Perihelion: An Online Journal of Poetry and Mayhem
The Phoenix Issue, No. 16, Winter 2008

Jan Owen

The Irises

For Colette

The art of losing is a one-way trip,
the art of letting-go is a return.
That blue wheelbarrow heaped with leaves
and the empty air above.
The wind chimes get the drift
then lose it again,
the way that music borrows space
to clothe the body of time
with soundings of the one.

My timber ceiling creaks in the sun;
grey cat sleeks her fur
by the open door.
Stillness. Tiny leaps in the dark –
the axons’ LCD of love.

Over the pine-wood floor
the slats of the blind
are casting a chequer board,
vertical struts, horizontal lies.
You could set up your pieces
to play at win and lose
till the sun moves on to erase the game.

In the stillness after a death
you go about a room
touching a table or chair,
a vase, a flower, your own face.
To be held back, here, in trust.

On a small low table I’ve set down
an open spectacle case
like a brittle psyche wrenched apart
or a just-vacated coffin.
There is my camera closed
on the promise of smiles,
and the square black bible from school
with its rainbow-crocheted bookmark
of Celtic rings and crested snakes
hallowing chapter 10 of Job.

The irises outside have opened overnight:
Fine China, offering back all light
but its opal shimmer of water,
a spiritual economics of least as most,
the grounded ordinary afloat.

And there – Stygian Purple is practising night
but breathing a hint of twilight back
in courtesy to colour.
The wind chimes idle out their magpie thoughts;
the tall white iris is barely swaying –
a small child striving to stand up straight
or the last tremblings of a tired head.