Janet Buck


It's a cold place for Southern hands
bent on rain rust and the creaking chalice
of a porch swing, its sure-footed hymn
miming an ascenting breeze.
Negligee arms of gray willows
whisk the scraps of her missing scent.
The sun's lemon reduced to rind.

You see again a lawn to mow,
tall shrubs to clip, her garden shears
inside her hat, old tablatures of studded dream.
She was the pen and you were the page --
chapters bound by wedding rings
that circumcized most tragedies.
Quills she was still tickle flesh,
then turn to needled porcupines.

That was there and this is here.
The desk is stacked with patient charts.
Nurses in white masquerades
pass in their cake-walk smiles, frozen in sincerity
like salesmen at church bazaars.
You clutch the walker and push, its silver teapot
metal rails no mimic of those better times.
Insisting the phone, trilling its wail, will be for you.
You ask, weakly, for a map to "Home."

'H' hisses like a pile of snakes.
A guilty voice drums her practiced protocol:
"This is home, it's wonderful."
Clichés clicking on her teeth.
"It's NOT!" you say, "I smell like piss.
We had ambrosia petals there."
She reaches out and curls a tress,
a silver weed around your ear, pretending
she has magic tricks hiding under cuticles.

She shoos you to the elevator's grimy shield,
its weak asbestos crumbling.
Her pager beeps; you almost fall asleep to birds.
She slugs the "Up" button with her fist,
mad at sorrow's acreage, as you tap "Down"
and nod, then blink. Your Southern hands,
now withered prunes, playing the plum
like a scratched record
on a hoarse and dusty phonograph.

Janet Buck's poetry, poetics, and fiction have appeared in CrossConnect, Kimera, 2River View, Stirring Magazine, The Adirondack Review, Stride Magazine, Steel Point Quarterly, The Danforth Review, Poetry Magazine.com, Southern Ocean Review, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, The Pedestal Magazine, and a variety other print and internet publicPtions. She is a two-time Pushcart Nominee, a recent recipient of The H.G. Wells Award for Literary Excellence, and one of six winning poets in the Kota Press Anthology Contest.


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