Jan Owen’s most recent book is Poems 1980 – 2008. A selection in Dutch, Der Kus, was published in 2010, and a New and Selected, The Offhand Angel, is forthcoming in the UK with Eyewear Publishing. Several of her Baudelaire translations will be included in a future issue of Modern Poetry in Translation.
Elusive as Derrida
at the eastern edge of absence,
the tiny beast came through more slant
than Emily D in Sunday black –
a slashed-off scrap of dusk,
Venetian appliqué round a mask
glimpsed at a window over the Grand Canal,
Vivaldi played two rooms away.
Lobbed from nowhere onto the desk
in a shocking slippage of air,
grief’s gift paper sleeked its own dark nub,
a grinning foetus between the books and the cup,
myopically pulling itself together,
eerily looming, flumping towards me twice.
Then off to the frame of the Japanese print
to hang like disshevelled sci fi, gravity’s womb
or a scatological statement on art.
I let it be all night through chittering dreams
but woke round dawn as out to the square world’s
inconvenient corners it veered,
tracking its own grace notes to where
at last out the fast thrown-open door
it took my breath away
like an exorcism,
that most intimate loss.
Outside the Museum
Against the traffic’s roar
some small pipsqueak was giving
its territory away
with five clear-glass notes here
and five more there
like memory echoes in
the stripped trees’ mid-December air
so twig by twig by twig
one naked plane was hung
with limpid silver baubles of sound
like a boutique musical pine
with the unseen wren
so much ahead of itself
so much a sprung intention
it seemed the tree was plucking
the bird from note to note
from now to now
playing its flight in silver palindromes.
our trivial quarrel held its ground
with words like dead bells
melted down for guns
till aptly we went underground at Iéna
parting finally at a corridor junction
grey as a tunnel in purgatory
no buskers at any coordinate
of space or time.