Bottles in the Bombed City

By Les Murray b. 1938 Les Murray
They gave the city a stroke. Its memories
are cordoned off. They could collapse on you.

Water leaks into bricks of the Workers’ century   
and every meaning is blurred. No word in Roget

now squares with another. If the word is Manchester
it may be Australia, where that means sheets and towels.

To give the city a stroke, they mixed a lorryload
of henbane and meadowsweet oil and countrified her.

Now Engels supports Max, and the British Union   
of beautiful ceramics is being shovelled up,

blue-green tiles of the Corn Exchange,
umber gloss bricks of the Royal Midlands Hotel.

Unmelting ice everywhere, and loosened molecules.
When the stroke came, every bottle winked at its neighbour.

Les Murray, “Bottles in the Bombed City” from Subhuman Redneck Poems. Copyright © 1997 by Les Murray. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved. Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: Learning Human (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1998)

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Poet Les Murray b. 1938

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Subjects History & Politics, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Activities, Travels & Journeys, War & Conflict, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Les  Murray

Biography

Australian poet Les Murray grew up in poverty on his grandparents’ farm in Bunyah, New South Wales, a district he moved back to with his own family in 1985. The recipient of numerous honors for his poetry, he has published collections including The Ilex Tree (with Geoff Lehmann, 1965) and Dog Fox Field (1990), both winners of the Grace Levin Prize for poetry; Subhuman Redneck Poems (1996), winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize for . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT History & Politics, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Activities, Travels & Journeys, War & Conflict, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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