Of a Sensory Botany

by earthquakeinthepoorhouse

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

Filaments luxuriant

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.