Guest poem submitted by Vikram Doctor, who was actually the person who first suggested the Australian theme to us: With everyone's eyes turning to Sydney, why not do an Australian theme? I can't think off-hand of too many Australian poems, but there are good poets like Les Murray and Peter Porter. And there is this one, which has remained with me ever since I first read it:
(Poem #571) The Death Of The Bird
For every bird there is this last migration; Once more the cooling year kindles her heart; With a warm passage to the summer station Love pricks the course in lights across the chart. Year after year a speck on the map divided By a whole hemisphere, summons her to come; Season after season, sure and safely guided, Going away she is also coming home; And being home, memory becomes a passion With which she feeds her brood and straws her nest; Aware of ghosts that haunt the heart's possession And exiled love mourning within the breast. The sands are green with a mirage of valleys; The palm-tree casts a shadow not its own; Down the long architrave of temple or palace Blows a cool air from moorland scraps of stone. And day by day the whisper of love grows stronger, The delicate voice, more urgent with despair, Custom and fear constraining her no longer, Drives her at last on the waste leagues of air. A vanishing speck in those inane dominions, Single and frail, uncertain of her place. Alone in the bright host of her companions, Lost in the blue unfriendliness of space. She feels it close now, the appointed season: The invisible thread is broken as she flies; Suddenly, without warning, without reason, The guiding spark of instinct winks and dies. Try as she will the trackless world delivers No way, the wilderness of light no sign, The immense and complex map of hills and rivers Mocks her small wisdom with its vast design. And darkness rises from the eastern valleys, And the winds buffet her with their hungry breath, And the great earth, with neither grief not malice, Receives the tiny burden of her death.
A simple poem, but one that has always impressed me for the quiet way it builds up in force. Starting from the small presence of the bird getting the migratory itch, it slowly expands to show her smallness against the immensity of what she sets out to do. Then suddenly, without any warning, the thread is terrifyingly cut and it is our worst nightmare of being totally lost in a blind, indifferent world. And the last verse is hugely impactful as the the immensity of the world rises up to overwhelm the bird. (There is something almost pagan about it, since this is literally as far as you get from the Biblical "not a sparrow shall fall..."). Vikram. [thomas adds] Les Murray wrote 'An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow', a guest poem submitted by Ron Heard (who's from Queensland, if I remember correctly): poem #387 Peter Porter has featured several times on the Minstrels (I happen to like his work); check out 'Instant Fish', poem #64 'Japanese Jokes', poem #198 'Your Attention Please', poem #222