After the Latin

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After the Latin
(for Peter Porter)

It's florets of thought that take the palm, but remember
   to use moderation in jokes. The gods,
those connoisseurs of quipping, as they suppose,
   are easily bored. A dolphin in the woods,

a boar in the waves — it's all too Disney for the deathless,
   and they won't buy the smoke you blow.
Cheese is healthy when given with a sparing hand,
   but an empty keg is easily rolled,
even a hair has its shadow, the ticket to Dis
   is always single, a gilded bit
won't cure a horse if he's turned funkstick and propped,
   and yes, new fields of corn are waving
where Troy once stood.

They change the sky but not their soul who run
   across the sea: the impartial earth
gapes for the child of a pauper as for a princeling:
   forget the abacus when you're counting
the lucky — they're matched by white crows. At a crossroads,
   a hare is biffing a dead lion,
some wolves shepherding their flock, a jackdaw
   declining the lute. All praise to virtue,
shivering in the Arctic weather, but silver   
   won't stink, and every staff
of empire's truly crooked at the top.
   Good luck to you, son: remember the fig-tree:
      it turns marble to shards.

Peter Steele

Peter Steele SJ is Professor Emeritus in the English Department at the University of Melbourne. His most recent collection of poetry is White Knight with Beebox: New and Selected Poems (John Leonard Press 2008). His obituary for Peter Porter was published last week in Eureka Street.

Topic tags: new australian poem, Peter Steele, After the Latin, for Peter Porter



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Peter, I love the image of the fig tree at the end, puts a whole new take on the proximity of the withering fig tree and the destruction of the temple in the gospel accounts.

Anne Elvey | 07 May 2010  

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