Thursday, 15 September 2022

Failure to find crocus flowering

For the art group I was in town yesterday and because the Art Gallery of New South Wales is situated in the Domain I popped into the Botanic Gardens to see if I could find some crocus flowering.

I took photos of what I thought were the right type of flower but when I got home and checked on Google I found that what I’d photographed were daffodils.

Crocus are central to a poem I wrote on 29 January 2014, titled ‘Mother’.

If I should die tonight then it’ll be
this that settles accounts so that you can
know the burden of this sickness for me
retarded time to a moment of pain

enduring in the heart of the havoc
of intemperate wind snug in the stays
of a barquentine surging through sea wrack
as it comes home to the harbour of days.

Someone will find me immured in my bed
and my memory shall be like a wound
that weeps perpetually (saffron heads
of crocus that preen their stems aboveground).

Candle an orange with goodwill like cloves
and perfume the date that bespeaks my love.

I’d this month started a new series of paramontages that are square with a sonnet featuring at the centre of each one, but my failure to find crocus so that I could photograph them has put pause to my efforts. On the same trip I’d popped into the print shop in Chippendale to drop off more files for processing, and I’ll get those images back probably early next week. In the meantime I still have to find some flowering crocus so if anyone has an idea, I urge you to get in touch. If I don’t find the things soon I’ll have to wait another year to get the photos.

It's not clear to me now why I chose crocus to mention in the poem, I suppose it could have been any kind of spring-flowering plant. I guess thinking back that it was the sound of the word, but I also think it was a misapprehension stemming from a failure to correctly identify the plant on a drawing pad I had when I was young and that I used to use for sketching. On the cover of the sketch block was a stylised flower, I seem to remember but memory is so hazardous that I cannot be sure from this far off in time. I used to keep my sketch blocks in a drawer in my closet at home in Vaucluse growing up, a drawer that also contained model aeroplanes build from kits and that were carefully painted with enamels.

There is a mismatch here – another one, to add to the several I’ve already drawn readers’ attention to – between the fickle nature of recall compared to the iron logic of the manufactured model, which demands specific parts be assembled in a specified order. If you connect the wrong part in the wrong place you’ll get nothing like the plane you thought you’d bought. 

Growing up I never considered it possible for a moment that my parents could steer me in the wrong direction, and I played along wanting above all else that peace reigned in the household. Like gluing small grey parts together I stuck bits of my experience together to create the sonnet you can see above, a poem that reflects on the mistakes of my parents dealing with someone like me.

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