“It is good to know the truth, but better to speak of palm trees.”
(Peter Steele, after the Arabic)


From the high lawns
laid out like a curious map
of the Green Man’s consciousness
lobe after leafy lobe,

and punctuated by
sweet colonies of cousinly flora,
kindred by clan and
branch close after brother branch

to a darker fern gully where
more or less everything feels vertical,
but where on earth
are the flying foxes nowadays?

Diminished into fruit bats
and packed off to North Balwyn.
This is the dream republic
of fruits and flora.




If, as I did, you grew up
in this neck of the woods,
suburbanly close to
its paradise of botany, with

everything you can imagine
labelled by the emerald goddess
whose name is Discipline,
you would somehow glimpse her.

You would then believe
that real swans are not white
or even pause to admire
lazy horizontals that

make up the Daimyo oak,
just over there, right now.
But yes, of course, my friends
this is the grand Oak Lawn

and not all as British
as you might have believed at first.
The trees and their shrubs below
flaunt multiculture here.




Trees, however young, can
bear silent messages

so the Gallipoli Oak leaves
whisper again to me

of my unseen uncle Keith
long dead at Lone Pine

in that foreign
conspiracy of leaves

or dry needles
around our southern boys.




Sobersides reader Kate Baker
is memorialized just over there
by a bottle tree: such
can be time’s comic irony.

Like when I was a child
just down the road
and these linked lakes
with lilies meant to me

hungry ducks or
gobbling swans,
the latter a rude black
instead of their proper snow.




Over the flat-watery
middle distance, your boughs
of almost every configuration
jostle one another
almost as though

posing, shouldering on for green
celestial photos made
of a demesne’s texture and shade,
their timber verticals
conceding, for decency.

But shockheaded bouncy
palms express another joy,
waving punctuation,
while Satan’s gliding swans
withhold all jurisdiction.




All in twiggy all, Ferdy
von Mueller would eat his hat
in biological shock
at nature so cunningly organic,
or choke on his pipestem;

yet the gently-named fern gully
rears up as crowded
as that antique spathe
of the Schwartzwald which
swallowed a Roman legion.

How much do waterbirds care,
or did they back then?
It’s enough to flutter feathers while
Graceful and Rowdy provide
the points of their wet compass.

An aromatic plot of Gippsland here
includes the Buxton gum
and that was just where
little I boarded briefly, in fear,
during one distant war.




The trio of xanthorrheas
      (incidentally, what a word!)
seem elected for difference,
this lower one ever so
densely doubleheaded
or bulging into breasts;
a dozen tan steeples
above that impacted readiness.

One of the other two
sports poor, rusted skirts,
a skinny transplant;
the third now so elegantly
dense in its shaped thatch:
thick as a cathedral door.




The bunya bunyas fallen cone
seemed a fat green football today,
neglected on softer turf
with nowhere much to go.
But maybe it held huddled messages
for tourists from Queensland.

This realm is utterly plural
like its holy birth-word, Gardens.

Chris Wallace-Crabbe reads 'At the Tandicals