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Poverty Poem

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Four Poems
by Janet Buck

Poverty’s Twitch

Clipped dark. Pinched light.
We’re candlewicks between
firm lucky urban thumbs.
Poverty’s twitch makes wealthy itch.
Our alleys are museum trips.
Siamese twins with tattered cats
who know the corners, consonants
befitting to the homeless plight.
We sense the ways that flames
in empty oil cans lick sin
and sorrow as sorbet.
Our sonnets and our countrysides,
our English accents empty
of the ego slant with borders
belching blood and pain.

Dignity--a tilted urn
mis-titled as a wilted fern.
A Porsche in “have not”
reference books--a fancy phrase
for cookie crumbs on patios.
It would be nice if calamine
of politics and calamity’s quilt
of bones dismissed were
both sold out as items go.
The llama of rich. The lamb of poor.
Both wear fur. Both have
fairly helpless hides.
One is combed. The other lost
and living in a bed of fleas--
where fortune is a nickel dropped--
brushing teeth with stolen rain.

Painted Eggs

I made a donation
to a homeless shelter
en route to church.
God laughed storms and hurricanes
at contribution’s tumbleweeds.
Communion’s crowded
parking lot with fleas
of planning Sunday brunch.
Rosaries on velvet strings,
cobblestones of bonnets laid
like rocks in dams for money trees.

I’ve always detested
the “dress up” part
but never really fathomed why.
It’s grounded in myopic eyes.
The Emperor’s Clothes
of morning mass that promised
all that cleanliness.
Washing palms. Collection plates.
Panacea waffles burned by
branding irons of not enough.

Fat-free brands of guilt released.
Spinning dimes and painted eggs
that cannot stand the weight of strife
or algae green of urban mold.
A pilgrimage that’s genuine
should share a seat on trouble’s bus;
pump its gasoline by hand;
change whole quarts of dirty oil.
Shaking shrubs for quaking need,
beating rugs of have no floors,
an Easter Sunday ought to act--
this explains but doesn’t change
the fact that wooden pews are cold.

Hunchback Sad

Your death a natural slap of time,
but truths like that don’t tackle sad.
I want a rifle (occasionally) to shoot
flocked geese of turquoise grief.
Brackets of “miss” multiply--
blackberry vines in pasture years.
Hunchback sorrow’s buggy ride
took me where the ‘us’ once lived.

I drove fast by your house today.
Was pulled and lulled
to chase the stars you glued in place.

Felt sick of death like sticky tar.
The driveway had a lacy feel--
an altar dressed for Sunday Mass.
The hemline of darkness is coiled snakes,
a lampshade on fire with wishing
I could bring you back, even if you’d
had enough in ninety years
of shaving corns of my mistakes.

I’m brittle fawns without you here.
Nights wear cardboard vacancy.
You were my mother.
You were my art.
You were my sane
such as it was.
The Visa Card of wisdom’s slab
without an expiration date.
I fuss with lonesome syllables and think of ways you
stripped the mildew off a moon,
snapped tight bras of rising suns
until they listened to your love.

Willing Geese

Death’s iodine
should stain
the flesh
of those alive.
Grief’s syllables
are willing geese.
Seersucker skin
all wadded up
and heading
toward the exit sign.
At ninety years,
you’d bet the final
horse of will
and come in last
behind the wind.

“The End” was
a quiet rustle
of petticoats
that settle
when a dance
is done.
But readiness
was foreign soil--
at least applied
to losing you.
I track its mud.
I save its flood.
I kiss it like
a camera lens
that grabs a
sacred waterfall.

by Janet I. Buck
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