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Featured Poet: Jan Owen

I am very happy to feature Jan Owen (pictured) this ice-challenged Friday at Eyewear.  Owen is a South Australian poet whose sixth book Poems 1980 – 2008 was published by John Leonard Press in 2008 - a survey of an award-winning 28 years of poetry. She has worked as a librarian and teacher and has had residencies in Venice, Rome, Paris and Malaysia.

In 2009 she was a Fellow at Hawthornden Castle, and participated in the Festival International de la Poésie at Trois Rivières, Quebec. In October 2010 she was a guest at the Maastricht International Poetry Nights where a selection of her poems in Dutch was published by Azul Press. I was glad to meet her there in Holland and see her read.  Owen strikes me as especially lively, clever, and musical in the way her mind makes poetry that's smart yet emotionally-engaging.  She's one of Australia's best poets now writing.

Mirror Image
i.m. Balázs Bajka

‘Thirty years ago. And only yesterday,’                          
says Balázs, slapping at a fly.
We sit beside a bottle underneath his vines
and watch the football arc between his sons.

‘Check through the corner one,’ the sergeant says,
‘and make it short and sweet. Take a couple of men.’
(Seventeen-year-olds still nervous with a gun.)
It’s an office block like most
down the derelict street;
he keeps a good five metres ahead,
tries the rooms along each corridor
and beckons the two boys on.
They reach the third floor,
breathing easier now.
The Council Chamber’s here,
empty but for a tangle of chairs
at the northern window end
(unseemly three-day corpses,
wooden legs in the air);
dried into the floor – blood-stains;
and seeping through the shattered panes             
the distant dialogue of cross-fire.
Directly opposite him – another door.
He notes the fact an instant before

it opens sharply and his counterpart –
the hated AVO uniform of green –
levels his gun and time is not.
They freeze. Somewhere beyond,
the seconds slide away;
between their eyes the slender lifeline holds
across the mirror of air.
‘Döntetlen barátom azt hiszem’:
Stalemate I think, my friend.
Each slightly lowers his gun
and slowly, eyes still locked, takes one step back.
The two doors close together, softly as hands on a prayer.
‘Senki sincs ott,’ each says to his men:
Nobody there.

‘In Hungary we used to say
Néha a második alkalom jön először –                             
sometimes the second chance comes first.’
He’s silent, years away.
The day is insubstantial, seems to float
in the dry gum-scented heat.
Only the football’s thud,
steady as the beat of some huge heart,
holds us in time and space.
He rouses himself to swear:
‘Az anyád, off the kohlrabi, rossz gyerekek,’
then pours us another beer.
The head on each glass whispers small talk;
we blow the froth into the air.

poem by Jan Owen; appears here with permission of the author.
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