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Letter from AustraliaMichael Hofmann
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Vol. 30 No. 19 · 9 October 2008
Poem

Letter from Australia

Michael Hofmann

333 words

to Ralph Savarese

The early worm gets the bird –
it’s morning in Australia.
It’s strange to be so bilious
so far away.

Little to do with Australia,
which so far as I can see
seems mostly delightful:
airy pastel buildings and trees I can’t name.

There is some peculation
among the local pols,
mainly relegated to the business section:
a few million hectares rightly or wrongly grazed or mined.

The shilly-shallying of Costello (who has a book to sell-o),
the ill-mannered couple at the Iguana,
the chair-sniffer unluckily caught in the act,
a victim of his own special brand of gallantry.

Then there was the recent South Sea shindig
all in matching shirts and kilts,
except for poor Fiji, which
was sent to Coventry.

The local parliament yammers all day –
you can get used to the phantom
pinpricks of short ‘i’s in words
like beach, bush or bake –

and then the Beeb burbles all night
dreaming to itself in Queen.
And still we wake haunted by
the familiar American galère:

Cheney the sinisterly skewed orangutan,
the worn charmlessness of Bush,
the clumping one-armed snowman McCain,
looking either to club or hug.

And now – the commentariat agog
at the promised melange of snowsports and watersports –
Sarah P., the driller killer
the uterine shooterine.

The ‘real’ routinely trumping ‘politics’
– as if politics weren’t real.
There are no more anchovies,
but there is still fishing and (apparently) Anchorage.

If you can have Little Englanders,
can’t you have Little Americans,
half-awash with Washington’s hormones,
half in rebellion against them.

The imprisoned balloons
in the false ceiling of the ‘Palindome’,
hang above the fat freed faces.
Cyclothymia in the USA.

My friend in the bonsai liberal exclave
in your biodiesel flyover state,
I can still register my first
Zolaesque frisson of horror

at the fried turnip smell of the cars
that ate not Paris, but whatever you called it –
I Oughta Went around It.
There is no going around it.

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