Sunday, May 9, 2010


Beside a slate grey Massachusetts pond
I watch leaves of maple, oak and plane
Summoned back to the black earth. 
Trees that trust in a distant spring
Shed life in a silent firework: 
Gold and scarlet leaves acquiesce
In drifts down the byways of heaven,
And naked branches, knotted-thumbed,
Arthritic-fingered, farewell a fading sky.
Yet here, in this hushed perfection, 
Unspoken words come: this is not my country.

Back in my own country I know the names 
Of politicians, actors, the makes of cars,
Know my bank PIN and my internet password, 
When the news comes on and the garbage goes out.
But I do not know the red ribbing of my country,
The lay of valleys, the course of creeks.
I do not know each leaf, root, seed, fruit,
Have never chewed a roasted grub or moth,
Bitten the sweet of a honey ant,
Stirred the wallaby stew.

All these things I do not know, as I could know, 
As perhaps I should know, of my country. 
But yet as I stand by this grey lake,
With all the leaves settling into the sombre 
Green of these dank northern woods, 
I know that this is not my country.
Here I know my country is my country.

- Larry Buttrose

Video of my reading of the poem on 4 May 2010 at Friendly Street in Adelaide can be seen at:


  1. Good one, Lerry. Wallaby would taste much like kangaroo - rather gamey. Stirring it would depend on the pot - or whether it was tossed on a fire after skinning (or before). Add smoke to the taste.


  2. Thanks very much Rae. I think half of South Australia subsisted on wallaby meat during the Greta Depression (i.e. the one before the coming one!). Nick Enright wrote a play about it, called "On The Wallaby".

  3. Oh, Larry. As one who has stood by Massachusetts ponds and walked the dank trails of new-budding ancient spring woods in NH, I find immense poignancy in this poem.