Tiptoe through the Tulips – Peter Skeet

In the emerald hill country again,
Dandenongs, abutting, climbing above
that garden city of Melbourne,
Triassic tree-ferns lining the roadway;
and high above them, towering multitudes
(as Melbournian skyscrapers soar over
the remnant late eighteenth century)
giants of eucalypts, the mountain ash,
vaulted leaves stirred in a neck-crane sky.

Sudden on a turning a European foothold,
oak-rooted, cypress-moody,
‘ker-bloom’* of bougainvillea
ramparts of azaleas, dwellings beetling
over the beetles of traffic then abruptly
we’re plunged back into pre-history,

riding a winding time-way,
that ribbon of a tarmacked road,
almost expecting the sound of thunder* –

but today the sun flashes golden obscurities
over our windscreen as on a pond-surface;
and we the carp inside, gawping and peering.

Tesselaar* tulip festival, as old as myself,
and the fairground organ in the corner
pumping its wonky mechanical cheer,
orchestra-roll, pre-digital sequencer
that little children still wonder at
as the painted ladies play triangle,
the wood-block clacks and the haunted drums
are rolled by ghosts in the machine.

Great saddle of surrealism
which drops off into dreamy
vistas of blue mountains,
this broad field with its clean rust
tulip beds, alternating with sculpture-strewn
grassy walks between, bordered by
picnic-shade of trailing gums.

What dreams may come* as we stroll
within these impressionist paintings
with the multitudes from Asia:
Japan, China, Hong-Kong, Taiwan,
India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia,
all wanting to have their pics snapped
among the tulips, couples together
or solos of coy young girls –
headscarved grandmothers indeed
squatting between the waxen rows
wrinkled cheek to glowing cheek with tulip –
while the yellow-vested, skinny
Aussie with the public-speaker trumpet
attempts to stem the colorful tide,
those tiptoers through the tulips,
achieves little ripples of compliance
passing down the long rows,
knobbly-kneed Moses,
politely enjoining seas to part,
which close behind him, intervention past.

Then up comes the Monty Python theme*
upon the fairground organ; wickedly
we imagine that giant foot descending
on trespassers and tulips alike,
indiscriminately, with a fruity squish.

So back, Salewards, but the TomTom
tries its damnedest inexplicably
to direct us up dodgy roads;
some mad ghost wants us stranded
on a 4 by 4 dirt track, we fear,
more ruts, roots and folds
than discernible surface,
so we fetch up maps from mobile data, find
it’s just straight down to hit dead-on
the Princes Highway.

And all the way back by emerald fields –
no sign of drought here I can see.
‘It’s what you call a green drought
where a little rain brings grass back awhile
and there’s ‘plenty of forest and windbreak,’
Joy ventures, ‘as well as nearer watersheds
The wind dries up the land.
Perry Bridge needs more trees.’
Way past Warragul the country’s good,
and only browns as Sale approaches.

Dust blows from freshly ploughed, unwatered field
across the highway and away,
dispersing.
………………..
*I  stole ‘ker-bloom’ from an ad-board in the Tulip Festival.

* Tesselaar festival is in the town of Sylvan, Vic.
*The Sound of Thunder is a story by Ray Bradbury where time travelers (hunting T Rex) were expected to  keep to the time track-way to preserve the timeline.
*What Dreams May Come – a quote from Hamlet – is also the title of a film with Robin Williams, where the protagonist dies and, among other after-life events, finds himself in his wife’s paintings.
*I will continue to think of the ‘Liberty Bell’ by Sousa as the Monty Python theme for the rest of  my Limey life.