This is for Anne Morgan, on Bruny Island, who asked to see my poem about leeches, which appeared in The Cave After Saltwater Tide, p. 97 (Penguin, 1994). Happy to oblige, Anne!

Snakes and Leeches

she’s an islander
she teases leeches
cuddles tiger snakes
at low tide or when
she’s between men

i’m not an islander
though i’ve assaulted
leeches with salt before
and tapped tiger snakes
moulting behind glass

i bring no frills free
running table salt
for the leeches
i have an eye for snakes
i have an eye for her

there’s a snake dead
at the head of the track
will ours be a one day
stand?  she flicks it away
like unwashed foreskin

my boot barely misses
the first tiger branch
yellow belly hissing off
through the undergrowth
‘hello stranger’ she croons

like a marianne faithful
and i nearly bite her tongue
when i see the first leeches
maggot up my laces i spill
over-salt my haste

‘for every snake you see’
she says ‘a hundred more
are coiling in the bush
with their scaley lovers
but no French champagne!’

when we’ve finished
with rainforest we wash off
our sweat in a tidal pool
and her sock’s all bloody

with the dark love of leeches

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