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Binding Poem



"A book should be either a bandit or a rebel or a man in the crowd."

D.H. Lawrence

It was time to divide your things.
My arms stayed pinned to my sides
like tired doves, toes stayed curled
around a branch split
by razor lightning bolts.
I tottered and I lost my grip.
Mother launched her surly arrows,
lodged them in whatever flesh
crossed her borders of pain.
Striking out at rings around a toilet seat
as if they were death itself
taking a piss in a messy arch.
I understood the ache to clean,
her answer to leaping ahead,
strides beyond this sad reverse,
where prayers were linen packed with snot.
Scrub the awning of this hell,
paint over the fork of this flame.

I loved the wealth of dust on shelves.
Your soul resided in those books.
Binding smelled of glue you were
when winds took off with a dream,
when nightmares called for gathered ash,
some sort of urn and elegance.
Leather wraps you sewed for words
made me wish to dance with thought.
Ways you read a fingerprint upon a glass
as if the oil were part of some eternal well.
These were all my cats to pet
when logs on fires became gray coal.
I read the marginalia --
your fingers scribbled little clues.
"Dickinson's obsessed with flies"
and "Frost won't let a season go."
I loved the ease with which you sang
your operas over trivia.

by Janet I. Buck

Final Picnics

"I want to go!" was all you said,
as if you were slamming a book.
So I laid out your hat,
a tube of pink lipstick and blush
replacing the color
drained from my cheeks.
Death struck me then
as pottery with handles loose.
To you it snapped like fingernails --
a casualty of brushing up
against the hardness of a life.
"You don't need eyes to see a forest.
The picture stays in your lungs."
I packed a red checked tablecloth
pretending the dice weren't close.

At the edge of a grave,
even the desert looks green.
Country roads spit gravel back
like bacon cooking in a pan.
You needed the custard of clouds
while I busied my triggers
shooting at hail.
The end was soft alyssum grains
finding the gust of a faithful breeze.
Sweat on your brow
could have been streams,
could have been rain licking the moss.
A stone divided by will
is still a stone in reckoning.
Innocence was telling me
to drive around the avalanche.

by Janet I. Buck

Empty Gloves

Father bought you a house
as a little white lie --
a promise that voices of hope
were louder than labels on slides
that tossed you in the cancer wing,
made his eyes report those tears
then file them under guarded strength.
Muscles pressed against
your exit hovering
until the pen just tore the check.
These walls went from a glove
to five little pockets
minus five fingers that moved.
Your death did this.
The sofa, in its albatross of memory,
became an untouchable ruin.
The mattress a slab of lukewarm coal,
a scrapbook to slam, haul to the curb
in the velvet of midnight rain.

Lyrics peck at art once there,
but he brushes the meal away.
When I ask about your shape,
he plays down long piano hands.
Plays down crickets of your laugh.
Your grave cut out his tongue.
Your leaving scorched a knuckle's curve --
the veins of which another woman
couldn't bring back to rivers they were.
When pupils try not to talk,
they jitterbug around a lawn
like scattered seeds.
I can only imagine the green and the lush --
amour of such a caliber
it works like silencers for guns.
This is the score of a wish with holes.
Scars you left are made of stone.

by Janet I. Buck


This seemed a place where
the dead and the living met
for a fraction of hovering time.
Cobwebs added eerie light --
gauze above amorphous sore.
Casablanca storms were new.
No foiled loves had soiled the rain.
All our props and costumes fit.
Weeping and all facts of grief
lay ahead of open eyes
without large sacks
weighted by the coming stone.
At that presumptuous age,
we were sure that a shoe
would lead to a foot.
A hat would uncover a head with hair.
We still believed in movie screens,
in metatags of heroines.
Suns knew nothing of eclipse.

Down the creaking basement stairs
sat nests of fragile Fabergés
existing for expectant crack.
Dusty treasures, dresser drawers,
someone's musty voyages.
Give us boxes; we made shapes.
Never thought of mushy bottoms
giving in to lifting seasons from the land.
Each breath we took, each step we made,
a scoop across a stallion's back
racing for the river's edge.
Later we would wake like cats
that spent their lives in search of milk --
groping for the backspace key.
Death was such a distant game --
looking didn't scorch our hands.
Even funereal black
was just a color of paint.

by Janet I. Buck

Asylum from Ash

"Tranquility is the old man’s milk."

Thomas Jefferson

Dizzy for that nutrient, we load the car.
The whole world is a pair of jeans
in need of a needle and patch.
We boomerang for mint green hills
no differently than heads
with migraines duck the light.
I doubted red geraniums this icy spring
since nothing glows brighter than war.
Doubted they'd rise through carapace soil,
react and grow to warm syringes of rain.

In the navel of drought,
blue bowls of water promise us
asylum from the cloying ash.
It's quiet here,
except for the chattering birds
discussing the size of a seed.
Bears with noses in a cooler
eating someone's morning eggs.
Rowboats slice a shadow's dress.
After the wool, finger the silk.

A few loose thunder clots abide
like moccasins that pad a trail.
Moons these days --
bright silver shillings
plow through smoke.
I doze at peace, under a tree,
awaken to sights of a deer,
its hooves so close I mistake them
for pairs of brand new shoes.

by Janet I. Buck

"Asylum from Ash" was first published in _Azalea Plush._

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