Act Six, After Babel by Peter Goldsworthy. Poems about theatre and sex- Australia.

Act Six

Act six begins
when the curtain falls,
the corpses awake,
the daggers are cleaned.

Act six
is Juliet in the supermarket,
Mr Macbeth on the 8.15.

In act six
Hamlet sucks a tranquilliser,
Romeo washes up.

and death
is gentle and anonymous —
Lear’s respirator
switched discreetly off.

After Babel

I read once of a valley
where men and women
spoke a different tongue.

I know that any uncooked theory
can find its tribe
— but this one might be true.

For us there are three languages
— yours, mine, and the English between,
a wall of noises.

At times our children interpret,
or music connects our moods.
There are monosyllables,

the deeper grammar of fucking,
a language too subjective
for nouns.

But even after conjugation
the tense is still the same
— present imperfect.

We take our mouths from each other.
We carry away our tongues,
and the separate dictionaries of our heads.



The New Oxford Book of Australian Verse, chosen by Les A. Murray


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