ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Janet Buck

Red Shoes

In sweaty armpits of a dream the shoes return.
The right one, clean—untouched—
Gerber daisy red, white-laced
as summer moon cracks in a twilight sky.

Stuffed with paper where a foot should
live & shape a childhood, it’s in a closet
out of reach—no one in our family
dares to touch the box it’s in.
With a pole for a leg, it is vapid & absurd.
I can smell how new it is—leather seats—
my stepmom’s fancy Cadillac—
I don’t want the car—I want that shoe.

The left shoe holds an argument with Fate,
pitching gravel, rubbing dirt—
lift—drop—lift—I tell it how to act,
but canvas isn’t listening.


Curls in shades of butter puddles, iffy dawns
stream an ancient photograph.
That pole is tucked behind the dog.
We hide what we can’t obviate.

She, the one who took my real mother’s place,
considers me a bad buffet, a burden
on her flimsy arm, a sack of coins
too heavy for her jeweled clutch.

The whole affair clashes
with my pink/white checkered dress—
the one my aunt had special made
to tell me I am beautiful.

That left red shoe—a filthy putter
on a flawless green—smashed and drawn
like hotdogs split in half by accident—
sticks out to say, I’m sorry I am here.



Glass Slipper Lies

She means so well, but eyes aren’t open
to the rigors of a hidden rock—
a tree trunk vein that grabs my foot, takes me down.
“We’re off to have a happy day,” my sister says.
She’s saved and spent thirty big fat dollar leaves
just to make me less than dull, invisible—
unaware that is my goal.
I thought a smile was good enough—
that baggy clothes were born to cover cracks.
Craters in the moon do not reflect her world.
My lips and cheeks need rouge,
the color of the blood I’ll lose in surgery.

She plans to morph me into some guy’s sweet dessert—
it comes to her so easily—a butter pat on sticky buns,
a kiss of nutmeg, cinnamon on holidays
ruling pages of her calendar.
My concept of an altered face—a forehead
planted in a muddy ditch I land in
walking home from school.
Her sandals click against the tile—
noisy, chatting mother hens
that tell their eggs, You’ll be just fine.
She forgets they’ll end up scrambled on a plate—
with bacon strips from slaughtered pigs.

For now—

She drags me into Macy’s on a leash.
Heavy makeup piled on like phyllo strips—
shingles of my brows—left in place
quite purposely—plucked down to skinny lines
that put my turquoise eyes on stage—
stealing eaves I use to dodge the rain.




I remove hummingbirds & butterflies from this poem
         because their gimcracks don’t belong in a hospital room.

All I crave are chips of ice. Trial & error to fossick joy from meatloaf
           dry as ancient bricks just bend a fork.

Tea bags break, leave floating dregs. I moisten soil in other people’s lives
           but not the way it should be done.

Pouring lumpy gravy over someone’s else’s turkey feast is artless grief
            fails to get me clawing, crawling toward the morning light.

Because I drown their joy with suffering, they disappear like promise rings
            down wishing wells, ship off 3-line notes to thank me for a birthday gift.

It doesn’t matter ICU won’t allow a vase of flowers—Get Well cards
            do not arrive. The day nurse says, “It makes me sad that

You don’t have a family.” I do, but I have pulled the pinned grenade, I whisper
           loud enough so she can hear—soft enough that I cannot.


Author Janet Buck is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee and the author of four full-length collections of poetry. More than 4,000 poems & pieces of prose are in print and on the internet. Janet’s recent work has appeared in The Birmingham Arts Journal, Antiphon, Offcourse, PoetryBay, Vine Leaves, Poetrysuperhighway, Misfit Magazine, Lavender Wolves, and River Babble. Her latest print collection of verse, Dirty Laundry, is currently available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble & other outlets. Visit the ordering link at her new web page: Buck’s first novel, Samantha Stone will be released by Vine Leaves Press in September, 2016.

Janet Buck's work has appeared frequently in Offcourse.

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