The saltpan

I am grilling the gills of mackerel
where their bodies line up
like salt-dipped lungs.
I am licking salty plum fingers
under the mangrove roots
of shallow reef and mud.

When the coral cleanses itself
the colour of coconut flesh
covers the coastal strike from eye to eye,
and sulphurous feet
remap the home
of my grandmother’s mother.

Winter has come as pink and cyan
sitting at borders with one another.
cockatoos peak
perched at the top of the pine,
spitting splinters of cone
on our skulls
and the tidal moon
stays cold, at midnight.

In the fire pit we cling
to cockleshells and hymns,
brew bitter tealeaf in liquorice coal.
The after-thought
of sweet potato skins
unfurling beneath our fingertips.

Inside the canopy
where my sister sleeps
under mosquito gauze,
I too, look for you,
where once
I found the pit of a peach
in the papasan
shaped like a wentletrap.

I return your body in August,
sweet melon, pale iris
tapioca, harpoon.
You sleep in
the vacant undertow
with scalloped eyes and catfish hues.

I split the skin underfoot
on shucks of oyster shell,
breathe in the rim of the saltpan,
and wash my feet
in early prayer.



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Yasmin Smith

Yasmin Smith is a poet of South Sea Islander, Kabi Kabi, and English heritage who was short-listed for the Judith Wright Poetry Prize 2020. She has worked as a black&write! editor in Meanjin. She currently works for University of Queensland Press (UQP) and lives on Turrbal and Jagera Country.

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