Six poems by William Hart-Smith

1. “Boomerang”

2. “Willy Willies”

3. “Kangaroos”

4. “A Tank Man Remembers Horses”

5. “Galahs”

6. “Windmill”






Behold! wood into bird and bird to wood again.

A brown-winged bird from the hand of a brown man.


Elbow of wood from flexed elbow of bone

to a swift hawk has amazingly grown


that mounts the sky, sun in its wing,

up, up, over the far tree fluttering


where it turns as if seized with doubt in the air.

Looks back down to the man carved there


and, afraid of the gift of sudden blood,

beats back to his hand and melts once more to wood.


            William Hart-Smith




Willy Willies


Willy willies are spirit trees

made of dust and sand


Tall trunks they have

without roots


They are always searching for somewhere to stand and grow


They spin like the shaft of a fire-stick

in a man’s hands


but the point skids

on the hardwood surface

unable to bite

to find a groove


overturning stones

sucking up leaves

making the sky rain sticks


They snatch a man’s hearth from between his knees

They eat up his wurley and spit out the bits

They fill his mouth with sand

and make of his eyes hot stones


When the women see

 a willy willy coming

they can hear the spirit-children

crying inside them

looking for mothers in order to be born



on the horizon

there walks a tall red tree


            William Hart-Smith






Brown out of the brown tussock a darker brown

head rises as if thrust up cautiously on a pole.


A green bird on a feathering grass-stem

that bends under its weight, flutters


and sinks out of sight. It is the only disturbance

except for the reiterated clicking of castanets


and the fife-notes of insects.


One notices the head gone,

pulled down out of sight, like the vanished bird,


but all over the unfurled

map of the landscape minute brown


figures, dots, jump, all diminishing, yet

each pursuing


lines that intersect, making a maze

of crazy map-lines, meaningless angles.


The skin of the land is a deep fur

maddeningly come alive


with deliberate great fleas.


            William Hart-Smith




A Tank Man Remembers Horses


Quite suddenly I noticed horses

cropping the grass, standing head down,

one foot forward. They had always been there,

but quite suddenly I noticed them.


That night I went out to look

with a lantern. It was the same thing

all over again, only this time

repeated colourlessly in black and white

and cold, the whole thing repeated over again

according to the night,

horses standing up, heads down,

long necks arched out and down,

cropping the grass.


I liked the entire absorption, the quick tearing

as the head is tugged sideways,

and the crisp sound of chewing,

leisurely, rhythmic chewing,

tearing the grass.


I suppose all night long I heard the noise,

the thud of a hoof put down,

the great rippling nostril-belch of a horse,

because very early in the morning I woke,

and I remembered fumbling at drum-tight canvas

and stiff clips,

remembered a dark bulk looming closely,

almost at touching distance.

I could feel the warmth of its body

a horse, standing there

feeding in the rain

head down to the grass, head down,

still feeding in the night,

in the pouring rain. 


            William Hart-Smith 






There are about fifty of them

on the stony ground,


some standing still,

some moving about.


Nothing much of pink

breast or lighter-hued crest


shows in the twilight

among the stones.


They are standing about

like little grey-coated aldermen


talking in undertones.


            William Hart-Smith 






The windmill by the water-tank

with his see-through face

and base of latticed iron bars

reminds me of a fisherman

standing ankle-deep in the shallows

of a lake full of minnows

featureless horizon to horizon—

who suddenly enmeshes the water

with a throwing-net of galahs.


            William Hart-Smith 







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