Friday, April 24, 2009

An Aussie poem for Anzac Day

South of my days' circle, part of my blood's country,
rises that tableland, high delicate outline
of bony slopes wincing under the winter,
low trees, blue-leaved and olive, outcropping granite-
clean, lean, hungry country. The creek's leaf-silenced,
willow choked, the slope a tangle of medlar and crabapple
branching over and under, blotched with a green lichen;
and the old cottage lurches in for shelter.

O cold the black-frost night. the walls draw in to the warmth
and the old roof cracks its joints; the slung kettle
hisses a leak on the fire. Hardly to be believed that summer
will turn up again some day in a wave of rambler-roses,
thrust it's hot face in here to tell another yarn-
a story old Dan can spin into a blanket against the winter.
Seventy years of stories he clutches round his bones,
seventy years are hived in him like old honey.

During that year, Charleville to the Hunter,
nineteen-one it was, and the drought beginning;
sixty head left at the McIntyre, the mud round them
hardened like iron; and the yellow boy died
in the sulky ahead with the gear, but the horse went on,
stopped at Sandy Camp and waited in the evening.
It was the flies we seen first, swarming like bees.
Came to the Hunter, three hundred head of a thousand-
cruel to keep them alive - and the river was dust.

Or mustering up in the Bogongs in the autumn
when the blizzards came early. Brought them down;
down, what aren't there yet. Or driving for Cobb's on the run
up from Tamworth - Thunderbolt at the top of Hungry Hill,
and I give him a wink. I wouldn’t wait long, Fred,
not if I was you. The troopers are just behind,

coming for that job at the Hillgrove. He went like a luny,
him on his big black horse.

Oh, they slide and they vanish
as he shuffles the years like a pack of conjuror's cards.
True or not, it's all the same; and the frost on the roof
cracks like a whip, and the back-log break into ash.
Wake, old man. This is winter, and the yarns are over.
No-one is listening
South of my days' circle.
I know it dark against the stars, the high lean country
full of old stories that still go walking in my sleep.

Any objection that this makes no reference to "heroes", "sacrifice" or "Simpson and his donkey" is the work of small minds.

29 comments:

wari lasi said...

You really are very well read aren't you Ramon? If not, you fake it very well.

I quite like that, apart from the fact that there's no mention of heroes, sacrifice or Simpson's donkey of course.

Going to a dawn service tomorrow?

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Going to a dawn service tomorrow?

My colleagues are now wondering why I've fallen off my chair in laughter.

And it is a real poem.

Perseus said...

It's a better Australian poem than the 'hero/sacrifice' genre, because she gets the flies, the river as dust and even a leaky kettle into it.

A fine piece of poesy, this one.

Boogeyman said...

I imagine the only dawn service Ramon will ever see is a last call for drinks before being kicked out of the pub at 6am.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

You know me too well, Boogey.

wari lasi said...

Unpatriotic heathens!

Maybe it's an expat thing, but I was at a nightclub last night and every Australian there, about 10 of them, are going to the dawn service at Bomana War Cemetry tomorrow morning. It's actually a very moving experience. There's also shit loads of people walking the track this time of year so they're expecting hundreds of people to be there.

Free breakfast and rum at the High Comm afterwards has nothing to do with it.

squib said...

seventy years are hived in him like old honey.beautiful

I had to read my Anzac poem at school assembly once. How bad was it?

Final lines:

'Freedom to our nation for ever more
Let's give a mighty roar
Freedom!'

LOL

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

So, how old were you when you wrote that, Squib?

25? 26?

wari lasi said...

School at 25, 26?

That only happens here.

I've just been having a read about Ms Wright. She wasn't just an outstanding poet, quite an impressive woman.

squib said...

haha Ramon

Perseus said...

Squib's school poem did become the Fremantle Dockers theme song, so that was something.

squib said...

That's right

so there

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I've done the odd bit of bad poetry writing, myself.

Usually after listening to too much Smiths

squib said...

Please share, as I have done, Ramon

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

What, Squib, are you nuts?

That poetry ain't going nowhere.

Perseus said...

Garn Ramon, you're amongst strangers here.

I sent one of my poems to Squib and she said (and I quote) "it doesn't suck".

I'm calling for next Friday's poem to be an original Insertnamehere.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Not until I get my tea-towel.

Melba said...

I'm glad it didn't include the word "digger" which has been seriously degraded by over use with reference to Iraq, Afghanistan and the like.

Modern soliders are soldiers, they're not diggers.

And on Bad Poetry, we've all done it. It would be fun to make everyone contribute anonymously, and then try to match people to their Bad Poems.

Perseus said...

Mine are too easy to pick, unless someone else writes invective-laden bawdy pirate poems.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

invective-laden bawdy pirate poems.

Weirdo.

Melba said...

No pirates in my poems, but there was a viking.

Hmmm, so not going to happen, hey?

eat my shorts said...

I'm so glad you posted this poem, Ramon. It's one of my very very favourites. In fact, I heart it so much that I refuse to teach it because that ruins it.

I probably shouldn't admit that, but it's just nice to have something to myself that I don't have to share with the kids. Selfish, I know but sometimes they just suck the joy right out of things with their "poetry is gay", "everything is gay", "omg school is so gay" crap.

Boogeyman said...

Omg Ms Shortz, ur so ghey bcuz u dont spil it 'gay' you spil it 'ghey' bcuz calling it gay wud say that like skool waz like homosexual and only luved other skools that wur the same gendr n stuff. Same wif potery an stuff 2. Ur totl n00b Ms Shotz.

eat my shorts said...

Omg i no lolz :pp i was totes on msn wif tazza n dazza n dey sed skool cant be gay coz skools got no boyz bitz and skools got no gurlz bitz! lolz! hahahaa lol!


[Aside: I think that may have just made my head explode.]

WitchOne said...

Ok, so, we're taking the kids to the dawn service tomorrow at the local RSL, I have never been to a dawn service before but I am aware rum is involved. Apparently mixed with milk. ewwwww

As an aside from the rum, tell me I'm not a bad mother for the following explanation of why we are getting up stupidly early.

Now son, there was a naughty country that wanted to tell us what to do, and we didn't want to do what they said because they were mean. So they said they'd smack us if we didn't and we said bring it on baby. Lots of men and women were hurt or even died, just like Grumpy did, they became stars and we have to go out really early before they go to sleep with the moon to say thank-you.

God, it looks like a load of shit, I've no idea how a 4 year feels about it. I'm not very good with children, can you tell?

catlick said...

I am totally in awe of you Witchywoman, as apparently you will have caught less than 5 hours sleep and be herding cats before dawn. respec!

WitchOne said...

Came home for a 3 hour nap afterwards. The turn out was awesome, even the local footy club came fully kitted out in their uniforms.

Great to see so many young kids and teenagers there.

And it was about 4 hours sleep. Plus a hangover.

catlick said...

It's a tenuous segue, but there are now 2 similar products:- couch napping suits, advertised on television. They combine the thermal qualities of a doona or blanket with the ease of nightwear. I fear they will become the smoking jacket of this century.
This is after discovering that entire wardrobes of fluorescent clothing are available for sale in the hardware stores.
I. Am. Appalled.

wari lasi said...

Well done Witchie. We got up at 4. Emma wanted to come but I told her it was still night time and to go back to sleep.

The dawn service at Bomana was amazing as usual. It really is very moving. We had heaps of rain on Friday afternoon and night so the turnout was unexpected. Mud everywhere. I had my first rum coffee at the Aussie High Comm at 6:15. I'm a pretty committed alcoholic but rum has hooks in it at that hour of the morning. Two up at various clubs around town, more drinks, more drinks, I actually had a meeting with a client at 10, but had warned them what I was up to.

It was a long, long day. And I love your explanation to your young one. I may shamelessly plagiarise various parts of it.