“What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish?”
–T.S. Eliot

As locust of grief gathers its legs
for the pounce and traffic spins
in its clotted grave,
answer escapes by channel of fog.
I am seized by the question’s thrust–
turn toward ways you fanned a purse
and opened it on Christmas Eve.
A man with his face inking a sign
marked homelessness, dotting
your “I” with a tear of having more
than your heart required in wallet clutch,
pushed you to extend your gift.
You dropped $5 in his lap.
He smiled the way a cock must crow
waking up a sleeping farm.
Teeth became a rope of pearls,
real in their soft reward.

Passersby withdrew from slug trail poverty
and the wind raced its breath
toward frost and clung.
“Pocket change, that’s all we are
and all we have, trading pennies for a dime.”
The song of it all in photograph
rekindled decades hence in water bath
for wisdom’s tiny carrot curl.
“One clash with fate, that’s all it takes,”
you murmured quietly, as if your vocal cords
had violins in lumpy throat.
That single reach. Rendering a bible’s jacket
more than paper babble bound.
Undaunted by his drunkenness and sour cough,
a memory pushes through my hands.

Janet Buck has a Ph.D. in English and teaches writing and literature at the college level. Her poetry, poetics, and fiction have appeared in numerous journals, including The Melic Review, 2River View, Urban Spaghetti, and PIF Magazine. In 1998, 1999, and 2000, she won numerous creative writing awards and was a featured poet in such publications as Seeker Magazine, Vortex, Poetry Super Highway, and Cafe Society. Two of Janet’s poems have been nominated for this year’s Pushcart Prize in poetry, and she is a recipient of the H.G. Wells Award for Literary Excellence. In December 1999, Newton’s Baby Press released her first print collection of poetry, entitled Calamity’s Quilt. Her first e-book of poetry, Reefs We Live, is now available through Word Wrangler Publishing. Janet’s website address is www.janetbuck.com

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