18+ Best Les Murray Poems You Should Read Right Now

Leslie Allan Murray AO was an Australian poet, anthologist, and critic. His career spanned over 40 years and he published nearly 30 volumes of poetry as well as two verse novels and collections of his prose writings.

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Famous Les Murray Poems

The Mowed Hollow

When yellow leaves the sky
they pipe it to the houses
to go on making red
and warm and floral and brown
but gradually people tire of it,
return it inside metal, and go
to be dark and breathe water colours.

Some yellow hangs on outside
forlornly tethered to posts.
Cars chase their own supply.

When we went down the hollow
under the stormcloud nations
the light was generalised there
from vague glass places in the trees
and the colours were moist and zinc,
submerged and weathered and lichen
with black aisles and white poplar blues.

The only yellow at all
was tight curls of fresh butter
as served on stainless steel
in a postwar cafe: cassia flowers,
soft crystal with caraway-dipped tongues,
butter mountains of cassia flowers
on green, still dewed with water

The Moon man

Shadowy kangaroos moved off
as we drove into the top paddock
coming home from a wedding
under a midnightish curd sky

then his full face cleared:
Moon man, the first birth ever
who still massages his mother
and sends her light, for his having

been born fully grown.
His brilliance is in our blood.
Had Earth fully healed from that labour
no small births could have happened.

Panic Attack

The body had a nightmare.
Awake. No need of the movie.

No need of light, to keep hips
and shoulders rotating in bed
on the gimbals of wet eyes.

Pounding heart, chest pains –
should it be the right arm hurting?

The brain was a void
or a blasted-out chamber –
shreds of speech in there,
shatters of lust and prayer.

No one can face their heart
or turn their back on it.

Bowel stumbled to bowl,
emptied, and emptied again
till the gut was a train
crawling in its own tunnel,

slowly dragging the nightmare
down with it, below heart level.
You would not have died

the fear had been too great
but: to miss the ambulance moment –

Relax. In time, your hourglass
will be reversed again.

To Fly In Just Your Suit

Humans are flown, or fall;
humans can’t fly.
We’re down with the gravity-stemmers,
rare, thick-boned, often basso.

Most animals above the tides are airborne.
Typically tuned keen, they
throw the ground away with wire feet
and swoop rings round it.

Magpies, listening askance
for their food in and under lawn,
strut so hair-trigger they almost
dangle on earth, out of the air.

Nearly anything can make their
tailcoats break into wings.

Photographing Aspirations

Fume-glossed, unbearably shrill,
this car is dilated with a glaze
that will vanish before standstill—

and here’s the youth swimming in space
above his whiplash motorcycle:
quadriplegia shows him its propped face—

after, he begged video scenes
not display his soaking jeans,
urine that leathers would have hidden

and the drag cars have engines on their engines.

Holland’s Nadir

Men around a submarine
moored in Sydney Harbour
close to the end of wartime

showed us below, down into
their oily, mesh-lit gangway
of bunks atop machines.

In from the country, we
weren’t to know our shillings
bought them cigars and thread

for what remained of Holland’s Glory:
uniforms, odd, rescued aircraft,
and a clutch of undersea boats

patrolling from Fremantle. The men’s
country was still captive, their great
Indies had seen them ousted,

their slaves from centuries back
were still black, and their queen
was in English exile.

The only ripostes still open
to them were torpedoes
and their throaty half-

American-sounding language.
Speaking a luckier one
we set off home then. Home

and all that word would mean
in the age of rebirthing nations
which would be my time.

The Head-Spider

Where I lived once, a roller coaster’s range
of timber hills peaked just by our backyard cliff
and cats undulated scream-driven round its seismograph—
and climbed up to us with an indrawn gasp of girls.

Smiles and yelling could be exchanged as they crested
then they’d pitch over, straining back in a shriek
that volleyed as the cars were snatched from sight
in the abyss, and were soon back. Weekdays they rested,

and I rested all days. There was a spider in my head
I’d long stay unaware of. If you’re raped you mostly know
but I’d been cursed, and refused to notice or believe it.
Aloof in a Push squat, I thought I was moral, or dead.

Misrule was strict there, and the Pill of the day only ever
went into one mouth, not mine, and foamed a Santa-beard.
I was resented for chastity, and slept on an overcoat.
Once Carol from upstairs came to me in bra and kindness

and the spider secreted by girls’ derision-rites to spare
women from me had to numb me to a crazed politeness.
Squeals rode the edge of the thrill building. Cartoonist Mercier
drew springs under Sydney. Push lovers were untrue on principle.

It’s all architecture over there now. A new roller coaster
flies its ups and downs in wealth’s face like an affront.
I’ve written a new body that only needs a reader’s touch.
If love is cursed in us, then when God exists, we don’t.

Nursing Home

Ne tibi supersis:
don’t outlive yourself,
panic, or break a hip
or spit purée at the staff
at the end of gender,
never a happy ender –

yet in the pastel light
of indoors, there is a lady
who has distilled to love
beyond the fall of memory.

She sits holding hands
with an ancient woman
who calls her brother and George
as bees summarise the garden.

The Conversations

A full moon always rises at sunset
and a person is taller at night.
Many fear their phobias more than death.
The glass King of France feared he’d shatter.
Chinese eunuchs kept their testes in spirit.

Your brain can bleed from a sneeze-breath.
A full moon always rises at sunset
and a person is taller when prone.
Donald Duck was once banned in Finland
because he didn’t wear trousers,

his loins were feather-girt like Daisy’s
but no ostrich hides its head in sand.
The cure for scurvy was found
then long lost through medical theory.
The Beginning is a steady white sound.

The full moon rises at sunset
and lemurs and capuchin monkeys
pass a millipede round to get off on
its powerful secretions. Mouthing it
they wriggle in bliss on the ground.

This heart of a groomed horse slows down.
A fact is a small compact faith,
a sense-datum to beasts, a power to man
even if true, even while true –
we read these laws in Isaac Neurone.

One woman had sixty-nine children.
Some lions mate fifty times a day.
Napoleon had a victory addiction.
A full moon always rises at sunset.
Soldiers now can get in the family way.

I wrote a little haiku

I wrote a little haiku
titled ‘The Springfields’

Lead drips out of
a burning farm rail.
Their Civil War.

Critics didn’t like it,
said it was obscure –

The title was the rifle
both American sides bore,
lead was its heavy bullet,
the Minié, which tore

often wet with blood and sera
into the farmyard timbers
and forests of that era,
wood that, burnt even now,

might still re-melt and pour
out runs of silvery ichor
the size of wasted semen
it had annulled before.

The farm terraces

Beautiful merciless work
around the slopes of earth
terraces cut by curt hoe
at the orders of hunger
or a pointing lord.
Levels eyed up to rhyme
copied from grazing animals
round the steeps of earth,
balconies filtering water
down stage to stage of drop.
Wind-stirred colours of crop
swell between walked bunds
miles of grass-rimmed contour
harvests down from the top
by hands long in the earth.
Baskets of rich made soil
boosted up poor by the poor,
ladder by freestone prop
stanzas of chant-long lines
by backwrenching slog, before
money, gave food and drunk
but rip now like slatted sails
(some always did damn to)
down the abrupts of earth.

The Holy Show

I was a toddler, wet-combed
with my pants buttoned to my shirt
and there were pink and green lights, pretty
in the day, a Christmas-tree party
up the back of the village store.

I ran towards it, but big sad people
stepped out. They said over me It’s just, like,
for local kiddies and but let him join in;
the kiddies looked frightened
and my parents, caught off guard

one beat behind me, grabbed me up
in the great shame of our poverty
that they talked about to upset themselves.
They were blushing and smiling, cursing me
in low voices Little bugger bad boy!

for thinking happy Christmas undivided,
whereas it’s all owned, to buy in parcels
and have at home; for still not knowing
you don’t make a holy show of your family;
outside it, there’s only parry and front.

Once away, they angrily softened to
me squalling, because I was their kiddie
and had been right about the holy show
that models how the world should be
and could be, shared, glittering in near focus

right out to the Sex frontier.

Ripe In The Arbours Of The Nose

Even rippled with sun
the greens of a citrus grove darken
like ocean deepening from shore.
Each tree is full of shade.

A shadowy fast spiral through
and a crow’s transfixed an orange
to carry off and mine
its latitudes and longitudes
till they’re a parched void scrotum.

Al-Andalus has an orange grove
planted in rows and shaven above
to form an unwalkable dream lawn
viewed from loggias.
One level down,
radiance in a fruit-roofed ambulatory.

Mandarin, if I didn’t eat you
how could you ever see the sun?
(Even I will never see it
except in blue translation).

Shedding its spiral pith helmet
an orange is an irrigation
of rupture and bouquet
rocking the lower head about;

one of the milder borders
of the just endurable
is the squint taste of a lemon,

and it was limes, of dark tooled green
which forgave the barefoot sailors
bringing citrus to new dry lands.

Cumquat, you bitter quip,
let a rat make jam of you
in her beardy house.

Blood orange, children!
raspberry blood in the glass:
look for the five o’clock shadow
on their cheeks.
Those are full of blood,
and easy: only pick the ones that
relax off in your hand.

Below Hollywood, as everywhere
the trees of each grove appear
as fantastically open
treasure sacks, tied only at the ground

Science Fiction

I can travel
faster than light
so can you
the speed of thought
the only trouble
is at destinations
our thought balloons
are coated invisible
no one there sees us
and we can’t get out
to be real or present
phone and videophone
are almost worse
we don’t see a journey
but stay in our space
just talking and joking
with those we reach
but can never touch
the nothing that can hurt us
how lovely and terrible
and lonely is this.


Last time I fell in a shower room
I bled like a tumbril dandy
and the hotel longed to be rid of me.
Taken to the town clinic, I
described how I tripped on a steel rim
and found my head in the wardrobe.
Scalp-sewn and knotted and flagged
I thanked the Frau Doktor and fled,
wishing the grab-bar of age might
be bolted to all civilization
and thinking of Rome’s eighth hill
heaped up out of broken amphorae.

When, anytime after sixty,
or anytime before, you stumble
over two stairs and club your forehead
on rake or hoe, bricks or fuel-drums,
that’s the time to call the purveyor
of steel pipe and indoor railings,
and soon you’ll be grasping up landings
having left your balance in the car
from which please God you’ll never
see the launchway of tires off a brink.
Later comes the sunny day when
street detail whitens blindly to mauve

and people hurry you, or wait, quiet.

Self and Dream Self

Routines of decaying time
fade, and your waking life
gets laborious as science.

You huddle in, becoming
the deathless younger self
who will survive your dreams
and vanish in surviving.

Dream brings on its story
at the pace of drift
in twilight, sunless color,

its settings are believed,
a library of wood shingles,
plain mythic furniture

vivid drone of talk,
yet few loves return:
trysts seem unkeepable.

Urgencies from your time
join with the browner suits
walking those arcades with you
but then you are apart,

aghast, beside the numberless
defiling down steep fence
into an imminence —

as in the ancient burrow
you, with an ever-changing cast,
survive deciding episodes
till you are dismissed

and a restart of tense
summons your waking size
out through shreds of story.

The Margin of Difference

One and one make two,
the literalist said.
So far they’ve made five billion,
said the lateralist, or ten
times that, if you count the dead.