Poetry 4

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Poetry 4

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Janet I. Buck
[email protected]
Ms. Buck teaches writing and literature at college level and is widely published in both print and web magazines around the world. She is an amputee with a plethora of other medical complications. Also see her Music.

Checkered Shadows
by Janet I. Buck

The smoke alarm of laughter’s tongue
when someone comes too close to me.
Smells the fire behind the walls.
Profanity and tragedy are very loud
and so the silence reigns.
I read you read my missing bones.
A treatise with its gilded side.
To me as plain as it could be.
They call it strength.  I call it fate.
A kindergarden innocence revolving on
the carousel of Barbie this and Barbie that.
Negligees I’ll never wear but
learned to stack like dirty plates.

Retarded faith in who I am.
Self-consciousness and cuckoo clocks
that make a noise and don’t explain.
Checkered shadows of the night.
Too much the same as marks of chalk
in lines around a murdered man.
The combination of a smile
unleashing nothing but the eyes.
A turret with its guns arranged.
Bullets bouncing off a can.

I watch you watch me struggle on.
Climbing hills and stairs of pride.
Nuns and rulers of regret.
Like bars around a prison cell.
From you I learned that stumps are trees.
That autographs of missing parts
are just as worthy as the whole.
That when I stuff the anger in,
I lock the angels out as well.

Pity’s Prozac
by Janet I. Buck

The subject was the wheelchair.
Here we sat so far apart.
Head to comprehending head.
Missing toe to missing toe.
The cavity beneath the sky was
one that’s hit a pocket wind.
I felt like Jello bouncing fast
in bellies of a crashing plane.

The stewardess was fate, of course.
And we were drinking pity’s wind.
You were fifty. 
I was sixteen guns of fire.
Saluting what it was to dream and
sail beyond like clipper ships
with destinations of a smile.
You were young enough, I thought,
to drink the foam of tragedy
and live to spit it out again.
Fifty isn’t over just
because you have a missing limb.

Somehow I was jasmine tea
that offered very sweet replies
of reciprocity in faith.
I showed you mine and walked
the halls like elephants in circus tents
that lead the show without a choice.
I think it’s best explained with this:
I was horny for a life.  And you,
my friend, could feel the pulse
like undertows beneath the waves
of something called an inner-voice.

Scorched Umbrellas
by Janet I. Buck

You were three and I was over forty’s edge.
Curious in waterfalls.  Cousins kissing
innocence to be expected like the rain.
My leg was stranded, sitting there,
a whale beached and incomplete.
Your mother treated wonderment
as misbehaving sadly drew the line
between the things you wanted so to ask
and couldn’t sweat in honesty.

You watched me swimming in the pool
like fish around a coral reef.
Aquariums of normal were
the only menus handed over.
Bridled shock in Mommy’s eyes
when you attacked and swatted
at my lifeless limb, touched it like
a fingertip that ran across a bumble bee.

Excuses dripped like runny noses.
Nothing needed to be said.
Pity’s bell was always there.
I was hardly new to eyes
and viruses of chronic pain
were races hardly ever won.
If you had asked, I would have
told you blunt, blunt, blunt.
The climate had its challenges.
Rods of faith were crucial here.
A body is an arrow aimed
like scorched umbrellas at the sun.

An Allergy to Rolling Chairs
By Janet I. Buck

Au contraire to what you’ve heard
(and I ignore), my bones
are not heroes–often blanks
in the good ol’ gun of try–
but still they are mine and they move.
With bullhorns on a unicorn,
I wrestle what fate has passed my way.
Muscles and tendons–
petunias in purple,
their seasons clipped.
They don’t grow back despite
such decibels of furied will,
but that is the way of mortal in bold.

I hug limping like the very last orgasm
on earth and will, I promise,
yell thunder when it abandons me.
You’d have to meet Jericho struggle,
which steers my days,
to fathom that a chair is not
an acceptable choice.
I’d rather, I think, be deleted.
They suck independence dry,
though, like charity,
mean to only to help.
Pity is a candy striper
in the cancer ward that does
nothing but sit, and I can’t.

The Crippled Hose
By Janet I Buck

The stinging nettle of disabled
is a toe tag and a scarlet letter
that buys one rights to comment upon
dimensions of our human limits.
Like wounded birds,
it feeds skunks of hoarded strength.
Velvet struggle and hay on fire
usurp its wings.
The crippled hose is
compensation’s capability.
Pride, a garland of cilantro
crossing borders in the night
on bellied need and little else.

To immigrate to easy ground
is always on the grocery list
and rolling gurneys never are.
Chairs resemble cotton balls,
absorb fresh blood.
Napoleonic tendencies run dry.
I lose wars I didn’t start.

Pain like writhing snakes won’t die.
Complaining rifles seldom help.
The Arc de Triomphe
is a thimble I drop with every fall.
As bones in fish, it has
a lucid reason base.
Absent legs tend to make a woman
worship her arms.
Motion makes choices.
I spend steps prudishly:
each one a giant diamond
and a migraine tucked
in channels of a sewer’s grate.

The Titanic & the Iceberg
By Janet I. Buck

We share, in a way,
a capsule of immiscible love.
I have not the sort of bones
one takes home to the table
for Christmas Dinner.
To meet the meat of stampeding hooves
dialing in judgment from a touch-tone phone.
“She has only one leg?” Aghast. Gassed.
Out of kindness, curtain silence falls.
I drink pity for breakfast
and vomit its remains with will.
Drop my single foot as a stick in the ground–
drive it hard to stake a tent of grace,
which vacillates from weak to worse.
I have stacks of stories, all horrific:
they’ve grafted and drafted and whittled my limbs
until there is barely room for another knife.
What lies beneath these leather scars
are daisies crushed, sand dollar dreams
and the chalk of fury lathered
by the wild call of proving my worth.

Tender bubbles beneath my skin
have not been touched, because.
I’ve been tripped, duped, tied
by stares and stairs.
I climb them, when I can,
in the darkness of backs turned,
so my limp is leveled by the
pageant of their silk ballet.
Bubbles proceed to fly, but
only where it is safe
and that is in your arms.
Ours is not greeting card love–
with stickers of poise on ballroom floors.
But a smacking, sacred kind:
dodging the sting of defeat;
two hummingbirds tapping out sweet spots
of plain brown-wrapper tragic times.

R.Bear is a survivor of abuse who is currently working on recovering a normal life. She enjoys doing artwork and is currently also writing her own story, illustrated with her artwork. She has a dissociative disorder and is also disabled from an injury which occured during the abuse, and from a nerve disorder that is similar to multiple sclerosis. “I hope to share something of myself that would be of a healing nature for other survivors.” See also her digital art.

by R.Bear

it feels like no one cares inside
the blows are hitting my face and ears
you don’t matter, you will die
you are not deserving

now the pain is inside too
not just outside
the words are in my head
the blows inside my body

I have no where to hide
no where to run
no matter where I go
you follow me and destroy me

I take the words outside again
I remove the beatings from inside my skin
they try to come inside again
but I keep removing them

only I can set me free
by cooperating with your love, God
I know you want to heal me
but I have to let you in

I am scared of letting -anything- in
after the pain and hurt
but I have to for my own good and for others too

Maybe this time I won’t be abused and hurt.
I don’t know.
Maybe I will.
But it’s getting cramped inside this prison.

Please don’t hurt me anymore
please don’t make me feel small and useless and undeserving
please let me live!!!!!!!!!!!!
but I can’t stay under your thumb forever

I must live
I must be free
I must be myself and
not be ashamed of it

I know you didn’t mean to destroy my life
But you did
I don’t know if I will forgive you or not
Maybe I shouldn’t, then you won’t be able to hurt me again


Roxanne Chinook
[email protected]
Ms. Chinook was born in 1954, and is a tribal member of The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon, where she currently resides. She has a Fine Arts Degree from Boise State University. She inherited much of her artistic ability from her native roots: “My grandmother, my mother, my sister and my Uncle Mike were all gifted artists. When I graduated from college there weren’t many jobs available in a college town, especially art related. I was newly divorced with two young daughters to raise on my own, so I decided to move back to ‘the rez’ to be close to my family. I was driving to my brother’s house when an eagle flew directly over my car, and for the first time in my life I actually felt I was on the right path. I knew all my relatives were watching over me, and they wanted me to discover the beauty of my heritage and to pass that beauty on to others … so they and myself will always be remembered. That is why I paint, and for that I am proud.” See also her Visual Art.

White Shamans & Plastic Medicine Men Will Never Know
by Roxanne Chinook

  • White Shamans & Plastic Medicine Men
    will never know that
    I am all my relations.

    I am My Grandmotherís Granddaughter,
    My Mother’s Daughter
    And my daughters’ mother.
    Imbedded in my spirit is their disgrace, oppression,
    and shame.

    Boarding schools ripped them from their mother’s bosom.
    Punished them for speaking their native tongue and
    practicing their ways.
    Priests molested their fathers, brothers and uncles
    who were once proud hunters & warriors.
    They lived in poverty and were forced to farm
    or live in city slums.

    They were called filthy savages, drunken Indians,
    And taught to be a shame of who they are.
    They picked berries, sold beadwork
    And were compensated with white flour, canned meat and beans.
    They died early from TB, alcoholism, diabetes and suicide.
    They drank to hide their disgrace, oppression and shame.

    Yet, through the spirit of the trickster
    they learned to tease and laugh,
    and hold on to any remnants of dignity & courage.

    That is how they survived
    which is also embedded in my spirit
    that White Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men
    will never know

    Roxanne Chinook
    March 8, 2000

Pretty Ones
by Roxanne Chinook

It’s the pretty ones
that age so quickly,
sitting on the same barstool
day after day she tries not to remember.

At first her youth and beauty
captivates an admiring audience
but they too,
wonder what will happen
when her beauty begins to fade.

The jealous ones
try to cut her,
scar her pretty face,
but no one could imagine
the scars she already has.

It’s the pretty ones,
they say are lucky,
because she has drinks all lined
up for her.
But there’s no one there to protect her,
when she’s drunk herself into a stupor,
blinded by all the booze.

Or when they dump her out on the highway,
after her use was put beyond human test.
She walks alone trying to forget
what just happened,
and the shame she feels from being
one of the pretty ones.

She goes back to her barstool.

Anitra Freeman
[email protected]
Ms. Freeman is the founder and facilitator of StreetWrites, a workshop for homeless and low-income writers. StreetWrites is one of the programs of the Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project; another is a self-managed art gallery and studio, StreetLife. “I am glad to hook up with others who have found the healing power of creativity!”

by Anitra Freeman

Damn the child that screams and bites
Answers late kindness with bitter anger

Damn all prey turned predator
Children claiming streets and alleys
Tiny faces with feral eyes

Damn the women who prowl
With stolen jaguar claws
Who refuse to come inside

Save our pity for the

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