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Quite frankly the life of a grasshopper sucks. I’ve spend all summer hopping from dahlia flower to dahlia flower. I can eke out a living by sipping a bit of the scant amount of nectar in each bloom. Apparently that process helps with the fertilization of the seed head as well, but the lady who thinks she owns the garden keeps coming out of the house with secateurs and cutting the dead seed heads off. I feel redundant and useless.
And now look at me. Everything is dead and shrivelled up. There’s hardly a sip of anything left to survive on. I know I’ll die before winter is over, simply because of cold and starvation. Here’s a photo of me on a dead branch of Jerusalem artichoke.
As I said, it’s no fun being a grasshopper. There were three of us in this garden at the start of last summer and then there were two – just me and Mrs. Grasshopper. We had a clutch of eggs and out popped a multitude of offspring. One by one they seemed to disappear. There was a lot of competition for food, and sometimes I wondered if Mrs. Grasshopper wasn’t eating her own babies. But in the end I decided that was not the case. We’re not humans. We act responsibly. And then suddenly Mrs. Grasshopper herself disappeared.
The problem is our colour. We’re bright green and stick out like a sore thumb once the foliage dies off. Some insects change colour and survive, but we have not been blessed with that know-how. I suspect the local song thrush may have got Mrs. Grasshopper. That wretched thrush has been hanging around for months. It might be responsible for the missing children as well. There’s no warning. The thrush’s appetite seems to be voracious. It’s rapacious and vociferous. One minute you’re there looking for nectar and the next minute you’re
[Many thanks to Uma for the beautiful photograph. Uma is a wonderful writer (and photographer).
The form selected for this week is an adaptation of the Vietnamese Luc bat. It is an adaptation of the poetic form because Vietnamese is a tonal language and it cannot be imitated in English. The syllable count and the rhyming pattern have been adhered to!]
The dahlia opens slow
before it makes a show, bright red,
and then the full-faced head
bends down towards its bed and bows;
as if to say the hours
of fleeting life somehow are short.
Its beauty comes to naught
as petals fall uncaught and die.
Some say each flower shall leave
a cob, a pod of seeds, a cone,
from which will spring the bones
of new flowers, new fruit, grown; and yet,
lest ever I forget,
my death shall not beget new grain
to grow in hope, in pain,
in love, in loss, in gain, in joy.
Graham liked to garden. Mainly flowers. He didn’t have a very big garden. Just enough to make things pretty. In fact, they were nearly all dahlias. He had a special dahlia. It was sort of orange-peach. It made him feel happy. He called it his “happy dahlia”.
Graham was secretly in love with Barbara. He never told her, because she was already married. He had met Barbara at work. She was a sales representative.
One day, Barbara was talking to Graham and needed some papers. Graham told her that they were at his house – which they were. “Call in and pick them up,” said Graham.
When Barbara called in she saw the dahlia. “Look at that dahlia!” she said. “It is such a happy dahlia! Could you give me a tuber of it in the autumn?”
Come autumn, Graham remembered, and gave Barbara a tuber of the happy dahlia.
The next spring, all of Graham’s dahlias had rotted in the ground over winter.
“Would it be possible to have a tuber of the happy dahlia?” Graham asked of Barbara.
She gave him a tuber. Graham planted it. That afternoon, a tractor on the road ran into Barbara’s car and Barbara was killed.
For the years after, Graham could never look at the flowers of his happy dahlia without feeling sad.