Tuesday poem: You can’t stand outside, and reading this Friday

September 19, 2016

You can’t stand outside

Those small hems of grass at the edge
of the pavement, skirting road and house —
nature strips, we call them.
As if nature were a thin green line
of easy demarcation,
a quaint decoration for real estate.
Long home to droops of grass,
and limp advertising leaflets,
spat from bored letterboxes
like soggy swear words,
promising a paradise of credit.
But now backs swell,
bums are fleshy pumpkins,
bending over to tend
your actual pumpkins.
Vegetable patches add a swatch
of nature to the nature strips,
cultivated as they may be.
They’re small, these crops; pea small.
Peas placed under the mattress
of the market — hardly enough
to wake it from slumber.
That lazy princess dozes on,
dreaming the unseemly lives we live in.
And yet, as my neighbour said,
mulching with soggy leaflets —
if you can’t stand outside things,
at least you can get outside
and grow a few things.
She turned her strong back,
tending to tumescent zucchinis,
and the impatient tomatoes
she will decant into twenty hungry jars.
She’ll give some jars away,
or swap them for flowers or beans
in a cool, vegetable anarchy.

(Her recipe? Well, I would attach it,
but that’s one thing she just won’t share.)

The Princess shifts in her sleep.
The pumpkins are replete with seed.

P.S. Cottier

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This poem comes from a proposal to allow people to grow vegetables and other smallish plants on the nature strips outside their houses in Canberra, which are now meant to remain as purely grass and government street trees. A great idea to allow a bit of cultivation of the nature strips, as every bit of produce grown at home reduces the need for buying goods shipped in carbon emitting vehicles. Plus, it’s fun.  And it gives capitalism a wee tickle, a bit like a green fairy armed with a budgie’s feather.

The proposal was going to be formalised in Saptember, but has been put off to next year. I do hope the ACT government allows this change, and has not been dissuaded by whinging about the possibility of someone impaling themselves on asparagus spears or knocking themselves on the head by slipping onto a pumpkin.  Of course, ensuring that footpaths are accessible to all is important; but some other people just whinge about any change, however minor.  You know you live in a fairly safe city when people get worked up about beans possibly detracting from the ambience.

The poem above is therefore an imaginary creation of the Vegetable Patches of The Future.

🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅(I am getting bored)🍐

In my immediate future (Friday) is a reading at The Salt Room. Here are the details:

FRI 23 SEPTEMBER
The Salt Room
Main Hall, Gorman Arts Centre
7.30pm to 10.30pm

Presented by Ainslie and Gorman and BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT!, The Salt Room is a showcase of the finest ACT, interstate and international writers and performers around. Featuring Miranda Lello, P.S Cottier, and Scott Wings. 7.30pm.

Cost: $10 full, $5 concession available at the door.

There is a bar. And hopefully I will have received my new chapbook of fantasy poems to sell by then! As crunchy as a carrot and as magical as an eggplant. (A vegetable that divides opinion like an avocado, I find.  And good luck growing those green lovelinesses in Canberra!)

UPDATE:  Just heard that a poem I wrote has been shortlisted in the Poetry at Sawmillers prize, part of the Sculpture at Sawmillers event at McMahons Point in Sydney, so I’ll be popping up to read it on Saturday afternoon.  Should be fun, once I get there.

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4 Responses to “Tuesday poem: You can’t stand outside, and reading this Friday”

  1. “Cool, green vegetable anarchy” is a fabulous image and sounds enticing to this vegetarian! Hope common sense prevails and the vegetables have their wicked way on the strip.

    • pscottier said

      Definitely influenced by Marvell’s ‘our vegetable love should grow/vaster than empires and more slow’, Michele.

      No doubt this has been put on hold until after the ACT election in a short while. In case an anti-cucumber party was formed.

  2. Lovely poem, good idea – but maybe the ACT politicians read this and thought it was something other than an example of the NZ sense of humour: https://www.reddit.com/r/newzealand/comments/2nem47/can_you_have_a_garden_in_new_zealand/

    I’m excited to hear your chapbook is so close!!

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