Rain and iron
On thundered nights
a child knows fear,
yet comfort finds:
he hears the large drops
that strike and din
against his father’s roof.
I also knew
of rain and iron;
and later found
I was myself
grown strong to be a roof.
‘Lord, give each single being a death his own,’
young Rilke prayed one hundred years ago
when for the dying poor, his dark compassion
directed through his pen its overflow.
He likened dying to a swan’s release,
who steps from land to lake: she finds increase
of grace, glides weightless on her element,
her royal reflection by her ripples bent.
Did Rilke dying find those hopes fulfilled? —
Trident poised, Death stalked in marrow and blood;
he wasted Rilke, devoured both flesh and fat,
and from within ulcered through skin and throat.
Could any hold against such overload?
Mid weariness and wan-hope, the man was killed.
For his glory
‘That I gain glory at the cost of Pharaoh;
that the Egyptians know that I am Yahweh’ —
the Lord said, bidding Moses lead the Hebrews
to pitch their camp beside the Sea of Reeds
where Pharaoh would discover them, ‘and I
shall harden Pharaoh’s heart so he pursues.’
From Exodus we know that story how
the Lord lured Pharaoh’s charioteers to flounder
in the mud and drown in the returning
waters he had blown aside to let
his people pass. And is there hint of yet
another reason in the words of Moses,
that some day God would show his care for Israel’s
children? Were these the reasons God enticed
the charioteers of Egypt to their death-whelm,
pushing many to widow- and orphanhood?
In grace she tacks across the wind
white canvass triangles ballooning
before her masts and single topsail,
a crawl, it seems, across the gentle
swell and chop. Swift past her motor launches
skim and churn foam scars
behind them on the dull blue-green,
scars swiftly swallowed. Superior
in speed those power-boat drivers feel;
but sailors know the skills to harness
the vectors of the winds to ride
the ways they choose, and leave scant trails
behind to scar the sea or land.
About the Poet
Murray Alfredson BA (Melb.) MLib (Wales) has worked as a librarian, a lecturer in librarian-ship, and in Buddhist chaplaincy at Flinders University. He has published essays on poetry, meditation and interfaith matters, poems, and poetry translations in eight countries (in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America); and two poetry collections: ‘Nectar and light’, in Friendly Street new poets, 12, Adelaide: Friendly Street Poets and Wakefield Press, 2007; and The gleaming clouds, Brisbane: Interactive Press, 2013. (Available through IP at (http://ipoz.biz/Titles/TGC.htm, and through Amazon) He has been translated into Spanish, Farsi, German and Arabic. He has won several poetry prizes and commendations, and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2009 and again in 2012. He is a member as a senior editor of the Editorial Board for Ashvamegh, the literary flight, and is co-editor of the Friendly Street Poets’ annual anthology for 2016. He was born in Mildura, by the River Murray, and he lives now on the Fleurieu.