Of all the colors hands could pick
for little rooms where people shower,
trim their toenails, coif their hair --
and you chose black: onyx tile,
beyond mahogany for walls. 
This cave of velvet must have
been a holster for the cloying grief.
Perhaps you played with triggers there.
Perhaps the world was black and white
and you were just addressing fate
with oriental elegance.

The dark was slick.
Dust and dandruff more pronounced.
That tiny place in hues of pitch --
it must have been your boxing gloves
in rings with ropes
that sailed you back into the fight.
Years of suppers over ice
where bottles played the centerpiece
and sleep was just a drunken grave.
Perhaps the night was all you had
for yardsticks of your destiny.

Your husband paced
another floor six feet away.
Poured the only sun he knew
in cradles of a bourbon glass.
Perhaps your blindness felt at home
in twilight shrouds, in mourning robes --
a step ahead of settled ash.
Shame looked skinny in a mirror.
Maybe you thought
your blood would blend,
dream and drip
inside the undetected bruise.

Janet Buck


His bed is in the living room,
a mule in a fancy house,
puppet of her willingness
to drag out life another hour.
Her legendary fortitude
like knuckles cracking large pecans.
A spoon parts fissures of his lips
as if a pearl is still awake
inside the shell.
She shoves it in as if
she's raping destiny.
Salvation's urge
as basic as a semen drop.

She brushes his balding arm,
where needles have left
a Red Sea bruise.
Beats out blankets like old rugs
courting the forming stone.
Drapes are dancing in his eyes.
Purple is their color now.
The air a mix of Daphne dreams,
of loose peignoirs
his fingers used to peel away,
and urine of the very real.

On legs of long salami rolls,
she kneads the waiting clot.
His ribs are hangers minus shirts,
but she will iron.
Tubes all braided in a prayer
seem organzied, substantial snakes
with venom that might poison death.
Their ponytails all loosened
by the night ahead.
The last of syncopation strikes --
feathers falling from a bird.
He clings, a magnet to her steel.
He will come back --
a renaissance of rice in steam.

Janet Buck

JANET BUCK  is a three-time Pushcart Nominee and the author of four collections of poetry. She is a frequent  Adirondack Review contributor.  Her work has recently appeared in Three Candles, PoetryBay, Red River Review, Runes, Stirring, The Concrete Wolf, Branches, The Carriage House Review, Facets, The Circle, Sand to Glass, The American Muse, and hundreds of journals world-wide. In 2002, Buck's poetry is scheduled to appear in Artemis, The Montserrat Review, Recursive Angel, Apples & Oranges, Pig Iron Malt, Gertrude, The Pedestal Magazine, Southern Ocean Review, and The Pittsburgh Quarterly.  Recent awards include Sol Magazine's 2001 Poem of the Year, The 2001 Kota Press Anthology Prize, and The Thunder Rain Award. Janet's newest e-book, Ash Tattoos, is now available.