Giles Watson

Giles Watson

Posted on 06/16/2014

Photo taken on June 16, 2014

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flannel flower

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Sun-Flower of New South Wales

Sun-Flower of New South Wales
Sun-Flower of New South Wales

The day my mother received her ticket-of-leave,
she walked out and kept on walking – walked
until her heels were raw and the shade beneath
the sandstone crags grew long and delicious,
and near where a charred stump of blackboy
stood hollow and broken, they were blooming
like oxeyes. Her heart grew warm as her legs
were sore, and she knelt to pick one – the rays
that seemed like petals, felt-soft, arrayed like flares
around the sun’s perfect core – and remembered
the wayside flowers she daisychained when she
was small, with the hawthorn blossoms blowing.

On full release, it marked her Bible, the only book
she could afford, the grey leaves pressed by verses,
until providence wore out on her, and this pale dust
I blow off now obscured the clasp-held pages.
Here: it has fallen out from 1 Corinthians, fresh
as the day of picking, a token of her high radiance
that hour when hope bloomed hot, white and undying.

Poem by Giles Watson, 2014. Picture: Naturalist’s Pocket Magazine; or, Compleat Cabinet of the Curiosities and Beauties of Nature, 1800-1801, Volume 6. The plant depicted is the Flannel Flower, Actinotus helianthi. It bears a superficial resemblance to an English oxeye daisy, but is in fact an umbellifer, or member of the Apiaceae, not a composite. The inflorescence does not wilt after picking, and may be kept for years in a vase without shrivelling or changing colour. Prior to full release (usually after seven years) well-behaved convicts at Sydney Cove were given a ticket-of-leave which granted them limited freedoms.

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