began with honeysuckle and clover,
the constants of the winter yet
rendered more redolent by the scents of September
and a bee buzzing about a flowering cactus
and ended with a downpour
that sent me rushing to the clothesline
while my son stood in his raincoat and listened
to the rain
with all things – rain, sun, bee,
child and flowers – held in the same sentence
and each given its time.
It is with slight trepidation that I tackle Les Murray’s masterful poem “Equanimity”. For one thing, it is my girlfriend’s favourite Murray poem, so I would hate to destroy it for her. It is also a very complex poem, with a challenging style to imitate. But the central idea – the beauties of common grace – is one which is important to me, so I’ve done my best to reflect that, taking as the context for the poem what, for me as a teacher, is the very everyday scene of a schoolyard.
Schoolyard Grace (After "Equanimity")
The unequivocal rustling of leaves declares the wind,
a relief where sun has scorched for days and grass lies
dead and thin.
Rain having fallen, in its way, on righteous and
we pause, not quite content, but fewer weights surrounding,
the heat like harness for now at least gone
and the heart somehow able to rest.
Yet does it rest? The day continues with its obligations;
doors open still, still shut, and corridors and boardwalks
with children carrying books and truths
sometimes contained in books, some not.
And still the papers rustle, achieving the task at hand;
and still the bustle goes and goes, with lessons to learn,
and days to earn the approval of met expectations.
Grace like a silent spectator sits: grace in moment,
grace in movement. Hands move, attentive, yet
time contains the hope that now, this moment, is not All,
pass nonetheless beneath the gaze of one who knows and
One of Auden’s more challenging but also most remarkable poems is “Under Sirius”, written as a response to medieval Latin poet Fortunatus who, by Auden’s account, longed for humanity to experience some sort of tragedy to shake them to their senses. Auden’s inspiration came from the time known as the “dog days”, associated with the star Sirius, in which long, languid and hot days seemed to Auden’s Fortunatus to be symptoms of the inner death of humanity. If you are living in Melbourne, you may be better able to relate to a season which can’t make up its mind, which shifts from spring to autumn to winter and back to spring again, all in the space of a few days. So I have used this Melburnian weather pattern as the starting point for my poem.
Indecisive Spring (After W.H. Auden’s “Under Sirius”)
Would your hope make sense
If today were that moment of silence,
Before it break and drown…?
(W.H. Auden, “Under Sirius”)
Now, of course, we wend our way through changing days:
The sun peers sometimes out of wind
And rain and autumn cling to spring’s façade.
Sun-bakers in Apollo-worship find
Their hopes flit and dance extempore around;
Listen, listen, the silent sound
Of spring weaves in with leaves falling,
Disappointment swept up in langour
And our summer dreams ever calling.
If this is that moment of silence, it hangs between
The dog star and our torpid sun:
A quiet emptiness, a vacuum, saying, revealing nothing.
Days pass and fade, not yet begun,
And, sagging into wounded land and sea,
The Fisher King bleeds his ancient reverie;
Thunder mutters petulant
And you, Fortunatus, shake your head
At clouds both wise and arrogant.
Indecision creeps to the table; the meal eats itself;
Still the family sings and curtains sway
Into the sun long, long ago set.
And should we forget, in our vaporous way,
Who we are and what we should be,
The seasons too may fail to see
That all things wend their changing course
Yet lead soon back to always-here.
Will you, then, be watching as
The truths behind the languor finally appear?
Your answer dangles limp in the clouds,
No reason for these rhyme-and-riddle seasons.
Never fear: should spring slip into winter now,
Nonetheless the sun commits no treason.
Our orbit weaves elliptical as it’s always done
And time will know for sure what we’ve become:
Children who forgot to thank the hands
That shaped our dust and gave it lips
And made our ever-circling souls to stand.