Jan Ball

Jan Ball

Jan Ball has had 319 poems published in various journals including: Atlanta Review, Calyx, Chiron, Mid-America Review, Nimrod and Parnassus, in Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, England, India and The U.S.. Jan’s three chapbooks and full length poetry collection, I Wanted To Dance With My Father, are available from Finishing Line Press and Amazon. Her poem “Not Sharing at Yoshu” was just nominated by Orbis, Great Britain, 2020, for a Pushcart award. When not traveling, Jan and her husband like to cook for friends.

Decisions on Vacation in the South of France

She rearranges the jam jars in the cupboard
so the apricot preserves are more accessible
for later when she will prepare his favorite
fruit dessert but after only the asparagus soup
he made for dinner and demi-bagette, they are
still hungry so they select cheeses from the
refrigerator to match the Plan d ‘Izard red
from the Coteaux du Languedoc he found
on a recent side-trip to The Dordognes,
pungent roblichon that smells like day-old
socks they both deliberated about in the Sunday
Market, asking the fromagiere if they could
smell its somehow appealing aroma, plus the
creamy Brillat Savarin, resting in its square
styrofoam package, pristine as a white-washed
adobe chapel, so the fragrant dessert:
nubby raspberries, strawberries from the forest
and red currents bright as clear glass marbles
will have to go back into the controlled temperature
with the lettuces and pates while they enjoy
the cheeses and wine that they have chosen
for tonight.

Even Julie Andrews

No Mary Poppins delusional day for us
in the South of France this year
despite peppermint pink Provencal houses
across the award-winning Bay of La Ciotat
and blue balloon skies here on our St. Cyr
sur Mer side of the bay.

Once again the wasp sting memory
of how our son and his injecting friends
depleted the teaspoons from our condo
cutlery drawer for whatever crack or heroin
thrills they couldn’t find in the surrounding hills
we love to hike.

They even splashed a Bastille Day fireworks
display of blood on the turquoise dresser
we assembled together after we bought the place.

But now we are grand-parented and in-lawed,
proud of our son’s work achievements
after the eventual intervention back in Chicago
and anyway, a publisher friend told us
that when she interviewed Julie Andrews,
she was surprised to hear some non-Maria speech
so even Julie could act out of character.

Gourmet Delight

A new gourmet delight,
rain-soaked black olives,
we left out on the balcony
during the downpour
last night in their ochre
pottery jar, a souvenir
from the Cote D’Azur
harvest dinner a handful
of years ago.

The storm violated
the lid with prying
fingers like a masked
intruder while we
slept like a log
as the Beatles said
in Hard Days Night.

I tip the container,
like carefully
pouring the rose’
we had last night,
with the top askew
just wide enough
for the excess
moisture to dribble
over the wall
onto the continual
dry ground below
our apartment
despite last night’s
drizzle, ready to serve
the olives at brunch
to our guests who’ll
never know.

Off Season Market

Today is the off-season market
in our June village-no pink peaches
bursting with the sunshine
of the South of France, nothing
succulent like cherries, just crunchy
apples, dirty cepes, and hard garlic:
portents of a cold winter ahead.

We approach the flower-seller,
no one at her usually crowded
stand on this windy, rainy October
Sunday. I touch the gerber, pink
and yellow roses and bend down
to sniff the star-gazer lilies but
she seems to stiffen like
             a temperamental cat as I do.

I glance at our French friends
to see if I’m doing something
inappropriate but they are
chatting quietly, unaware of
my flower-sniffing behavior.
Finally, I decide: I indicate
I’d like to buy the red-tinged
gladiolas with their sessile buds
that we like to watch open-and
hand madame a bunch of fragrant
star-gazer lilies as well.

Suddenly, the pouting proprieter
smiles sweetly, wraps the flowers,
as tenderly as clothing a newborn,
and places them in the crook of
my arm gently after I give her
enough euros saying, “Bonne
Journey”. Our friends say to me
in English,“The sales are low.
You made her happy.”

Raw ingredients

Raw ingredients in two languages:
rouge radishes, kilos of haricot verts,
purple aubergines, succulent cerise,
frambois, frais–that’s about the extent
of my fruit and vegetable vocabulary
in the Sanary Market in the South
of France where the variety is as daunting
as a Willy Wonka tour: five kinds
of tomatoes, six floppy heads of lettuce
(many with squirming grubs still attached),
white and yellow perfumed peches unlike
the bland plastic ones from Dominicks
or even Whole Foods (no, I’m not getting
a commission for mentioning them),
cheeses, sausages, and today is only
the demi-market not the marche’complet
on Wednesday, and now as we pass
the poultry, we are birdwatchers absorbing
the details of unplucked poulet carcasses
with feet still attached and soon we are
fishermen as we see “fish with heads on,”
as my mother observed, appalled, when
she visited us in Australia where the shrimp
had heads, too (twist one off, peel the shell
and discard the vein down the back, then
pop the shrimp meat into your mouth) and
we more frequently saw our equally mixed
marriage friends who we call Henri and
Francoise here in France but Harry and Fran
back in the Sunburned Country and now
we saunter slowly past more raw ingredients
that we have prepared for each other
in two languages.

The Wheelchair That Disappeared

Wheelchaired for the first time
in Mediterranean France, she leans
on the side of the car while
Kevin folds the “chaisse”
in the trunk of the rented Nissan
SUV that opens and closes
by remote.

Just through a round-about
approaching La Ciotat
after a late salad nicoise, they hear
a click-clack, click-clack.

Kevin looks in the rear view mirror
and sees that the trunk is as open
as a dental patient’s mouth saying,
“Ah!” The wheel chair is gone.

Barb thinks, “Oh, no! How will I
get around France the next month
with my arthritic hip!

They retrace the kilometres three times,
in the car peering carefully into bushes
on either side of the road.

Kevin even gets out of the car to walk
along the steep sections of the road
where the wheelchair might have slid
out backwards, but no luck.

Finally, back at their condo,
Kevin calls a French friend.

Daniel takes him to a pharmacy
where Kevin rents a replacement
wheelchair to use at seventeen euros
per day until the one Barb has ordered
from Amazon France arrives.

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Poetry in this post: © Jan Ball
Published with the permission of Jan Ball