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Manoa 18.2 (2006) 58-60

Two Poems
Adrienne Eberhard

Recherche Bay, 1792

"Felix's Seeds" is spoken by twenty-four-year-old gardener Felix Delahaye, who worked for the naturalist Labillardiere on D'Entrecasteaux's expedition to Tasmania in 1792. Delahaye planted many seeds from France in the hope that a self-sustaining vegetable garden would develop. "Marie Remembers" is spoken by Marie Louise Girardon, who disguised herself as a man after she suffered the disgrace of having an illegitimate child. She obtained a post as a steward on the Recherche, D'Entrecasteaux's ship. Her father was a royal gardener at Versailles.

I. Felix's Seeds

Light swells this blue water
to blown glass, a nest of bays
seeping cerulean like ink sinking
into paper, and in my coat-pocket corners,
seeds settle and still. Let them shoot
and spark like stars in this new soil,
tips burning with green ambition,
leaves unfurling to drink deep
of southern air and soaking rain.
When other sailors press bare-feet
into this white sand, my cabbages
will greet them like pale-green moons,
crisp leaves curling next to radish-fronds
and the dark joy of chicory.
May their fingers find the perfect oval
of potatoes, nestled like beach-stones,
while I sail with new seeds
—blue gum, banksia, tea-tree—
hoarding their secrets in hard cases,
rattle-boxes bursting with beauty;
strange as black swans. [End Page 58]

II. Marie Remembers

Felix's fingers are always in his pockets,
sifting his seeds like the drifting fall of rain.
My fingers, too, find safe harbour in my coat's
deep, warm pockets where other eyes cannot pry.

Like my father, hands delving in dark soil
at home—Versailles—where he dug the King's pleasure
all through the long days, the nights lit by moon-glow,
torch-flame, leaping shadows: puppet-dance on paths

made from tiny pebbles like these exquisite
white ones Felix finds as he digs his garden,
like the rustle in his pockets of French seed.
I think of seeds ripening, reaching for light

as my belly did, lush, swollen, and the child
welcomed by strange air, crying for a lost land;
safe, known. Here, my body keeps secret in coat,
britches, buttons. Felix has guessed, others too.

I watch native women in this Edenic
world, breasts bare to the cold air, clasping children.
I see water wash its blueness to the sky;
I imagine vegetables, like Father's,

welcome other travellers to this garden
that floats blue / green, in my mind, here at world's end. [End Page 59]


Listen: here is a young man stepping
from light to darkness, arm raised
to flame the pitch-black his eyes ache
to frame or focus, further he goes until
the walls crowd low, their translucence
a moon-echo, go further still
the old voices urge, the cave a maze
of secrets burning like the brand
he carries, he stands, feet spread,
cold stone rising in his bones, he lifts
his palm, positions it on the rock, is stock
still as he gathers the breath, and as if
to confess, or kiss, he expels the mouthful
of ochre and spit, it flares like blood
and there, on the wall, an imprint;
his naming, sharp and clear as a flint.

Adrienne Eberhard was born in Dover, Tasmania, and now lives on the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, south of Hobart. She is the author of two collections of poetry: Agamemnon's Poppies (Black Pepper, 2003) and Jane, Lady Franklin (Black Pepper, 2004).