Offcourse Literary Journal

Three Poems, by Janet Buck.


The Messenger

The garden is an old lover
who fades and returns
only when winter decides.
Stone gray weeks suggest
no anchors but doubt; over and over
I squirm for a sunrise to paint.
Trowels and tools wear rust with pride.

Roses, no matter how much
I water our roses staked in the earth,
they wait like closed pistachios
for storms to set their nipples free.
They mock my eyes straining hard,
mock my hunger for color;
a moody sky controls it all.

I name each bush like a favorite aunt,
a messenger laced with perfume
to study and mime when hours grow dark.
These scholars of true renaissance
without a book to guide their stems,
saffron centers of a war-torn world
insisting that beauty has two good feet
and a road to follow home.




The family gathers in a musty parlor,
chatting puppets bobbing the stage,
looking for windows with scalpels of light.
Pawns in the game together
yet spaced so far apart
like a puzzle strewn
on a table losing its legs.
A mass is way too short
to braid and keep the memories;
a prayer is a Band-Aid
applied to a bubbling gunshot wound.
Her garden hat, still scented
with geraniums, the odor of some deity
you know is there but can't explain,
rises above the stifling perfume.
She was the caulking
that sealed the presence of joy;
now her closets call to hands;
of course, you stutter, hesitate.

Sorting through clothes
seems intrusive and cold --
as if the summer is mantled in snow.
The whole house is a hollow drum,
a heartbeat fading, slipping
through fingers as servants
wander in distant fog,
serving tea and lemon bars
on trays of china rattling.
God should appear in a three-piece suit,
recant the orchestral blow of demise,
but only the wind speaks up
with rustled sorrows in brittle leaves,
and she takes nothing back.
Brave as you look
so near the tenuous grave —
strength is only the clown's disguise —
the end of her life is a corkscrew
wedged in your thigh.



A Trellis, a Blessing

In five short years, we've passed
a tired basketball of suffering
from fingertip to fingertip.
Rubber wears the grit and dust.
Dribble, sweat. Dribble, sweat.
The court has been a cramped parade
without clear lines.
Each hour a falling brick or two.
Each month, the thinning soap
of strength pretends
it's made of lava rock.
A pile of scalpels sitting
in a tipsy drawer —
this has been our silverware.
Pheasant bones on platters
of some steel gurney
headed for caviling screams.

Through it all,
you understand the bottoming,
how slabs of wood grow old and rot.
Through it all, you play
the rag on swollen eyes.
Tenderness, a caliber that doesn't
run when lights go dim.
Ear to conch, touch to Braille —
lick the red inferno's flame.
Check the fruit for worms
and laugh until a nerve
unwinds the pinch.
This is what agape does.
A trellis, a blessing,
a weapon of sorts leaning
to scissor the mandible, spike —
for roses we no longer are.


Janet Buck is a six-time Pushcart Nominee. Her poetry has recently appeared in Octavo, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, CrossConnect, The Montserrat Review, Offcourse, The Pedestal Magazine, The Oklahoma Review, Facets Magazine, and hundreds of journals worldwide. Janet's 2nd print collection won the 2002 Gival Press Poetry Award and her third print collection, Beckoned by the Reckoning, is now available from PoetWorks Press:



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