Sprawl: For Les Murray (and Bach)

Kopie vonThomaskirche Leipzig

February is a short month, and so sadly I am having to speed up our journey through Les Murray’s poetry. My final poem for the month is an original work written in response to this interview with Murray from Image (Winter 2009-10) as well as Murray’s own description, in a personal letter, of his visit to a Lutheran church in Leipzig. My poem also draws on a number of Murray’s own poems. I’ll leave the eagle-eyed to find which ones, but the direct quotes from Murray are all in italics, to show they aren’t my own words. All in all, it’s a tribute to a man whose philosophy I do not wholly agree with yet always find compelling.

Sprawl: For Les Murray

God, at the end of prose,
somehow be our poem –
(Les Murray, “You Find You Can Leave It All”)

No pinched-arse Puritan, you could walk, I 
                              suppose,
into the church in Leipzig with J.S. Bach 
                              thundering away,
differing perhaps in dogma yet relishing the 
                              plenitude of song.

What did you hear that day in St. Thomas’?
Some mighty Cantata? The gospel set to words, to
                              music,
set to heart again? The world, you said once,

reverberates with Muzak and Prozac. The mind 
                              craves
some analgesic sound to cool the air; yet souls 
                              desire organs.
Yours that day resounded with the thump and hum 
                              of what,

when Reformations raged, was controversy:
the heavens, all seemed to agree, will roar with
                           voice and instrument,
yet some still debate where earthly Temple-lines
                              are drawn.

Heaven invades earth as molecules of grace; yet 
                              to you
the Presence has always been Real: enacted in 
                              bread
passed hand to hand, and in sprawl

of shirtsleeve nobility, giving with no thought 
                              of reprise,
no heed of destiny. Whispered in poetic diction,
felt, danced and dreamed, God breaks the banks

of hearts sunk enough to receive Him, who
enter church, not to proclaim what’s already 
                              known,
but in desperate, grateful hopes of being wrong.

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