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A Suite of Three Poems on Weeds

  • I wrote these to perform at the Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup - my first attempt at entering this competition which has a $2,000 first prize.

    I knew ahead of time that I hadn't a hope of winning. Just as well that was my purpose. My goal was to enjoy the music of the other poets' words and to learn. But goals aside, I disabled myself before I left the front door. I felt like a leaf in a cyclone - so nervous that I'd slept only four hours in three days.
    The second poem (below) took longer to write than I'd expected. I had started with the idea of writing it as a bush ballad - with the cadence of an old song by Anonymous - The Wild Colonial Boy. It suited my character and his many hippie high-jinks. It seemed a way of catching the audience's attention in performance, evoking a variety of emotions in what had to be an 8-minute recital. Very hard to keep anyone's attention for that length of time. Anyway, it just wasn't working. So I reverted to a method that I'm more familiar with - working in iambic pentameter - working on ensuring that the cadences were not repetitive, avoiding too much rhyme so that it would not be too predictable - just enough to emphasise meanings. Allowing the meter to alter slightly at moments of dramatic impact. On the last night before the first heats, I was still writing till five past midnight. I still don't know if it worked as poetry. Aagh! The head was aching and I still couldn't sleep.
    Needless to say, I'd left myself no time to memorise and rehearse. I'd have to read. Fortunately, I'm not a bad reader. But it did mean I would lose points and have no chance of making it through to the finals.
    Lesson number one: start writing next year's entry today - it will be an ode to a spiritual path - something that combines bare-bones Buddhist teachings with the Sufi aspect of love. Or it might be a series of mini poems on insignificance.

    The theme of weeds is really not that crucial to global warming of the environment.
    Rather it's an issue that affects local ecologies everywhere - the way we humans upset the balance of life itself when we, in our hubris, seek to tamper with nature for personal gain. There are better ways of growing our food, proven over centuries in ancient times.
    But when we moved to New World environments we tried to impose Old World thinking, and new technologies, not knowing the damage we would do.
    Yet - after discovering our mistakes - too few of us are making the necessary changes to restore health to our natural habitats. It seems we do not realise that our lives depend on nature's good health.

    Anyway - for whoever is out there that cares to wander here - here are the three poems I read last Saturday - which earned me an encouragement award - $40 and a meal at the local pub.


         After Weeding

     

    My twenty-litre back-pack’s empty, all cleaned out

    and stashed in the shed.

    For nine hours along the north fence today, 

    I cut every seed-head,

    filled a twenty-kilo bag to later burn,

    and each clump, each crown of spears, I spot sprayed.

    Still the work’s not done.

    Tomorrow I must try again.

    Where the spray ran out, in-edible grass still grows,

    and there’s a field of soil like a bed

    where panicles will shed a thousand seeds to sprout.

    From far afield the seeds fly in when the wind blows.

    Some well-meaning farmer thought Sporobolus negra

    from far subtropical Africa would work better than 

    the grasses he’d tried to bring from colder clime.

    Against weeds there’s no such thing as a win,

    only control — like housework ever left undone,

    that tries to make the whole a worthy sum.

    I’ve scrubbed the blue-dyed poison from my skin,

    and let the hot shower ease my shoulder muscles, 

    though it couldn’t ease the bruises,

    nor leach the aching worries from my brain.

    On the couch, I sink withered and fatigued.

    Warm summer rains will wet the grass tonight.

    The good grasses will prosper

    while the sprayed suffer blight.

    And though it never is, I must let it be enough.

    Eyelids — as heavy as my body — sink shut.

    Nineteen foals I raised, trained and rode; 

    nineteen I loved.

    For this the best seeds sow, good grasses grow.

    And all I know, the wind peels away all.

    One wrong seed’s enough to rock the balance

    but

    labour’s only vain, and only nature wins.

    Of atoms built of space I was born.

    Back into that space each atom spins

    and in between is all, 

    but nothing dreams, 

    in the realm of sleep at last. 

    ______________________________________________________________________

    296 words = 2.95 mins at 100 beats per minute - style of delivery, slow, classical, subtle
    ~ ~ ~

     

       The Camphor Kill

     

    Will Garner smoked some dope, sipped tea, packed his gear,

    told Jen his plan to cut the giant Camphor,

    on the highest hill up by Rainbow Falls.

    Jen complained, “Whatcha wanna do that for?”

    — “I want the massive trunk for timber slabs,

    the rest will fill the kiln for biochar.”

    Jen said, “But Darling, you're not trained for it!”

    Before Will could answer,

    Dharma cried, turning red, and grabbed Will’s trouser leg,

    while Jade, as always, asked her father why.

    — “Camphor trees kill native forests,” said Will.

    — “Silly, Daddy! That’s a lie. Trees can’t kill.”

    But Will replied,

    — “The shade’s so dense that nothing sprouts beneath.

         When the earth’s laid bare, rains wash the soils away.”

    — “Can we come, Daddy? Can we come and watch?”

    — “No. Enough now. Today's for cutting Laurels.”

         

    High, high up in the Nightcap National Park

    Will fuelled his chainsaw, filled the oil, 

    sharpened the teeth.

    He smoked his favourite temple-grade weed, 

    thought about his job —

    the way the Camphor’s trunk  leaned out from the slope, 

    the relative position of every neighbouring tree.

    He noticed a heavy vine, like a thick and sinuous rope.

    It wound around a giant eucalypt,

    tw─źned its coils through the Camphor canopy,

    looped across to an ancient Bloodwood Gum,

    twisted tightly round those half-dead branches.

    Strange — the way they called them widow-makers.

     

    Helmet ’n ear-muffs on, wire-mesh face-guard down, 

    the chainsaw roared, and Will hefted its weight, 

    squared his stance to the camphor, aimed the cut

    horizontal, and cut one-third through the girth.

    His second met the first at thirty degrees. 

    Will kicked the wood-wedge loose, and now, 

    on the tree’s other side,  

    the chain whirred and cut, smooth as wire through cheese.

    Now the Laurel whispered,  leaned,  listed,  creaked.

     

    Will pulled the chainsaw free, switched it off, set it down, 

    and relaxed.

    He sat well clear, swigged water, rolled his third joint, 

    breathed its sweet potent resins, full and deep.

    The Camphor slowly tipped — the last wood snapped.

    — Down it crashed with whip-crack thunder of the trunk upon the earth.

    Tight tendons of ropey vine broke off a Bloodwood branch.

    Down it swung to crack the back of Will’s head.

    In that stunned and finite moment, Will was dead.

    ___________________________________________________________________

    362 words - read slowly at 120 beats per minute or 2 beats per second  =  3.016 minutes
    allow 6 second gap (average 5 secs clapping) before next poem

    ~


     

    Lantana

     

      When I first saw you look at me,  - I had no doubt

                    that you loved my tutu skirts,  - flaring, - swirling out,

              —   my red, orange, yellow,  — my soft or flaming pinks,

              —   my long, arched stems, that step from side to side.

    — My wild hips twist— in wind whistled kinks —

                     as my loins astride your thigh__let the rhythms ride. 

     

    — Strong, spicy musk was my invitation__ to join in propagation.

     

    — What a partner you turned out to be

                     when, from South America, you first smuggled me.

     

    — Oh, you could keep me tamed in cooler, temperate climes;

                     You could prune me, hedge me, and plait me into vines.

     

    — But I’m the hot lady — whom only frosts can kill.

     

    — With my sweet, black berries   

                      my colonial will calls every Fairy-Wren

                      to spread my seeds where ere she comes to sit

                      and nurture them with sweetly fertile shit.

     

    — So here in hotter, wetter climates, I am queen.

                      Although I wear seductive flowers, flamboyant as Lambada,

                      if you eat my leaves  - you’ll get runny, poopy scours,

                      and you’ll be spewing sick for endless hours.

     

    — I will taunt you — be your bane — for I have no enemies,

        no - real - foe - among your arsenal - of natural remedies.

     

    — I am the fragrant honey pot, - the femme fatale Lantana, —

                      the comely, fecund, weedy lady 

                      who claims your forests shady.

                      And I will never rest ’til I have won.

     

    227 words —at Lambada tempo = 1.9 mins to read at rate of 119 beats per minute, or 2 beats per second



     

    © Manna Hart, 6 Sept 2019


     


     

Comments

3 comments
  • Kittigate likes this

  • Kittigate
    Kittigate
    Very good read! 
    September 9, 2019 - 1 likes this

  • inky
    inky Kittigate
    Thank you, Kitty.
    I'm glad you enjoyed it.
    I often enjoy your posts and questions.

    September 9, 2019 - 1 likes this

  • Thriftymaid
    Thriftymaid
    Nice, bookworm.  I enjoyed all three.  Congratulations on several levels here.  You are talented and your construction is great and your subjects, both great and small, are relevant for all time.  If this was your first attempt at reading in a competitive vein, you are also brave.  Not because you don't have everything you need to do it, it's just a big step.  So, I tip my hat to you and thank you for a pleasant few minutes while I wandered in your work.  
    November 12, 2019