The Native Garden – a poem written for Bi-Ambic Pan-Tameter at Stand Bi Us

I am a writer of fiction, not a poet, but when a poetry-reading event was announced for the recent Stand Bi Us online forum  I felt inspired. The fact that it had the awesomely punny title of Bi-Ambic Pan-Tameter made it all the more alluring. I had an idea rattling around in my head that I had been thinking of writing into a song, but instead I crafted it into a poem, the first poem I’ve written in a couple of decades. I read it out loud at the event and really enjoyed the experience, so much so that I’m thinking I’d like to keep doing it.

Preamble aside, here is my poem. It’s about doing love and commitment your own way and rejecting what mainstream heteronormative society tells us love should be. Hope you like it.

The native garden

by James J. Dominguez


The chirping and the squeaking let us know

That the birds are here today.


When we moved into this home together

We filled the front yard

With grevillea, bottlebrush, tiny seaside daisies,

Brightly coloured sweets

For the birds to enjoy.


The tiny silvereyes with voices like bells.

Honeyeaters that scream excitedly at everything they find.

Jewelled green parrots that browse the blossoms in dignified silence.

Bulky wattlebirds that strain the thin branches under their weight.


Our yard has become an oasis for the birds.


At the start of spring, with winter still clinging,

The scarlet and magenta bottlebrushes flower early

Defying the frosts that still might come,

To provide for the first to return.


In the scorching summer

The sprawling, monstrous minicog provides shade

As the birds keep a wary eye on the sleepy old cat

Who shares their sanctuary.


Autumn comes, and as the birds prepare for another long migration

The bottlebrushes’ glorious second coming

Gives them fuel for their journey.


In the windy wet of winter

The belligerent grevillea and seaside daisy

Flower in the cold,

Apparently out of pure spite,

And feed the little ones that stayed behind.


The birds come and go,

As freely as their proverbial namesakes.

Some days bring a clashing, deafening riot of shrieks and chirps and trills and whistles.

Others are silent,

As if we only ever imagined them.


We could cage these wild things

Surround the yard with mesh and wire,

Trap them inside.

“They will be safe!” we might tell ourselves.

“The garden will provide.”

“Why would they go anywhere else?”

Every day we would hear their calls,

Their bickering

The sudden bursts of song.

There would be no sad, silent days

Because they could not leave.


How sad that would be.


When a bird cannot fly away

The magic of its presence is diminished.

The random surprise,

The daily gift of noisy visitors,

Would become predictable, mundane.

Never again would you ask,

“I wonder if the birds will come today?”

Because they are trapped

In a lush, green prison.


. . .


The soapies and the romcoms and the love songs tell us


This is love.


“Love is a cage,” the singer croons.

“You have no choice,” the romance novel declares.

“Love is fate. You cannot resist.”


The language of romance glorifies

Obsession, jealousy, soulmates, predestination, “the one”,

An irresistible edict handed down from on high.


“Enslave your heart,” they demand.

“Be happy in your comfortable cage.”

“Drink from the sweet flowers.”

“Shelter in the shady branches.”


“Cosmic forces beyond your understanding

Or control

Or ability to resist

Have decreed that this will be so.”




The most beautiful flowers,

The sweetest nectar,

And the safest shelter,

Cannot stop a cage

From being a cage.


. . .


I wake beside you

Every day.


You are beautiful

You are sweet.

You provide shelter for my frightened heart

And make me feel safe

From the not-quite-shut eye of the sleepy old cat

That pretends to sleep under the shady bush.


No bars make me stay.

I know that I am free to fly, because

No great cosmic fate has bound me to you.


The eons-long dance of distant stars

Has not written in the sky

That we must be together.


I am not trapped within a gilded cage.

I rest in your unfenced native garden,

Because every day

I look around


And I say,


“I like it here.”

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