This week marks the passing of Australia’s best known poet: Les Murray. To celebrate the life of such an important figure in Australian poetry, we’ve gone to our archives to share some of his work with our readers. ‘Home Suite’ appeared in 1991’s Westerly 36.4. ‘Bats’ Ultrasound’ and ‘Mollusc’ were printed a year later, as part of Barbara Williams’ interview with Les Murray; that interview appeared in Westerly 37.2.
For Bruce Bennett and his Australian Compass
Home is the first
and final poem
and every poem between
has this mum home seam.
Home’s the weakest enemy
as iron steams starch—
but to war against home
is the longest march.
Home has no neighbours.
They are less strong
than the tree, or the sideboard.
All who come back belong.
Home is the contraband
alike of rubble squats
and of where food is never
cooked in the old death fats:
Can you fuse a new joint
home in this circuit-tier?
Does each trail a long home
to fold and unfurl here?
Streets of bulldozed terrace
or that country of the Shark,
or with slant cattle-launching
ramps adzed from ironbark—
All soft invisible flag-days
fawn pasts sting with pride:
the world’s oldest lamplight
stumbles from inside
as I come to the door
and they’re all still there
in Serbia, Suburbia,
in the chill autumn air.
No later first-class plane
flies the sad quilt wings.
Any feeling after final
must be home, with idyll-things.
First home at last
is a rounded way to live
but to tell another You’re my home
speaks of a greater love.
Love. It is a recent
and liquid enough term
to penetrate and mollify
what’s compact in home.
Sleeping-bagged in a duplex wing
with fleas, in rock-cleft or building
radar bats are darkness in miniature,
their whole face one tufty crinkled ear
with weak eyes, fine teeth bared to sing.
Few are vampires. None flit through the mirror.
Where they flutter at evening’s a queer
tonal hunting zone above highest C.
Insect prey at the peak of our hearing
drone re to their detailing tee:
ah, eyrie-ire; aero hour, eh?
O’er our ur-area (our era aye
ere your raw row) we air our array,
err, yaw, row wry—aura our orrery,
our eerie ü our ray, our arrow.
A rare ear, our aery Yahweh.
By its nobship sailing upside down,
by its inner sexes, by the crystalline
pimplings of its skirts, by the sucked-on
lifelong kiss of its toppling motion,
by the viscose optics now extruded
now wizened instantaneously, by the
ridges grating up a food-path, by
the pop shell in its nick of dry,
by excretion, the earthworm coils, the glibbing,
by the gilt slipway, and by pointing
perhaps as far back into time as
ahead, a shore being folded interior,
by boiling on salt, by coming uncut over
a razor’s edge, by hiding the Oligocene
underleaf may this and every snail sense
itself ornament the weave of presence.