David Malouf: ‘Long Story Short’

The appearance of a new book by Australian writer David Malouf tends to be a happy occasion on my calendar. Since being introduced to his work as a high school kid (Fly Away Peter was one of only a small handful of books that I ever finished reading at school, and I have re-read it many times since), I have looked out for his books. The most recent novel I read of his was Ransom, published in 2009. I thought it was excellent. He now has a new book out, Earth Hour, his first collection of published poems since Typewriter Music (2007) and Revolving Days (2008). Here’s one of its offerings:

The Book of Grievances has its roots
in singular griefs. A man keeps his list,
his hit list. Writes down times
and places where the knife went in, was twisted. Writes
it down in the ample folder of
his heart as we call it, to be underlined
in red and revisited. The gun he keeps
oiled is also there in the heart’s darkness.

He takes it up and aims. Somebody falls, only he knows who
and where. In the place where grief
began and the wrong was done. When the dead
are as many as his griefs and the books are balanced he too
will be done.

The book, like the gun, is as warmly secret
in him as hoarded sweets. Along with the rough plan
sometime soon
to light out to the Territory, and once
gone send back no message.

– David Malouf, ‘Long Story Short’, in Earth Hour (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2014), 33.

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