A patch of clover


Many drops of water to make a single lake. It seems
so obvious to say it. Suppose though, in the absence
of a distinction between entire and partial presence,
you come across, under light rain, a patch of clover,
being itself (itselves) under a wet sapling, just here.
It may be difficult at first to establish adequate room,
your mind ill-prepared, even as a secondary garden,
to accommodate this phenomenon, residing in rain
under a tree (the identity of which is thus disrupted
to the point of anonymity). So you just stand there,
only vaguely conscious that your stay is temporary
(by various necessity). What would it be to touch
the clover? The question is retrospective. To touch
the clover does not occur as a possibility (it seems
so obvious to say it). So you stand there, disrupted
beneath your umbrella, bent forward in a temporary
transfixation over this phenomenal patch of clover,
unlike any other you’ve seen, whether in a garden
or less domesticated setting. The complete absence 
of precedent for this clover is accentuated by rain,
which somehow magnifies the involving presence
of leaves, stems and flowers. It appears, just there,
or is it you that has appeared to it (all visible room 
between you contracts at the notion). You are here
with a patch of clover-by-surprise; the clover, here
too, its stunned observer above it. You don’t touch
the clover but you recognise it like a familiar room,
unspeakably enhanced, its contents made of clover
yet somehow exceeding clover. Nearby, a garden
wilts, full of wet weather and flowers. But it seems
the clover relishes this rain with sensational absence
of any diminishment, a keen, multifaceted presence
animating its foliage. You have been standing there
how long (damp and ecstatic, your anxiety disrupted
by this super-sensory engagement)? It is temporary,
but only as an unexpected episode of afternoon rain
might be experienced as temporary, a temperate rain
you stand beneath, beside the clover, now and here
(the rain does not talk of its past or future). Garden
beds gleam or are in retreat. Along the street, a room
is waiting, artificially lit, too distant from the clover
to know or benefit from its brilliance. A light touch
insinuates between the consuming clouds, and there
is a desire to photograph this clover, and an absence
of countervailing considerations (raindrops’ presence
on your phone-screen notwithstanding). A temporary
disinclination stems from the sheer futility (it seems),
of trying to show the clover’s dimensions, disrupted
and diminished by a camera’s intervention, disrupted
also by the urge to tell some kind of ‘story’: of rain,
of light (in excess of anything possible inside a room,
unless of course this patch of clover were taken there,
in a manner avoiding extraction and transfer). It seems
that a choice must be made between complete absence
of record, and a hopelessly flawed facsimile (garden-
variety dichotomies bloom at the thought). The clover
is continuing its luminous communion with presence,
your contemplations ascertaining a precarious touch
with its gaze. What were the chances of it being here,
on this day of all days? Total (of course). Temporary
reservations give way, the camera finding temporary
grasp on the visual situation, a small screen disrupted
by smear and rain, your hand, trembling like a room
full of errors or potential errors, doing its best. There. 
The camera captures a small rectangle full of clover,
but the result, as predicted, speaks more of absence
than presence, as though you were revisiting a garden
recently cleared and replanted, and which yet seems
somehow to have disappeared altogether. You touch
the image, demonstrating a larger view. Even the rain
is virtually out of sight. But what can be found here,
if not a representation (of some kind) of the presence
of a patch of clover, whose corresponding presence
(here, with you) is no more or less than temporary?
Your consolation is disproportionate, like a garden
long-parched, over-reacting to a minor bout of rain.
You put the phone away, and there is a vague touch
of closure about the act. This patch of clover seems
beyond seeming, but in its soon-to-be future absence
it will seem and seem (from inside its image, there,
on the screen) and you will remember it being here
(if not the details of its being). There is little room
between now and the need to move. Your disrupted
intentions, however, are lingering over the clover;
you are like a lover reluctant to take leave, clover
making no permission, express or implied, presence
revelling among its leaves, their darkness disrupted
by white flowers (glaring at you), all vertical room
consolidated by a manifest column of energy (here
it is) you and the clover inside, encompassed there-
by. You will not experience surrender, but it seems
a relinquishment (of sorts) to this arresting garden
(comprised of a clover-patch) has occurred, touch
all but literally involved in the shared, temporary
exchange (the only distance yet unrealised). Rain
intensifies with barely marginal impact. Absence,
by contrast, protracts and flares (the usual absence
which needs no further elaboration, even the clover
fails to match it in opposing kind. But you are here,
and this scenario must suffice). Afternoon seems
to be turning inward despite the clover’s presence,
and you are not sure what more can be done. Rain,
you now apprehend (in retrospect, another garden
of clover at your feet), was not only present there
in a contextual capacity. You are keenly disrupted
by this thought (albeit somewhat banal, temporary,
too, in its uplifting effect): that the rain did touch
both clover and you, connecting you thus, no room
for analytic trickery, disbelief or doubt, nor room
to dispute the resulting expulsion of that absence
which had seemed an established fact, disrupted
(and intensified) by departure from the presence
of that clover-patch, the gentle and attentive rain
still present on arrival at the place which seems
to be your destination, and where a larger garden,
both prolix and diffuse, was in timely view. Here
your eye underwent a dilation (impossible, there
where the clover patch was) to embrace a clover-
free garden which almost deferred you, temporary
necessity (but for), intervening like a slight touch
which yet reminds you of your existence, a touch
you are almost too eager to respond to, that room
expanding like a proximate universe, external rain
retreating into its own blur, elsewhere that clover
carrying on, its complex multiplicity of presence
unreliant on any company. Now that you are here,
even you are no longer thinking about it, disrupted
by present tasks (and that task awaiting you, there
in the adjacent room), any ruminations on absence
practically displaced. What is the time? It seems
to have excused itself from the clock (a temporary
absence in its trembling hands), the relaxed garden,
saturated, dozing off in its own hammock, a garden
whose invitation has drawn you here (with a touch
of quicksand), to the threshold of a modest room
with fluorescent attitude, its unfurnished presence
infused with an expectation, apparently disrupted
(now) by a stark stream of sound, only temporary,
yet nonetheless extensive in its immediacy. Here
(or somewhere close by) you can hear it, like rain
which has finally lost itself over a patch of clover
(or let itself go), catapulting into a benign absence,
self-control reduced to a surplus retrospect. There,
in the reflex release of your social voice, it seems
you find reprieve from the touch of what waits there
(like overdue rain) to be spoken (or said); disrupted
(as it were), regardless of garden or patch of clover,
irrespective even of the daunting presence of a room,
illuminated by its own absence, and which, it seems,
will soon discover a temporary accommodation here.



Catherine Vidler’s most recent publications are two collections of visual works created in response to ‘chaingrass’, a word from Bill Manhire’s poem ‘Falseweed’: one published by SOd Press and the other by zimZallaCatherine edits trans-Tasman literary magazine Snorkel.