Kenneth Slessor

K
Kenneth Slessor
Five Visions of Captain Cook
I

Cook was a captain of the Admiralty
When sea-captains had the evil eye,
Or should have, what with beating krakens off
And casting nativities of ships;
Cook was a captain of the powder-days
When captains, you might have said, if you had been
Fixed by their glittering stare, half-down the side,
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Fixed Ideas
Ranks of electroplated cubes, dwindling to glitters,
Like the other pasture, the trigonometry of marble,
Death’s candy-bed. Stone caked on stone,
Dry pyramids and racks of iron balls.
Life is observed, a precipitate of pellets,
Or grammarians freeze it into spar,
Their rhomboids, as for instance, the finest crystal
Fixing a snowfall under glass. Gods are laid out
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In A/C with Ghosts
You can shuffle and scuffle and scold,
You can rattle the knockers and knobs,
Or batter the doorsteps with buckets of gold
Till the Deputy-Governor sobs.
You can sneak up a suitable plank
In a frantic endeavor to see—
But what do they do in the Commonwealth Bank
When the Big Door bangs at Three?
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The Nabob
To the memory of William Hickey, Esq. Coming out of India with ten thousand a year
Exchanged for flesh and temper, a dry Faust
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New Magic
At last I know—it’s on old ivory jars,
Glassed with old miniatures and garnered once with musk.
I’ve seen those eyes like smouldering April stars
As carp might see them behind their bubbled skies
In pale green fishponds—they’re as green your eyes,
As lakes themselves, changed to green stone at dusk.

At last I know—it’s paned in a crystal hoop
On powder-boxes from some dead Italian girl,
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South Country
After the whey-faced anonymity
Of river-gums and scribbly-gums and bush,
After the rubbing and the hit of brush,
You come to the South Country

As if the argument of trees were done,
The doubts and quarrelling, the plots and pains,
All ended by these clear and gliding planes
Like an abrupt solution.
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Talbingo
‘Talbingo River’—as one says of bones:
‘Captain’ or ‘Commodore’ that smelt gunpowder
In old engagements no one quite believes
Or understands. Talbingo had its blood
As they did, ran with waters huge and clear
Lopping down mountains,
Turning crags to banks.

Now it’s a sort of aching valley,
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To the Poetry* of Hugh McCrae
Uncles who burst on childhood, from the East,
Blown from air, like bearded ghosts arriving,
And are, indeed, a kind of guessed-at ghost
Through mumbled names at dinner-tables moving,

Bearers of parrots, bonfires of blazing stones,
Their pockets fat with riches out of reason,
Meerschaum and sharks’-teeth, ropes of China coins,
And weeds and seeds and berries blowzed with poison—
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Winter Dawn
At five I wake, rise, rub on the smoking pane
A port to see—water breathing in the air,
Boughs broken. The sun comes up in a golden stain,
Floats like a glassy sea-fruit. There is mist everywhere,
White and humid, and the Harbour is like plated stone,
Dull flakes of ice. One light drips out alone,
One bead of winter-red, smouldering in the steam,
Quietly over the roof-tops—another window
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