It rests their big eyes.

Cotswold cows by Pippin, 2005

Les Murray wrote a poem with 18 stanzas, but I am sharing only a third of them here. It is a rambling catalogue of summer gardening memories, and after this first portion my mind balks at following his wandering; I want to rest here in the shade, where I can be philosophic and civilized. The thing the poet wants to cultivate under the glaring sun Down Under is not any kind of vegetable or flower, but the shade itself.

I wish I could trade some of my own backyard shade for his extra sunshine, but how do you measure that kind of stuff? What I have to trade might not add up to much in total mass of shade… I’m guessing enough for a couple of rogueing cows.


Women made the gardens, in my world,
cottage style full-sun fanfares
netting-fenced, of tablecloth colours.

Shade is what I first tried to grow
one fence in from jealous pasture,
shade, which cattle rogueing into

or let into, could devour
and not hurt much. Shelter from glare
it rests their big eyes, and rests in them.

A graphite-toned background of air
it features red, focusses yellow.
Blue diffusing through it rings the firebell.

Shade makes colours loom and be thoughtful.
It has the afterlife atmosphere
but also the philosophic stone cool.

It is both day and night civilized,
the colour of reading, the tone
of inside, and of inside the mind.

-Les Murray


7 thoughts on “It rests their big eyes.

  1. Having moved from a semi-desert to where we are now, we planted a LOT of trees in our garden. After three decades most of them have reached maturity – lovely and cool in summer, yet it does limit my ability to grow vegetables and flowers (as does the lack of water, of course).


  2. I like it! We have been in a long drought here and the little patch of green grass I have managed to keep watered and the shade from our mature trees has truly been a soul-quenching blessing to me this summer. I like sun a lot, but shade is so soothing.

    the cows have such personality, don’t they?


  3. We’re having the same drought as Jody! (Haven’t seen her on here for a LONG time!) Shade sounds most attractive to me! 🙂 Enjoy your little oasis!


  4. This is a lovely poem, Gretchen. Our summer days are easing (though last week at 90 is still pretty summery to me!) I wish they could continue full force for another month before we ease into fall. I must say that the shade he mentioned would, on occasion, be most welcome!


  5. I could gladly donate some of my backyard shade also. But then I am thankful for my shade too. It might make growing a huge garden a challenge, but for now I will appreciate what I do have and my potager has produced good things this year.


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