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Diabetica and other poems


Eating from the dictionary

Plucked chook we called Poultry, or Fowl,
a meat rare in our kitchens, crepe-skinned
for festivity or medicine.

As Chooks alive, they were placid
donors of eggs and mild music.
Perches and dark gave them sleep.

Then came the false immigration
of millions crying in tin hell-ships
warmed all night by shit-haloed bulbs,

the coarsest species, re-named Chicken,
were fresh meat for mouths too long corned.
Valleys south of ours deigned to farm them.

When our few silver-pencilled Wyandottes
went down with a mystery plague,
their heads trailing back on their wings

no vet could diagnose them.
Chickens don't live long enough
to get sick, laughed battery keepers.

Much later, when all our birds were dead
a boy of eleven who kept
name breeds said they had suffered

spinal worm. And was there a cure?
Sure. Garlic in their drinking water.
He named a small ration per year.

His parents vouched for him. No need.
We'd seen his small flock, and the trust
that tottered round him on zinc feet.


All of half way
i.m. Sue Ridley

As I was going to Coleraine
a man in Bewleys said to me
I wouldn't wear that green cap up there
if I was you, and I snatched it off —

colours aren't yet mortal in Australia.
It was only our equestrian team cap
that you had given me, but I took
the warning, folded, to Coleraine.

There I found hospitality
and Bushmills and the Giant's Causeway.
No bush near the Mills
but a coracle sea and the Giant's columns

massing on out, a basalt grandstand
of rain-cup pillars, crimped like Rubiks
from cooling out of their rock floor
all of half way from America.


O.K. primavera lips

The coral tree grows
in cowyards and old sties.
Thorny, tan in winter
it bears scarlet bracts,
red lipstick crescents.

Of Earth's most spoken word,
okay, just one suggested origin
doesn't sound far-fetched:
Only Kissing. From saucy times.
Only kissing, Pa, O.K.?

In fertile soil
coral trees pout lips
out of their twigs, before greening.
Ours didn't, until drugged with
superphosphate. Now it grips
itself with carmine nails

to the height of wisteria
that cascades rain-mauve
down wonga vines and gum trees
and the Chinese tallows
ticketed with new green.



A man coughs like a box
and turns on yellow light
to follow his bladder

out over the gunwale
of his bed. He yawns upright
trying not to dot the floor

with little advance pees.
The clock on the night-stand
biting off an hour he hates.

Sugar, the sick caterer
managed with unzipping needles.
Blood syrop, shortener of legs,

ichor of the bishop
whose name is on a school
because he could not beget.

Like many milk-blind scholars
and farmers short of breath
above billions in sweet graves. 

Les Murray headshotLes Murray's career spans over 40 years and he has published nearly 30 volumes of poetry, as well as two verse novels and collections of his prose writings. His poetry has won many awards and he is regarded as the leading Australian poet of his generation. Les talks at the Carmelite Centre in Melbourne on 27 and 28 February. More information

Topic tags: Les Murray, new Australian poems



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Existing comments

Brilliant. As usual from Mr. Murray.

Pam | 05 February 2013  

Great to read more poems from the Australian laureate. Thank you.

Paula McKay | 05 February 2013  

Always lovely to discover a new voice in poetry...(-:

Penelope | 06 February 2013  

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