They are the skull and crossbones of tunes
designed for winning championships
or cheering troops.
Never rock ’n roll
they’re in the classical vein
with trombones, cymbals and flutes.
All written by the same person
or so it sounds,
whether Australia or Congo,
the bony drum-rumble
and trumpets yelling.
A poet probably added the lyrics—
those high-tone phrases for camp reverence.
However unruly a place
there is a ruly brass band on parade
presidents and footballers mouthing the worditure.
They’ll manage the first verse okay—
the one about mountains and forefathers.
After that they mumble air in forgetfulness,
pipe up again for bits of the chorus,
lay a palm or fist to their hearts.
A few slouch ‘Whatever’ like we did at school.
La Marseillaise is the best of them:
It roars barricades and slums,
a get-even swagger and violent grace,
justice’s perfect noise.
You can’t imagine Jesus whistling it,
but that’s a recommendation—
he made himself his own blood sacrifice
which was a bad sign.
The marcher’s art
is in clicked heels and buffed toes,
stiff pleats and arms swung in unison,
a vicarious war of good manners and style.
An anthem’s art is the equivalent sung:
two strangers side by side can do it
and imagine common ancestors watching over them
like parents inspecting their young,
making everyone else a foreigner
not quite good enough to belong.
- 96: NO THEME IXSUBMIT NOW with M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHCOMING SOON with M Takolaner 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones