Jill Jones is one of my favourite poets, and O Fortuna is a corker. Read it freely, hang on to the images that form in front of your eyes, and allow other parts – not so accessible – to be caught by your subconscious. There’s time enough to unravel the mystery in her language, the words you may not recognise: hie and plage and heterodox (they are all in the www.dictionary.com). So, rather than trip up, fly with the poem. Let the language have its effect.
At times you’re like a machiavellista planning to meet
whatever culminations you wish to thwart
on a Friday – well, it’s nearly the weekend, the trees
are full of lorikeets and despite rain’s desultory patter,
there’s a fuzzy window of blue sky coming
from the south, wholly unexpected, the weather’s governance
being a method above you. We all have our fortuna
we pretend we’ve never met, there’s no point
in deception here unless it’s your art. There’s a timetable
dissembling just before the weekend, the doors of the end
carriage won’t open as the train pulls up,
someone’s limping under a backpack, you recall
your own blemishes. It’s that ‘tragic sense of life’
yukking around between faith and reason, the mortal
combat. While you work hard for the money, you want
to grab a towel and the 30+, hie yourself to the plage
dodging pale hooligans and melanoma. Surely
the end is nigh and it’s a faith squeeze, when to be
heterodox, when to hold the line, which comes at you
up front and always, always leaves you past, belated,
but still humid with life at the turnstyles pushing
another weekly into the slot, watching it burst
up again. While folding your damp umbrella
into these sharp hectic hours, you keep appearing.
This poem’s first-world conundrum poses in front of us like a question mark: our fortunes and obligations, the struggle between work and wanting an illuminated life, the friction that keeps us both in line and fortunate simultaneously.
Printed here in full with the Jill Jones’ permission: O Fortuna can be found in her book Dark Bright Doors.