The Kites That We Used To Fly [poem by John O’Brien, 1954]

[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in The Parish of St Mel’s and Other Verses, 1954.]

The Kites That We Used To Fly.

We flew them high, when the world was ours —
for its ways were yet untrod —
and they sped to fields of the starry flowers
That lie at the gates of God.
They wriggled and strained with an impulse wild
To leap through the tempting sky,
And our hearts were glad — but the old men smiled
At the kites that we used to fly.

We were young men then, and our hearts would beat
And our eyes grow moist with tears
At the blood on the fainting pilgrim’s feet,
At the wrecks of the wasted years,
At the cry of the street-reared child for bread,
And hopes in our bosoms grew,
And grand ideals for the years ahead —
And these were the kites we flew.

We were young men then, but the wheels went round
And the world’s ways opened wide;
The wrongs grew on — we were small, we found,
And the hopes in our bosoms died,
And our own feet bled and our own eyes wept
Till the fountain of tears was dry;
And on in the dust, with the rest we crept —
Ah, the kites that we used to fly!

Ay! some of us ate of the serf’s hard fare,
And some of the husks of swine,
And some have recoiled in a dumb despair
From the din of the firing line.
And some of us fashioned our own rough biers,
And, bared for the burning, lie,
While cast ’mid the wrecks of the wasted years
Are the kites that we used to fly.

But here is a hope, like a new-made star
From the anvil of God fresh-flung:
We will rise and return to those days afar
When our hearts and our hopes were young.
We’ll step from the dust of the wasted years
And our souls out of pawn we’ll buy
Till the best of the life of a man appears
In the kites that he used to fly.

Let them fly as they flew when the world was ours,
Though now all its ways are trod —
Let them speed to the fields of the starry flowers,
Let them knock at the gates of God.
Let them wriggle and strain, with the pulse of youth
Like a flash in the evening sky,
And a bleeding heart may be glad forsooth,
For the kites that we used to fly.



Published in:
John O’Brien. The Parish of St Mel’s and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1954

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