We knew about the flinch, because
time-lapse photography showed
bruised leaves and cut-stems curling,
nearby branches swaying away
in distress, through the same filter
we’ve witnessed rival canopies clashing
and striving in bitter border disputes,
but now we know that in silent outrage
and perhaps also in plea, each plant calls
to its neighbour in chemical messages,
if it is assailed by caterpillars or
by the predations of grazing cattle,
not for its own sake, but to warn
its neighbour to furl flowers or close leaves.
So, anthropomorphic enough to make
vegetarians quail, and meat eaters
smile around the edges of their steak:
empathy Dahl and sympathy salads
and indigestible moral dilemmas.
- Damen O'Brien 2015
Damen O'Brien is a Queensland Poet, previously published in Cordite and Mascara, and winner of the Ipswich International Poetry Feast, the Yeats Poetry Prize, and the Nillumbik Ekphrasis Poetry Award.