Melinda Smith


The Art Gallery of NSW and Red Room Poetry invited six poets to respond creatively to the artworks in Shadow catchers, an exhibition of photographs and moving image from the Gallery’s collection.

Julie Rrap

Julie Rrap, Body double 2007. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Contemporary Collection Benefactors and Rudy Komon Memorial Fund 2007. © Julie Rrap. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

Poet Melinda Smith centres on the body and breath in her response to Julie Rrap’s Body double. Which she says is ‘about the act of noticing… and the ways we try to make the world order itself for us.’

As we focus on the future and the passing of time, this piece layers the solid and the ephemeral in a projection of presence. In such strange times sometimes all you can do is breath in, and exhale.

Take a moment in your day to be present in your own body’s rhythm.

“Life is very.”

a hand spread on a hand
– starfish meat on starfish meat
in the old wide belly of the sea.

breathe. life is very long.
even with a hand
spread on a hand, ebbing,

cresting. life is. your body
(whose body) this body
is evolving. inhale. you are safe,

face-down in the dark,
face-up in the light,
you are swelling in a warm, salt

womb. life is very.
your body (whose body)
this body is revolving.

exhale. here we go round.
it sheds (and gathers
and sheds again) genitalia

as it rolls, bestriding
the darkness. you will turn
many times, ebbing, resting,

unresting, becoming.
as befits a fine, muscled idea,
you will take up brief residence

in a pale lump, flaccid, seamed,
incomplete, a cold cadaver,
neck severed and pinched.

between this body and your body
(whose body) falls the shadow.
here we go round. this is quite

unbecoming. wear it. rest. roll left,
as a man. rest. roll right
as a woman. rest. rasp. rinse.

repeat. your body (whose body),
this body, its ribs moving as gills
in the light, its extremities blurring,

doubling. life is very full.
you are always pregnant
with your next self. between

this body and your body
(whose body), between the idea
and the wide belly, falls orlando.

you may feel incomplete,
you may experience some slight
unrest; some warming. salting.

breathe. you are brief. you are always
some body. wear it. work it.
even ebbing, shedding. even in the dark.


Quotes in italics from T S Eliot, The Hollow Men, as published in Poems: 1909–1925 (London, 1925).

Melinda Smith

Melinda Smith

Poetic reflections is produced in collaboration with Red Room Poetry 

With thanks to Together In Art supporter: Presenting Partner of the AGNSW Contemporary Galleries UBS