Jan Dean lives at Cardiff, Lake Macquarie. Her work has been published in newspapers, journals and anthologies including The Australian, Blue Dog, Famous Reporter, Hecate, Quadrant, Southerly, Sunweight (NPP Anthology) 2005); The Best Australian Poems 2005 (Black Inc); The Best Australian Poetry 2004 (UQP). Interactive Press published Jan’s poetry collection With One Brush as winner of IP Picks Best First Book in 2007; it was shortlisted for the Mary Gilmore Award in 2008.
Cranes fly on my blue and white porcelain brooch
Kiyomizu Temple Precinct, Kyoto
People take several paths and transformations
to find and leave a closer view of the summit.
Some wait until mid-morning. Others
depart with pilgrims and lose themselves
in the mists of dawn. None may go further
than halfway. The summit is simply a frame
for platforms that cling to the slope.
I began at the launch pad and proceeded on foot
up the river of light, reminiscent of a ramp
on the face of a Mayan temple.
Close to the entrance souvenir shops crowd
the road into an avenue, confetti-bright.
Kindly avoid temptation until the return journey.
A few, as feathers floated by a gentle breeze
take the thin path on the left hand side facing the city.
In which case, they choose the time
of ancestor reverence, when final resting spots
marked by tall stones of charcoal flecked with white
diffused over the vast curve, enjoy blessings;
single red roses, mingling with companions
to set the sweep ablaze.
The right path is narrow and steep enough
to persuade a caterpillar persona. It is pleasurable
however inclement the weather. Rain,
may increase your chances of being charmed
by sheen on cobblestones, heel-clack & feet-shuffle
or navy & white noren, damp yet aflutter
and the women
who surge into doorways and turn to face you
as parasols collapse into narrow vees
under facades; compact, mature, ghostly.
Back on level ground, you should meander over
to Gion in time for twilight, when lit paper lanterns
proclaim trainee geishas, who perfect their art
of fragility hovering on platform shoes.
Ruby lips and mime-like faces emit no emotion
yet receive the respect reserved for dolls
preserved in museums. They pose then disappear
silk kimonos rustling rainbows, and somewhere
along the way, I found my prize.
Note: A noren is a “doorway curtain” hanging in front of a shop to announce
the specialty within.
The Red Room Nightmare
Somewhere in Europe, 1925
A painting I saw in Paris provoked
this: A stranger persuades me
to strip to the skin, removing
all the protective layers, worn
whenever I venture outdoors
and follow him into his studio
with just a light robe to cover
Inside, I see red on everything;
the carpet, ceiling, tablecloth
and walls, only broken by swirls
of black and blue
which should warn me
what is in store.
The maid arranges food
on the table; a light snack
she says, which consists of fruit
wine and bread rolls, before
she departs and I am left
alone with him.
The man is a BEAST:
He rips off my robe
and tickles my nipples
with a paint brush
which sends me wobbly;
all the easier to bend.
The room is PASSION
but I’ll remember it as BLOOD
on my pale and perfect skin
lost and never restored.