Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Roots Down

The big fig trees which line Oxford Street by the Memorial Park in Bulimba have these funky sleeves to protect them. Prop roots spring from the branches like scaffolding and grow downwards to support the huge weight of the tree and as a consequence they can grow over a vast area. Here's a closer view:

It reminds me of a poem by Brisbane's newly elected Greens councillor who recited it as part of an unprecedented maiden speech in council last month. A poem in council!? The rest of the councillors probably thought he was mad; a bit out-there for Brisbane! But you don't get more Brisbane than this:

Roots down
roots down
roots down
roots down
my heart's buried deep under Brisbane town
creekbeds, hilltops, riding around
cracking macadamias and putting roots down
I am of this city
its history is my history
my scraped knee and my favourite tree
and swimming lessons in the pool at Craigslea Primary
and Oxley's expedition back in 1823
and our Year 4 excursion to Saint Helena Island
and those weather-worn tennis balls that we were always finding
and the floods of 1974
and the invasion of 1788
and the park on the north side where I rode without training wheels for the first time
and the frog pond of drowning Christmas beetles
and Joh Bjelke-Pietersen
and hunting Easter eggs in the backyard
and hunting kangaroos by Breakfast Creek
and the roller coaster at the top of the Myer Centre that looked like a dragon and screamed at the madness beneath
Roots down
roots down
this town
roots down
My roots are tendrils, tentacles
reaching down below
splitting concrete and bitumen digging in
The soil is soft after summer storms
and the roots grow quickly, thickly
but Brisbane's burbs're built on clay
so once they're down they're down to stay
Roots down roots down brushtail growl hear that sound
But now and then in this circus I encounter a clown
who thinks that because he's got his roots in the ground
he somehow gains the right to define this town
and decide who else gets to put roots down
See the surface seems sufficiently serene
but if you peel back the bandaid you'll see the gangrene
And now I see you've forgotten
I see your roots are rotten
but this garden has no gardener
that's how we got to where we've gotten
The question on my mind is where we going?
This city is growing
sauropod construction cranes on every horizon
jackhammer clattering drowns out the cicadas
the relentless march of apartment towers makes suburbanites nervous
so they build higher fences
and mow their lawns weekly
Roots down, stolen ground
dead trees, river brown
I know something's awry in this city
but I can't quite put my finger on it
It's like we've outgrown the garden bed
roots in a twist
slumbering suburbs
silence those who resist
Vision blurring
but now I hear them stirring
climb Mt Cootha at midnight
see them lighting candles and switching off TVs
Flying foxes in the trees
stench of rotten mangoes
gives way to a cool south-easterly
Pumpkin vines wither and die but the passionfruit keeps growing
skyscrapers sprouting up from the bedrock
Wivenhoe overflowing
activists invade city hall and the clocktower falls silent in anticipation
Change is coming to Brisbane town
we feel it in the soil
while we cracking macadamias and putting roots down

(by Jonathan Sri)


the foto fanatic said...

Wasn't aware of the artificial prop roots.

Love the messages in the poem!

cara said...

I think they are just protectors - it looks like the actual prop roots are inside. I wonder if they will take them off once the roots are strong enough...

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