Soft fruit

Raspberries didn’t always come in plastic punnets. Pinkish pixel villages, bleeding at the slightest pressure. Raspberries blast my tastebuds. Red juice runs along blemished fingers into a ravenous mouth, a flash and snare of tangled canes in the valley.

Half adult, half teen, saving for escape to Sydney. Thorny stems terrorised tender fingers picking at high speed over Monbulk red soil. Raspberries were the shape of me, aggregated and hollow inside. Dreams of that big harbour city.

Standing at the Manly Wharf payphones, in a shroud of cigarette smoke and salt, pleas for me to return to Melbourne were met with stunned fish silence. HSC results ringing in my ears, flashes of sweat, wall of black in my skull, blank exam papers. The wound stains me still.

First love’s taste of ending, death, wildfires, Mum and Dad filing for divorce. Empty, all my words stolen. Water slapped red-gum pylons; deep blue waves carried my ferry to Circular Quay. Displaced, I boarded the fast train to Taree, a ballast of secrets inside me.

Drank Bundy OP in the pub, staggered to the Manning River, muddy currents spun and swirled, their destination a mystery. I searched for a way to tell my childhood friend I’m queer. Taree’s humid air a thick scent of frangipani, berry-pink blooms covered the streets to her share house.

Outside the record store a Eurythmics poster, Annie’s bright lips. At the greengrocer in shallow wooden trays—raspberries and me with no money left to pay.


Shaine Melrose

Shaine Melrose is a queer writer living with chronic illness, in the Adelaide hills. Recently, Shaine was shortlisted for the 2022 Judith Wright Poetry Prize and published in Saltbush Review, Australian Poetry, Bramble Journal and Cordite Poetry Review. Shaine won publication in Friendly Street Poets’ New Poets #23 with her short manuscript ‘Shooting Words from My Soul’.

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