Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Botanical Gardens


Who is the peacock trying to impress
As he fans his tail?
His bellowing horn
Stops the traffic
A group of workers nod as if to say
That’s wasted on us, mate
Although it is a damn fine display

Now, in the little pavilion
Amidst the grass and trees
Of the botanical gardens
A workman
Points and grouts
Points and grouts
The lone peacock lets his tail down
And hoots half-heartedly

Dark-suited delegates
At the Botanical Gardens Conference Centre
Mill about with black cases
And under-arm notes
And lap tops
A confused delegate
Stubs out a cigarette
Gazes across the greenery
He knows where he is geographically
He knows why he is here
But the answers to both these questions
Are not satisfactory

Nature sits awkwardly
Well-ordered, catalogued
Documented, arranged
Shined, polished
The birdsong is louder
Than the traffic outside
What more could one ask for?
The fecund and frilly fauna
Is a coffee-table book.

The peacock and two peahens
Wander across the lawn
The peacock bellows again
And waves his tail around
Life is a hoot
I guess the peahen was impressed once
That first time
She must have thought, “WOOWWWW!!!!”
“Wooooo – What a guy!
Give me some of THAT!”
But that was way back then.

A wandering group of school children
Are also mightily unimpressed
The chatter of the children
Is louder than the birdsong

Artists sit and draw
They perch awkwardly on small stools
Sketchbooks balanced on laps
Look up, look down, up, down
Look this way, that
Peck at their pictures

Mothers with toddlers in push chairs
Still bright and breezy
Full of energy
Eat at the café
Feed the scavenging birds
Maybe hoping to meet Mr Right

The children face their teacher
And listen
The peacock hoots again
Will nobody listen to me?

A delegate wanders through
The warm and humid tropical house
(Please keep the door closed to preserve the heat)
She smiles
I smile back
That’s the trouble with smiling
Once you start it’s difficult to stop

Carob seeds
(I read)
Were the original carats
Or jewellers’ weights
The dragon’s blood tree
Varnished Italian violins
In the 18th Century
Its over use caused its near extinction
The Cochineal beetle
Feeds on Opuntia –
The Prickly Pear

Sarracenia Purpurea
The common pitcher plant
Louisiana New Jersey

Unprepared
I am moved to tears
A flashback to my childhood
Growing cacti in the greenhouse
When it was fun
Just a great thing to do
Gaze at the plants
Something I shared with my Father

My Father’s greenhouse
Is partially demolished now
The glass and iron frame
Was dangerous and my Mother
Was worried it would collapse
And it probably would
But she insisted
We keep the stone wall my Father built

My childhood is suddenly
Focussed in that structure
The balance of those stones
The stone slab
That juts out for a seat
The tiny sempervivums set in the wall

And here the warm, sharp, green scents remind me

But my Mother won’t let me
Grace the stone remains with a new top
I don’t know why
Is she afraid that I’ll be tampering with his memory
Or is she just being ornery?

We never grew pitcher plants
We grew cacti mainly
A few of which
(or their descendants)
I still have
That makes them forty years old

Tears, eh?
A heady mixture of the long ago and now
Or maybe a trip to Kew Gardens
As a child

The peacock and the peahen
Cross their own shadows
And I doubt if I’ll return
To this oasis in Birmingham
This oasis surviving in the middle of a muddle
This oasis in the desert of a modern life


5 comments:

Roger Stevens said...

A bit long maybe. A poem I wrote in Birmingham a few years ago. Not really finished. Don't know what I'll do with it... Probably shorten it.

The blog machine's running really slowly tonight.

Ed Giecek said...

Here you go, Roger......

(ed hand'z Roger the scissors)Shorten away!

michael said...

Yes, a bit of judicious pruning seems the thing. About 4 poems here fighting to get out! But what do I know!

Roger Stevens said...

I don't know, Michael. What do you know? Don't you know what you know?

Thanks Ed. I'll just snip here and... whoops!

Ostrich said...

A Little bit of judicious editing would be wise, yes, but as far as material goes, i think its a really good look at a botanical garden! flora, fauna, suits and all!

Tell me roger, do you play jazz
like you write with, such pizzazz?

Plus i'm given to long poems too sometimes, check out Tragicus the next time you pop by with some time on your hands.