Camouflaged against the smug mahogany
of the Red Lion in Westminster,
the sitting member drains his knockoff Stella –
beyond the bronze Churchill disingenuous
tourists mumble hymns for free
entry to the abbey – and wonders
whether in Australia, like the constellations,
everything is upside down: a world replete
with Swift’s Houyhnhnms, where beasts scold
men – centaurs gripping Lapiths by the throat –
rather than the other way around.
It’s said their beer is best served icy cold.
Glancing like Orpheus at the underground,
something in him clicks like a starting gate
when the riders are finally set: how being
clenched between the buttocks of a thoroughbred
could be a kind of noble anonymity.
In such a place, one might take the features
of their betters – equine face, parted mane,
shoulders sloping gracefully beneath
a shiny coat – and, despite the yahoos reveling
in their fetters, or perhaps because of them,
come also to love the raw heat
of being flogged toward the post;
or if not, enough at least to stay in it
to the last, for the will to not diminish,
to leap out of the ground and take it by a nose
in a controversial photo finish –
and see off the protest at the weigh in.
Jaya Savige (QLD) is currently writer-in-residence at the B.R. Whiting Library, Rome. His recent collection of poems, Latecomers (UQP 2005) was the winner of the 2006 Kenneth Slessor Prize (NSW Premier's Prize for Poetry).
Correct Weight was written by Jaya Savige in response to William Dobell’s Portrait of a strapper 1941 in the Newcastle Region Art Gallery collection.