Josephine Bonaparte at Malmaison

1 February 2012

A cure for a sick house in a sick country
is a garden throbbing with exotic life
I have brought the Antipodes to Paris
to heal and intrigue, to take my mind
off the sharpness of death

Kangaroos abound, their deer-like heads
cresting the foliage and cockatoos
flaunting golden crowns screech
to a halt on eucalypt boughs
Water moles burrow in secret mud

The swans are black as the natives
of Terres Australes or the trunks
of fire-ravaged forests
Some expect them to moult
to their natural white

Mimosa and boronia mimic sun and stars
hark back to my tropical childhood
They thrive in the hothouse like embryos
in the fecund womb I would love to possess
If only Napoleon could reproduce

by bud, cutting or runner
With gentle secateurs I dead-head the roses
This pink and cream with foxed petals
reminds me so much of my first husband
beheaded in full flower by his country

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