Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Take Away that Nasty Taste

After yesterday's post, some decent poems are in order. Here are a couple that I like:

Bird-watching with Mr Long, by Geoffrey Lehmann

'What's that bird, Mr Long?'
'That's a chipper.'
'What's that small bird over there?'
'That's a fly-bird.'

There's a forest I'll never see again
where birds with exotic names
whistle to each other,
flashing blue and scarlet
as they dart and fan their wings.

'What will you have for breakfast, Mr Long?'
asked my father.
'I could eat the leg of the Holy Ghost,'
replied Mr Long (meaning toast).
'I would not have expected that of you!'
said my father with ice.
But Mr Long was rarely put out.

On a wooden chair by my bed
there's hot cocoa I'll drain fast
because these autumn nights
are taking the warmth out of things
as they loosen the poplars' yellow leaves.

Then I'm going on that journey
Mr Long always promised
through the spinifex
with a covered wagon and cockatoo,
cooking fish on river stones,
to Palm Valley and its wild blacks.
'What's that bird, Mr Long?'
'That's a parson bird with the white collar.'
'And that one over there?'
'That's a grey hopper.'

Walking all day
out on the western plains, Mr Long
could sustain himself
with a line of trees on the horizon.

How to Fold Army Blankets, by Jamie Grant

Everyone's breath burst out of their mouths
just like the smoke breathed
from the lips of rifles facing the range,

that shattered man-made
hummock whose undigested belly-full
of shells would one day

stand to baffle archaeology. Each
morning we'd parade
outside the canteen, polished thoughts still wreathed

with figments strange
as dreams. Nights of fitful sleep on sacks of hay.
The mountain peak south

from the camp was blocked neatly as the tall
crown of my old slouch
hat. The days marched on a curve which always

returned to its start;
they finished with the prim geometry
invented to make

soldiers out of children - with heartless
which scrubbed, aligned or folded whatever

we weren't expected
to salute. Imprisoned in those ways
we were taught the art

of folding the army's blankets - we'd take
the stitched seam over,
so and so, till it became a flawless

cube of wool, reflected -
in shape at least - in the cold metal pans
they served our meals from.

Remembering that hard-earned skill, a bored
civil servant years
from his army days folded up the map

of Vietnam
the morning we left the camp. His office
must have been spotless,

with calf-bound volumes lined up into squads,
every paper-clip
gleaming. None of us knew a thing about

that room. The frost-smoke
mountains watched us as we started out
on another clear

cold morning. I longed to fold that country
like a rug which we
could stow forever out of mind. No one spoke.


  1. I do enjoy coming across new poetry like this. It's not something I read too much of, so you remind me that I should.

  2. Hello again Madame. A little poetry goes a long way - very economical stuff. I would like to memorise some. I always admire people who have lots of the stuff packed away in their head.