… in the words of Judith Wright, whom I believe to be Australia’s greatest poet.
Request to a year
If the year is meditating a suitable gift,
I should like it to be the attitude
of my great-great-grandmother,
legendary devotee of the arts,
who, having had eight children
and little opportunity for painting pictures,
sat one day on a high rock
beside a river in Switzerland,
and from a difficult distance viewed
her second son, balanced on a small ice-floe,
drift down the current towards a waterfall
that struck rock-bottom eighty feet below,
while her second daughter, impeded,
no doubt, by the petticoats of the day,
stretched out a last-hope alpenstock
(which luckily later caught him on his way).
Nothing, it was evident, could be done;
and with the artist’s isolating eye
my great-great-grandmother hastily sketched the scene.
The sketch survives to prove the story by.
Year, if you have no Mother’s Day present planned,
reach back and bring me the firmness of her hand.
Another poem by Judith Wright, that is real in my own experience.
Reason and unreason
When I began to test my heart,
its laws and fantasies, against the world,
the pain of impact made me sad.
Where heart was curved the world ran straight,
where it lay warm the world came cold.
It seemed my heart, or else the world, was mad.
Could I reject arithmetics,
their plain unanswerable arguings,
or find a cranny outside categories,
where two and two made soldiers, love or six?
My heart observed the silence round its songs,
the indifference that met its stories;
believed itself a changeling crazed,
and bowed its head to every claim of reason;
but then stood up and realized
when work is over love begins its season;
each day is contraried by night
and Caesar’s coin is paid for Venus’ rite;
and knew its fantasies, since time began,
outdone by earth’s wild dreams, Plant, Beast and Man.
Judith Wright, 1962