Journal » Trout 15 » The Darwin Lecture [Michele Leggott]
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the darwin lecture

Michele Leggott

I remember nothing about it
said the historian taking biology
in his first year     except the three nuns
who sat in front of me
and put down their pens
when Barney McGregor got to Darwin
he stopped dead     continued only
when they picked up their pens again
reluctant notetakers
in God's museum of bones and porcelain

that was Friday
here in the biologist's room
anatomical models are gathered
on an old drawing desk     spider and flower
the snail in a storeroom nearby
I recognise them from the clippings
and here's the handwriiten thesis
with delicate ink illustrations oh yes
we all learned to draw the biologist says
looking through old negatives
these should go back to the family
box brownie children and pets
then a manilla envelope and inside it
large as life     McGregor's Darwin lectures

what's sixty years
between parts of the same story
the weather bomb hits Tuesday
we rehearse in a subterranean room
and find out later the studio
has been flooded     also that it was
the department of conversation
who tore out the rose at Ranghoua
its preserver destroyed her cutting
but not before handing on a slip
to the old rose grower at Te Kauwhata

why are these details
compelling     if not because
the gift moves between its preservers
who are also vulnerable
and parts of the same story
are planted in a public space
by historians who roam beyond
the walls of their precinct
and are good at feeling the ground
shake     Spring had her head
knocked off the Trinita bridge
during the war     did it go to black America
or to the other side of the world
in a kiwi kitbag     stories proliferated
then the head was found in the river
more or less intact     they reattached it
well used to collateral damage
and Primavera receives her garlands
as before     the model of the flower
belongs to the wild roses     genus Rubus
and perhaps the nuns breathed easier
when they reached it and could
imagine themselves in conversation
with the Madonna of the Blackberry


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© Copyright 2008 Michele Leggott & Trout.