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Spirit wit: Five sonnets for Les Murray

  • 02 May 2019



A slight subversion is a shared smile:

He who laughs last didn't get the joke.

Lead with the chin and lose your grin.

One hand clapping gets the ears flapping.

What doesn't kill you leaves your nose out of joint.

Keep your eye on the ball and shoulder to the wheel.

A phone in the hand is a crash in the pole.

It takes the biscuit how the cookie crumbles.

Money makes the world go round money.

Phoney pols are a crash in the polls.

Her Greek gifts were his Achilles heel.

Trackwork means footwork: less trains less often.

All roads lead to home sweet home.

When in Rome, go to Rio.




When in Rome, go to riotous Raphael

Crowded with weekday shoppers in bold folds,

Their once-in-a-lifetime vistas untold

Where empires' blockbusters never fail.

Vespas buzz out of sight of oculus;

Palaces peer down, churches seek repair.

Human-high inscriptions defy despair,

Cool sublime atop the ridiculous.

Eye summonses, with palindrome nerve

Through curves and white staircases of the brain

Perfectly lucid in every detail,

Last judgments upon paradigm female

And paragon male in Carrara grain,

Ruins, roads and remains without reserve.




Rain on roads and remains without reserve

Clears slightly and light lines feint blue clouds,

Creatures testing shallows, and flowers in crowds

As if outside could always be this preserve.

The teapot sails from cup to steaming cup

That patterns this scene of pastoral bliss

Where a figure reads in a grotto of mist

Rhyming couplets; where time is never up.

News is hard the other side of the pane

As autumn unwinds and insects vanish.

High tides and heat waves make no distinctions.

The knowing protest against extinction

Then go home to something Spanish.

Another warm day, not a sign of rain. 




Another long day, not a sign of real

Talking to you, gadget of time killer fills,

Your automatic voice of sexless syllables

Translated from Human into Non-Feel.

I push your buttons but nothing happens,

Work the circuitry, connect devices.

Your configured widgets once were priceless.

Now your loop ever runs out of options.

You've applications under that bonnet

Programmed to please in digits unfurled.

My socialising you fully document

As if what I meant is what you meant

But you cannot write a book 'The Ideal World',

You cannot contrive a meaningful sonnet.




You could contrive a meandering sonnet,

Broach the third level of meaning with ease —

Once main lines are coursing and images breeze.

You were in it, around, beyond, upon it.

Sceptical of cities, their noble prizes,

Bush slows out detail close, and daily talk.

Going home again was the ideal walk

Across the veranda of word surprises.

Mosaic is catholic and sensate,

Words pieced to make it it-and-a-bit.

Either it happens for them or it's nothing.

Old English