The Women's Group Visits the Museum

Joanna Boulter

 "Visitors are asked to remember that some of these exhibits were once living human beings"
                                                    - Notice on an exhibit in the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

Someone has stolen my skull,
left me a stone instead,
encased me in cold stares.

Are you women who gaze at me?
I am without even empty
sockets to meet your eyes.

Listen to me. I have lost my voice.
Dare you offer yourselves
to speak for me? shall we chant together?

I will teach you my round dance.
Drum with my long bones, make flutes of my femurs,
string my backbone for a rattle

and we'll raise the sun.
Come, play knucklebones with me.
I'll stake you another life.

Shall I rise again? Maybe I'll
dig my way up with hipbone and shoulderblade,
shiver bare on my stripped shanks, tremble

in spillikin ivory, slough away
my whispering dust,
wait behind you like a shadow-sister.

Joanna Boulter

Joanna Boulter grew up in Southern England near the great stone circles of Avebury and Stonehenge, and became deeply interested in prehistory as a result.

Poetry and music fought each other as her main interests from childhood. She has three poetry pamphlets in print, and her first full collection, Twenty Four Preludes and Fugues on Dmitri Shostakovich (Arc Publications) was shortlisted for the Forward First Collection prize in 2007. Joanna has received a Tyrone Guthrie Fellowship from Northern Arts (1997), a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North (2002), and a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2004.

Joanna is currently collaborating with the composer Andrew Webb-Mitchell (who photographed her, right, in Beijing in February 2009) on a major symphonic song cycle, Songs of Awe and Wonder, now nearly complete.

She explains: "This poem resulted from a 'poem-hunting expedition' with Vane Women to the Bowes Museum. It first appeared in my pamphlet The Hallucinogenic Effects Of Breathing (Arrowhead Press)".

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The Women's Group Visits the Museum © 2007 Joanna Boulter: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.