We walked through the purple fields of the Tienie Versveld flower reserve, between Darling and Yzerfontein on the West Coast. The closer we looked, the more variety appeared, the more utter strangeness. These flowers made me feel simplistic, one-dimensional, destructive with my enormous feet. Tarmac and wheatfields and fences and vapour-trails had hemmed these flowers in to this little space, like refugees in their own land. I silently paraphrased Wittgenstein: "If flowers could speak, we would not understand them." If we understood them, we could not do to them what we do. As is the wont of poets, I nevertheless imagine what they might indeed have to say to us - a poem, alongside a lucky thirteen photographs
What the flowers say
Fenceposts, you stop to notice, cannot subdue us,
despite highways, and wheatfields, and savagery.
We nod on the edge of marshes and deserts,
in sagacious variety, vivid as promises.
We have been here longer than creatures have walked.
Our inventiveness shames your arts and architectures.
We are original colour and delicacy.
We startle and delight in corners and verges,
springing into improbable verve at a season’s shift.
Why do we not rule the world? Or perhaps we do,
without saying so, being rulers by different means.
Don’t get us wrong: we are not all love and perfume;
we have thorns, and daunting hairs, and traps.
But rooted to our loyalties, we do not wage war.
We do not tear up acreages of living things
and replace them with dead things. Above all,
we have not made a monumental mess of our world.
Who would guess that we revel in common sunlight,
that you breathe in what we breathe out,
that without us, you’d never
have walked at all, that you would be
dead as fence-posts?