Sonnet for the doomed figs on the south-west corner of Enmore Park

November’s nearly here and with it my personal challenge of writing 14 sonnets in the month. Thanks to the rise in global temperature, Sydney’s jacarandas are flowering early: in a spirit of solidarity with them and other tress, here’s an early sonnet, inspired by a sign in Enmore Park:


Improvement works are scheduled to commence
in our park soon, and if spring rains allow
will be complete by New Year’s Day. Immense
dark witness figs, gnarled amputees, are now
assessed as low performers or high risks
against criteria on Council’s disks.
They’re ugly, idle, falling bits could kill
a child or dog, and that’s a lawyer’s thrill.

This great construction project will proceed.
Remove, chop, mulch, rope off and rectify
by chainsaw, shredder, backhoe and the sigh
of paperwork. It’s progress. Figs don’t bleed.
Dear residents, though patience may be strained,
the park’s geometry must be maintained.

10 responses to “Sonnet for the doomed figs on the south-west corner of Enmore Park

  1. I see it well Jonathan. I lived in 351 Enmore Road in the 80s and remember those trees.


  2. underperforming trees?! [anything else I can think to say at this moment is unprintable]


  3. Thanks, Adam.
    Yes, it’s such a great use of language, WIll. Penny thought it might refer to young trees that weren’t growing well, but the only ones I’ve seen marked for the ‘construction project’ are big old figs that have been diagnosed with internal rot and dieback. The action may well be necessary but the language is spectacularly vile.


  4. Some years ago a big branch fell off a paperbark in our little street, onto a car, and caused quite a bit of damage. We all said “Lucky there wasn’t a person underneath it at the time”, and of course the council came and assessed the tree, which was huge and goodness knows how many decades old. They removed it and replaced it with a smaller Eucalypt, much better suited to the space.

    The next week a poem appeared on the wall of the tunnel at the end of the street which takes us under the light rail line to the dog park. It was most peculiar, talking about the ‘ugly little houses’ and how the trees are the only nice thing in the street (I think that’s what it means). We were all quite bemused by this. Tress have a natural life, and although it is sad when they have to go, it’s part of the natural cycle. I often wonder if it had been the poet’s car, or dog, or self, that had been damaged, how she would have felt about that tree. (Yes, it’s a woman; we know who she is.)

    Aren’t neighbourhoods wonderful?


  5. I consider myself rightly chastised, M-H! It’s true that these figs have been assessed by arborists (I think I’ve got the name of the specialty right), and of course it’s the Council’s responsibility to make the park safe, especially given that we’re going to see more extreme weather events with each passing season. In my defence, my poem rhymes, and I quite like the houses in the streets around here. Not to mention the dogs and children mentioned at line 8. And yes, neighbourhoods are wonderful.


  6. Oh, I like the poem. And I am personally bereft that nine (yes, NINE) young trees on the Sydney campus split or fell in the wind on Tuesday and had to be cut down. They have left virulent pink stumps – presumably some poison to kill the roots so they can be replaced. But the poem in our railway tunnel was really quite unpleasant. Not like yours at all


  7. I hope you are going to write a poem about our beautiful Jacarandas, I love the way they dance in their lilac skirts. I enjoyed your poem, what intrigued me was your inspiration – I will never look at council signs the same way again. There is poetry inside framed bureaucracy.


    • Thanks Abbie. I’m glad you liked this one. And some day I hope I’ll be good enough to do justice to the jacarandas. What never fails to thrill me is the way they have a brilliant cloud of blue and then the shed petals like a reflection or a bright shadow


  8. Yes, they do have a ‘bright shadow’ not a petal out of place, their mirror, beauty past on the ground 🙂


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