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Rebecca Hawkes

Flower Huntress / Against the martyrdom of spinsterhood

(for Marianne North)

Heathen in undraped knees
I am a flower huntress
transplanted among the dreadfully stiff & goodygood

When my hosts provide me a companion
I can usually give him the slip after a few days

I am a very wild bird and like liberty


I have been accused of selfishness
for choosing to be a lone globe-trotteress
and not settling decorative & fertile
on anyone’s estate

& so for not having married into servitude
I am accused
of being incapable of love
& yet I have learned the name of every flower I’ve met


The first time I saw a pitcher plant growing wild I screamed with delight


To paint the parasite orchids in their mist forest
I scaled walls of mud and granite
by holding on to plants so full of long thorns
that my hands were bleeding
& torn before we reached the top


It is impossible to paint fast enough
yet we can all work hard at what we like best


Even while I preserve it in oil
the world vanishes
axe & forest fire plough & flock


Sometimes I paint the hummingbirds
or lizards flitting in the background

Sometimes I paint the slaves


When the cold sore on my lip splits &
leaks yellow dew I am sometimes quite convinced I taste sap

Death By Nectar

(after Marianne North’s ‘A New Pitcher Plant from the Limestone Mountains of Sarawak, Borneo’, oil on paper, 1876)

Oh no
the mood for you
shudders through me
like an insect’s glitching
symphony for too many limbs
drowning for purchase
in the pitcher pit

Oh no
the sugar secretes
its sneaky enzymes and I
am fizz become elixir
hey eater be eaten
dissolving mouthparts first
consumed by my own hunger I
must wonder if you love
me every moment

Oh no
I must close the lid on my crawling
body restless for this honeytrap gullet
these speckles of red and green shrieking
stop and go at the same time
as I surrender to syrup I
must pray the pitcher
withers on its stalk
before I

Gremlin In Sundress

blinded with dandelion gimme a puff of it
gimme an eyelash kiss gimme ringlets
gimme a morsel of raw
vegan cheesecake gimme this day
my daily bliss gimme the creamy
origami of the rose and the honeybee
scritching in her folds gimme sickled
tarsus to whet against latent ovary gimme
pollen somersault buzzy gimme gingerbeer
low alcohol but not no alcohol
you know gimme recreational
toxins and parlour games gimme electrolyte
saltwater to chug like chamomile tea
as you tuck me in gimme bedtime gimme curfew
to flout gimme a truant insolence
and let me call it bravery call me
your hungerling gimme a gobble
of the pantry gimme soft-shelled sweetmeat
gimme something pretty but with brains
I can crack open gimme salt’n’pepper
tentacle dredged from the abyss and deep
fried gimme hot cephalopod gimme your cold
shoulder gimme your murmuring
muffled against my nerve endings
gimme yer tenderness gimme cheesy fries
gimme drunkenness gimme the vomitorium
next door to the buffet gimme mortal clay
with tingle and baby fat to live in
gimme glory gimme eternity gimme your likings
to make me your favouritest gimme
a cute burial gimme my own museum
exhibit with a tame scorpion
glowing under ultraviolets gimme violent light
on your body gimme martyrdom
& scurvy gimme divinity I want all of it nonstop

Rebecca Hawkes is easily charmed. Her poems have found homes in places like ScumSport, Sweet Mammalian and Mayhem. You can find more of her writing and paintings at rebeccahawkesart.com.

Regarding ‘Flower Huntress / Against the Martyrdom of Spinsterhood’, Rebecca writes: ‘Much of this poem is grafted from the words of the botanical artist Marianne North (1830-1890). Instead of following the typical high-society lady’s trajectory into marriage, Marianne dedicated her life to travelling the world alone in search of new subjects for her paintings. She described oil painting as ‘a vice like dram-drinking, almost impossible to leave off once it gets possession of one’. Her lush, dense oil-painting style was controversial for not adhering to the sparse conventions of botanical illustration at the time. However, the contributions her paintings added to science were welcomed by the British scientific establishment for their richness of detail, and several species of plant were named after her. Over 800 of her paintings are now housed in a dedicated gallery at Kew Gardens in London.’