'Rhyme' by Jan Owen | States of Poetry SA - Series Two

This ‘structural scandal’, tongue’s yen for kin
as family is a sort of chime, the thrift
of loaves and fishes unconsumed by scorn,

is natural as natural history
with all its modulations of again –
seed, crystal, comet, crocus, rain.

Even our code’s in rhyme – adenine,
cytosine, guanine and thymine – turn
and turn again (cynghanedd rules the cells).

Call cousin metaphor a silent rhyme,
flashy matchmaker signing What a catch,
this link and latch of things.

Say reason follows suit when politics spells peace.
Note In the beginning was the Word and it rhymed:
quark, antiquark, spin, counterspin.

Left and right are the first and best of gifts;
hand clap, bird flight. Born binary,
we lose and use our balance stepping out,

or, for embodiment of rhyme in tights on a roll,
ape Clem on his circus wire with music and meaning
weighting the opposite ends of the balancing pole.

Remember when first couplets of smile-frown
made enemy-friends with knee scabs for paired badges
as right played tag with wrong and gang was the full stanza?

And how sound conjures friend from stranger
– song belong song, half riff or exact pact,
sun moon one tune, a double cadenza,

with any word an aria centre stage
through (cymbals, please!) full frontal rhyme,
that glitzy tenor of derring-do. Soprano, too.

Irresistible, these prophets of philander,
intuition’s viceroys, double agents all:
Apollo tipsy, Dionysus in tails.

How they’ll subvert a poet and serve a clown!
Their Mercury conjunct Uranus warns
it’s no go the status quo, no go the Fall,

so if you want the moment’s CPR,
the breath and beat of second chance – yes no? –
rhyme’s team will clinch the deal.


The first line quote is from Roland Barthes’ ‘rhyme is a structural scandal’. I like rhyme’s tensile strength, its echo of the pattern of things, the way it can surprise and validate, and sometimes usefully influence a poem’s narrative. JJO.

Jan Owen

Jan Owen

Jan Owen lives at Aldinga Beach, fifty kilometres south of Adelaide. Her translations from Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal were published in 2015 by Arc Publications. A New and Selected, The Offhand Angel, was published by Eyewear in 2015, and The Wicked Flowers of Charles Baudelaire came out with Shoestring Press in the United Kingdom in 2016. She was awarded the 2016 Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal.