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Poetry by Janet Buck 

Janet Buck is a six-time Pushcart Nominee. Her poetry has recently appeared in Octavo, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, CrossConnect, Scrivener's Pen, Poetry, The Montserrat Review, Adagio Verse Quarterly, 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 he 2002 Gival Press Poetry Award and is now available at,,, and




© 2003  Janet Buck




October's Land

Piles of oak leaves bagged and tied
squat at the curb like luggage no one wants.
These sacks could be an aging cheek
the wind should fill with breath again.
A little girl's forsaken skate
hogs the sidewalk laced in puddles
smiling at a season lost.
October's land, an emery board;
shrubs are down to pencil threads.
Every year it seems the clock
ticks and taps at greater speeds.
The canvas spreads and palettes fade
and utter darkness just arrives
on messy portraits of an hour.


I scan the scene for bytes of color
muting into feeble wish.
The soldier of one last pink rose
salutes the sky, its gray dominion
full of lazy breasted clouds,
their tired, thinning whipping cream
painting on the summer's end.
Shadows race a ray of light.
The sun was plump and full of fire
and now its poker chip is gone.
This mausoleum quietus,
season of brown stepping stones
frosted with gamy rain --
a preface for the coming ice
no annuals like us survive.






The Promise of Geraniums

On some early October night,
you'd haul in the pots --
a trickle of muddy rain
would pee on the Persian rug.
Map brown leaves like
swatches from an ancient purse,
oiled by storms, worn by palms,
tired as old diaries.
I'd help you drag the cracking clay
downstairs to the lower porch
walled by ragged screens
and filthy plastic tarps taped just so --
to keep the veins and roots
warm until May when the absence of frost
was a promise God would keep.
We'd lift and giggle at the mess, lift again,
then stumble on the art we weren't,
stop for tea and lemon squares.
Chamomile and cookie hour
were flawless answers to this world.


What parts had died in scorching heat
you peeled away, then ground between
your fingertips like tarragon for vinegar.
You called each plant by name
as if what's left at season's end
were just another child to raise.
Martha was a busty red;
Freya was a nipple pink.
Plump dry stalks -- a cross between
bamboo and crooked bones.
Your carpet was littered with soil
as if the earth were spitting upon
the math of meticulous schemes.
When you died, I toyed with a trowel.
Each year, I left the plants too long --
expecting your anodyne voice
to rally my frigid hands.
Supple ground had turned to stone.






Tea Between the Storms

(previously published at Abalone Moon)

The walls are bright as brand new soap.
I could stay here forever --
my head on your lap; my feet on the couch
in a home that's truly a home.
We speak of pansies and spring
despite the autumn leaves in mulch
around our toes and jaded bones.
Your face has stories in its folds and so I pry:
"What was Mother really like?"
You come alive no differently
than starveling kites possessed
and fierce, riding winds of memory.


"She filled the room with basic joy
and God, we laughed at everything
from dented fenders to crazy stunts
of three-martini painting jobs.
She smiled at a drooping rose."
I rise to heat our chilling cups and wish
the china of his life had fewer cracks
and tables didn't lose their legs.
In many ways, the morning feels
like dragonflies on closing books --
still I flutter eager wings.


At least you have the strength to walk
the tripping paths of reminisce,
admit out loud she always returns in a dream.
I learned to grieve so quietly
that even teardrops can't be wet.
I wish my father had this steel
inside his going spine.
"Where is writing taking you?"
and I reply: "a study crowded
with awards and still no present salary."
I think I hear her bubbled laughter
channeled through your fluid lips.
Chatter, tea, and homemade
cookies in my hands
make bouillon of this heavy rain.






All work is copyrighted property of Janet Buck.



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