No. 1


Les Murray 

In the dream, Clarrie Dunn
sits naked with many thousands
in a muddy trench. He is saying
the true god gives his flesh and blood.
Idols demand yours off you.


I was upstaged in Nottingham
after reading poetry there
by what lay in the porterís room above:
ginger human skeletons. Eight of them.
Disturbed by extensions to the arts centre
and reassembled from the dozerís shove
some might have been my ancestors, Nottingham
being where my motherís 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 theyíd 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 peas 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.



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