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“Beauty is the promise of happiness,” whispers Stendhal

as I sit on the bench created by Khai Liew

in loving memory of John KK Ho.

Before me, a grassy bank sweeps away

to the sacred lotus flowers of Nelumbo Pond.

An enormous Ficus prasinicarpa on my left.

Behind the pond, two layers of greenery.

The first bright-leafed, luminous,

and rising above it

dark-trunked towering pines.

A line of ducks

like Ducks on Dawn Patrol

or perhaps off on a picnic,

stroll past.

Another comes to investigate me,

angling for the food I’m not allowed to give it.

In this place

Larson’s Anatidaephobia

“The fear that somehow, somewhere, a duck

is watching you” –

is not a fear, it’s a fact.

Sitting on his bench,

I float the question.

‘So, waddaya think John,

is this beautiful?’

He just goes on being happy

and doesn’t reply.


Inspired by a poetry collection by Miriel Lenore called ‘In the Garden’ about the Adelaide Botanic Garden.

Russ Talbot lives in Adelaide. He started writing after suffering an acquired brain injury (ABI) as the result of a brain tumour. He has had poems published in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He has a poetry collection called ‘Things That Make Your Heart Beat’ (2015).

The poem ‘John’s Bench’ was published in InDaily, a South Australian magazine on 4 August 2021. 

The photographs below, taken in April 2017, show the exact view from the bench.


Photographer: Martina Nicolls

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