Flower of Choice

On native Australian flowers

The wattle bears her gold in early spring
As luminescent beads on woody strings,
Spreading perfume ‘til the mild air brings
Sweetness deep to every living thing.

Diverting our attention from the gold,
The waratah with fiery head unfolds
Above alternate leaves each stem upholds –
Serrated in appearance, starkly cold.

Sturt’s Desert Pea, not to be outdone,
Arises after rain, as swaying thrones
From arid kingdom’s desiccated bones;
Adorned by colors scarlet, onyx stone.

Time passes, fair Callistemon abounds,
Attracting birds for nectar, adding sound
To buzzing of cicadas come from ground –
The stereo of summer full-surrounds!

Making choice of native flower supreme
Is infinitely harder than it seems,
And like those dearest friends my heart esteems;
I could not choose between red, gold, or cream!

 

Calling for Sid

Author’s Note: Especially around the time of the ‘Great Depression’ in the 1930’s, rabbitohs sold rabbits door to door or at markets in Australia. Many rabbitohs caught their own rabbits. In these difficult times ‘underground mutton’ was a staple part of the diet for many people. A cemetery boundary would not have deterred a ferret, or a rabbitoh seeking fresh rabbits. The name ‘rabbitoh’ derives from the vendor’s cry of “Rabbitoh! Rabbitoh!”

Fred was what in olden times they called a rabbitoh,
Catching rabbits plentiful to make an honest quid –
Aided in the hunting by his ferret known as Sid.

And by sheer coincidence, or providence, or such,
Sid led Fred to the cemetery one Sunday years ago,
Located on a sand hill (where rabbits love to go).

Sid disappeared beneath a plot without fuss or ado,
But after several hours, came no rabbit, Sid, or much
To show apart from gentle snore within that sandy hutch.

Fred, in deep frustration, shouted under tombstone head
“Sid come up! I know you’re there! Your sleeping days are through!
Damn you for eternity when I get hold of you!”

Passing by the graveyard after service held for Lent,
Came Widow Brown, who even now relates with fear and dread
How on that Sunday afternoon, calling for the dead,
A voice most surely Satan’s, with words of ill-intent,
Summoned souls through rabbit holes, by threat and rude torment.

 

David Watt is a writer from Canberra, the “Bush Capital” of Australia. He has contributed regularly to Collections of Poetry and Prose by Robin Barratt. When not working for IP (Intellectual Property) Australia, he finds time to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of traditional rhyming poetry.

 

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14 Responses

  1. James A. Tweedie

    David, long ago I spent a year in Adelaide, living, working and soaking up everything Australian (including the phrase “she’ll be right” and the South Australian delicacy known as “bung fritz”). One of the things I enjoyed most was the national sense of humor and attitude towards life (i.e. Ned Kelly “Such is life”). Nowhere is this captured more profoundly than in the aptly-named “bush poetry” of A.B. “Banjo” Paterson (“Man from Snowy River” “The Dog’s Mistake” “The Bush Christening”). Your poem, “Calling for Sid” clearly flows from this tradition and I am so glad you wrote it and even more glad that you shared it with us. Paterson and I join in raising a Foster’s in your honor.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thank you so much James for your appreciation of “Calling for Sid” and comparison to the tradition of A.B. : Banjo” Paterson. “Banjo” is my favorite Australian poet due to
      the humor of “The Bush Christening” and many other memorable pieces of “bush” poetry. Cheers mate and kind regards.

      Reply
  2. David Hollywood

    These are wonderfully refreshing poems in which I love the descriptions, and then the very funny humour. They have completely different senses to them and yet I feel lightened by them both. It is a few minutes since I read Sid and I am still smiling. They
    also inspire me to find out about Bush poetry. Thank you.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      David, If you’re going to dip your toe in the water of bush poetry be sure to include Paterson’s “Mulga Bill’s Bicycle” for a good laugh and “Clancy of the Overflow” which pairs with “The Man from Snowy River” as his two most beloved poems. He also, by the way, wrote the words for “Waltzing Matilda.” The other great bush poet was Henry Lawson who (curiously enough) felt that Paterson overly romanticized the brutal harshness of the outback life. If you are hungry for more, pay a visit to Will Ogilvie, who frames his imagery and sentiments in more classical forms.

      Reply
      • David Watt

        Thank you James for your valuable insights into Paterson and Lawson. I am familiar with the wonderfully humorous “Mulga Bill’s Bicycle” and many of Paterson’s other classic works. I will definitely visit Will Ogilvie’s work and explore his imagery/style of writing. Thank you for this lead.

    • David Watt

      Thank you David. I am glad you appreciated these poems, both for the humour and descriptions. Bush poetry, such as the descriptive tales in verse penned by Banjo Paterson, are well worth exploring.

      Reply
  3. David Hollywood

    Dear James and David, I sense I am in for a real treat and look forward to starting off immediately with your recommendations. Many thanks to you both for this wonderful new adventure.

    Reply
  4. James Sale

    There are many wonderful and salty Auzzie poems about – The Redback on the Toilet Seat springs to mind, though I can’t remember the author. But I like your take on the flowers, David, partly because Australia always produces such exotic and (to me) unknown hybrid forms as well as words!! You deploy it all so well. Great!

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thanks James for your very generous words. We do have a large number of distinctive native flowers in Australia, developed in isolation and adapted to harsh conditions. I deal with plant varieties each working day. Familiarity with subject matter assists, I believe, in conveying some sense of genuine feeling when it comes to writing. In any case, the odds of speaking clearly should at least improve.

      Reply
  5. Walibee Scrude

    Both poems show a budding promise. What fascinates me most about “Flower of Choice” is its rhyme scheme; if not absolutely unique, at least I have never seen a poem with that pattern. As Poe reminds us in his “Philosophy of Composition,” in a paragraph+ with absurd Romantic hyperbole but not without an important point,

    “And here I may as well say a few words of the versification. My first object (as usual) was originality. The extent to which this has been neglected, in versification, is one of the most unaccountable things in the world. Admitting that there is little possibility of variety in mere rhythm, it is still clear that the possible varieties of metre and stanza are absolutely infinite — and yet, for centuries, no man, in verse, has ever done, or ever seemed to think of doing, an original thing. The fact is, originality (unless in minds of very unusual force) is by no means a matter, as some suppose, of impulse or intuition. In general, to be found, it must be elaborately sought, and although a positive merit of the highest class, demands in its attainment less of invention than negation.

    Of course, I pretend to no originality in either the rhythm or metre of the “Raven.” The former is trochaic — the latter is octametre acatalectic, alternating with heptameter catalectic repeated in the refrain of the fifth verse, and terminating with tetrameter catalectic.”

    As Mr. Sale has pointed out, Mr. Watt brings the picturesque Australian landscape into his poetry, early inaugurated in Australian literature by figures such as Barron Field. What I like about the poem, as an admirer of didactic poetry, is its artistic use of knowledge and colour.

    “Calling for Sid” is a “merry yarn” in the tradition of the bush ballads, as Mr. Tweedle has pointed out; and his poem does leave one, as Mr. Hollywood has pointed out with a bit of glee. One can certainly see that Mr. Watt has a developing narrative capability. But he also has a developing sense of structure. The poem is a mixture of the ballad line in a creative rhyme scheme: abb caa dcc edd feeff.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      I appreciate your most thoughtful comments and take great heart in your recognition of my search for structure in these poems.

      The rhyme scheme in ‘Flower of Choice’, which I will call a ‘Plurelle’ in the absence of my knowing any other form to name it, came about with a desire to continue the scheme which arose in the first stanza. Maybe I will try this form again some time, depending on whether the subject matter suits the form.

      I am glad that ‘Calling for Sid’ has brought forth a few laughs. Mostly though, I am gratified that in your valued opinion the structure aids the narrative. There are so many fine poets featured on ‘The Society’s’ website, and examples of successful structure to learn from. I will continue to experiment with form, while aiming for structure and meaning.

      Reply
  6. Walibee Scrude

    Mr. Watts’ name “plurelle” for his invented short form is perfect. Though I must admit I won’t be using it, it could be personalized, as Chris Bays has done with his pseudotaph, and so many others have with their various short, invented, poetic forms. Perhaps the best, small poem of our era, though not of the extraordinary level of the tanka or the haiku, is the alexandroid utilized by Mr. Carter and others.

    However the second poem inspired the following poem, which I have named a “wattle,” after David Watt, who revealed its form; it has an unusually weighted potential. I’m not sure I will take it up; but I could see falling into its remarkable structure occasionally.

    The Wattle
    by Walibee Scrude
    for David Watt

    The golden wattle, native of southeast Australian haunts,
    has flowers so arranged in inflourescent yellow globes,
    with bright green leathery, flat, leaflike structures called phyllodes.

    Acacia pycnantha is its scientifc name;
    its fluffy, sweet and fragrant flowers, overflowing flaunts,
    in eucalyptus forests, grow as understorey plants.

    It even flourishes when rushing fires ride hard-pressed,
    regenerating freely after wild burning flames
    that stimulate the germination of its seeds in same.

    There is a po’m in ev’ry form of tree or flower, but
    the poetry of Aussie flowers differs from the rest;
    strange scribblings outpour from nature on its uniquest.

    The thornbills and the honeyeaters pollinate their spill,
    of nectaries on green phyllodes, they brush against the shrub,
    and transfer pollen to the hanging flowers they have rubbed.
    And though at times it is a weed that travels where it will,
    Australians know they still are free if wattles take the hill.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      I thoroughly enjoyed your poem ‘The Wattle’, both for its demonstration of your versatility across multiple forms, detailed knowledge of subject, and as a fitting tribute to Australian flora. Thank you so much for showing us a fine example of this structure.

      Reply
  7. Walibee Scrude

    Though it lacks the dynamic energy and narrative strength of “Calling for Sid,” the poem does draw for inspiration, particularly its last line, from two Henry Lawson poems—”The Wattle” and “Waratah and Wattle.” As Mr. Watt has pointed out before, Australian poetry is a treasure trove of remarkable voices.

    Reply

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