Janet Buck




Clouds are gray/green bottoms of an artichoke.
A connoisseur of vegetables will tell you
getting near the stem is where it’s most delectable.
It’s rooted to the heart itself, holds all the meat.
Growing old will argue this. So will digging up the past.
I crave what’s green and tough enough to handle what is coming next.
Moss that lines an ancient oak never leaves its burly trunk,
shares its twigs to guard the nests of finches or a mockingbird,
protects the eggs from wild abortions of a storm.

Along the cemetery wall, khaki ivy’s dense enough
to cover bricks, pull a curtain over weeds, keep passengers
in passing cars from leering at the weeping rites of funerals.
To find my mother’s grave again, I straddle all the winding vines,
slip and slide on mud and rain like Vaseline.
Joints are swollen clothespins now, their wires weak—
I push ahead as if there’s hope of finding her.
Going here will make the hole wider than it ever was.
Grass has not been mowed for years; it blocks a view I never had.
I’m always grabbing for the things I cannot grasp.
Maybe green is not a present after all.

Three years old. I missed the long, dark limousines,
tires snapping over rocks like bullet fire.
How strange that all my clothes are black
or midnight blue—so close I can’t divide my socks.
Maybe I have always lived near edges of a firm eclipse,
mistook penumbra for a god that yielded light.
Begged for snapshots of a flower just to fill a scrapbook
with a sketch of lies, where skeletons belong instead.
My husband says, “Your face is pale.” I know the shade,
the color of a raw potato ready for a boiling pot.
I always dream of reaching her, then get that look.
The one that sends him snatching pillows off our bed,
heading for a lumpy couch.

3 a.m.—I’m still awake—sweating like a water glass
that sits so long the ice is gone.
It might have cooled the fever of the missing things—
a dampened cloth set purposely in freezer bins
for times like these I can’t reverse. Every memory I have
is siphoned from a wishing well. I’m guessing I was born with thirst.
I crack my knuckles just to get some certainty
about what carrots used to do when they were fresh
and peeled and young, unfettered by this withering.


Janet Buck is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee and the author of three full-length collections of poetry. Her work has won numerous literary awards. Janet’s most recent poetry has appeared in The Pedestal Magazine, Offcourse, BLUE PEPPER and Boston Literary Magazine; more of her work is scheduled for publication in forthcoming issues of The Milo Review, Mistfit Magazine, The Ann Arbor Review, Antiphon, PoetryBay, and other journals worldwide.