Guest poem submitted by Ron Heard :
(Poem #387) An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow
The word goes round Repins, the murmur goes round Lorenzinis, At Tattersalls, men look up from sheets of numbers, The Stock Exchange scribblers forget the chalk in their hands And men with bread in their pockets leave the Greek Club: There's a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can't stop him. The traffic in George Street is banked up for half a mile And drained of motion. The crowds are edgy with talk And more crowds come hurrying. Many run into the back streets Which minutes ago were busy main streets, pointing: There's a fellow weeping down there. No one can stop him. The man we surround, the man no one approaches Simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps Not like a child, not like the wind, like a man And does not declaim it, not beat his breast, not even Sob very loudly --- yet the dignity of his weeping Holds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about him In the midday light, in his pentagram of sorrow, And uniforms back in the crowd who tried to seize him Stare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their minds Longing for tears as children for a rainbow. Some will say, in the years to come, a halo Or force stood around him. There was no such thing. Some will say they were shocked and would have stopped him But they will not have been there. The fiercest manhood, The toughest reserve, the slickest wit amongst us Trembles with silence, and burns with unexpected Judgements of peace. Some in the concourse scream Who thought themselves happy. Only the smallest children And such as look out of Paradise come near him And sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons. Ridiculous, says a man near me, and stops His mouth with his hands, as if it uttered vomit --- And I see a woman, shining, stretch out her hand And shake as she receives the gift of weeping; As many as follow her also receive it. And many weep for sheer acceptance, and more Refuse to weep for fear of all acceptance, But the weeping man, like the earth, requires nothing, The man who weeps ignores us, and cries out Of his writhen face and ordinary body Not words, but grief, not messages, but sorrow Hard as the earth, sheer, present as the sea --- And when he stops, he simply walks between us Mopping his face with the dignity of one Man who has wept, and now has finished weeping. Evading believers, he hurries off down Pitt Street.
I think it would be impertinent to comment on such a fine and lucid poem, except to make a couple of personal comments. I find this one of the most profound and moving poems I know. The poem was written in an Australian context, where virtues traditionally praised are reticence, sardonic humour, and not showing emotions. At one stroke it re-writes this tradition and the idea of virtue -- the marvellous phrase "the gift of weeping". Ron Heard. [Notes] The local geographic references are mainly self-explanatory, however: Martin Place - Major and ceremonial street in central Sydney Repins - Famous Bohemian café Lorenzini's - Fashionable Italian restaurant Tatersall's - club, mainly associated with horse racing RH. [Bio] b. Oct. 17, 1938, Nabiac, N.S.W., Australia Australian poet and essayist who in such meditative, lyrical poems as "Noonday Axeman" and "Sydney and the Bush" captured Australia's psychic and rural landscape as well as its mythic elements. Murray grew up on a dairy farm and graduated from the University of Sydney (B.A., 1969). He worked as a writer in residence at several universities throughout the world and served as editor of Poetry Australia from 1973 to 1979. He also compiled and edited the New Oxford Book of Australian Verse (1986). Murray's poetry celebrates a hoped-for fusion of the Aboriginal (which he called the "senior culture"), the rural, and the urban. The poem "The Buladelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle," in the collection Ethnic Radio (1977), reflects his identification with Australia's Aboriginals; it uses Aboriginal narrative style to describe vacationing Australians. The Boys Who Stole the Funeral (1979) is a sequence of 140 sonnets about a pair of boys who surreptitiously remove a man's body from a Sydney funeral home for burial in his native Outback. Murray's other poetry collections include Dog Fox Field (1990), The Rabbiter's Bounty (1991), The Paperbark Tree (1992), Translations from the Natural World (1992), and Subhuman Redneck Poems (1996). In Freddy Neptune (1999) Murray presents a verse narrative of the misfortunes of a German-Australian sailor during World War I. Peasant Mandarin (1978), a collection of essays, champions the antielitist vitality of "Australocentrism," at the same time demonstrating a high regard for a classical education and its traditions. Murray also presented the work of five leading but little-known Australian poets in Fivefathers (1995). -- EB