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: