Offcourse Literary Journal

Two Poems by Janet Buck.

A family tree.

Our bark will always
be hard as stones circling a grave.
We like our fences tight and tall.
We are afraid of clay
and soil and dust and roots —
the way they mo
ve a universe
we haven't mastered with our hands.
Our cobwebs will never be
patted down in sterling silk.
I'll never see your morning face
without a dose of Cover Girl
over the chasms of time.

Our diaries still live unpacked —
luggage heavy, ancient, tough —
cattle skin we slice and dye
behind the slamming door.
Perhaps it's enough that we touch
like strangers in a grocery line,
afraid to share the tabs of grief,
split their pennies and their bills.

Maybe a woodpecker pen
is only an idle dream —
and fathoming should close
its thirsty lips around a straw
that loves the chill surrounding it.
These deadbolts burn my fingertips.
Maybe we'll always
fondle the dog, smile in lieu
of nursing the boundless scar.


The Pipe in the Cradle

Grammy called it your one soft flaw.
The way you managed winters
of rye toast ground and poverty
by this one insular act —
alone in a burlap chair.
Draw. Hold. Breathe.
Nostrils had the rhythm down
as if you were marching in wars
and this was a bunker
below the mutinous wind.

She griped about footprints
on bright clean tile —
about the wayward yard,
teeming mounds of unpaid bills
but never your pipe
or its smell that stained
the scent of fresh rolls.
The wood was a tree
with a secret house where
ghostly regrets circled and slept.
The curve was a symbol of walls.

If she called it an ugly name,
she knew your tongues
would never lick the ice away
when they met in the velveteen dark
for a midnight kiss.
"Some borders must never
be crossed" she said.
"When he smokes,
he thinks of a dream
the world did not delete."
The air itself was kinder
in moments riddled with haze.
The cradle was filthy and yours.


Janet Buck's poetry has appeared many times in Offcourse. Her new book,Tickets to a Closing Play, winner of the 2002 Gival Press Award, was reviewed by Robert W. Greene in our last issue. Janet Buck is a six-time Pushcart nominee. Her poetry has also appeared in PoetryBay, CrossConnect, Poetry, MiPo, Stirring, The Pedestal Magazine, Runes, Niederngasse, Kimera, Southern Ocean Review, Ariga, Facets Magazine, Three Candles among many other journals worldwide. Her first print collection, Calamity's Quilt, was published by Newton's Baby Press in 1999.


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