QUEER LITTLE ALMOND EYES

Queer little deep brown almond eyes
Turned to me now with grave surprise
What the secrets tarrying there
Baffling a world's inquiring stare?
What is the wisdom so intense
Masked as a great grave innocence?
Born of the rich, romantic East,
Mysteries flash as fires released.

Reach me the depth that herein lies,
Queer little deep brown almond eyes.

                                      Victor Kennedy (1925)
 

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THE FIRST RAIN

                     by Victor Kennedy (1927)

Out across the bending cane
Slowly after seven moons
Falls the soaking tropic rain
Kindly to the parched ratoons1.

And I wander down the track
Past the shallow billabong
Hearing every fissured crack
Drinking noisily and long.

Can it be, where seasons fall
Drooped with Heaven's dreary tears,
Wilted fields from famine call
Ere the long slack disappears?

Then I slip along the world,
Solemn in her cloistered ways,
Dreaming, living, backward hurled
Down my careless yesterdays.

Mournful little showers blow
Past the luscious green of Lorne;
But the golden afterglow
Floods the season with her scorn.

Deep the frosts of Bendigo,
Biting warm their morning kiss;
Still I would remain to know
All the sturdy strength of this.

                                     Victor Kennedy (1928)


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 1: a ratoon is the cane which grows from the stubble of freshly cut cane.

THE NORTH AGAIN

Cairns, 1926
Cairns Spence St 1926, SLQ 20091

It's well, this tilting of the steady rain
That fills each billabong;
And yet, my ears are alert again
For one cry old and long;
It springs from the reefs where ships have lain
And ranks of dead men throng.

It's well, this moaning of the steady wind
That clangs each bolted gate;
But I have eyes with a fear behind;
For one form lean with hate;
It springs from the Barrier crests, surf-lined,
Where cyclone frenzies wait.

It's well, this terror in the hearts out here
(The creeks are in flood to-night)
But in my thought is a memory, clear
With wild, death-driven spite;
It springs from the east where trade winds veer
To break on headlands white.

It stamps through ranges where pendas hold
The press of a breaking sky,
And flings them screaming in flange and fold
To die where jungles die;
To bleed back to earth and sucking mould
The blood they'd striven by.

Yet I am turning to the North again
However its seasons go,
To feel the swish of the sweltering rain
After a mid-year glow;
To loiter awhile where banyans strain
And rich, red crotons grow.

It's well, the colours of life are there;
Blood's red; the brown of mould;
And life is swept to its atmosphere
Of filtered sunray-gold;
Fine, fine is the depth of amber air
Where jungle roots have hold.

And strong the urge in a firm-knit mind
(The soil's own springing seed)
To shape the life that a man must find
Is all that a man shall need;
For storms that are death and suns that blind
Are birth in that springing seed.

                                    Victor Kennedy (1938)

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FARTHEST NORTH

Mt Bartle Frere (SLQ Image)
Mt Bartle Frere

Away before the stretching eyes
The little valley lies,
And who would not be out with me along the tropic way?
We sipped the wine of old romance when we were fresh and strong,
But that was many years ago and many miles along!
Ah, me, to breathe the golden air of Farthest North to-day!

Who knows the deep entrancing blue
In Murray Prior's1 view?
Or climbs again the coastal ridge to clamber Bartle Frere2 ?
Whose eyes recall the sombre spread of bending fields of cane
When coloured evens richly glowed to trash fires on the wane?
Ah me, to be in Queensland when the night star shimmers there!

Below the gorge's purple gloom
The valley gardens bloom,
And winding past the mountain road the Mulgrave beckons here;
To the emerald South Pacific and the ancient Coral Seas,
The Barron hurtles forward with her rhyme of centuries.
Ah me, to be in Queensland when the north sun glitters there!

The storm – the cyclone season's best –
Tears frantic to the west
As outposts on the waterfront are stamped and driven through;
The time-built, time-worn Barrier sinks back in old-time pain
To meet the flashing fury of the foam fiend once again –
Ah me, a million victims grin a welcome for the new!

Still I have seen the broad pale moon
Change tropic nights to noon;
And I have seen the summer smile at Cairns and Innisfail;
Lantanas blazed their impudence down edgeways from the heat,
But crotons and hibiscus hearts flush hot-blood welcomes sweet –
Ah me, when tropic calls ring clear can southern pleas prevail?

                                                                Victor Kennedy (1927)


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1 A mountain range to the east of Cairns, named after Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior, (1819-92) Queensland MLC, Post-Master General, and father of 20 children!

2 The highest mountain in Queensland, at 1622 metres, approximately 50 km south of Cairns 

Compare this poem to The Barron Falls by James Sweeney

PALMER RIVER Palmer River

Gold upon the mountain side,
Gold in rock and river,
Gold in men whose spirits ride
From the vast Forever
To seek again the better time,
Their loves, and lusts, the flowered rhyme,
The warm red days that softened crime
Back of Never-Never.

                        Victor Kennedy (1928)

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 Click here for another contemporary account of the Palmer Rush