Les Murray, an absolutely ordinary poet.

At the restaurants and footpath cafes diners drop what they are eating, push back their chairs and stand.
Football supporters pour out of the MCG and troop up Batman’s Hill to the CBD in club colours, with streamers streaming, flags waving and an uneasy uncertainty about their walking out on the game.
Blue singlet wearing drinkers abandon their beers to the yeasty, hop scented countertops, as pubs empty, spewing pot-bellied, stick legged staggerers and nicotine stained, leather skinned, emaciated smoker drunks into the gutters, the lanes, the roads and splashing back up onto the kerbs.
Elegant wives, trophy wives and mistresses, high heeled, blow waved, coiffed, dyed and exquisitely buffed, pull down the hems of their brushed silk and linen form fitted shopping outfits as they rise from chaise lounges. 
They collect hand bags and shopping bags, then step into security guarded vestibules, before finally emerging from exclusive tailoring appointments to join a glamour procession down from the Collins St summit.

Word has got around, curiosity brings out the inquisitive, the spruikers, the scavengers and those determined to report every experience to their co-dwellers in the virtual world.
There is an irresistible pull on the minds of those interested in whatever might be happening and those interested in being able to say they were there regardless – something is going on.
Whispers, tweets, messages and emails, texts, phone calls, video calls, even word of mouth, demand the attention of everyone in town. 
An unknown known compels complicity and participation.

Worshippers abandon their God in the expectation of a religious experience, churches evacuate with pious clergy in tow fully expecting a miracle.
Tourists disembark the free City Circuit tram, desert galleries and museums in droves, call taxis and Ubers for immediate pick up, sparing no expense on transport in an unfamiliar city, as long as they can get there ASAP. 
The toy shops spill small children out of their doorways, dragging parents bemused by this sudden passion for the outdoors, as the pitter patter of little feet turns into hard rain.
Teenagers leave park benches and love bites half sucked, holding hands they cross the don’t walk on the grass lawns of springy spring greenery, hoping for a seminally significant event on which to reflect many years later in their relationship.
Office staff lean out of windows. 
Those who have no window they can open press their faces against the glass to display flat fat cheeks and puckered lips full of teeth to the upturned faces of the ever swelling mass of onlookers below. 
As spectacles teeter on the ends of noses, computers whir away unattended while algorithms and AI action every last input before going to sleep in their very own digital dreamland.
Politicians self-importantly stride down Bourke St from Parliament House looking like they know what is going on.
And journalists wave mobile phones in the air, switched to record, in the hope of catching a bite for the evening news or the immediacy of online media, over the speculative hum and bustle of the real-world real-time growing multitude.

There’s a poet reciting in Federation Square and they can’t stop him.
He looks like an ordinary poet, but he hasn’t drawn breath for three hours and the laughter in the front rows has turned to weeping.
His words and each inflection are overwhelmingly evocative, striking the perfect notes for heart felt emotion or humour, eliciting cries of fear, gasps of wonder, moans of misery or whimpering terror at any given moment. 
Listeners who can hear him are mesmerised as if by Sirens and someone calls the police for fear they might be losing their minds.

There’s a poet reciting in Fed Square and they don’t want to stop him. 
The bookies are marking up a book on him and the TAB has various odds at when he will pause or cease. 
Gambling apps are rushing to find novelty angles to bet on like when will he make his first mispronunciation?
The souvenir shops can’t understand why they aren’t doing a roaring trade in clip on koalas and water filled snow domes of the Melbourne Town Hall – where it never snows – and polyester tea towels depicting the coastal 12 Apostles that are hundreds of kilometres away. 
The police arrive in paddy wagons and on crowd control horses to find no crime has been committed. There is no disturbance. The city has simply come to a standstill. 

There is a poet reciting in Fed Square and they want to help him. 
They remove helmets, bullet proof vests and utility belts, down truncheons, scratch armpits, backsides and chins, gather in small groups, heads bowed toward each other and murmur speculatively about what to do.
A police cordon forms organically around the poet so he can continue his recital without being crushed or disturbed by the ever increasing throng. They sit cross legged on the pavers in quiet communion with the people.
The Commissioner offers his megaphone so everyone present can hear the phrasing waft through the air above their heads and feel it penetrate their very souls. 
Each stanza drops like a stone, soars like an eagle or infuses each being present with loving, soothing peace. 
Police disperse through the crowd to make sure everyone can hear. 
Hushing those too noisy, asking the more excited to please calm down. 
People up the back, hanging from light poles or too short to see are assisted by police to positions of access and comfort, reorganising the crowd into a tiered human amphitheatre of enthralled faces, ranked human shoulders  and chests so full of heart each one feels it could burst.

There is a poet reciting in Fed Square and he is finished. 
The poet bows his head once to the stilled crowd, gives them a smile of thanks, takes the one step necessary down from his reciting stool, picks it up and folds it flat against his knee. 
With stool gripped in his right hand he raises his left toward the east and the crowd parts before him as he walks, untouched, through silent lines that close behind him. 
A police officer raises an eyebrow in his direction, but he shakes his head. 
He is an ordinary poet who needs no escort to safely leave the place of his work and his work is done.
The absolutely ordinary poet blends into the crowd, many see him fade, they try to follow, but he completely disappears.

strathbogie poetry

Laura’s d’verse challenge was to select a favourite poet and write a poem either about them (indirect voice) or addressing them (direct voice). Here is the link if you want to give it a try: https://dversepoets.com/2021/05/18/poetics-poems-to-a-poet/

I chose to write a poem about the remarkable Australian poet Les Murray. I hope I honour him by adopting something of his style. Sadly, Les died last year.

11 thoughts on “Les Murray, an absolutely ordinary poet.

  1. Absolutely marvellous. The world standing still to hear a poet recite. If only! Maybe one day…if only! This was the poetic equivalent of ‘Andy Plays Mozart’ in The Shawshank Redemption. Loved it!

    Like

    • He is worth looking up, but after the nomination of poets new to me from this most recent prompt choices have to be made. It was great so many different poets were chosen. Alas, there isn’t time to experience all new poetry.

      Like

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