Sunday, April 1, 2012

Poetry Monday: Jan Owen

Today's featured poet is Jan Owen, author of some ten poetry books and participator in countless journals, anthologies, and publications. Jan's work is utterly feminine, rich with family and the details of daily life, quiet observations, and nature, and yet no less giant in its scope for all the beautiful, recognisable minutiae. There are fireworks everywhere, but subtle, understated. The following poem is taken, in its entirety, from the collection titled simply Poems Jan Owen: 1980-2008, published by John Leonard Press in 2008.  This poem, "Port Lincoln" is only seemingly simple. It bears multiple readings, each time moving deeper in that delicate double-helix twist between the personal and universal.

Port Lincoln

The endless white ah-ah-ing of the sea
is the sound of forgetting
and the touch of it too:
the sea-line laps our footprints back
to the clear broth of first being,
the littoral of find and lose that is
the moment remembering itself and letting go.

Here, in six clear feet of water below the dock,
starfish dozens, such kindergarten creatures,
stud the sand with random rivets,
anchor earth itself with gravity clamps,
imaging their element as blue-gold heaven.
Each pliant clutch spreads wide its private pink.
That one – so fixed! And yet it moves.

Its flow is a sort of flight,
a placid hydraulics with every direction forward
following any cosmic compass point
it signifies and is – five fingery feet
fringing a mouth in search of the other,
a ruthless purity that stretches and contracts,
elongates to a manikin secreted in a crack,

or pulls food in to centre’s firm conviction.
Somewhere right now someone may be
sliding a thin soup under glass,
tracing this cell stuff to an essence
recalling tomorrow as genome,
the future tense of space:
a circular shortcut, like the sea’s
great mirror of hope, star looking back at star.
Symmetry seems safe – like question and response,
the way that axon leans to axon,
coaxing metaphysics by caress.
Lucky the atom has its own world view,
so a starfish is at finest resolution
electrostatic No respecting difference.

As I watched Lachlan watch one on his palm
it stretched and curled
and struck a questioning pose –
was his hand sea or sky or sand?
Later, rolling plasticene to five-armed orange blobs,
he sank so starfish-deep within himself,
the making remembered him.

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