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Two Poems by Les A. Murray

MERCURIAL SEPTEMBER

Preindustrial haze. The white sky rim
forecasts a hot summer. Burning days
indeed are rehearsed, with flies and dinnertime fan
but die out, over west mountains
erased with azure, into spring-cool nights
and the first flying insects
which are the small weeds of a bedroom window.

Early in the month, the valley was a Friesian cow:
knobbed black, whitened straw.
Alarming smokes bellied up behind the heights of forest.
Now green has invested fires’
fixed cloud-shadows; lower gum boughs are seared chestnut.
Emerald kingparrots, crimson-breasted, whirr
and plane out of open feed sheds.

Winds are changeable. We’re tacking.
West on rubbed blue days,
easterlies on hot, southerly and dead calm for rain.
Mercury is near the moon, Venus at perigee
and frogs wind their watches all night on swampy stretches
where waterhens blink with their white tails at dusk, like rabbits
and the mother duck does her cripple act.

Dams glitter like house roofs again.
The first wasp comes looking for a spider to paralyze:
a flimsy ultralight flier
who looks like a pushover, but after one pass lifts
you, numb, out of your trampoline. Leaves together
as for prayer or diving, bean plants erupt
into the grazing glory. Those unnibbled spread their arms.

Poddy calves wobbling in their newborn mushroom colors
ingest and make the pungent custard of infancy.
Sign of a good year, many snakes lie flattened
on the roads again. Bees and pollens drift
through greening orchards. And next day it pours rain:
smokes of cloud on every bushland slope,
that opposite, wintry haze. The month goes out facing backwards.

MAX FABRE’S YACHTS*

Towers of swell fabric
leaning on the ocean
go about in salt haze
to race for the rocked gun.

Straining theory makes the world
equivocal as miracles
ever were. Between spear and sphere
here tussle in purified war

the souls of rich men,
of syndicates and winch-winders
but no longer do they skate
on a sunk ice of ambition.

Nothing turns on a blade: all
now glide on a lucky trefoil,
a trinitarian trifoil,
vision of a drowning man

and first unveiled off Newport;
Hermes, messenger of Heaven
speeding with one winged foot
dipped in the ocean.

  1. *

    Max Fabre, of Sydney, Australia, did pioneering work in the early 1960s on the design of trifoil “winged” keels for ocean racing yachts.

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