ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Janet Buck

Nauseating News

Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
             Mark Twain

I can't even close my lids,
I hear coffin hinges creak.
Reporters risk their lives
to trace the lines of Irma's path.
Palm trees snap like pretzel sticks.
The west is up in roaring flames.
We don our masks to get the mail.
Oatmeal ash sticks in my throat.
Fire and rain are antinomic laws
and no one has the broom and pan
to sweep away these tragedies.
The compass of my heart wears broken glass.
Houston prays for Florida.

My dizzy head is feverish,
my body trembling with a chill
as memories come back to me—
cats that stalk and eat a mouse.
I pass the mirror to splash my face,
clear my head; craquelure defines my skin.
Tomorrow's anniversary: 9/11.
Fire and rubble, people jumping out of windows
high up in the falling towers,
rule tiny swatches of my sleep.
There's nothing on the news
about the terrorist attacks, not yet.
Have we forgotten all the dead?

Tampa's streets show empty glasses.
The adage of half-full, half-empty
now seems moot and meaningless.
I used to love September's
bright chrysanthemums.
The ones we had—canary yellow—
orange pennies of the sun—are ditched in favor
of maroon, a shade of blood, spent and dried.
This week we rip the garden out.
The morning news cracks heavy church bells
trying hard to ring today.
People bundled in the shelters lie in wait.
I think of sardines canned in oil.

A plate of Asian coleslaw that I made from scratch,
a salad mix of broccoli and jicama,
it all seems fulsome and unjustified,
as brain cells suck on hunger gnawing at the globe.
Stores are boarded up with slabs of wood.
Three people dead. Tornados now are in the cards.
They'll whirl like the Cuisinart
I use to process puréed peas.
Our tv screen attempts to breathe,
takes a break, revisits last year's NFL.
Don't ask me if I really care
about an oval rubber ball
sailing over short vert grass.
Mother Nature is a wicked witch.





Houston's vacant houses sink in bubbling moats of mud.
A close friend lives just miles from the deluge
of this wicked storm. I'm terrified to call or text,
since cloying nightmares picture Sue
floating upside down, a bottom fish caught suddenly,
then tossed back into angry waves.

In Oregon, our little valley's steeped in smoke
thick enough to stir with wooden spoons.
Raging flames sweep the state.
Fragrant menthol of the pines has disappeared.
I'm convinced all rainbows now
are nothing but mirage and wish.

Enough. Enough. Of course, I shall repeat myself.
The town of Brookings on the coast evacuates.
A cluttered exodus begins, then stalls with heavy traffic jams.
Hwy 101 is closed. A friend of mine is headed there.
I dial her cell, yell into the microphone:
"Turn around, for God's sake turn around, come home!"

Enough. Enough. Stormy weather spreads like chicken pox.
500,000 acres, packed with regal redwoods standing tall for centuries,
morph to charcoal in a photograph. My curly hair is gray with ash.
I throw a shoe against a wall, shake like broken castanets,
the rhythm lost, then stuff dry washcloths in my mouth
to clot the screams multiplying on my tongue.

Why, just why, doesn't heaven own a hose,
apply a plastic turkey baster to these tragic times,
redirect the fetid waters of the south and send it west?
As Irma nears a beach in Puerto Rico, palm trees sway,
drunk with wind. Wealthy tourists get the planes; 5 million victims,
commoners in weak grass huts, remain to face it all head on.

A cucumber sits in our fridge. My husband cuts two slices off,
centers both the cooling circles straight across my swollen eyes.
My fingers won't do penmanship, still I make my messy notes,
all about this darkness smothering the sunlight over marigolds.
Heartstrings sag and screech, matching untuned violins.
A poem is just a wimpy page swatting at a lone mosquito in the air.

Enough. Enough.


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, The Writing Disorder, Misfit Magazine, Lavender Wolves, Avatar Review, River Babble, The Danforth Review & other journals worldwide. Her latest print collection of verse, Dirty Laundry: A Memoir in Poems, is currently available at all fine bookstores. Buck's debut novel, Samantha Stone: A Novel of Mystery, Memoir & Romance, was released courtesy of Vine Leaves Press in September, 2016. Janet lives and writes in Southern Oregon, just hours away from Crater Lake, one of the seven wonders of the world. For links, announcements, and interviews with Janet, visit her new website:

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