close up shot of seedlings

The Poppy Diaries 4: New Shoots



The poppies are growing like weeds, raising sleepy heads from their pots, digging their roots into the soil, thirstily drinking water and leaning towards the light. I can’t hear people’s accents any longer. I can’t hear if their English originated in New York, olde York, or Canberra. Empire of the Senseless by The Mekons came on my youtube mix. I could not remember where the band originated, and failed to work out if they were putting on a fashionable Brit punk invasion accent, or were some New York gourmandizing jerks. The line “Boring Ollie north down in the subway dealing drugs and guns…” confused me further. The brits are not fond of firearms for civilians, and have tubes rather than subways. I think the poppies like The Mekons, I could almost see their spindly heads nodding in time with the music and enquiring if the band was Australian.

I realized whilst listening to The Mekons that there is something out of time and space and location about their music. I am late to the party. I have always liked the Mekons, but never found any love for them. I was too busy idolizing Lou Reed and showering love on The J Geils Band for having the balls and insight to invite Lester Bangs to play the typewriter at one of their shows. The typewriter as percussion. The writer as a rock and roller. Sometimes the world insists on a little poetic justice. I think I was wrong about The Mekons. Lester seemed to rate them, but he also led me astray on Black Oak Arkansas.

I seem to remember a story about Lester greeting The Mekons in New York city, dangling a speaker from his window and shouting down to them that it was ‘them!’ and they ‘were great!’ Thumbing through my two volumes of his collected works didn’t give me any relief or confirmation. I suppose I will have to accept that I probably read something like that somewhere. Or else my mind is leading me astray.

The poppies have formed a sea of green potential to forget. If I get a single flower I will be happy. Two tendrils from another pot trail and tumble onto the white wood of the window seat. They look as if they are trying to form squiggles of writing, afterthoughts, green growing curlicues. Perhaps they are sending an SOS. Maybe they are asking me for more light or less water. Maybe they are asking the poppies what is the deal? Perhaps they are simply overflowing and trying to escape the confines of my window seat.

Blood poppies. I never quite understand how the poppy ended up being a symbol of remembrance of a world war, when poppies are specialists at forgetting. There is no hint of the red that is to come, nor the orange of the Californian subtype. Just green on brown soil. I had to thin the shoots. The poppies like me. All of them germinated. I had to sacrifice some so the others had room to grow.

The last time I shot poppy juice up was in a bedroom somewhere colder and sadder. The stem was red not green. The water thick with brown poppy tar mixed with shoe scrapings, boiled down cola and that vinegar smell that always makes me drool in anticipation. The pickings were slim in later years. Bitter thebaine derived oxys crushed down and forced into a solution. Sad jacked morphine pills with anti abuse technology that made them gel and coagulate. Still I shot the shoots, the leaves, the latex, the gathered juice after all the petals had fallen. I don’t think I have ever seen an opium poppy in the milky flesh. My little collection, if they grow will sit in a vase and be ornamentally useful.

I did wonder why I entered into this little experiment. Was it to see if i could reject them? Grow them? Resist them? Was it out of curiosity or was my subconscious jonesing for a hit so hard that it led my fingers to buy a packet of seeds, telling my conscious mind to inform me and the world I was just doing a little gardening? Was I setting the seeds for an old habit laying dormant? Was I letting my monkey salivate….was that morphine marmoset doing the thinking and walking? Whichever, whatever, it barely matters. I have it’s number, like an old alcoholic that keeps a bottle in the cupboard just to know he doesn’t have to drink it, and can resist it’s blissful Lethe-like charms, dragging me towards forgetting every bruise, every incursion into my body, every time I was mocked and dragged down, and hurt and used and thrown away like a crumpled tissue.

I wore black to my wedding. He went back to work in the afternoon. We had a cup of coffee with his mother after we went to the ward office to register the marriage. I paid for it. When I got home alone I sat in my front room with the air conditioning on full blast crying my heart out. It was not because I wanted my husband on our wedding day. It was because I had a sinking feeling of disaster, of being meaningless. I was not spoilt or treasured. I was captured and catalogued and sent home to wait for the end.

Unfortunately I remember. It is a kind of forgetting I want. I don’t want wholesale forgetting, I want selective numbness, I want the things that are too painful, that remain too fear-filled, that hurt too much to have their edges worn away by that river of not remembering, whilst knowing everything I need to, remembering who I need and want to.

The tulips have come up, and just bloomed. They were meant to be white, but came up pink, the color of watered down blood in the barrel. The cactus is refusing the flower. The day is dying out there, and who knows with only 100 seconds left on the doomsday clock, if it will bother to come up again tomorrow.

I have no intention of going under again. As Fleetwood Mac once sang, ‘been down one time, been down two time, never going down again’, or something like that. I am holding on for dear life. I am not sure why. Part of it is that the kiddo still wants and needs me around. I am not free to let go. Part of it is because I have this life-long sensation that the best is yet to come, which at this point in proceedings is absolutely ridiculous.


My clothes got ruined by the laundry service. I have no washing machine here, and I entrust them once a month to be washed and returned. It works out cheaper than a taxi up there, and feeding the coins in myself. Everything was returned shrunken. I am now the proud owner of a bunch of skin tight crop tops. The kid has a combination of dramatically shrunken clothes formerly called ‘baggy’ by his uncool mother, and stuff that would make even a hardened boy short wearer blush. We were not laughing. We still aren’t. The laundry won’t compensate us. We now have only a few tees and a couple of pairs of pants each. I got used to having a few options to wear. We both did. Now we don’t. It is only ‘stuff’, it isn’t a person, but still I can’t afford to replace the stuff. I decided we will wash the stuff in the bath like we used to and just rewear what we have. I don’t want to walk around in someone else’s clothes or style. The kid has no desire to not feel like ‘himself’. It is all a bit soul destroying really, in a strange way.

Clothes are like ideas. We put them on. We take them off. We try new ones on for size. A pink tee with flowers on it feels like trying on anti-semitism for size; dark blue mom jeans feel like pretending the earth is flat…a neat khaki pair of pants feel worse than rejecting The Velvets for some Bruce Springsteen. I can’t do it. It will make me sick.

It feels like spring and spring feels like danger. I have had a few writing gigs, which help, but the countdown to no subsidy is ticking louder and louder in my ear. I might have to pop a marijuana seed into a pot and see if I can pop it. There is something calming in growing plants. Things want to grow for me, but they grow so lush and wild they threaten to spill over their pots and get strangled in the race for earth and sky. I have to remind myself we are still in the dead of winter. It isn’t even Valentines Day yet. Not that anyone has cared to send me flowers or make me a card for a while now. This will be my second one alone. I figure it will always be this way now. I can’t even imagine feeling a lurch of new love, or a surge of lust. All my leaves are on the floor and I seem to have sprung some odd new shoots.

The future is so murky, everything is in the shade.


  1. Time Traveler of Life

    It feels like you will never see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it will appear. I hope it will! I dream that it will! But there are days that I want to shout, Damn, you, show yourself! Where the hill are you? I truly hope that your light at the end of your tunnel shows itself soon. Love and Hugs to you and Chris. Sending positive thoughts.

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