Jen Webb

Jen Webb lives in Canberra, and is the author of a number of works including the poetry collection, Proverbs from Sierra Leone (Five Islands Press, 2004).




Bête à chagrin


a thin morning, Canberra cold, and the cat 

is sleeping outside, he’s dozing out there

dying in the sun, not knowing it, he thinks

perhaps how sunlight feels on skin, how birds’ wings

sound the air, he tastes the drugs on his tongue


this is the matter of his life

a life of feeling       not thinking. Of being       not might be

a human heart can’t be:  I am want, he is satisfied with is 


for him an easy death, for me old words 

like chagrin come to mind, and I

must make the call, rule the line


he purrs again, I stroke his staring coat 

he’s metaphor of course; all cats are, all loves

he blinks, dying in the sun


I can’t find the gap between want and ought 

now might be shifts into will and don’t becomes yes

the sun the only bright spot on a hard-edged day




Outside Euclid’s box

the cyberworld has given up the fight: space is still solid,

time remains a mystery, the fundamentals still rule – that

geometry of one and three, time and space, that box our world


but you know, and I know, time is sometimes now, sometimes then

or when: outside Euclid’s box it folds like a paper crane, taut

surfaces hiding what Euclid could not know;


tug the paper wing and time is squeezed in here, stretched out there

the walls shift, the tremble takes its time, one wall falls, three

remain – height and length and width – they shudder


as space shifts like a tale; as there is folded onto then

as where is drawn out beyond what seemed to be its end –

what remains?


the story arcs from me to you, time trembles, and space,

the walls fail: when does far away become

just here, or then become now? When


does that old arc thread

here to there, the line from then to now,

the story, the trembling tale?




Wednesday morning


So here we are again, back at the tipping point

poised between stop and go

Another Wednesday lifts its blinds to check the day.


Sun, again. Blue sky.

A flotilla of clouds heading this way

morning light of course on leaves.


Below the tree three birds stand, eyes on the sky

where the hawk takes his thermal ride


the little birds describe his flight

then freeze as he turns their way.


The tree falls still; even time hesitates: the clocks run

to and fro


confused by the unlikely sky

Janus scratches his head, looks to

and fro, defers the day