Flowering Eucalypt in Autumn

That slim creek out of the sky
the dried-blood western gum tree
is all stir in its high reaches:

its strung haze-blue foliage is dancing
points down in breezy mobs, swapping
pace and place in an all-over sway

retarded en masse by crimson blossom.
Bees still at work up there tack
around their exploded furry likeness

and the lawn underneath’s a napped rug
of eyelash drift, of blooms flared
like a sneeze in a redhaired nostril,

minute urns, pinch-sized rockets
knocked down by winds, by night-creaking
fig-squirting bats, or the daily

parrot gang with green pocketknife wings.
Bristling food tough delicate
raucous life, each flower comes

as a spray in its own turned vase,
a taut starbust, honeyed model
of the tree’s fragrance crisping in your head.

When the japanese plum tree
was shedding in spring, we speculated
there among the drizzling petals

what kind of exquisitely precious
artistic bloom might be gendered
in a pure ethereal compost

of petals potted as they fell.
From unpetalled gun-debris
we know what is grown continually,

a tower of fabulous swish tatters,
a map hoisted upright, a crusted
riverbed with up-country show towns.

Les Murray, ‘Flowering Eucalypt in Autumn’, in The People’s Otherworld (Sydney: Angus & Robertson), 1983.


  1. Les continues to be one of Australia’s most famous living poets. Unfortunately, it’s a long time since he was one of our best. This poem is a good example of his failure to speak with any kind of distinctly Australian voice even when he is speaking about distinctively Australian landscapes. A life of priviledge and pampering have left him far from the common Australian experience.


  2. Dems is hard words … and I beg to disagree. To be sure, I don’t suggest for a moment that this is Murray’s best or most distinctly Australian poem. It’s far from it. But rather than get into a debate about it, which contemporary Aussie poets do you think speak with a ‘distinctly Australian voice’ and why? I’m always keen to be introduced to the work of Aussie artists.


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