ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Janet Buck

Skunk Spray

The tension of the wait for miracles
            in medicine—
                         skunk spray overriding air—
                                     transfers to my husband’s breath.

He sleeps.
            I watch.
                        Face in gray.
                                    Eyes of steel.

When moonlight looks like ringworm, it’s time for AAH
            not relief
                         just attitude adjustment hour,
                                      a corny posit holding up a burning barn.

I lucubrate ’til dawn,
hide inside the distance of a poem.
Write to clear
the room of poison thoughts.

My legacy—the wish to leave some piercing noise behind—
a ricochet of waning hope.
Rattlesnakes talk on for hours
despite a bullet in the head.



Ars Apologetica


For way too long, we’ve combed wild tresses
of my destiny, not yours.
I divide the dreadlocks silently, but not for long,
yelp from tugging at the roots—

Sound like mice with tails caught in wire traps.


Out of love, you leave in your hearing aids,
as shaggy ends & frizzy curls fall upon your pillowcase.
I blame pain for everything I’m not these days,
ignore the stages of your grief—

Concomitant with tragedies we didn’t choose.


My lethargy, my frailties—too large to cradle in our palms.
As I dwindle, you expand. The ladder to survival tilts—
since I can’t clean clogged gutters all alone,
I often hurl a grimy leaf at you—

The last thing you deserve.


I promise I will try to walk, then don’t.
When agony draws curtains on a rusty dawn—
I promise I’ll be bulletproof and fail.
Wish I were the yawning rose that draws the bees—

Had a mind that stares at nipples of the stars.


Not the thorns along the stems
you clip until your fingers bleed.
I’m sorry is a bowl of instant Jell-O.
If I were you, I’d be sick of all the flavors now—

Suffer has an ugly angle—watching is the brutal edge.


Because I trust you with my damaged chassis,
dented, cracked & discontent, I spill myself like vinegar
on maps you’ve sketched to save us both.
My hand is cold & yours is warm—

Another sloppy verse of Ars Apologetica arrives.


I deserve a double-slap, a fury swipe across the face.
Instead you gently brush my hair,
careful not to bruise my ears.

Somehow you understand
I spend the darkest hours
writing in an iron lung.



Drooling Over Marigolds

Sandals clapping in fortissimo
echo in both ears.
I admit to envy in a poem,
let the spoken syllables
sour on my breath.
As I age, my prayers are bolder
than they were. The chalice
of a wish is full. Nine long years
of spilling faint carafes of blood—
where bleach won’t touch
the stains I’ve left on linen
of my husband’s life—
enough, enough.
We visit with a specialist,
who promises a Nevro implant—
something new—still
a panacea for the pain.
I’ll tolerate electric wires
just to stand, bend to deadhead
old petunias with their flabby tongues
sticking to my fingertips.
Give me back what I was—
a ruffled, crooked marigold,
cerise and tired—but not
a wispy tumbleweed
without a place to sleep in shade.



The Clock

Omega’s diary is stalking me
            On sleepless nights, I pen a line across my palm—

The clock is bolted to the wall, so I forget
            How fast it moves—we’re here—we’re not—

One quondam kiss goodnight
            The chance dissolves—tongues retract—

Forget red poppies opening their neon eggs
           A setting sun morphs into a bloody nose—

I forget the breakdance of a crow
            Headed to scraps of a hamburger bun— 

Soggy from the first spring rain
            Croutons dropped in soup—



A blue Vanessa butterfly skirts a row of daisy wheels—
            I’m blind to oceans in its wings—

One fake foot hangs off a $60,000 knee.
            I sit, pretending I can waltz with what remains—
Race glaucoma’s curse, find & finger periods.
            Swirls and dots appear the same—

Youth sees bodies made of kryptonite.
            Endings shape up differently—
In morning light, I find an eyelash
            Planted on my monitor—

That creaking limp I hated so—
            I crave it more than sugared nuts in baklava—

Knowing just what time it is, I leave my watch
            Inside a jewelry box—



Janet Buck is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee & the author of four full-length collections of poetry. Buck's most recent work is featured in The Birmingham Arts Journal, Antiphon, Offcourse, PoetryBay, Poetrysuperhighway, Abramelin, Misfit Magazine, Lavender Wolves, River Babble, The Danforth Review & other journals worldwide. Her latest print collection of verse, Dirty Laundry, is currently available at all fine bookstores. Buck’s debut novel, Samantha Stone: A Novel of Mystery, Memoir & Romance, was released by Vine Leaves Press in September, 2016. Janet lives & writes in Southern Oregon—just hours away from Crater Lake, one of the seven wonders of the world.

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