Three Poems, by Janet Buck.


Velvet in the Final Act

I should have expected as much.
Genuine grace in the last act of a play.
Arms lay crossed
over the bumps of your ribs --
two ladyfingers, loaves of bread
on edges of the cutting board.
I came with roses,
drooping as I fondled stems,
ran cold water in the sink.
I left mid-grief like weak men faint
when birth involves the sight of blood.
There were lessons for me there
in schools I wanted to torch.
I could have been flat stepping stones
if not for blindness on the trail.

I rebelled in stupid ways
against the constant of your death.
By heading home, by
fixing meals you wouldn't eat,
as if red beets could bring back streams
a sun cooked down to only dirt.
I fiddled with the trivia,
tucking in the little tags
when flesh was mostly made of holes.
I wasted velvet of my hands
on grating cheese ready
for the mold and pitch.
I should have sat like mulch
in silence soothing razors of the frost.
I was too young to face the unfixable pipe.

Death on Death

When long black streams of limousines
wound their snakes around
another jagged stone, the house
grew bored with the light.
Dust grew wings; he followed it.
He pulled down shades
like people tear up envelopes
because they've wasted
tendons and joints and pints of sweat
on ads in lieu of letters
from a lover's hand.
Red geraniums in June
had leather skins
beneath their buds.
The amaryllis stayed asleep.

They say he died from surgery
and some infection rolling in.
But battles were over
before a scalpel ever
brushed the possum's hide.
He gave your silver to the maid,
ate in restaurants for the noise.
He couldn't stand the scent
of sweaters laced
around the dirty socks
of losing you and living on.
Your death lit his like a match.
Roads to nowhere
ready for the coming corpse.


Chocolates and Mud

I tuck a quilt beneath your chin.
Your fingers push it back at me
as if I've zipped a body bag,
tagged your toe, erased your name,
sealed you in unready tombs.
A bar of phosphorescent light
replaces the moon's white soap.
It flickers and wavers and settles in ash
above the bed rails in this cage.
Youth sees aging as old tacks.
Pointed parts are facing up.
Guard the buttocks. Do not sit.

The TV's pitch is foghorn loud,
yet stillness echoes in and out
with words that never leave a tongue.
Shallow breaths are sizing up
the going wind,
surrendering to weather vanes.
IV cords are crossed with wires
attached to phones that never ring.
Round by round, Godiva chocolates
turn to pudding, then to mud.
Family visits crop the wheat in one quick
razor driven by a wrist of guilt.

You could have done without this gift,
but not their hands
receding at the ocean's hour.
Nurses pass the half-shut door --
white gauze ghosts
and phantoms of cold operas.
Yellow puddles in your bed
(of course they aren't cold lemonade),
but thinking this still makes you laugh,
dream of porch swings creaking slow
to ballads of a cricket's song.
I change the sheets and groom the lie.


Janet Buck is a three-time Pushcart Nominee and the author of four collections of poetry. Her work has recently appeared in Three Candles, PoetryBay, Red River Review, Artemis, The Pedestal Magazine, Runes, Poetry, Southern Ocean Review, CrossConnect, Offcourse, The American Muse, and hundreds of journals worldwide. In 2001 and 2002, Buck has received awards from Kota Press, Sol Magazine, Kimera, L'Intrigue, and The Critical Poet. For links to more of her work, see


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