Offcourse Literary Journal
ISSN 1556-4975 

New Poems by Janet I. Buck.


At the Berlin Zoo


When we were trimming our tree,
thawing a turkey, cubing the bread
for a holiday feast,
a German man hopped the fence
at the Berlin Zoo into the cage
of a bear named “Knut.”
“I felt lonely,” he said; “the bear
appeared lonely too.”



According to newspaper print,
you were rescued much against your will
and suffered terribly from the cold.
What catalyst could drive your arms
to climb that wire? Are you homeless
or widowed, sweeping an attic of grief
you cannot face?
I’m asking questions of concern
that seem so limp as poetry –
letters won’t alter your fate.



I imagine your clothes
as woolen shields too damp
to do their job in a place where
no one has kindly offered you
a blanketed bed or a crackling fire.
I imagine your eyes
as still white votives waiting
for some spark of light.
The moon above you splits
like an acorn hitting stone.
Love without love returned
makes the planetoid just simple rock.
If I could, I would wrap you with words
to render you warm against
the wrath of the ice.




Your Anodyne Voice


I know you hate those Hallmark cards—
would rather scrub your horses’ stalls
than shuffle through mush and sappy praise,
but there’s something I need to say.
We’d never met a year ago—
except by phone—
still you wore my suffering
as if it were tied to your waist.
It was all about getting a leg,
losing the battle and trying again.
The toes of our missing feet
must have touched despite the risk.
You didn’t know me, but you knew.
Because of you I didn’t
have to bottle and cork
a teardrop’s salty waterfall.

As months wear on,
I learn that trust is not mirage,
but simply a fact as firm
as brand new parking lots.
Our late night talks
are salve on wounds we can’t erase,
but laughter always finds its niche
like donut holes that roll away,
then return to sweeten
struggles in our hands.
Now I know why daffodils
survive the freezing temperatures.
There’s something about your voice
that paints the drabbest walls
a color soothing to the eyes.
There’s something about your voice
that carves away an apple’s bruise.



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.

Janet Buck's writing has appeared numerous times in Offcourse. See the complete list here.

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