Poetry » Janet Buck »


Contemplating Urns

A Post-it note slips off my chart—
it’s in full view & I’m not blind.
High-risk Crapshoot—Quite Disturbing MRI
Schedule Iffy Surgery ASAP.
My spine’s not acting like a spine.
I’m made of quite expensive steel & accidents—
additions to a home with mold
that eats existing wood.

My husband turns his back.
My eyes acclimatized to rows of ribs
as people leave the room.
Leaving’s easy; staying’s hard.
The MD tags my toe—more diseases on the tab.
I slip and doze, dodge my mission:
“Stay awake through, well, no matter what.”
I fail.

Edema strikes: swollen ankle
graduates up my calf,
vaults the chestnut of my knee.
If I nod off, lay down my sword—
a mask of smiles—I dream of blood clots,
morph into a turtle or a floating fish for pelicans,
a quick & easy lunch called death.
Words march on in armies I don’t need to train.
Eternities of suffering  live & sour on my tongue.

I’m bats that sleep through light,
work hard & fast when darkness barges in.
Gnaw on knotted licorice ropes
until my teeth turn black,
imagine hearses spotted by a heavy rain.
I paint them white for company.
Company does not arrive.
I chew my jagged fingernails,
refuse to close my eyes—since
sleeping stiffens my anatomy—since
joints refuse to grant a wish.

At times my spirit pushes through.
I pump a stationary bike two miles,
laugh at getting nowhere fast—
don my limb, grab the treadmill’s iron rails,
crank my legs, hoping I can churn
what’s left to butter cubes.
Collapse as I am singing/screaming
to a country tune—its seriate & sole refrain—
“Storms don’t ever last that long.
Walk on until you find the sun.
Walk on, walk on. Walk on, walk on.”
Mots juste my body will not listen to.

Next day, I’m a brittle corpse
my husband pries from mattress pads
like gingersnaps on rusted cookie sheets.
He jets the room before a sentence
leaves my mouth.
I get the point—eyelids leak—
urns have plugs & rubber seals.