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Flash Fiction


Poetry by Janet Buck


Sour Milk & Sugar Peas

On CNN, battles split like chromosomes.
Times like these, soil is a Kotex pad
diffusing blood, over-powered with its scent.
We hug outside the evening news
as if wool hours are scratching silk.
This autumn was a tainted gift,
marked by thunder, marred by smoke.
Kites of it, just kites of it.
Strings all loose in helplessness.
Suddenly, the leaves are gone.
Frost arrives in glaciers
on the sagging porch.
I fumble for a stepping stone.

Sun's last rind is grated light
poking through the mutton clouds.
My head returns to horror shows,
couples riding air to doom,
long parades of onyx limos
oozing down the city streets.
A carton of milk goes sour.
Gnats devour a bowl of fruit
I didn't slice into a pie.
Love's laager is a crater now;
silver shields grow thin and hot.
With black remotes, we practice death,
drink another glass of fear.
Pour another, wash a cup,
pour again in effigy.

All that is left is your touch,
your hand in the small of my back,
leading me down the hall to bed.
Sprinkled flour on my neck,
a simple kiss of Scrabble squares,
correcting snow en evil route.
Lining the board, smoothing the wood,
soothing the snap of sugar pea.
It's all we have for grace these days --
to rescue where our eyes have been.



Crocus Under Stone

Gray squid clouds wait tenderly,
but we like to be snow,
the white camphor of purchased chill.
Silent glaciers never melt.
What if they did, did sneeze
these ragged grains upon this shore.
The tall grief tree could be topped.
Arms could take turns
holding the ladder of dread
in bath oil beads of punctual rain.
I would love our crooked limbs,
all of them, even the shoots
without nice leaves.
Even the balking crows.

I am fishing. Always fishing --
for the form of Mother's smile,
its slick cocoon of ancient joy,
the one that still must gut an hour
with metal hooks when
how she left comes back to you.
If ever you spoke, I would gladly become
the spoon rest for pekoe tears.
I would swallow the staples whole,
rinse our stooping backs in words.
I'd sand this curse of strength we are.
Be patch tests for our allergens.
I would give credence to worms.

Now and then, a silver trout flips its tail,
breaks the habit of our crust.
Its shimmering slides by, uncaught.
Too soon our tents will be
the mildew, death as well.
I row the boat alone in thirst.
Stakes will swim in the mud
and where will I be --
stomping our mines of void --
chipping at ice without an axe.
Fishing. Always fishing
for the crocus under the stone.



The Rummage Sale

The IT had finally come to pass.
All we had to hold of you --
brass or silver, wood or china,
stacks of curled sepia.
A photo marked with 1936 in France.
Someone scribbled femme fatale,
scratched a smile in fading ink.
Your house was cold
even in this August oven
burning fingers as we looked.
We vacuumed cat hair off the drapes.
Mother swore at dusty cupboards
packed with jars of cardamom
left so long it qualified as antique sand,
made us laugh between thick geysers of our tears.

Residue of character came crawling out
of every drawer. One whole chest
of silken scarves you tied
around a sagging throat
until you hit that knowing age
when wrinkles seem
like creases of the intellect.
Your husband's fluffy shaving brush --
that must have been a horse's tail
with mud and flies
of wishing fate had left him here.
A forty-year-old diaphragm --
in case you fell in love again.

Time to split your sets of dishes,
rows of Wedgwood, Staffordshires,
mounds of books, and mugs of pens --
these gospel tunes of poetry
that met the tragic at the stairs.
All the so-called valuables
were plates of dry, dismissed dessert
someone licked the frosting from.
It was the wrong day for sticky rain,
meager in its douching rites,
sweaty in the armpit's curve.
We needed some effacing wind
to shanghai contraband of grief.



About the Author

Janet Buck is a three-time Pushcart nominee and the author of several collections of poetry. In 2002, her work is scheduled to appear in Recursive Angel, Southern Ocean Review, Branches, PoetryBay, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, The Montserrat Review, and dozens of journals world-wide.