We hide between the land’s contours until they leave,
resist the temptation to sleep on the still-warm ground
intoxicated by the shrub’s scent clinging to our skin.
All this grew from a small bag of aromatic seeds
taken from high in the French Alps and planted
here, at just the right altitude, in the red soil.
Precious cargo carried from their London perfumery
to Van Diemen’s Land, along the lanes past Lilydale
to Nabowla, to settle on this vista fit for the strain.
We wait to see the last sun setting, backs pressed
against the massive oak, speak only in whispers.
No-one in the world hears. No-one knows we are here.
Without local varieties to cross-pollinate or corrupt
their perfect crop, they stayed, worked the empty fields,
placed the fragrant drops into the earth in curves.
The lilac moon keeps us alert, that and our finger tips.
When the solstice sun rises over the mountain we are
feasting on lavender honey, our eyes glowing amber.
(Alexander Naumov, Pushkin’s Duel, 1884)
I still recall the picture —
black sapling branches against snow
and the wounded Pushkin held upright.
The pistol shot to his stomach sends me reeling
back to the undersea under-piano world —
the palms, the pots of philodendrons, their green light;
mother’s foot on the gold pedal, her music pouring down,
the white keys always happy, the black reliably sad.
I see myself sneaking out, once she has left the room,
to blow on the most sacred surface in the house,
hurrying to press my face onto the sheer black lake,
printing puffed lips on my own receding breath
knowing the piano will take away my mouth.