Hobart Time by Jan Owen

As an extension of Arc’s Canada-Australia joint issue with Australia’s Cordite magazine, over the next several weeks, Arc will be publishing online selected pieces from Australian poets — this is in addition to the Australian poetry published in print in Arc 77. For the Arc-Cordite joint issue, each magazine handed the editorial responsibilities over to the other: so that Cordite filled Arc #77 (and these these webpages) with nothing but Australian poetry, prose and artwork; Arc did the same for Cordite (Arc’s part of this partnership will be published online at Cordite in December 2014). Our intent in this partnership is to showcase and cross-pollinate poetics between Australia and Canada and to share with a broader audience poetry that may be little known outside of home borders.


Hobart Time

Night’s black mass of silence.
Through sleep’s slippage
my landlady’s heirloom, 1860’s, French,
has tethered a ghost:
the whispering tread and swish
of a taffetta ancestor, great-great-great- . . .
paces the room with lies against death
to soothe a frightened child.

Morning: first snow on the Mount.
The Town Hall clock chimes six,
rippling air to water, coming, going,
coming, going. The iron sound
sighs through the port, dreaming direction
after the icebreaker grinding south
where night is day
and all the hours are white.

Afternoon, the deaf-mute round the bone
that feels my pulse
and needs no winding on
shines up its simple face
already haloed gold
in hope there’ll be a heaven for little clocks
where time will burst its round
and dance and dance.

Evening’s dogged barking, streets away,
the lonely monotone of distance.
Somewhere near at hand
(I open a window and lean out)
a little piece by Brahms
is lifting free of the nagging metronome.
Behind each earnest note
I sense the careful breathing of a child,
her steady heart.


Jan Owen is a South Australian whose most recent book is Poems 1980 – 2008. A New and Selected, The Offhand Angel, is forthcoming in the U.K. with Eyewear Publishing. In 2015 she will participate in two poetry festivals in Paris.

Skip to content