Janet Buck

The Rattling Tray

Some of my friends have buried their fathers,
tossed that cap and fishing twine into a soggy box,
hauled it up the attic stairs,
then returned to thinking through
a lake that dried before their eyes.
Yet I'm existing unprepared,
insisting forever's a word
in a sentence the wind will never delete.
They've hurled regrets against a wall,
walked upon the shattered glass
of never having said I love you
loud enough to reach an ear. T
hey've moved through
grief's receiving line --
fingered frozen photographs,
longed for the bobbin
with one more inch of chance.

What if I broke our icy rules,
unknotted the noose of your Sunday tie,
pretended I was six again,
grabbed your coattails when you left.
What if I rattled the rattling tray,
changed the menu of our chatter
into earthquakes of a poem.
I stare at the curve of your back,
which grows a bit more arched
each time we sit through
formal brunches graced with wine
and parsley on a Wedgwood plate.
Your movements speak of tired clocks;
the crack is near;
I should be adding up the hours,
aware that death's a geometric absolute.
Let's dance while our feet still move,
while holes in a season's sock
are tiny enough to mend.

Thin Bones

I tuck a quilt beneath your chin.
Your fingers push it back at me
as if I've zipped a body bag,
sealed you in unready tombs.
A bar of phosphorescent light
replaces the moon's white soap.
Youth sees aging as a tack.
The pointed part is facing up.
Guard the buttocks. Do not sit.
IV cords are crossed with wires
attached to phones that never ring.

The TV's pitch is foghorn loud,
yet stillness echoes in and out
with words that never leave a tongue.
Round by round, Godiva chocolates
turn to pudding, turn to mud.
Family visits crop the wheat
in one quick razor driven
by a wrist of guilt.
Nurses pass the half-shut door
like white gauze ghosts
and phantoms of cold operas.
You could have done without this gift,
but not their hands
receding at the ocean's hour.

Dangerous Roots

Your gutters are full of wicked regrets:
a child you haven't seen for years,
a list of jobs you've lost,
a string of cars you've rolled and crashed,
two marriage beds with wires
poking through cloth --
but burning down a sagging home
with crack and booze, with matchsticks
of wrought apathy won't change the street
from alleys to a garden wall.
Whiskey doesn't water flowers.

It probably started when Daddy died
and teardrops floated you to school.
Little joys became white lies
pressed against those cloying ghosts.
You sucked your thumb until it bled.
Lockets of that childhood
have no photos and no chains.
We all have roots,
but sometimes they circle our necks,
hang us from the lowest star.

Maybe after weeks in sour corners of jail --
kites of booze and medications
scissored by some judge and lawyer
dressed in cashmere, three-piece suits --
the whorehouse feels like heaven
coming down on grief.
Lips that lack some answer to the swelling void
wander wherever it's warm and dark.
When conclusions are all tight knots,
you just want out or something to do
with arches of doubtable hands.

Janet Buck
is a six-time Pushcart Nominee. Her poetry has recently appeared in Octavo, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, CrossConnect, Poetry Magazine.com, The Montserrat Review, Offcourse, The Pedestal Magazine, MiPo, PoetryBay, Facets Magazine, and hundreds of journals worldwide. Tickets to a Closing Play, her second print collection of poetry, won the 2002 Gival Press Poetry Award and is now available at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, www.booksurge.com, and www.givalpress.com. Janet can be reached at her website, www.janetbuck.com.


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