Lindsay Smith

Rookie (December 16,1939 / Mataura, Southland, New Zealand)

Where Is Your Place? - Poem by Lindsay Smith

That day the tiny flies that are the native honey bees
licked our skin for salt & it tickled.

So the kids searched for the hive high in a tree
screaming with delight when it was found.

Dinny walked straight up the smooth white trunk
& carefully along the limb with a short axe,
sat down & wrapped his legs for purchase.

He chopped away, chips flying down
while the kids chanted & danced encouragement.

The limb crashed & the hive dropped to the ground.

We all dug in & ate the sweet black honey
swallowing bees mixed with sticks & leaves.

Dinny waved & went back to camp
& the kids took off in another direction.

I followed their fading voices.

When I crashed out of the bush
blinding light
firm white salt pan
reflecting the glare & the clear blue sky,
Bare, brilliant, overwhelming.

Absolute, utter silence.

No bird calls.

No wildlife.

No vegetation.

No footprints that I could see.
Only Frog hill in the distance.

The kids far away ahead, big girls carrying the little ones'

As I walked I could see them merged into a huddle.
bowed faces staring down looking at the ground.

I joined the huddle & bent over to look
at the spot in the centre of the circle.

I saw the shadows,
the texture of the sand,
& our feet.

I said, ‘What is this place? '
‘This Eunice place, '
someone said.

Friday by the river I said to Benjamin aged 6,
‘What is your guardian animal?
‘Water goanna, ' sir, I'll show you.
Benjamin was Dinny's boy.
He waved & took me to his place.

We climbed up on to a fallen tree by the river.

He pointed to a hollow, ‘my mother dropped me here.
She had her feet like this.
He stood astride the hollow & groaned.

The water goanna was watching me come out.'

The big kids looked for crocodile signs.
They nodded ‘nothing' & smiled.

The girls swam in long missionary dresses,
fabric trailing through the water.

Some kids plastered themselves with mud
& lay in the sun to bake.

When dry they leapt from trees into the river
shouting at the top of their voices.

Poet's Notes about The Poem

remembering 1970 - written 2008

In 1970 I taught in the Northern Territory, outback Australia in a remote aboriginal community 700 air miles from Darwin. The native Australian honey bees look like tiny black flies. They have no sting. The honey is black & very sweet.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, August 2, 2012

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