John Brack y T.S. Eliot: pinturas + poemas

John Brack_Collins Street, 5 p.m._1955

John Brack_Collins Street, 5 p.m._1955

John Brack_Two Typists_1954

John Brack_Two Typists_1954

T.S. Eliot (poeta anglo-estadounidense, 1888-1965)
Preludios 1-4 (1917)

En los pasadizos, se establece la tarde del invierno
con olor a filete,
Las seis en punto.
Colillas de los días humeantes.
Y ahora un chaparrón
ventoso arremolina entre sus pies
los residuos mugrientos
de hojarasca marchita
y periódicos volados de solares vacíos.
Los chaparrones baten
persianas rotas, chimeneas,
y en la esquina de la calle
un solitario caballo de tiro piafa y bufa.

Y se encienden entonces las farolas.


La mañana recobra su conciencia
de los tenues y rancios
olores de cerveza que provienen
del serrín pisoteado en las calles
por todos esos pies
fangosos que se agolpan
en los madrugadores kioscos de café.

Con las otras mascaradas
que hace suyas el tiempo,
uno piensa en todas esas manos
que levantan persianas deslustradas
en un millar de cuartos de alquiler.


Arrojaste la manta de la cama,
te tumbaste de espaldas y esperaste,
adormilada, viste de qué modo la noche revelaba
el millar de sórdidas imágenes,
titilantes en el techo,
que constituían tu alma.
Y cuando el mundo entero volvió
y la luz se filtro sigilosa
por las contraventanas
y oíste a los gorriones en las cornisas,
tuviste una visión tal de la calle
que la calle difícilmente entiende;
sentada al borde de la cama, enrollaste
los bigudíes de tu pelo, o te masajeaste las plantas
amarillas de los pies
con las palmas sucias de tus manos.


Su alma tensamente se alargaba
a través de los cielos
desvanecidos detrás de una manzana de edificios,
o bien con pies urgentes caminaba
a las cuatro, a las cinco y a las seis;
y cortos y cuadrados dedos
que rellenaban pipas de fumar,
periódicos vespertinos, y ojos
seguros de unas ciertas certidumbres,
la conciencia de una calle ennegrecida
impaciente por apropiarse del mundo,

Movido soy por quimeras que se enroscan
en torno a esas imágenes, y se adhieren a ellas:
la noción de algo infinitamente amable
que infinitamente sufre.

Pásate la mano por la boca, y ríe;
los mundos dan vueltas como ancianas mujeres
que recogen la leña en los derribos.

Traducción de Felipe Benítez Reyes

. . .

John Brack_The Bar_1954

John Brack_The Bar_1954


John Brack_Portrait of a man drinking ale

John Brack_Portrait of a man drinking ale

John Brack_Nude with two chairs_1957

John Brack_Nude with two chairs_1957

T.S. Eliot (Anglo-American poet, 1888-1965)
Preludes 1-4 (1917)

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimneypots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.
The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.

With the other masquerades
That times resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.
You tossed a blanket from the bed
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.
His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

John Brack_Suburban Life 1

John Brack_Suburban Life 1

. . .
John Brack (1920-1999) fue un pintor australiano, nacido en Melbourne. Registró con sus pinturas de los años 50 “El Sueño australiano” – y lo mostró en la luz deprimante del invierno melbournense. Su grande fuente poética: Los Preludios de T.S. Eliot.
. . .
“Melburnian” Helen Bordeaux – from her Objects of Whimsy website, 2012:
“I’m not sure but when I was young I visited the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and fell in love with a painting. I remember it being different from the other works. It was a streetscape holding a sea of faces. There was nothing pretty about the imagery; the faces of tobacco-stained complexions and haughty expressions were a dramatic contrast to the richly coloured landscape that surrounded it.
The painting was Collins St., 5 p.m., by John Brack (1920-1999).
Thirty years later I am living that painting – I live in Melbourne. Winter in Melbourne is just as Brack depicted: cold and grey, and there is a certain afternoon light unique to Melbourne that occurs when the sun shines behind thick grey clouds causing a tobacco-coloured hue to colour the sky and all that exists underneath it.
John Brack was a realist of the human condition, when post-War humans became the machine of industry, toiling fodder driving prosperity. How glad I am Brack documented these intriguing snapshots of ordinary life during the 1950s and 60s in Melbourne,  Australia.  This painting and other works of John Brack describe Melbourne’s character with imagery. They’re intriguing, with dark notes that keep a certain electric energy running through the streets and veins of those people who choose to live here !”

Editor’s note:  We have paired Brack’s paintings with Eliot’s poems because Brack once said in an interview that his reading of The Preludes had been the poetic inspiration for him to paint Collins St., 5 p.m.

. . .

Melbourne Today…..

Melbourne_Neon sign for City Hatters below Flinders Street Station_September 2014


Melbourne skyline September 2014Melbourne skyline along the Promenade south bank of the Yarra River_September 2014Melbourne_plaque on the bridge over the Yarra River where St.Kilda's Road meets Flinders Street_Vires Acquirit Eundo_It gathers strength by going_from Virgil's Aeneid

Melbourne_schoolchildren crossing from Federation Square to Flinders Street Station_September 2014DEFGHIMelbourne_City Hatters sign below Flinders Street Station_Melbourne_September 2014Melbourne_City Hatters display window C_September 2014Melbourne_City Hatters display window A_September 2014Melbourne_City Hatters display window B_September 2014

A “narrbong” of Indigenous Australian poems and paintings

Jackie Giles  (1935-2010)_Purrungu rock hole showing underground travel coils of the ancestral snake or jila_2008

Jackie Giles (1935-2010)_Purrungu rock hole showing underground travel coils of the ancestral snake or jila_2008

Oodgeroo Noonuccal
God’s One Mistake
“It repenteth me that I have made man.” (Genesis 6:7)
I who am ignorant and know so little,
So little of life and less of God,
This I do know
That happiness is intended and could be,
That all wild simple things have life fulfilled
Save man.
Without books or schools, lore or philosophy
In my own heart I know
That hate is wrong,
Injustice evil.
Pain there must be and tears,
Sorrow and death, but not
Intolerance, unkindness, cruelty,
Unless men choose
The mean and base, which Nature never made,
But we alone.
And sometimes I will think that God looks down
With loving smile, saying,
‘Poor child, poor child, maybe I was wrong
In planning for you reason and free will
To fashion your own life in your own way.
For all the rest
I settled and appointed as for children
Their simple days, but you
I gave the Godlike gift to choose,
Who were not wise – for see how you have chosen,
Poor child, alone among them all now,
Unhappy on the earth.’

. . .

Jonathan Hill
Light Years Away
My lifetime flickers
In the fading light,
I no longer have
The will to fight.

The battle continues
Till my dying day,
Forever forced to live
The white man’s way.

The songlines and stories
The laws of the land,
Deemed mythical nonsense
By those in command.

Now lost to eternity
Perished and passed,
Making way for modernity
A comical farce.

A culture bound
By desire not need,
Ruled by the wealthy
Infected with greed.

The unifying power
Of the setting sun
Is proof humanity
Is collectively one.

But such realisation
Is light years away,
There’s no profit to be made
Living the peaceful way.

. . .

Rover Thomas (1926-1998)_Rock Country on Texas Downs_1988_bush gum and ochre

Rover Thomas (1926-1998)_Rock Country on Texas Downs_1988_bush gum and ochre

Rover Thomas_Sydney Harbour_1991

Rover Thomas_Sydney Harbour_1991

Rover Thomas_Lightning_1995

Rover Thomas_Lightning_1995

. . .

Kevin Gilbert

Kill the legend
Kill the legend
Butcher it
With your acute cynicisms
Your paternal superfluities
With your unwise wisdom
Kill the legend
Obliterate it
With your atheism
Your fraternal hypocrisies
With your primal urge of miscegenation
Kill the legend
Devalue it
With your sophistry
Your baseless rhetoric
Your lusting material concepts
Your groundless condescension
Kill it
Vitiate the seed
Crush the root-plant
All this
And more you must needs do
In order
To form a husk of a man
To the level and in your own image


Kevin Gilbert (1933-1993) wrote “Kill the Legend” in 1971, while serving 14 years in jail for murder.

. . .

Gerry Bostock
Black Children
Prepare Black Children
For the Land Rights fight,
Our cause is true,
Our aim’s in sight,
Unite my people,

Come on, Black Children
Rise on your feet!
Get out of the gutter
And onto the street;
United together,
Hand in hand,
Heads raised, high we stand,
Then, march as one,
Surging forward and onward,
For justice
For freedom
And for Our Land.

. . .

Kevin Gilbert

I am the tree

the lean hard hungry land

the crow and eagle

sun and moon and sea

I am the sacred clay

which forms the base

the grasses vines and man

I am all things created

I am you and

you are nothing

but through me the tree

you are

and nothing comes to me

except through that one living gateway

to be free

and you are nothing yet

for all creation

earth and God and man

is nothing

until they fuse

and become a total sum of something

together fuse to consciousness of all

and every sacred part aware


in true affinity.

. . .

Zelda Quakawoot
Mossies roam

Sandfly’s home

Reds and blue

Keep them from you

Muddy banks

Our tummies thank…

Fire smells

Sweet mangroves
For secrets
. . .

Tutama Tjapangati
big one mutukayi
kulaputja katiku
bring em up here

big one
Tjukula, show em a you
my country

Mickini, mighty be we take em
Mayayana, my daught
Nolan, my brother
Kayiyu Kayiyu, Nampitjimp

Ohh, too much!
grab em big one you
ebbrything a tucker
kapi too/puttem a-drum

you right that’s ‘im
my country, piyu
Aladayi is a poem about a local schoolbus. It employs a mix of Pintupi/Luritja and English.
[mutukayi – motorcar; kulaputja – schoolbus; kayiyu – will bring;
Tjukula – a place in the eastern Gibson Desert; Nampitjimp –
shortened version of Nampitjinpa, a skin-name; kapi – water;
piyu – all’s well; kala – anyway, what next?]

. . .

J. E. Doyle
I sat and spoke to the Elders today
It is not so wrong in what they say

The times have changed as they well know,
But isn’t it time we had a fair go?

So let us all band together and clear the air
The Kooris* know that things are not fair

Their knowledge is known for thousands of years
Through hunting, healing, also tears
They have also survived hatred and fear

So let us all live together before it’s too late
And make this land a wonderful place.
. . .
*Kooris – the name that Indigenous Australians from what are now the states of New South Wales and Victoria traditionally have called themselves.
. . .
Gail Kay
My Sitting Down Place
I go down to the creek
Where the water gurgles
As it hurries along
Over the shining sand and pebbles
To its destiny
With the sea.
Dappled sunlight
Flits and moves
Across the water, over the creek bank,
And the birds sing happily
To the accompaniment
Of insects and crickets.
I sit in silence as I soak it all into my soul.
Peace flows
From the water
To my heart.
Whatever life brings me
I now can face
Because of this,
My sitting down place!

. . .

N. B. “Narrbong” means “string bag”.

We are grateful to Jens Korff of Creative Spirits for provision of the above poems, except for God’s One Mistake (via Australian Poetry Library); Kill the legend, Black Children, and Aladayi (Adam Shoemaker of Australian National University, Canberra); and Kevin Gilbert’s daughter, Kerry Reed-Gilbert, provided Tree.

. . . . .

Bill Tjapattjarri (1920-2008)_Rockholes near The Olgas

Bill Tjapattjarri (1920-2008)_Rockholes near The Olgas

Pepai Jangala Carroll, born 1950_Walungurru number 294.13

Pepai Jangala Carroll, born 1950_Walungurru number 294.13

Colleen Wallace Nungari_Body painting design

Colleen Wallace Nungari_Body painting design

Walangkura Napanangka_Women's Dreaming

Walangkura Napanangka_Women’s Dreaming

Emily Kam Kngwarry_Anmatyerr_Kam_yam pencil bark seed

Emily Kam Kngwarry_Anmatyerr_Kam_yam pencil bark seed

Indigenous Australian peoples (“Aboriginal” peoples) were making rock paintings and rock engravings many thousands of years ago. Later, Dot painting – whether on boulders, in caves, or on sand – involved four main paint colours: yellow (sun), brown (soil), red (desert sand), and white (clouds and sky). Legends and dreams have all been depicted. Aerial-view paintings of the desert, including bird’s- eye “maps” of animal tracks, or “rock holes” (where water may be found in the dryest places) remain standard subject matter, even today.

. . . . .

Rabindranath Tagore: “El Último Trato” / “The Last Bargain”

El último trato...convertirte en un hombre libre_The last become a free man

Rabindranath Tagore (poeta bengalí, 1861-1941)
El Último Trato (1918)

¡Estoy por alquilar, contrátenme!
gritaba yo una mañana andando por la carretera.
El rey pasó en su carroza, la espada en la mano.
Me cogió de la mano y me dijo:
Te tomo a mi servicio; a cambio, tendrás parte de mi poder.
Pero yo no sabía que hacer de su poder y le dejé partir en su carroza.
En el ardiente mediodía todas las casas estaban cerradas.
Yo vagaba por tortuosos caminos.
Un anciano se me acercó, llevando un saco lleno de oro.
Se detuvo pensativo, y me dijo:
Ven, te tomo a mi servicio. Te pagaré con este oro.
Empezó a contar sus monedas, una a una, pero le volví la espalda.
Caía la tarde. El seto del jardín había florecido.
Una hermosa muchacha se me acercó y me dijo:
Te tomo a mi servicio y te pagaré con una sonrisa.
Pero su sonrisa se desvaneció, le saltaron las lágrimas
y, sola, se perdió de nuevo en la sombra.
El sol reverberaba en la arena y las olas rompían caprichosamente.
Un niño jugaba con las conchas, sentado en la playa.
Levantó la cabeza, me miró como si reconociera, y me dijo:
Te tomo por nada.
Desde que hice este trato, jugando, con un niño,
me he convertido en un hombre libre.

Traducción: Luis López Nieves

. . .
Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali poet, 1861-1941)
The Last Bargain (1918)
“Come and hire me,” I cried,
while in the morning I was walking on the stone-paved road.
Sword in hand, the King came in his chariot.
He held my hand and said, “I will hire you with my power.”
But his power counted for nought, and he went away in his chariot.

In the heat of the midday the houses stood with shut doors.
I wandered along the crooked lane.
An old man came out with his bag of gold.
He pondered and said, “I will hire you with my money.”
He weighed his coins one by one, but I turned away.

It was evening. The garden hedge was all aflower.
The fair maid came out and said, “I will hire you with a smile.”
Her smile paled and melted into tears, and she went back alone into the dark.

The sun glistened on the sand, and the sea waves broke waywardly.
A child sat playing with shells.
He raised his head and seemed to know me,
and said, “I hire you with nothing.”
From thenceforward that bargain struck in child’s play
made me become a free man.

. . . . .

Rabindranath Tagore: “Ella” y “El camino cerrado”

Girasoles en Withrow Park_Toronto

Rabindranath Tagore (poeta bengalí, 1861-1941)
Ella, quedando en lo más hondo de mí,
en el crepúsculo de resplendores y ojeadas;
ella, que nunca abrió sus velos en la luz del alba,
será mi regalo definitivo para Tí, mi Dios, plegado en mi canto final.
Las palabras han cortejado a ella y fracasaron alcanzarle;
la persuasión se ha estirazo sus brazos ardientes en vano.
He vagabundeado país por país guardándole en la médula de mi corazón,
y el desarrollo y declive de mi vida han subido y caído alrededor de ella.
Reinó sobre mis pensamientos y acciones, mis reposos y sueños,
pero moró solitaria, alejada.
Muchos hombres tocaron a mi puerta, preguntando por ella,
y dieron la espalda en desesperanza.
No hubo nadie en este mundo que le vieron cara a cara,
y ella permaneció en su soledad, esperando para tu reconocimiento.
. . .
She who ever had remained in the depth of my being,
in the twilight of gleams and of glimpses;
she who never opened her veils in the morning light,
will be my last gift to Thee, my God, folded in my final song.
Words have wooed yet failed to win her;
persuasion has stretched to her its eager arms in vain.
I have roamed from country to country keeping her in the core of my heart,
and around her have risen and fallen the growth and decay of my life.
Over my thoughts and actions, my slumbers and dreams,
she reigned yet dwelled alone and apart.
Many a man knocked at my door and asked for her
and turned away in despair.
There was none in the world who ever saw her face to face,
and she remained in her loneliness waiting for Thy recognition.
. . .
El Camino Cerrado

Yo había creído que mi periplo llegaba a su fin,
al último límite de mi fuerza;
que el camino delante de mí fue cerrado,
que se agotaron las provisiones,
y llegaba la hora de buscar un refugio en una silenciosa oscuridad.
Pero estoy descubriendo que, adentro de mí, no hay fin de Tu voluntad.
Y cuando se pierden palabras sobre la lengua
hay nuevas melodías que brotan del corazón;
y donde se pierden los viejos rostros
hay un nuevo país que se develará con sus maravillas.

. . .

Closed Path
I thought that my voyage had come to its end
at the last limit of my power – that the path before me was closed,
that provisions were exhausted,
and the time come to take shelter in a silent obscurity.

But I find that Thy will knows no end in me.
And when old words die out on the tongue,
new melodies break forth from the heart;
and where the old tracks are lost,
new country is revealed with its wonders.

. . . . .

“Flor” / “Flower”

Flor_un poema de  Amor

Flor de mi mente:
Creces en mí el alcance – la gama –
de las perspectivas de Pensamiento – de La Idea.
Flor de mi corazón:
Me ayudas recordar los Gozos – y la Pena –
de estar enamorado.
Y eso es algo bueno, porque tú me haces más humano.
Flor de mi alma:
Me tocas con tu sonrisa…
Y esa energía alcanza en ese lugar invisible de mí
– lo más profundo –
donde vive el auténtico Yo.
. . .
Flower of my Intelligence:
You make bloom in me the scope – the spectrum –
of Thought, of Ideas.
Flower of my Heart:
You help me to recall the Joys – and the Pain – of being in Love.
And that’s something good, because it makes me more human.
Flower of my Soul:
You touch me with your smile…
And such energy reaches all the way to that invisible place
– the deepest place –
where lives the authentic Me.

Poem for the last day of Elul / the eve of Rosh Hashanah

Shofar painting by Anna Kocherovsky

Stacey Robinson
It was not day
It was not evening,
nor night,
not quite –
although the sickle moon,
dusted in orange,
kissed the plumes
of passing clouds.

It was not morning,
thogh the sun
stained the sky
and shivered there,
on the horizon
that was sea and sky together,
and neither sea
nor sky

And so we prayed,
gathered at the water’s edge,
in the not-evening-
Almost morning.
We opened our lips
on the border
of land that moved
with fluid grace,
next to the dark glass
of an obsidian sea
that rippled with
the laughter of stars
that skated there.

And all the Hosts of Heaven
waited in expectant
and shimmering
in that not-quite moment,
that sacred place
of not you
and not me;
That place where God lives –
at the very edge
of Heaven
and Earth,
That is the centre;
And calls to us
With bird song and wind
and the rippling
obsidian sea.

And there the shofar* called
A single note,
Stretching out unto

There was evening,
There was morning:
One day.


(September 2014)

Shofar tapestry woven by Anna Kocherovsky

. . .

*shofar:  a simple curved horn, usually from a ram, the sound of which, when blown, is a trumpet call to both action and spiritual reflection during the Jewish month of Elul that precedes Rosh Hashanah (the New Year in Hebrew)

Stacey Zisook Robinson writes on faith and doubt in her verse, which is best described as Searching Poetry.  She is working on a collection of religious poems, to be entitled Unexpected Hosannas, plus a book of memoirs and essays exploring the idea of self acceptance (Just Enough). She shares both questions and insights at at her on-line journal stumblingtowardsmeaning.

Shofar painting and tapestry: both by Anna Kocherovsky

. . . . .

Alicia Claudia González Maveroff: It depends, doesn’t it? / Depende…


Zumaque canadiense durante el invierno_Sumac in winter_Canadá

Zumaque canadiense durante el invierno_Sumac in winter_Canadá

Alicia Claudia González Maveroff

It depends, doesn’t it?
There are those who look out at the sea and perceive only the waves, and so they meet up with water
– doesn’t it all depend on our gaze?
He who looks at the countryside yet cannot distinguish the horizon perhaps is he who might go into the woods only searching for firewood.
But there are others of us – she who is
in flux – who will uncover the real magic.
She looks at the naked tree in winter
and she smiles, in faith,
awaiting the fruit such trees will bear – in time.
And there are those of us who,

even before our eyes open each morning to see the world around us

– well, we’ve already dreamed of such worlds!

. . .

Alicia Claudia González Maveroff

Hay quien mira el mar y solo ve las olas,
solo encuentra el agua…

Todo depende de la mirada.

Quien mira el campo y no distingue el horizonte,
quien entra al bosque y solo va por leña.

Otros en cambio, de lo real descubren la magia.

Miran un árbol desnudo en el invierno
y sonríen confiados esperando que de sus frutos
cuando sea el tiempo.

Y están aquellos que antes de abrir los ojos
y ver el paisaje,
ya lo han soñado.

. . . . .


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