Jen Webb, Australia



The science of kindness

A history of speech

The Poems


The science of kindness [1]

It’s one minute before the scheduled  departure time and she  is running  up
the stairs and up the stairs, across the bridge and down, and as her left foot
hits the  platform  the train  is there. Someone helps her on board, someone
moves up to make room, the doors close. She’ll be home within a few hours,
fires permitting, and no clear idea of what is  waiting  for her there. The  train
rolls   through  the  suburbs  and  out  into the  wilds. The  cat  in  her  bag is
working its way  free and  the  sun is  going down,  a  silhouette  against  the
flames, and the moon is coming  up, red  on red. Her  phone  turns  itself  off
and she places it gently in her pocket, leans back in her seat, closes her eyes.
[1] Published in Messages from the Embers 2020


A history of speech

I like  a  door  that  sounds decisive when you  close it a child who knows
precisely when to hang up the phone the historian who discourses on the
use  of “hang up” for  the phones  we  now use my  rusting   memories of
lying on the floor of my parents’ bedroom spiral wired phone  against  my
head listening to you breathe while you listened to me breathe as though
we were rehearsing for a future we would not live to see.

Leaving love behind, you place the phone back in its cradle. Leaving love
behind, you close the door. So gently it might have been a breath.

The Poet

Jen Webb is a Canberra-based poet, who arrived here via South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, the Western Australian Outback, and Central Queensland.She is a distinguished professor at the University of Canberra, researching poetry, cultural theory, and creative practice. Her poems have been publishedin many local and international journals, and have been anthologised and translated; she is also the author of 5 collections of poetry, and 7 poetry pamphlets. Jen is co-editor of the bilingual volumes Open Windows: Contemporary Australian Poetry (2016) and Writing the Pacific (2007), and of the journals Meniscus, and Axon: Creative Explorations.