Among the blight-killed eucalypts, among trees and bushes rusted by Christmas frosts, the yards and hillsides exhausted by five years of drought, certain airy white blossoms punctually reappeared, and dense clusters of pale pink, dark pink— a delicate abundance. They seemed like guests arriving joyfully on the accustomed festival day, unaware of the year's events, not perceiving the sackcloth others were wearing. To some of us, the dejected landscape consorted well with our shame and bitterness. Skies ever-blue, daily sunshine, disgusted us like smile-buttons. Yet the blossoms, clinging to thin branches more lightly than birds alert for flight, lifted the sunken heart even against its will. But not as symbols of hope: they were flimsy as our resistance to the crimes committed —again, again—in our name; and yes, they return, year after year, and yes, they briefly shone with serene joy over against the dark glare of evil days. They are, and their presence is quietness ineffable—and the bombings are, were, no doubt will be; that quiet, that huge cacophany simultaneous. No promise was being accorded, the blossoms were not doves, there was no rainbow. And when it was claimed the war had ended, it had not ended.
During the war, women hid messages
inside white flowers
tucked in their hair. They crossed
enemy lines, slipped the blossoms
into soldiers’ fists. What might
have been a child’s crown
for her communion, an offering
at a grave, might win the war.
The ovule, the style, the stigma—
what seemed to unfurl overnight
took weeks, even years.
Dream your hand plucks the bloom,
its widest petals like porcelain,
and a halo of bees skims your arms.
Upon waking, walk to the docks,
the bloom heavy behind your ear,
and breathe in its sweet persistence,
its scent of sea salt and gutted fish.