In the beginning the world was holly. It seemed like such a good idea.
The remote details were intriguing. Besides, he was old and rare
as quite anyone in a wide circle around him. His skin
was sheathed with blood, was a peeling of pain, for the journey
over the bog to the one true tree. He was flayed by life,
he was wary of the yabby towers—mind you that was long before
he was dropped in by chopper. Examining the dead and done.
Dead leaves, dead chromosomes, all dead, all good and gone.
He walked across a wide whin land, dead desolation too.
Even the buttongrass, godless and sterile: he fell face first but was
learning to laugh. Depleted earth. The remote details were intriguing.
He yearned for the youth of the planet. He shouldered
through the horizontal. Even the wind was insane.
He was always slotting into these epic journeys; it had become
like a habit, a frisson. The elephants to Carthage, to King’s holly, and,
give or take forty thousand years, the radiocarbonated fizz
of standing outside oneself. Some called it history. He found it easier
to think of everything as paleobotany. He knew in any case that metaphor
trumped narrative. But even the wind was insane. Nonetheless
it was the not-so-dead-after-all that held him the most—
most rapt, that is. Where all went thrivingly. Look and remember:
this or the pines. He was flayed by life, but the yarrow towers
they comforted him: monumental form in the leaf, make that elemental;
he looked and remembered, collected, selected, dismissed, re-selected.
Again and again a beginning, though he sank into sucking mud,
though he slogged under cloud through the bog, though the rubble and refuse
from the ridge-line rained down. The orange-bellied parrot preened
and the one true tree lit up. To say nothing of God.
Luke Davies was born in Sydney in 1962. He has worked variously as a truck driver, teacher, and journalist. His collection of poetry Absolute Event Horizon was shortlisted for the 1995 Turnbull Fox Phillips poetry prize.
The Botanist in Search of the Yarrow Hollow was written by Luke Davies in response to Peter Atkins’ Leaf pattern 1994 in the Newcastle Region Art Gallery collection