The Golden Encyclopaedia

by S. K. Kelen


Costumed lads and lasses
from many lands
smile and laugh
for the Empire’s camera.

War heroes and explorers
began their careers
learning to tie reef knots.

Fierce and strange creatures
add excitement to a productive world
like Mister Thousand-Year-Old Alligator &
Deep Sea Turtle who navigate the seven seas.
Shy Otter and homicidal Bengal Tiger
salute the advent of Modern Man.

The story of the violin
is the story of a tree’s destiny
enriched by the wonders of electricity
and atomic energy.

Square tomatoes,
the latest Telstar satellite,
a dog in space and
an artist’s impression
of a likely moon-landing-craft
show what the future looks like.

The empire spirit
bequeathed by fighters and explorers
to native and settler who,
grateful for their heritage,
look back proudly on
a Jubilee Year
and centuries of courage.


Volume Two — Special Supplement —
The Discovery & Settlement of Australia:
A land shunned
for thousands of years
by hearts too timid to approach it.

And who did the migrants find
when they finally found the Great South Land?
A race of sullen lifesavers
who’d been accidentally
washed ashore on bits of bark
and had, since time immemorial, lived
in wrecked station wagons
and traded only in yams
& pointillist art.

Charming as their lives turned out to be
they had no idea of heavy industry
loved the land’s symbols too much
to organise a military
and could not know the fable
of the Ant & the Grasshopper
would be visited upon their shores.

As the previous chapters indicate
Technology is the Ace
to conquer worlds and conquer space...



Clouds wheel across electric sky

Ocean roars mighty waves

Under the Earth magma churns

Bushfire, with hearty laughter, burns

Cyclones twist Wandjina’s rage

And the swirl is a planet’s signature.

With this in mind, we can
see everything was made
in the World’s image. Clearly,
an apple is one such scale model:
a globe criss-crossed by gold
& green lines. Are they faults in the Earth’s
crust, isotherms or satellite trails?


Long ago, priestesses called Bacchantes
saw the god’s blasted cheeks
in apple’s flesh read good or bad,
foretold love, danger & any luck.

In China, a spider found in an apple’s heart
augured good fortune for a man, for a Dynasty
a golden age of industry & art.

Today the science of apple divination
is almost lost, apples’ voices
float in the aether.

S. K. Kelen's picture

S. K. Kelen is a widely published Australian poet. His most recent books are Goddess of Mercy (Brandl & Schlesinger, 2002), and Earthly Delights (Pandanus Press, 2006)

Last updated July 20, 2011