Saturday, 6 August 2011

Neater Abroad

In response to this, Umbagollah sent me a link to a poem by Les Murray - I was going to say a lovely poem by Les Murray but the lovely goes without saying really - that I hadn't read before. Here it is:

Eucalypts in Exile

They've had so many jobs:
boiling African porridge. Being printed on.
Paving Paris, flying in her revolutions.
Supporting a stork's nest in Spain.

Their suits are neater abroad,
of denser drape, unnibbled:
they've left their parasites at home.

They flower out of bullets
and, without any taproot,
draw water from way deep.
When they blow over
they reveal the black sun of that trick.

Standing round among shed limbs
and loose slabbings of bark
is homeland stuff
but fire is ingrained.
They explode the mansions of Malibu
because to be eucalypts
they have to shower sometime in Hell.

Their humans, meeting them abroad,
often grab and sniff their hands.

Loveable singly or unmarshalled
they are merciless in a gang.


  1. I'm happy you liked it. "They flower out of bullets" is terrific -- he has that way of directing the reader one way with one word -- toward flowers -- and then directing them another way with another -- toward hard metal. He goes from flesh to hard money in The Butter Factory, where "muscles / of the one deep cream were exercised to a bullion," and from trees to dead animals in Late Summer Fires, "Logs that fume are mostly cattle," or in Comete, where a woman's hair is "Like teak oiled soft." It's a surrealist instinct for unexpected contrast but it's meaty and actual. I like him a lot.

  2. Once again you've done an astonishing job of putting your finger right on the spot. As I said the other day, you are a really brilliant reader, which is such a rare thing. I wish I could be half as attentive and perceptive.

  3. Habit. I wouldn't mind writing a book or similar myself someday, so I've got into the habit of wondering, "How is that person doing it? How do they make that work?" There's that, and then there's the way that essays by other people sometimes make me stop and say, "Intelligent! That's intelligent! I wish I could do that." (The sight of James Wood explaining Jane Austen's evolving method of handling thought in her characters had me humming. "I can see it now, I can see it." )

  4. Do you have a link to that James Wood piece? It sounds fascinating.

  5. I can't find it online, but it's been published in a book of his called The Broken Estate. He has an online essay about characters in general, here:

  6. Oh great, I'll go and look for it at the National Library.