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yerba mate

By Helen Ramoutsaki


So here I am,
in the middle of things
near a nondescript bush
trying to orientate myself
to a tea garden by a tea house
and the map is no use, this
is an unmarked zone, but for
the low-growing label,
Ilex paraguariensis, yerba mate,
prized as a beverage yet
brewing no flowery description,
its vague leaflets fading
like my recall of an ancestor
who once, perhaps, took a steam packet
to Paraguay and left a carved gourd
in our china cabinet, together with
a strange straining silver straw.
Too shy or modest to mingle with the
Wentworth wheat-patterned porcelain
and hollyhock-embroidered tea cosy,
it sat at the back behind glass —
low as the bush, I eyed its bulbous
glossy aubergine edges, carved white
a flourish of floral lemon-slices
a heart pistil, silvery slivers of leaves,
and, at base, the dimple that held
a long-dead flower, its colours
forgotten in the grey impression.
So here it is,
in the middle of things,
these wiry branches might fit
inside the cabinet, disembarked
from its container, spreading
its feet across my veranda,
door unlocked to an infusion of
tropical immigrants, compañeros
taking tea, our imported hollows
warmed with shredded twig and leaf,
seeped and sipped, passed from
palm to palm to palm,
companion planting beyond borders
or particularities of genus.
So here we are,
in the middle of things,
we have come a long way
to mingle our roots together
so far from home: shrub, gourd,
straw, yerba mate, mates and me.


This poem was created during a workshop with New Shoots: Cairns Botanic Gardens

Go to New Shoots Public Submissions's profile to read more poems