August 2001 / Volume Two / Issue Two
Janet I. Buck
Chatting Over Tragedy

I am stripped down to shorts over metal parts,
honing my will for motion's charge.
It's no damn waltz; I'm laughable.
The gym is empty but for us
and so you curl the trillion dollar question mark:  
"Is that an artificial limb?"
I could be bugs against the glass.
Pummeled by this little death.
A body's paste accumulates.
Sweat makes rivers of my arms.
Trails of tendons form a pit.

I lift my lids, break the coiled concentrate
that takes my bones on paths of dream.
Out comes your apology
before my mouth has time to shape
inviting smiles that open hopeful parachutes:
"I know a man who's lost both legs;
he's 51 and lying in an ICU;
he will not speak, he will not eat;
he will not dicker with the dawn."
We chatter over tragedy.
I read you menus of my own.
Telling seems to lighten them.
Perhaps there's water in this well,
even if it's coffee rings on normal tables
basking in their luxuries.

Pain can be a fence in mud.
Chancre is a cornered bird
in rooms we never knew were there.
He'll need a shoulder for these wounds
that took a batch of cashmere flesh,
scorched it slabs of blackened toast.

You tell me stories of gangrene
and diabetic loneliness.

I scribble digits of my phone
as if that number might be clues
or corners of a puzzle's square.
I see his crutches near the bed
like noble firs he's jealous of.

He's half way over continents in Illinois;
I've been inside his pillow case,
juggling his jail cells, frail in his severance
and salty frown, scraps of doves
that smash against a speeding car.
Courage is a chunk of stew surrounded by
stringy stalks of green but wilted celery.
That night of black obsidian,
a common crow I know as well
as letters of an alphabet.
That marbling, this ray of light,
seems so sparse it
it might be vapor from a cloud.
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