Jan Ball started seriously writing poetry and submitting it for publication in 1998. Since then, she has had 350 poems published in the U.S., Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Czech Republic, and England. Published poems have appeared in: ABZ, Mid-American Review, Parnassus and many other journals. Her poem, carwash, won the 2011 Betsy Colquitt $500 Award for the best poem in a current issue of Descant, Fort Worth. More recently, Jan’s poem, Loquat Jam was awarded first place in the annual Loquat Festival of Port Ritchie, Florida (2018). Her poem, “Not Sharing at Yoshu” was nominated for the Pushcart by Orbis Literary Review (2020, England). Her three chapbooks, Accompanying Spouse (2011), Chapter of Faults (2014), and Day Job (2020) have been published by Finishing Line Press as well as her first full length poetry collection, I Wanted To Dance With My Father (2017). Jan is a member of The Poetry Club of Chicago.
Besides her poetry publications, she wrote a doctoral dissertation at the University of Rochester in 1996. The title is: Age and Natural Order in Second Language Acquisition. Jan did undergraduate work at Alverno College and DePaul University. Jan taught ESL at DePaul University in Chicago most recently. She lived in Australia for fifteen years with her Australian husband, Ray Ball and taught high school in Brisbane and Sydney. Her two children, Geoffrey and Quentin, were born in Brisbane. She is a twin to Jean Helmken and she was a Franciscan nun for seven years (Sister Jeanclare). When not reading non-fiction and fiction or writing poetry, going to book group or traveling, Jan and her husband like to cook for friends. These background experiences infuse her poetry.
In this alfresco restaurant, the chalky
white calanques sandstone and
Mediterranean in the background
like a Cezanne painting, we sit down
with our old friends who introduced
us to the South of France twenty-five
Jeannette, no longer decorates her face
with two shades of eye shadow, green
and brown and now Greg hums show
tunes, even sings a few bars from Chicago’s
Razzle Dazzle Me but doesn’t get up
from our table to tap dance like Richard
Gere did in the movie.
None of the French diners seem to mind,
their eyes focused on their first prix
fixe course, vegetables arranged on plates
like an Ascot hat that Kate Middleton
might wear, the tops of radishes and beets
appetizing here, but find their way into
my garbage bin at home.
Main course, dessert, decaffeinated coffee,
we’ve done it all before, but still delight
in wishing them another: joyeux anniversaire.
Just This Once
Here at the Negresco Hotel, Nice,
again, I expect to see women in abayas
in the lobby but suspect they took them
off in the limousines with tinted windows
en route from the airport or in the suites
on the fifth floor for VVIP persons, we
were told last year when we asked,
needless to say, not us.
My head is reeling
from the sensory abundance
like the carousel brunch restaurant
downstairs. The opulent jacquard
blue-patterned walls in our suite
almost play a waltz. Still the period
furniture that doesn’t seem reproduction,
rather from a Versailles bedroom,
is a reminder of ghastly French
excesses that caused a revolution.
However, just this once (again?),
I want to wash my face in the gold basin
in the bathroom, walk the Promenade
des Anglais at noon and settle
into a velvet dinner chair
at the Chanticleer Restaurant tonight,
not think about anything that lurks
in the corners of the rooms.
Pimento-stuffed green or oil-cured
black olives gleam at a stand across
from jockey underwear packaged
in sets of three with a graphic photo
on the top and next to peppers piled
as high as Peter Piper’s pickled ones.
I absorb it all as I limp through
the Sunday market this year leaning
on my husband’s arm like his mother
Once I pirouetted between French
shoppers like a lithe dancer pausing
to bargain for olivewood salt shakers
to take home to Chicago for hostess
gifts while trying my crude French
on wary stall-renters.
Today, at one of the peripheral
vegetable stands, we select two
huge heads of romaine lettuce
with grubs and dirt clearly adhering
to the outer leaves—more farm fresh
than we appreciate for the Caesar
salad we’ll make with local white
anchovies, laughing when we
remember the way our mothers
always kept a head of iceberg lettuce
in the fridge when we were growing up.
This year, constrained by my lumbar
stenosis, I will not walk to the parking
lot with Sean but, instead, will wait
for him on a closer bench in the square
to bring the rented Peugeot and drive
me to the top of the hill we clambered
up like rock climbers other years.
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Poetry in this post: © Jan Ball
Published with the permission of Jan Ball