Forgetting the Reformation

Seen from the high cutting

the sky drifts white cotton

over dance-floors of water

either side the shady creek

that trickles down country

lagoons gummed with water fern


saucepans of wet money

brass polyester gold

couch grass black with swamp

lily dams backed up gullies

and parallel in paspalum

old tillages that fed barns


no one grows patch-crops now

slow-walking black cattle

circle up off cleared flats

past pastel new brick houses

and higher charcoal-barrelled

hills are fields of a war


four hundred years of jihad

though it was first called

the Thirty Years War

buff coats and ships’ cannon

the Christian civil war

of worldwide estrangement


freemasons, smashed colors

the nun-harem, Old Red Socks

wives “turning” for husbands

those forbidden their loves

bitter chews of an old plug

from Ireland and Britain


  Come day go day

  God send Sunday

  Forget the Boyne Water

  six pack, Lord Lundy,

Guy Fawkes and Crummel

as kids forget Rommel—


bigot slurs jostled tempers

here, right into the dairy age

almost the 4-wheel-drive age

but belief had turned private

and unpreached help, drily spoken

having long become the message.

—Les Murray

Published in the 2012-03-23 issue: 

Les Murray was the author of twelve books of poetry, including Killing the Black Dog, Fredy Neptune, and Taller When Prone. He lived in New South Wales, Australia, and died in 2019.

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