Offcourse Literary Journal
ISSN 1556-4975 

Three Poems, by Janet Buck.


The Dirty Rabbit's Foot

"No matter how we started, we ended
somewhere else, her viciously slammed door,
the toxic fumes, my wilted finish."

Susanna Sonnenberg, from Her Last Death

I ache and ask, ache and ask
for you to be a mother to me.
45 years of begging now
for some miracle's scrap to drop
from the sombrous, murky sky.
You cannot save a dying fish,
when the water is never clean
and the lights are always off.
I deftly dodge our jagged rocks,
then tire of the game in a tank without air.

I am the matter-less child,
building weak towers of steps
from very unsightly, embarrassing bones
you drink and drug into a haze.
For decades you've slept like a coma patient,
coming to in slices of seconds
I crave in lieu of morning toast.
When I sense some stray hair of human touch
that floats near my skin,
I grab and grab, only to find our gap.
What you cannot face you simply desert.

When I see a spark of kindness
in your glassy eyes,
I grab it like a rabbit's foot,
tie it to my key chain —squeeze, just squeeze
because I'm so utterly desperate.
Why can't I stumble away,
accept defeat, move on.
It's a drawing room of dreams
without a pencil or paper or frame.



Hacking at Winter

Going back, I'lll grant you that,
is a hairpin turn.
We can't vault graves
like horses hurdle a pole.
When, exactly when,
did thresholds of grief
become a border never to cross.
I imagine the hour she died —
clocks grew rust, the music stopped.
Any page of sepia,
reminders disappearing
left and right to balance out
the weight of wronged.
When did feel decompose
into this dormant, slaughtered noun.
A stanza clambake has no meat
but wishing you would leave your shell.

My arms are tired; our luggage sits.
Every luncheon is the same.
I'm the eunuch, popping caps,
flipping crepes, pouring wine,
serving the silence a meal.
Three days later comes a note
that says "the brunch was such a treat."
Sadness stays that back seat fish
wrapped in moldy black and white.
I'd hack at the winter
if you gave me the scrap
of a reason to write--
called her smile a sliver
in a swollen thumb.
Tempt my shovel; talk to me.
Ibids of an empty look,
no odyssey despite my fire.
You have made a flat decision
to side with the mutable frost.


I Once

Had a brother standing tall and straight,
dressed to be a pioneer: a cereal box
strapped to ribs for a makeshift vest,
a stick for a gun in case a bear
should cross his path,
a floppy hat to meet the rain
of every pressing wilderness.
Of course you were five —and now you're not.

Today, you slump and waste in jail;
a toilet in a chilly box is all you have
to focus on besides your moldering dreams.
Arson and theft, DUI's
like flattened tires on the street—
the car stays put, gathering rust.
Maybe money was your curse.
Such luxuries can cut a character in half.
At 22, you floated down an easy stream
and never had to land a fish.

The arborescence of innocence lost
to pot and booze, to downers and meth.
Your mug shot shows such hollow cheeks,
eyes slanting toward edges of hell.
I should have bought you roller skates
to steer you down another road.
When I dwell on the life you chose,
I want to type out "butterfly,"
then never take a step in thought.

The picture of you I have in a drawer
is a treasure that's aliquot and stained.
Sleeper cells of tragedy
infect your every jaded move.
Today I wish I were a priest
with the presence of grace,
absolving you of everything
that you did wrong and everything
that wronged you back.
I'm loving you with rubber gloves.

Janet Buck is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee. Her poetry has recently appeared in 2River View, Offcourse, Octavo, The Pedestal Magazine, and hundreds of journals worldwide. Janet's second print collection of poetry, Tickets to a Closing Play, was the winner of the 2002 Gival Press Poetry Award and her third collection, Beckoned By The Reckoning, was released by PoetWorks Press in the spring of 2004. Buck teaches writing courses for Rogue Community College in Southern Oregon.
For links to more of her work, see:


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