Poems by Ash Davida Jane

Poems by Ash Davida Jane

worm moon

                                                  across a planet
                                 the worms rise early        brush their 
                        worm teeth       have a cup of worm coffee and 
                   tip the grounds into the earth               to revitalise the 
              soil                  the planet is the size of a pea                   and
          also the size of a universe                     a universe in which there
        are many more planets          with their own moons         in various 
      phases         reflecting starlight into our open arms        refracting into 
    the topsoil          the cold light fractures the surface frost         the trickle 
    of silver into the undergrowth             to say it’s time                 wake up
    down here dusk falls          the moon rises slow as a round of soft dough
    we pull the curtains tight              it’s the first chill we’ve had in months
      the strawberry plants are finished fruiting         half the crop to us and
        half to the rest         beetles eating straight from the vine      wet red 
          exposed to the air    the same moon tells a different story   sends 
             them deep into the dirt            seeking warmth            drawn 
                   to the north like migrating birds                 the insects 
                        tuck themselves in to the soil bed             they 
                                 follow a song sung for aeons     they 
                                                    sing it back

if you see me, weep

mourning is not a profitable use of my time
but neither is this
I sunbathe on the deck looking up hunger stones on Google Images
the same rocks over and over from different angles
with markings I can barely make out
but despite its best efforts
the river has not yet smoothed them flat

one website calls the stones a timely portent
like a sign from god
a clumsy and unsubtle god
a god who’d text you after midnight

the websites cannot tell me
about the hands who carved the stone
whose body they belonged to or
if it was a profitable use of their time
it is great exposure
thousands of people will see it

the hunger stones have begun to attract visitors
there is no rush to get there as
the river now falls this low every year
we are lucky to have a nice day to visit the stones
we are lucky to
stand next to the stones
and have our pictures taken
to preserve this moment forever


I need to know the nearest body of water / feel it tug at me / dream of
waves and wake up with a fever breaking / sheets soaked / in summer
I take time to submerge myself / wade in inch by inch / the water a
knife when it hits your stomach / a baptism when it hits your crown /
in these bays it always knocks the breath out of you / the cold like
something moral / we take our summer with a pinch of salt on the
tongue / dried by the wind before we’re dried by the sun / no basking
to be done but it doesn’t stop us / hurry home with wet hair and a wild
look in the eyes / muscles heavy after the lightness of it / thirst sated
for a few hours but / by dinnertime we know / we’ll be back tomorrow /

I was born in this harbour / only knew warmer waters when I grew
older / we moved inland and the pool became the ocean / I swam
morning and night / my signature scent the smell of chlorine / my
movements more natural in water than on land / I grew taut muscles /
fins like a fish / learned to breathe without breathing / seasons changing
didn’t matter anymore / the only difference is we’d arrive in the dark and
come into the floodlights / from under the surface it could almost have
been daylight / from under the surface / it could almost be the sea

now in winter I walk on the waterfront and watch the breaking / on
sunny days I almost believe I could bear it / the brave dip under the
waves still / like selkies they don their seal skins before they go / change
into new forms altogether / heads bobbing out in the distance / they seem
mythical / but without their skins they’d be stuck just like the rest of us /
doomed to listen from the beach as the sea whispers / we stand and
wait for spring / or the tide to take us / whichever comes first


on the eve of my 25th birthday
we reach our limit
we have consumed everything
the land can give
in a year without losing itself
I carry myself like a hollowed tree
eat to survive to work to eat to survive
give as much of myself
as I can without wilting and then
continue to give

a friend’s hens start laying
and I eat an egg for the first time
in years
her name is scrawled on the shell
along with the date given
the only colour to perfectly describe an
egg shell is eggshell
but the ones in the supermarket
are a different shade altogether

I chop fennel, mushrooms
wash them under the tap
fry an omelette with the care
that comes with inexperience
fish a piece of shell out of the pan
I eat alone standing at the kitchen bench
with bare feet on the hardwood floor
try to focus on the taste
text my friend saying
to pass my thanks on to the hen
think what more I could do

pull weeds from the vegetable bed
and try to think of something to plant
that can withstand the winter here
I’ll spend more energy tending
the plants than I’ll earn
from eating the crop
but it feels like something
a different kind of working for
a different kind of survival
and at least I’ll know
the soil they came from
when I rinse it off

Ash Davida Jane is a poet and editor from Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Her second book, How to Live with Mammals (Te Herenga Waka University Press), was published in 2021 and won second place in the Laurel Prize. She is a publisher at We Are Babies Press and a regular book reviewer on RNZ.

Twitter: @adavidajane
Instagram: @adavidajane