Hunger and Fear
is the dust where I stand,
the sulphur smells of the farmyard.
Your tests show fear
is stronger than hunger.
Maybe true of a laboratory animal,
bred so he's easy to handle.
But try the same trick with farm pigs -
too big and difficult for white-coated technicians.
When their own grass is shrinking,
and the next door paddock is green,
pigs will gather
away from the electric fence, and scream -
in their minds they are already burning.
Then they charge.
Small ones slip under, and big ones,
tangled in wire,
wriggle through – screaming as it crackles.
We are like farm pigs, half feral,
and the fences can't cope
with our numbers.
George Grogan's universe
had no numbers.
Droving, he would arrive
minus one or two beasts,
uncorrupted by knowledge of his loss.
Apologetic for a life spent under the stars
George had never seen
the inside of a schoolhouse,
his only forte
the habits of sheep and cattle at night.
Some of his peers had no letters,
but they all knew the numbers of their mob.
The simplest of the simple
was a man who could not count.
As I suspected, Geoffrey Lehmann's Poems 1957 – 2013 (UWA Publishing) did win the 2015 Prime Minister's Award for Poetry. And from a strong field, of course. But what a book it is. I am especially taken with the Spring Forest (1970 – 2010) section. There is a dedication.
FOR ROSS MCINERNEY (1918 – 2010) THROUGH WHOSE VOICE THESE POEMS ARE SPOKEN
A way of life entire, now vanquished and vanished, is summoned up with the cumulative effect of yarns, snapshots, vignettes, musings, potted histories. It is oral history transformed into … well, I don't know exactly. Nothing I have read is quite like it. Maybe it has a slight overtone of Spoon River Anthology, but it is entirely in our vernacular, set in familiar landscape. I find it to be a very valuable and endearing work. It feels completely authentic.