Jan Dean

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

my innocence.


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.