of David is young.
Only the hunters' frail meteor descends
From more ancient darkness. It may flicker out in our life.
The star of work will go nova, maybe. But not cold
For it is time
And every true human clearing is where time began
And has been kept open.

Dead effort, lost bricks,
A child's plate of sand,
The nimbus of rose-briars ghostly in green brush
Going back to five petals
Nowhere is far from that.
Against this, the seasons were hacked, with unending spadework
From the wild, their dim house, for people beyond them in streets,
That is, for a lady
At the tender core of a space kept open with iron
She need not ever acknowledge with her mouth.
In the dark of refinement
Her blood must encompass the Sun.

And these are the stars for our journey in this revelation,
The galaxy earth we have built.
In every azimuth we are thinking of our country,
Oh, not the triple-cross canton, that tick-gate of caste
On the Shareholder Plains
We think of the lonely stars of our consent
To what is done far down in smoking fields
And rotors and engine
Throb too loud for speech.

Vietnam, Viet Nam,
Green ladder of the ruthless,
What classes scale your struts of print and flesh.
It is very low down,
Perhaps not crop-high now beneath the chopper-blades
That the rays of effort keep their ancient core.
Flames swivel from food
As the abstractions hit.
Among the impact-shapes, pit here, corpse there,
The scar of a house looks strangely well-positioned,
Its faint, unhurried reasons
Surrounding it still.

By the tailed rockets' crux and criss-cross
Who will be enemy in the crowded man's war?
The last creatures? The hills?
Soldiers and earthmovers here are so hugely equipped.
Our hovering metal containment
Is steadily pierced.
What we contain, we brought. It is loose in the world.
Discharged through us
It flows back redoubled
Into our country that wanted to doze until greatness.

And sent to buy safety
From the conjured wind
We are dismissed from the stars of long contemplation
To fight in a running-dog war
Or a running-dog peace,
Two aerolites that wake no cattle-duffers
(What grass indeed would those fellows hope to reach
In an Iroquois' belly?)

It saps the mind's tree
It dulls the iron roofs' candour
And the emulous spirit who wants these forgotten rejoices,
Crying abroad A third of all fields must be struck
By the star called politics

And such longed-for estoiles of terror
As light the unloved—

But didn't the fly's child at stool in the peasant's slashed throat
Say power is madness?

South, south in our conquered home island
Turn slowly in fields
And there is a star all around you.
Only on featureless plain or flat-calm sea
Are you always mid-point.

There wind the furrows' old Gaelic
And smoke in cleared days.
You can never be whole there again, having entered Time's spiral
It's so often proclaimed
But what have we loved better since?
Timekeeping, perhaps? Our scab of dependence the Crown?
The zodiac money?

Look from Kurnell. The houses
Are aching with tedious light.
Hard to say whether the subtle sky-rim of our tenure
Or the home-paddock heart is more unexplored,
Which faith more benumbed in memory
Or cluttered with lines.

Is it too harsh to hope this hamburger consummation,
This speeded-up print of our riches
May drive some to faith,
To thinking of futures that have concurrence of trees?

To look, with some failure of reticence, on into home country
Where Heaven lasts for a month and Tasmanian saints
Welcome sheepish white troopers,
Where the dogger runs barefoot through the whole fire-season
To dance with storekeepers' children and long-legged cranes,
And the lady is honoured young
At last, and the holy ground
And every man as finely employed as a species.

In Australia They Spare Only the Kulaks

All night I talked to the treetops
I told them Make very small leaves
For the ringbarking spirit has come
And has stolen our country,

He is selling it off in the night
To the old and new lords of dead wood—
All night in the house, the good timber,
My last night of rain.

Now that it's morning, the cupboards
And four-legged cattle and chairs
Go out through my life.
Ignoring the souls of my neighbours,

My arm a lever already,
In the planners' aurora, I smoke,
Thinking ahead, perhaps far
To a savage Nuremberg on economics.

The ASIO Bug

Bug, little bug, you are eating
The franchise out of my grip;
Weren't the poor practical brains
Of our Cabinet enough?
How did it taste, our poor
Three-quarters-sovereign flag?
And all those paper careers?
Bug, I swear, you must have titanium bowels.

And weren't we pliant enough,
Youth slick with the pale thought of caste,
Age flimsy with fake independence
And both too mature to think,
Did we need you, too, in our flesh
Little coil of despair?

Sunday, Having Read My Sheets

Face-brick in please and thank you streets,
Tower blocks squinted at bottom to top
Like immensely steep accounts, impend
More. And a strange soil haloes them.

To think how many died for a wheel
That was to stay on till Moscow but
Not make Kazan. Then somehow it did.
A sad and complex win for steel.

Now the Aryans rub at caste again,
O stateless state of brahmin lords!
O gnostic heaven, with just my peers!

The New World must have frightened some
Badly, to fight three ducks on a wall.
Hide in the open and last it out.

Dependence

The
needle
is

colonial

as the
rose

Middle Earth

Middle Earth is a dead man's cup
A craftsman's inch, a ship of trees
Those windows cleaned for the seasons, fields
Light walkers in the watchful air.

The browsing beasts in Middle Earth
Have eaten the wild to woods. They drowse
On shade and the litter of themselves.
Rule is a late decay in kings.

The kirubi bulls, crowned, human-faced,
Guarding mud brick and museum wings
Modelled the speaking pitch of light:
Kherubīm. And the ruin of their walls began.

Minotaur has no faith to keep.
Between the jet-flare and the ferns
Between, indeed, the boot and the face
Stands Middle Earth, the width of a cow.

In Middle Earth they are telling the tale of that sheepman
Who rented his flock out as mowers on all the slack lawns.
In springtime the shearers came singing on the monorail.

Like a faint greening slant in the climate, Middle Earth
Softens concrete with nicknames. It knows the hard buckles in fun.
Reserve and tomatoes do well in the wound clothesline farms.

In Middle Earth they are telling the tale of that pieman
Who asked for a meaning and was placed in a scale.
Pigment and chutneys are level till that is atoned.

Adept of cousinship, birthday-remembering, stubborn
Middle Earth, with your dishes and named beasts,
For want of your year, the New World reels with adventure.

The rocket is coarse leaf, the mining is death
But Middle Earth is the coal for speech
A patient patch in a fighting shirt
And cattle stepping through miles of sea

Toward resuming grasslands where
A bull, having masterfully done, withdraws
The thong defining furnace ground
And a gold cup's safe in a sheoak tree.

Middle Earth is the ace of cups
A venturing reed and a yarning hat
Metropolis there is four or five, thanking
Counters for showing us their day.




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