James Phillip McAuley (12 October 1917 – 15 October 1976 / Lakemba, New South Wales)
A Poem in Place of a Lecture
This morning, friends, the blackboard will be black
Behind my skull: your eyelids will be slack,
And I could wearily cajole from you, or you,
Slow answers to dull questions; or grow annoyed
Earnestly deploying on the black void
Lyra’s measured stars. But I must learn anew
To cope with darkness: these voids won’t do
As palps where I could plot the dusty lore,
The diagrams, the arty emblems you ignore,
Your blood too thin to tick into the brain
The winged horse mustered from the sod
To be the Muses’ pet, a demi-god
High in black heaven. I will not strain—
The chalk crumpling, your eyelids flickering—to explain
Why ignorant men pricked darkness full of scars
And gave them godly names, and called them stars.
You quench whole constellations on the black
Walls of your skulls; arts you dishonour die.
The sky will go black and Hippocrene run dry
Before I will fix one light in your blind skulls this black
Morning, friends. The blackboard will stay black.
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