The Biplane Houses: Poems

The Biplane Houses: Poems

by Les Murray

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466894792
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 09/29/2015
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 112
File size: 285 KB

About the Author

Les Murray is the author of twelve books of poetry. Subhuman Redneck Poems (FSG, 1997) received the T. S. Eliot Prize, and in 1998 Queen Elizabeth presented him with the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. He lives on a farm on the north coast of New South Wales, Australia.
The widely acclaimed Australian poet Les Murray lives and writes on a farm on the north coast of New South Wales, where he was born in 1938. His books include Dog Fox Field, Translations from the Natural World, Subhuman Redneck Poems, Fredy Neptune: A Novel in Verse, Learning Human: Selected Poems, Conscious and Verbal, and Poems the Size of Photographs. In 1998, Murray was awarded the Gold Medal for Poetry presented by Queen Elizabeth II.

Read an Excerpt

The Biplane Houses

By Les Murray

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2006 Les Murray
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-9479-2


    The Averted

    The one whose eyes
    do not meet yours
    is alone at heart
    and looks where the dead look
    for an ally in his cause.

    Early Summer Hail with Rhymes in O

    Suddenly the bush was America:
    dark woods, and in them like snow.
    The highway was miles of bath house,
    bulk steam off ice shovelled over blue.
    It was parallel shoals of Mikimoto,
    glazy, banked, inching with pocked cars,
    blindsided with vans slewed on water.
    Had I not stopped off to buy plants
    just back, mine could have been similar.
    With unpredictable suns evaporating
    I drove by guess in ancestral country
    threading the white dark of afternoon.
    Hills west of hills, twigs, hail to Dubbo,
    all dunes of pursed constraint exhaling Ohh.

    Post Mortem

    I was upstaged in Nottingham
    after reading poetry there
    by what lay in the porter's room above:
    ginger human skeletons. Eight of them.

    Disturbed by extensions to the arts centre
    and reassembled from the dozer's shove
    some might have been my ancestors, Nottingham
    being where my mother's people fled from

    in the English Civil War.
    These were older than that migration,
    crusty little roundheads of sleep,
    stick-bundles half burned to clay by water.

    Their personhoods had gone, into the body
    of that promise preached to them. What had stayed
    in their bones were their diseases, the marks
    of labour in a rope-furrowed shoulder blade,

    their ages when they died, and what they'd eaten:
    bread, bacon, beer, cheese, apples, greens,
    no tomato atoms in them, no potatoeines,
    no coffee yet, or tea, or aspirin

    but alcoholic curds horn-spooned at a fair
    and opium physic, and pease porridge.
    The thought that in some cells their
    programmes might persist, my far parentage,

    attracted me no more than re-building
    faces for them with wire and moulding.
    Unsatisfied to go as a detective
    to the past, I want the past live

    with the body we have in the promise,
    that book which opens when the story ends.
    Being even a sound modern physique
    is like owning an apartment in Venice.

    The Hanging Gardens

    High on the Gloucester road
    just before it wriggles its hips
    level with eagles down the gorge
    into the coastal hills

    there were five beige pea-chickens
    sloping under the farm fence
    in a nervous unison of head-tufts
    up to the garden where they lived

    then along the gutter and bank
    adult birds, grazing in full serpent.
    Their colours are too saturate and cool
    to see at first with dryland eyes

    trained to drab and ginger. No one here
    believes in green deeply enough. In greens
    so blue, so malachite. Animal cobalt too
    and arrow bustles, those are unparalleled.

    The wail lingers, and their cane
    surrection of iridium plaques. Great spirits,
    Hindoostan in the palette of New Zealand!
    They don't succeed at feral.

    Things rush them from dry grass.
    Haggard teeth climb to them. World birds,
    human birds, flown by their own volition
    they led us to palaces.

    Leaf Brims

    A clerk looks again at a photo,
    decides, puts it into a file box
    which he then ties shut with string
    and the truth is years away.

    A Naval longboat is worked upstream
    where jellied mirrors fracture light
    all over sandstone river walls
    and the truth is years away.

    A one-inch baby clings to glass
    on the rain side of a window as
    a man halts, being led from office
    but the truth is years away.

    Our youngest were still child-size when
    starched brims of the red lotus last
    nodded over this pond in a sunny breeze
    and the truth was years away.


    The sky in flood. Marshalled on
    by pressure, over the many-angled
    windows of property far below.

    The air has states, not places.
    On the outer of Earth, the
    sky above darkens to blue matter.

    Lower than where Space streaks in,
    risen scents and particles plateau,
    diffusing to go worldwide.

    The chill slates of that year
    which, blown out of Iceland volcanoes,
    famined up the French Revolution
    hung and globed out on these levels.

    Cloud wisps are an instructor
    chalking to proof! And here it's true:
    everyone has to have to.

    These plunge lands being water dusts
    that take colour from the Sun: gold cobble,
    diaphanous frolic, optical liqueur.

    A Thailand of cloud-dance,
    cobalt gold-cracked cyclone Rumba
    that raged half a province down its river
    is now ten minutes' swell under wings.

    The bubble-column of a desert whirlwind
    fails, and plastic-bag ghosts
    stay ascended, pallid and rare.

    Over simmering wheat land,
    over tree oils, scrub growing in rust
    and way out to the storeyed Forties.

    Here be carbons, screamed up
    by the djinn of blue kohl highways
    that have the whish of the world
    for this scorch of A.D.

    Tropopause, stratopause, Van Allen —
    high floors of the world tower
    which spores and points of charge
    too minute to age climb off the planet.

    A headlong space rock
    discovers fiery retro jets
    and adds to the earth above Earth.

    The Statistics of Good

    Chaplain General (R.C.)
    Archbishop Mannix of Melbourne,
    he who had a bog-oak footstool
    so his slipper might touch Irish soil
    first, when alighting from his carriage

    saved, while a titular Major General
    in the Australian Army, perhaps half
    the fit men of a generation
    from the shrapnelled sewer landscapes
    of Flanders by twice winning close
    referenda against their conscription.

    How many men? Half a million? Who knows?
    Goodness counts each and theirs.
    Politics and Death chase the numbers.

    Twelve Poems

    That wasn't horses: that was
    rain yawning to life in the night
    on metal roofs.


    Lying back so smugly
    phallic, the ampersand
    in the deckchair of itself.


    Fish head-down in a bucket
    wave their helpless fan feet.


    she snorted. And poetry?
    They're like yellow and gold.


    Being rushed through the streets
    at dusk, by trees and rain, the
    equinoctial gales!


    The best love poems are known
    as such to the lovers alone.


    Creek pools, grown top heavy,
    are speaking silver-age verse
    through their gravel beards.


    Have a heart: salted land
    is caused by human tears.


    Tired from understanding
    life, the animals approach man
    to be mystified.


    A spider walking
    in circles is celebrating
    the birthday of logic.


    To win me, they told me
    all my bad attitudes
    but they got them wrong.


    Filling in a form
    the simple man asks his mother
    Mum, what sex are we?

    Too Often Round the Galleries

    Blokes and sheilas, copping lip,
    walk the national comic strip.
    Whitefellow art is half cartoons
    and satire a picket line of goons.
    Ridicule trumps justice, possums!

    Travelling the British Roads

    Climb out of mediaeval one-way
    and roundabouts make knotted rope
    of the minor British roads
    but legal top speed on the rocketing
    nickel motorway is a lower limit!
    I do it, and lorries howl past me.

    Sometimes after brown food
    at a pub, I get so slow
    that Highland trackways
    only have one side
    since they are for feet
    and hoofs of pack horses
    and passing is ceremony.

    Nor is it plovers
    which cry in the peopled glens
    but General Wade's chainmen
    shouting numbers for his road
    not in the Gaelic scores
    but in decimal English.

    Universal roads return as shoal
    late in the age of iron rims.
    Stones in the top layer to be
    no bigger than would fit in your mouth,

    smiles John McAdam. If in doubt
    test them with your lips!

    Highwaymen, used to reining in
    thoroughbreds along a quag of track,
    suddenly hang, along new carriageways
    or clink iron on needy slave-ships,
    but wagon horses start surviving
    seven years instead of three
    at haulage between new smoke towns.

    Then railways silence the white road.
    A horseman rides alone between villages;
    the odd gig, or phaeton;
    smoke and music of the bosh
    rising out of chestnut shade:
    Gypsies, having a heyday.
    Post roads, drying out, seem strange
    beaches, that intersect each other.

    When housemaids uncovered their hair
    at windows, and a newfangled
    steam roller made seersucker sounds
    there were swans on the healed canal,
    and with the sun came the Queen's
    Horse Artillery in tight skeleton coats
    to exercise their dubbined teams
    watched by both fashionable sexes
    in bloomer-like pedal pants.

    I knew to be wary of the best dressed,
    decent with the footsore,
    but frontier-raffish with all
    because the scripts they improvised from
    were dry and arch, but quickly earnest.
    From that day, and the audible
    woodwind cry of peafowl, it was half
    a long lifetime till jerked motors
    would ripple the highroad
    with their soundwaves, like a palate,
    and kiss its gravel out
    with round rubber lips
    growling for the buckets of tar

    and another life to the autobahn
    nothing joins, where I race the mirror
    in a fighter cockpit made posh
    under flak of Guy Fawkes eve
    over the cities of fumed brick.


Excerpted from The Biplane Houses by Les Murray. Copyright © 2006 Les Murray. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
The Averted,
Early Summer Hail with Rhymes in O,
Post Mortem,
The Hanging Gardens,
Leaf Brims,
The Statistics of Good,
Twelve Poems,
Too Often Round the Galleries,
Travelling the British Roads,
The Test,
The Kitchen Grammars,
Winter Winds,
The Tune on Your Mind,
The Domain of the Octopus,
A Dialect History of Australia,
For an Eightieth Birthday,
On the Central Coast Line,
Melbourne Pavement Coffee,
Photographing Aspiration,
Black Belt in Marital Arts,
The Welter,
A Levitation of Land,
Through the Lattice Door,
On the North Coast Line,
The Nostril Songs,
For a Convert in Boston,
The Newcastle Rounds,
The House Left in English,
Upright Clear Across,
Ghost Story,
The Shining Slopes and Planes,
The Succession,
A Stampede of the Sacrifice,
The Offshore Island,
An Acrophobe's Dragon,
As Night-Dwelling Winter Approaches,
The Hoaxist,
Barker Unchained,
The Cool Green,
Death from Exposure,
Me and Je Reviens,
Pastoral Sketches,
Japanese Sword Blades in the British Museum,
The Mare Out on the Road,
The Blueprint,
Blueprint II,
Norfolk Island,
Ends of the Earth,
The Sick-Bags,
Lateral Dimensions,
Bright Lights on Earth,
Panic Attack,
Recognising the Derision as Fear,
Gentrifical Force,
The Physical Diaspora of William Wallace,
The Brick Funnel,
Sunday on a Country River,
Ripe in the Arbours of the Nose,
The Weatherproof Jungle Tree,
Jet Propulsion Stereo,
Industrial Relations,
About the Author,
Also by Les Murray,

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