Late autumn roses stand defiant now on leafless shoots
but even they are gone from this corner block.
There are three houses; maybe even five now;
it’s hard to draw the boundaries in my mind.
There, beneath the brick venereal, was a chestnut tree
the glowing nuts irresistible, hatching from spiny sheathes
we gathered them in pockets-full, beneath the monkey bars.
Conkers was a word we knew, but not the game, its rules.
so randomly we tossed them, like marbles,
but mostly rolled them in warm, pocket-hidden hands
or gazed at them, their gleaming skins.
Higher on the hillside was the house.
the room right at the top was just a window box
with a bed; a high-up nest with a view
onto the blue and sparkling valley.
At the back grew swedes, carrots, silverbeet, leeks
and all were ringed with fruit trees – apricots, a mulberry.
It was a farmyard garden
at the edge of the city
geared for self-sufficiency.
Now it’s a noughties home in neutrals
boxy; no beak-built nest.
Who lives here? a nurse, financial services consultant?
What do they do? Where do they find their food?
Have they tasted a sun-warmed Lenah Valley apricot?
Have they bled their hands on mulberries?
Milk processing’s gone north.
Cadbury’s is cutting lines.
What’s a refrigeration mechanic, a radio repair man to do?
Housewives no longer tend gardens, run for meals on wheels
yet here and there I see veggie patches spilling street-ward
bantams scratching, bobbing, clucking
children with eggs warm in their hands.
It’s been going on since Francisco of Prato
bought up farmland with his silk road profits.
Savoured his own olives, his wine.
Were we meant to be gardeners? not bureaucrats;
chefs, not traders;
sleep in the sun instead of counting coins
but the garden’s gone
and even the last roses give way
on the corner of Rosehill Crescent.
Daniela Brozek is a Tasmanian who writes. She has been a wilderness guide, taught English in Europe, worked in tourism and marketing, grown and sold plants, and, for more than ten years, was an environmental consultant. She is principal of Bright South, which, among other things, publishes books and helps writers reach readers.