Gather, Daughters


I open my mouth to sing

and it is wailing                        doesn’t reach the front door

childish                        blues

old plaintive lullabies              

pop misogyny

absentminded humming                       attempted operatics

                                                                                    bass notes

Wait     I’m not making any noise

In the mirror I study                my mouth

it’s awkward

thin                  cries too much

                                                silently             as though it doesn’t really need to

as though                     the feelings aren’t material enough      

to resonate as sound


Let me tell you exactly how I feel                    I feel   

like when         flowers shed                 and gather in gutters


            and the closer you get              the worse off they are

torn slippery disintegrating                  cigarette ends

                                                            like that           like death but


                                                but past it       

            the last tolling echo                  of a siren’s song

Tell me

                                    tell me                                       about Viola

            beautiful Viola was 12 years old

But anyway

but anyway

                                    12 years old     and she had a baby

                        I’ve not had a relationship       with any god                at all

            but if I had

I’d look up their number and               call it to ask them


—whatever being okay looks like—

make Viola that

That’s what I think when I think of her

Let’s all be                   modern witches           cursing whatever we please

                                                            cursing what we fear

and conjuring

                        Let’s part our lips

            think    of the loudest scream                                        

                                                            and stand                     wide mouthed

                        until our breaths                      run out

                                    kick our toes against the ground

            until the earth                                      dusts up

At every turn   the memory

of the great wars          trenches, maggots, incendiaries, artillery

                                                the price of sweetening

                                                                        our tea

                        the price of                  pulling on our armour

every morning              though it grazes our nipples                 messes our hair                       



Jane Arthur is a Wellington-based poet and editor. She has a Master of Creative Writing from the IIML and won the 2018 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize, judged by US poet, Eileen Myles. Jane’s first poetry collection will be published in 2020 by Victoria University Press.