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    [»»] Starlight wins the 2011 Age Poetry Book of the Year     and     [»»] the 2011 Qld Premier’s Award

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Five Quartets

from «Starlight: 150 Poems»

This poem is a truncated version of T.S. Eliot’s poem “Four Quartets” which, at nearly a thousand lines, seemed to me to be far too long. This version is Eliot’s poem with most of the words removed, and runs to a more economical seventy-five lines.

This piece is about two printed pages long.



      1

All might have been speculation.

What might have been opened?

I do not inhabit the garden.

There they were dignified, invisible,

over the dead bird, in response to

the flowers that are our guests,

in the drained pool.

Dry water, bird children,

garlic and mud in the blood

dance along the sodden floor.

Below, the practical Erhebung without

elimination, its partial ecstasy,

its horror. Yet the body cannot

allow a little dim light: neither

rotation nor strained fancies

with no men. Bits of wind in unwholesome

eructation, the torpid gloomy hills of Putney,

twittering into inoperancy and the other.

Abstention from its metalled bell

carries the cling wing.

     2

Words move the Chinese violin, while

the words between the foliage

waste a factory, or a by-pass.

There is a time for the wind to break

and to shake the field-mouse with a silent motto.

You lean against a van

and the deep village, the sultry dahlias,

wait for the early pipe. 


     3

And the little man and woman

round and round the fire

leaping through the laughter

lifting the milking and the coupling

of man and woman of dung and wrinkles.

I am here in heat, and writhing high

into grey roses filled with thunder.

The rolling cars weep and hunt the ice.

That was not very worn-out.

Poetical fashion, wrestle with poetry.

Calm and wisdom deceived us, the dead secrets

into which they turned their every moment

and shocking monsters, fancy old men,

can hope to acquire houses under the Stock Exchange. 


     4

The Directory of cold lost the funeral.

I said to the dark, the lights are hollow,

with a bold rolled train in the tube

and the conversation fades into the mental ether,

the mind is in the garden, pointing and repeating

“there is no ecstasy!” The wounded steel,

the fever chart, is the disease,

the dying nurse our hospital.

The millionaire ascends from feet to mental wires.

I must quake in our only drink, blood.

Trying to use a failure, because one has

shabby equipment in the mess of emotion,

and to conquer men, is no competition.

Home is older, stranger, intense.

But the old lamplight is nearly here,

with the explorers. 


     5

I think that the patient is forgotten.

Men choose the machine, but the nursery bedroom

in the winter gaslight is within us,

also, the algae and the dead men.

The sea has the water,

the groaner and the women.

Where is there an end of it?

Where is the end of the wastage?

We have to think of them,

while the money is ineffable:

we appreciate the agony of others,

covered by dead negroes.


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