11 Antipodean Heads JOHN FORBES

I wish we could be nicer
like the Americans

instead we are caught
half-way between

a European sense of style
you can always be at home in

& the aborigines' knack
of passing the time - they know

that nothing matters too much
between now & forever, unlike

the industrious American
who looks around & sees

that Fate applies her chisel
to his own particular face

so when he stares back at Her
he's warm & essential

not reaching for a quip or a flagon
because he knows these things
are part of what he is

the way a mountain
is carved with the heads
of his Presidents

& we are left to wonder
what shape another 200 years

will leave Ayers Rock in.

from Contemporary Australian Poetry (Houghton Mifflin, 1990), edited by John Leonard.
Used and reprinted by permission.

Click here for a reading of this poem, and one of his own, by Chris Wallace-Crabbe.

Click here for a video of the Melbourne premiere of Leonard Lehrman's setting, Jan. 5, 2002.