Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

Of course, jammed by the city, there are:

            hammer drills, reversing trucks,
                        travelling emergencies—
                                    and their toxic aftermaths (exhaust, tinnitus);

            skyscrapers, glassing the distant view,
                        an apartment block (or two), chiselled nearby—
                                    towers of brick buffeting the sky;

            dogged joggers on a bitumen path (bodies unseen)
                        just outside the ornate screen that steals
                                    this place away from ordinary traffic.

It is hard to ignore modernity.


But mind how here:

            secrets from waterless corners of our world—
                        Uruguay, Swaziland, Madagascar, Lesotho—have erupted
                                    in fiery postures of endangerment.

            See how desert once called itself sea,
                        before the blooming arms of octopi and rippling anemone
                                    were stunned—by oxygen and sun—into topiary.

            Motion is a rarity, husbanded by ants trawling
                        the coral stones and camouflaged sedum—
                                    and by fugitive water (its sound, somewhere, escaping.)

At the top of this decorative volcano lies a useful pond.


There are more disturbances:

            teenagers on school trips, alive to folly, spiral up the path
                        fenced by battlements of rust,
                                    reckless with their freedom and meaninglessness.

            Up top, the soak, where the plant-bogged islands float,
                        convinces them of nothing—down below
                                    they have marred the skins of Grey Ghosts,

            tossed rocks into the barbs of Barrel Cactuses
                        (clustering here as they rarely can in Mexico),
                                    the red stones soon mistaken for buds.

I was here, the human insists: I was here.


Imagine now at night:

            when the park gates are majestically black and bolted,
                        how the stars settle on the sacred ceiba
                                    and streams of Royal Agave coveting their own hearts;

            how pale florets glisten on the gorgon arms of euphorbias,
                        while the Apple Cactuses undress blossom after blossom
                                    for the celestial moths and bats;

            how the pond mirrors the moonlit sky, while the reedbeds shift
                        about in the muck, glib as the tortoises,
                                    the air stilled by their submarine magic.

Here we might chance upon the inhuman—and its municipal worship.

Created by Red Room Poetry, New Shoots celebrates and cultivates poems inspired by plants and place to deepen cultural connections with nature. Maria Takolander was one of 10 Victorian poets commissioned to create a poem inspired by sites, spores, histories and seeds across the Royal Botanic Gardens of Victoria. These poems were performed, printed on seed packs and 'planted' in the gardens.

'Guilfoyle's Volcano' was also showcased as part of a Red Room public poetry initiative in which plant-themed poems were published on Melbourne's Yarra Trams. You can read more about this here.

Maria Takolander reads 'Guilfoyle's Volcano'