OffCourse Literary Journal

Three Poems, by Janet Buck.

Yard Sale Blues

I sat at home imagining
the sale of that "trivia"
bridging rivers of your life.
Meat in green pistachios
I couldn't share with
strangers roaming city blocks.
Mother said: "It's all just junk."
Alliteration broke my heart.
I hugged the dusty books you left,
rubbed their scents upon my skin
as women do with inserts of a magazine
because the bottle isn't there.
I held your slippers in my palms
as if the dents where toes once lay
could teach me moral contredanse.
What was simple trash to her
was my immutable truth.

A saxophone without its reed
lay sideways on the sinking bed.
The belly of a violin —
its cherished wood now roamed by ants.
Money couldn't shower sadness,
clot the paper cut of death.
I needed knickknacks of your love.
This a brand of moving on
my hands would never celebrate.
We were selling winter gloves
of apron strings that kept
the chill of hurt at bay —
a rusted trowel that used its point
to pave the way for daffodils.
Your linen towels were ironed flat
like decks of cards.
I had lost the only trump I ever owned;
I wasn't in the mood for games.



Reduced to Rock

They cast me for another limb —
warm, soft drapes of plaster rolls
dressing scars — their scrunching maps
laid out across a leather seat
in cars of will running low on needed gas.
When fitting fails, we wrap again.
Shuffling behind this fate the world sees
then saunters past with rainbows
of two working thighs.
Soon I'll be reduced to rock.
They'll chip the center of the shell
so I can stand on what remains.

Pity's hour has no place inside this scheme —
there isn't time for parties of the destitute.
Arch and arrow of the drive
must sing before the sling's collapse.
There are no edgy green Gauguins,
no Venuses, no marble beauties
strolling some museum hall.
No Pietas of a prayer, no rambling legs
on cobblestones beside the Seine
as moonlight skims a river's wave.
At home your hands must wind and cup
common and plebian bruises
draining strength has filled with blood.

Like any palms in any gloves
you'll train amour to overlook
swollen knuckles going raw —
attempt to brave the coming chill,
mitigate this sad acquaintance
with the truth, salve and nurture
little graves of destiny.
If not for ways you oil this life,
sizing failure with a kiss,
an iron would be void of steam.
I'd name the plum of love a prune —
I'd write the wasteland sitting here.



Innocence & Opera

At age 13, balcony seats
for La Bohème were a strange cage
for an unmet world.
Swooshing skirts, sweet perfume,
shiny pearls, opera lenses
looped and turned like old
and tired paper clips.
I had not scored the tragic moments
of my life; had not traveled
kicking, clawing, fighting moons
to jagged edges of the cliff.

You tried to whisper in my ear —
music could prepare the world
for ragged clothes and cruelties
but I was deaf with rosy luck.
Fleshly curtains still enjoyed
their hooks and folds.
I chewed on gum, tapped
fingers on the arms of chairs —
impatient with drama and trills.
Lusty voices sang a game.
Weeping women next to me
seemed overzealous waterfalls —
I thought I'd always be a rock.

Then some thirty years beyond,
you argued for a quick
and gentle ride away —
there I sat beside your bed.
The story had a different seal
on envelopes pressed
squarely into sweating hands.
Later I would read the plot
as camisoles for heavy coats
of coming death, warm tea
with sugar cubes for grace
on saucers touched and trembling.

Janet Buck is a six-time Pushcart Nominee and the author of four collections of poetry. Her work has recently appeared in Three Candles, Red River Review, Pierian Springs, Stirring, PoetryBay, Arbutus, Poetry, Ygdrasil, The Green Tricycle, Niederngasse, Offcourse, The American Muse, and hundreds of journals worldwide. In 2002-2003 Buck's poetry and essays are scheduled to appear in Zuzu's Petals Quarterly, Mississippi Review, Artemis, The Montserrat Review, Recursive Angel, The Foliate Oak, Southern Ocean Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Coelacanth, Cordite, CrossConnect, and The Oklahoma Review.

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