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."
Turn slowly in fields
And rising up
Beside some of these
Dead effort, lost bricks,
And these are the stars for our journey in this revelation,
Vietnam, Viet Nam,
By the tailed rockets' crux and criss-cross
And sent to buy safety
It saps the mind's tree
But didn't the fly's child at stool in the peasant's slashed throat
South, south in our conquered home island
There wind the furrows' old Gaelic
Look from Kurnell. The houses
Is it too harsh to hope this hamburger consummation,
To look, with some failure of reticence, on into home country
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.
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
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?
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.
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.