Bare (Melinda Smith)

The dead are necessary    they are forked like
branches   they have their own names    call them:

they are not hiding    what use will you come to ?
a eucalypt stag   a roost, a burrow, a rooting-place

great grey bones and a shiver of weed    ants
will forage in your shoes    shaken out

they will come back    and back 
                                                       I went                                                        
to the mountain    she gave me three no-things:

a eucalypt sprig   just born but fallen,    pink-twigged,
sprouting little poked-tongue buds    of acid-yellow

a tiny stop-motion spider    teleporting    from one dead leaf
to another    all the brown sickle shapes    maps

of the same country    the wind of the turning year
that sky-deep    irresistible shove 
                                                                      I went

to the mountain    showed her my bare feet
my no-feet    tucked under too long on the blanket

waxy, cracked like pale stone, weathered, split,
cross-hatched    dusty with dead cells    she laid claim

rising   I turned back   a prickling of blood   ants
warring    between pink-twigged    tarsal bones

this gait, this no-gait    jittering, contingent    a shiver of weed
a eucalypt    fallen    a claim    a forked question    of use


Melinda Smith is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Goodbye, Cruel (Pitt St Poetry, 2017) and Listen, bitch (Recent Work Press, 2019). She won the 2014 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call and her work has been widely anthologised and translated. She is based in the Australian Capital Territory and is a former poetry editor of the Canberra Times.  
Melinda will be reading her work at Poetry Night @ Sappho (Sydney) on 12th November and Cuplet (Newcastle) on 14th November