Understory

Brenda Saunders

The wood moth lies weightless now
her swollen body free of progeny
A brief life complete after days spent
storing eggs nearby

She never sees her tiny caterpillars
drifting on threads, blown by wind
and chance in new directions

Climbing the gum, they tunnel a way                               
to the juicy sap inside, disguise the nest
with a plug spun from dusky silk

Trick birds looking for an easy meal

Aware of these invasions the tree repairs
these itchy intrusions, sends pheromones
into the air signalling danger, as grubs
invade en masse, ring-barking the trunk

hold on as it crashes to the forest floor       

                               *

Nothing is lost in the sclerophyll

Deep in the under-storey, everything
is ripe for exploitation. Unobserved
tiny creatures thrive in the half light

A beetle’s long antennae searches
the valley floor for fallen eucalypts
finds bark soft enough for her larvae
to burrow, digest the dying tree

prepare their next transformation

Litter bugs creep at ground level
Strong and slow, sturdy backs tunnel
musty leaves, funnel everything tossed
by a possum or passing glider

And so it goes as generations of bugs
prepare the earth for new growth
Send great gums soaring to the canopy.

              

Brenda Saunders is a Sydney Wiradjuri artist and writer. Her fourth poetry collection Inland Sea will be published in 2021 (Ginninderra Press). Many of her poems have appeared online and in printed anthologies including Best Australian Prose Poems 2020 and The Best Australian Science Writing 2020. Her work also appears in journals, including Australian Poetry Journal, Overland, Southerly, Westerly and Mascara. Brenda has won several poetry prizes, including the 2014 Scanlon Prize for Indigenous Poetry, the 2017 Banjo Paterson Poetry Prize (Bush Poetry) and the 2018 Oodgeroo Noonuccal Prize (Queensland Poetry).

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