Parallel Gallery
and Journal

LiLy Ponds: a poststructural gardening thriller

Jyanni Steffensen

London 16.10.94 (Sunday)

One Monday morning in late (-----------) a crop circle appeared in a field of lilies. The relentless downpour, which began at dawn, beat the lilies to naked stalks, and blacktop and sidewalks were littered with leaves. The first letter arrived from London. He wrote: "this autumn, the classic trench-coat celebrates its film noir overtones. Belt up in high shine PVC, leather or rubber, and play the seductive secret agent who comes in from the cold." They had taken up residence on the Isle of Dogs. Liliane gave her an empty notebook with the following message: "sometimes one is a vacant set, like an afternoon, a map or a lone lily, trembling and vague in a bottle." The first postcard arrived from Amsterdam.

For my fifth birthday, I was given a solitary lily bulb. I remember my obsession with an exotic beauty. We have this wonderful luxurious apartment out in the post-holocaust landscape. Very bleak. And yet, you're saying yes. Without warning, the telephone rings. Sometimes doing philosophy with a hammer is irreversible. Who's that composer again? The orchestra's expression fades to blank. Oops, sorry, wrong channel. Dial again. She had lost 50% of her hearing: very strange and disturbing. And frustrating. The orchestra imposes a tax on Chanel No. 19. - above and beyond the call of duty. Concerto No. 3 invariably throws the cellist off course.

The investigator's research proved to be productive only after a fashion. LiLy was carefully planted. Is the fax machine bugged? The bulb was placed on the window sill where it eventually flowered above my head. That was it, I was hooked on the textuality of gardening. I remembered the way it had metamorphosed from a dry scaly thing into a tax free haven. Bach? Mendelssohn? The cellist resembles Christian Benda. From Prague. Our line on philosophy is always running interference with itself. It could be a tool of course. Are you there? The investigator laughs (loudly and without rancour) in an interview situation.

Did you lie to the police? She sends me lily cuttings from London. Lie back and enjoy the cruise. The plot is warming up along with the pianist. Her father was six years older than his son. Have I been understood? He finally answered the telephone. Freud was on the line. The cellist falls into error. That's a joke. The doctor creates a rhetoric of bionic assimilation. I don't much like the way he enunciates Benda. The orchestra goes the way of language. Gardening is to the 90s what eating was to the 80s. Fat desire - eating and speaking at the same time. I can tell you're addicted to the telephone. LiLy more or less bonds with a typewriter. A class act. The taxi driver swears that spot welding your Peugeot together - instead of seam welding it - is not the way to get from Bombay to Fremantle. The orchestra pauses ironically. Mid-desert the penny drops. Our heads are the same shape. NAX/SONART.

Let as say, provisionally, that LiLy wasn't present at the scene. He is, to be precise, not of that "opinion." Something happens. Their neuro-cells collide. Who answers the call of the telephone? That was the Organ Concerto No. 3 in D minor. It really was Bach this time. We've found no path which corresponds to the essence of technology. That phrase appeared in my manuscript. She returns from Paris with the entire film from the archives named MATA HARI. So many metres of celluloid. Mozart and the piano were close companions. I shudder to think what this might mean. It's a jungle out there.

This is not clear, but it is not impossible either. Perhaps we have been reading the wrong text. Or consulted the wrong investigatory directory. When is this plane going to land. The desert can not possibly be this wide. The orchestra indulges itself in a domestic squabble. You just said that philosophy and the individual can do nothing except to....... Consider the fact that the location of Lilliput, according to the longitude and latitude specified in Gulliver's Travels, roughly accords with Adelaide.

Did I do it? The outcome is unclear. Everyone is assigned tasks. Well, cancel that remark. The phone phones. It establishes an entirely novel epistemological impact. The conductor rearranges the distribution of significance. The phone phones again..... "Hello, may I speak to......?" It can miss the point. The orchestra induces a fraudulently "deep" ontology. If that were your purpose, why did you put the bulbs there? Why do nasturtiums taste like that? People with green eyes can't be that similar. Years later she would have reason the remember this. He said, "I believe there are a lot of shady places out there." Slowly she replaced the phone. An eternity later the plane lands. On its back. Your life vest is under your seat. Its purity gives it its name, but lilies now come in all varieties. This plant is so desirable that it has been almost completely stripped from the wild. Citronella will tower elegantly over other plants and take up very little space.

I also remember my absolute delight in the fact that I had grown it. That was it! The Madonna Lily (Lilium candidum) is perhaps the most-loved example. The name means just not white, but dazzling white. It has probably been cultivated longer than any other lily. It can be traced back to Minoan civilization, about 1500BC, in Crete. Things begin to add up. Images certainly appear in early Egyptian and Assyrian art. Not to mention Dutch and Flemish Renaissance flower painting. Just dabbling. The second postcard arrived from Melbourne:

" Hi .... I loved reading LiLy Ponds 1.# 2 in .......... and ......... The text grew up around me as I read and before I knew it I was unwilling to be disentangled."

It took me back to that vegetal language of "Reading the French Garden."

The Madonna lily came to London with the Romans. They travelled always in tandem. It reminded everyone of the Virgin Mary. So they say. LiLy winced. There were times, I remember, when the investigator chewed other peoples fingernails. Just as all things have a wicked counterpart, the Madonna lily has the Voodoo lily (Sauromatum venosum). It can be purchased in the market(s). Unfortunately it reeks of carrion and will fill the house with its stench. This is never mentioned on the label.

The giant lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum, can grow to a height of three metres. In Northern India, in search of this plant, I was assured that it was located just a short trek down the mountainside and off into the woods. They don't need hothouses and hours of tending to grow them. LiLy brooded. If anyone recognises this, I am doomed. Just then she remembered where the body was buried.

Jyanni Steffensen is an Adelaide based artist, writer and Ph.D. candidate.