Of a Sensory Botany
Unstudied of sciences & owning tongue tea-scalded
Though possessed of neither Greek nor Latin,
A native herbalist I am took to the description of
All plants as I receive them –
of my sight
& of olfaction
& of trusting touch – shameful
Pluck uproot grind fiddle weigh
Pudenda floral light as day.
So that forefinger & a thumb being
Stained greenbrown are as things come
From fallow field & sticky made
With resin of boon specimens
In cloaking bark & trailing frond.
Knowing it that green things Aust bear names unworthy –
Calyx names as cannot near contain them being
Tinplate travesties of names give those same plants
In by of for more ancient tongues –
These evocations borne of reverence deep-seeded & alive
With awesome feeling – cf. patronymic vanities affixed
To selfsame bushes trees shrubs groundward herbs
By arborists vainglorious & collectors holotypes as would
Blot curling pages of enlightenment faded
& pin drybrittle trophies to lining of a camphor drawer.
It is affront to whitegum wattle waratah to weigh these
In names give for syphilitic drunks conceited – for
Scientist adventurer sketched in Georgian & Victorian past
Is picture of inconstancy & degradation,
Being drunk eight hours in the day –
What proof of this more eloquent than name of bottlebrush?
Even eucalypt that is sap & soul of Aust – eucalypt when
Spoke aloud sprouts from tongue preceded by name of yew.
There is a gum grows on Cooks River that is
A common tree –
Save for blossoms fulsome rich
& red as blood in turpentine
Like arms anemones
So that corona halo bloom
Ring for first time hollow
& the like of this tree rooted
Nowhere but in tallstand
Bluegum paper- iron- -box.
Yet unscented blossoms drawn over skin –
Skin of chest of cheek of limb – blossoms thence are
Irritants proven & harbour ants & biting bees
That make an arm to distend swell & itch.
& beyond tortured figs endemic (fruits inedible)
Pestle saltmarsh Banksia – wreaths token of
Approaching doom & pillowed death cast by shadow
Sextant fell on decks of transport lugger packet brig.
Yet seed-rich baton Banksia a thing of wonder
Music-roll puckered of genitive lips pressed out &
Ringed in rich relief to golden rule a-spiral &
Crimp foliage Banksia a shroud of waxen scales
That shows up not fell spattrings arterial
& sheds the rain
& sighs in winds Pacific.
Wither jacaranda without flame –
Purple clouds made bauble cheap,
Grids of grass.
Wither bean acacia kurrajong,
Wither casuarina Dandenong –
Testes shrunk & ranged & close
Vacuumsealed in cellulose.
& wither all seeds without flame
For bush is aught but
Potentiality in congress
Being both made & unmade of fire
& begs this the question:
At what damp juncture reached on
Vandemonian dale or neath ancient
Drippings stringent chill
Was Pearce transmuted
From convict to base cannibal?
There is tack-dry blood upon the wattles –
Scent it on the burning breeze –
So that leaf aglow & smouldring as it falls
Is at once thing of earth & thing of meat.
The ocean eastward Bounty death
Capped in white bonnets
Harbours still plant-rafts of life
For weed wrenched free of mooring
Sandstone shelf shelters
Krill crab sea-louse worm
& torn to rubber tickertape
By heavy surf comes to leg as
Horror searching – fingers fearful
Dragged of current over calf which
Speaks to transference sea-pest
Poisonous or foul unseen.
In loose kelp is grace come to ruination
& in Sargasso common thread of sea
& iodine that is base chord in
Scent of ocean swell.
By sea also she-oaks trailing fingers olivedrab skeletal
Articulated as are phalanges pawing over barren loam.
& ashore & westward inland
Night jasmine September –
Grouted bower scented rich in
Saccharine diversion from
Silt corruption of canals.
For spring is come & spring is life
Though bush is gilt in wattle motes
& bulbs rot in the soil.
SYDNEY, SPRING 2016