Digression after Bruce Acotyledon’s Seminar – Intellectual verse

The dear reader will forgive me, first if I address him as “dear”, when his acquaintance I probably have not made nor ever will. Secondly, for assuming that my reader is a ‘he’. The fact is, women do not read my work, and if they did, they would be too embarrassed to admit it and I would, of course, take it as a sign of weakness on their behalf.

The need to preface my poetry is both a sign of its weakness and an indication that it is not to be trusted. Digression After Bruce Acotyledon’s Seminar is merely an intellectual flight of fancy, written twenty-years ago while taking a course on nineteenth century English writers and the theory of evolution at Sydney University. I have forever been trying to remember this ‘poem’ since entering the traumatising world of full-time foraging.

For reasons I cannot explain, the lines came back to me the other day, almost in their entirety. I have applied modifications which make them fit for a minority of the public, mostly friends and acquaintances. So dearest reader, if you do know me, please forgive this indulgence and point out the errors of my ways.

The preface becoming longer than the subject, I wind up here. Woolley refers to the John Woolley Building, where I took English lectures and tutorials. Bruce is an erudite professor who is very interested in nineteenth century literature and thought. I have only admiration for him and as you can see below, his tutorials were very stimulating.

An acotyledon is a seed-bearing plant that doesn’t have any cotyledons. Make of that what you will. An orchid is an acotyledon. I could add footnotes, but then every second word would have a number above it, and it is time to take flight from prose.

William Catto sketch of a Black Maidenhair acotyledon plant
William Catto, Black-Maidenhair Spleenwork (Polypodiacea Acotyledon No. 6), 1904, Aberdeen Archives

Deep deep down in the Dungeon of Woolley,
Luminous Bruce twitches my ear,
Unknown words inchoately expounding drum discourse,
Essai! Mystify ambient utterance with deconstruction’s purse,
Discourse! Or why not do Wallace, Spencer, Darwin
And regress to the times of yore
When men were beasts and beasts were livery.

It’s survival of fastidious students by means of unnatural inflection.

Seminar ends, the initiates file out, while two birds
Of unknown genus remain.
I exit the Acotyledon’s den.

Round the corner, past the busts of former Deans,
I spy a corridor with noticeboards on either side.
On the left three candles burn: Literature, History, Philosophy.

The notice reads: “Come closer,
Embrace the warmth and sufferance of departed fires.”

On the right three lightbulbs gleam: Maths, Science, Law.
“We have all you need to know, while all they have is show.”

But swiftly upon thought – footsteps –
Is it the chattery one, flying as she walks?
Or is it that other of others
Whose sweet looks unconscious as the Earth
Pulse like glowing quasars in the dimmest regions of Space?

She draws near, and the latter appears,
A faint glimmerfly in her eye.
Emerging from currents of the darkest swell,
Past ignorant nooks and dells of alarm,
We head out to the light.

Did luck or cunning have a part to play?
Ame soeur, no debating Time,
Let’s be doves in retreat to the coolest shade,
Restring love’s chords,
Leave all our games
Deep deep down in the Dungeon of Woolley.


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