ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

A journal for poetry, criticism, reviews, stories and essays published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998.


"Booming Silence" and "Cast-Iron Fate" by Janet I. Buck.


Booming Silence

She was always there for us--
solid as the London Bridge.
The closer I came to death,
the closer she lay near my bed,
one eye on my pillowcase,
the other on the open door.
She edited my life with men;
only my husband and father
made that very crucial cut.
New furniture was scrutinized
until it was her napping place.
A tidbit from my dinner plate
and tummy rubs were all she asked.
Every snack, her tail would wag
as if she'd won the lottery.

The doorbell rang and she became
my bodyguard. At 23 fluffy pounds,
she petrified the Fed-Ex guy
and made me laugh at rolls of Charmin
torn into a thousand pieces,
growing snowdrifts in Detroit.
The architect of boundless love,
Gretel never trod on flowers, sniffed each rose
that hit the dirt, reminding me to water them.

I wander the empty house
with booming silence pounding my ears,
expecting to feel her paw on my shoulder,
her tongue on my cheek.
Healing from death is knitting with chopsticks--
no hooks, no grip, just shaking hands,
as the ball of yarn unravels in a hopeless mess
across the dirty carpet floor.
I've cried enough to salt the sea.

*In Loving Memory of Gretel (1998-2013)



Cast-iron Fate

So many endings, so much speed.
Each demise--where footprints
of our cherished friends and relatives
are washed away by winter rain--
it's always the heavy leitmotif
pressing on our shoulder blades.
How does one make peace
with enemies like cast-iron fate?

Grief is the leaking roof and we're helpless
in finding the hole to plug.
There is no art in writing a short obit
that covers a leaf or two from
stunning pearl Catalpa trees
opening to greet the sun.
These people were our gardens and food.

Our eyes are red balloons--from private times
when we cannot hide from ourselves.
We fish for hope without a hook,
but cache it well to save each other
from a sudden indecorous crash.
Stay up and strong, or the other will fall.
It's a firm grammatical rule.

Gravity's a battleground.
Our bodies scream like
sirens from old fire trucks.
Carpe diem. I urge my husband to retire;
maybe I can comfort him again and again
and again before the axe
splits the wood of our bones.


Author Bio: Janet Buck is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee. Her work has appeared in 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. Her most recent work has appeared in The Pedestal Magazine and Offcourse. In 2011, Buck was honored as a Featured Poet of the Editor's Circle in

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