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Danger! Heavy Plant Crossing Kat Lyons

Written by Kat Lyons

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Inspired by the Great Reading Adventures, and The Day of the Triffids especially, City Poet Kat Lyons provides their tribute to the importance of books.

When the triffids left, they blocked the suspension bridge,
held up traffic all the way to Hotwells. We queued behind
the triangular yellow sign, its stern exclamation mark.
On drive time radio a councillor apologised for the delay
and told us it was a historic moment, that we were probably safe
as long as we maintained a respectful distance.

The first recorded sighting was in the old botanical house.
A rogue specimen. We assumed
it was contained, but the locks were rusted
and those stamens proved surprisingly dextrous.

It was chaos for a while, and bad for business.
Plants aren’t big spenders; shopkeepers complained
they scared the customers. Buskers said they didn’t care for music,
although one went viral on TikTok,
lurching through Broadmead after a local MC,
scattering pigeons, clattering a dubstep rhythm with its roots.

They settled in quickly, moved upmarket, squatted
the luxuriant gardens of large town houses. In Clifton’s leafy avenues
they slouched against lamp posts, looped calloused tendrils
into boutique shops to finger the merchandise.
Mottled flowers drooped like suede trombones,
their variegated foliage complementing the heritage paintwork.

There were a few unfortunate incidents but eventually
we learned to co-exist. Apex predators, watching
our separate spheres collide, become a Venn diagram.
We took it easy on the pesticides and in return
they kept down the rats. We treated weeds more kindly.
Bristol won awards for rewilding initiatives. Pollinators thrived.

Later, experts traced the original outbreak to a library.
On TV they wore protective suits and frowns;
what were we thinking, scattering stories around so freely—
have we learned nothing from history?
There’s no limit to what books can do.
Their pages are fertile ground, can grow anything.

Potential measures were discussed. The Authorities
shook their heads at our Triffid Tales events—
all those kids playing dress-up with leaves and petals.
Best not cause confusion. Impressionable minds, etc.
But we’d grown used to them. Giant carnivorous plants
were just part of the furniture.

And then one day, they left. All of them—
even that famous one from the postcards, hunched
in silent vegetative malice on Colston’s plinth—
just picked up their roots and went. We watched them go;
their long slow swaying parade, bulbous silhouettes
against the bridge struts in the fading light.

We swept their soil from our pavements.
Alone at the top of the tree again, we wandered
through our manicured lives. We visit garden centres now,
buy pitcher plants and tiny Venus flytraps,
take them home and feed them fruit flies.
We sleep deeply, without dreams. We know

it won’t be long. Around us pages rustle.
On a bus, on uniformed knees
under cover of a school desk, beneath a duvet after lights-out,
in the last 10 minutes of a lunch break,
in the strange still waters of 3am, somewhere
a book is opening. Something is coming out.

Kat Lyons was Bristol City Poet 2022- 2024 and is a writer, performer and workshop facilitator working in the field of spoken word poetry and performance storytelling. Their debut poetry collection, Love Beneath the Nails, was published by Verve Poetry Press.

This essay is taken from Our Project Was the City: Bristol Ideas 1992-2024, published May 2024.

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