JANET I. BUCK
The Shape of Sores
This brand begins deep inside a bone.
Its blossom hurts; it’s not a blushing peony.
The rubicund color comprised of coals,
burning in the hearth for months—
I feel them brew like healthy people smell
their morning coffee sitting in a clear carafe.
When bedsores break the tender flesh,
it’s way too late—
a signal that the end is near.
Simply look the other way
and hold my hand; it’s growing cold.
Don’t bring me mirrors,
rubbing in what’s obvious.
Forget the present agony—
remember all the miles I hiked
just to reach a waterfall.
My tailbone’s untouchable,
skin that’s met a stove on “high,”
stuck to burners, won’t release.
Don’t lift my gown. Don’t draw up plans
for fixing what’s unfixable.
Doctors aren’t a talisman,
no matter how we trust the scalpels
staged between their fingertips.
A fickle god is running things
and we are not. Go read a poem—
zero in on periods I typed
in bold in giant font.
Remember how my smile curved
in crescent moons.
Remember my blueberry eyes.
poetryrepairs #229 16,10:112
JANET I. BUCK
The Sex-Ed Class in 1966
Hoover School had never held a Sex-Ed class. The subject arrived much like trains that skip the
tracks on a bad, bad curve, taking out a long, long row of Poplar trees. Dead in the middle of a
budget meeting, with the principal staring at numbers on a sheet, Mrs. Foster, our school nurse,
snatched the silence with her tongue, then said with force: "We need to toe the line. Schools in
all the bigger cities incorporate a Sex-Ed class into their curriculums, so this is a necessary step
to take." Mr. Edgewood, the school's VP, slid his chair, well, more like tumbled flights of stairs.
"We need to do a what?" he said. Over went his water glass. Then three more: the history
teacher's, then came math, English too. The circular table became a pool, where paperwork was
floating like a stack of lifejackets meant to be on people who can't swim. A little too appropriate.
The music teacher's face went pale. Miss Graves, the only spinster in the group, was always pale,
but not the Ivory Soap brand kind of white. Even the science pro, despite his trail of classes in
anatomy, preferred discussing skeletons, preferred inhaling a jar of formaldehyde with three dead
frogs to going near this ticking bomb. He'd dissect any creature, anything but this.
"We have to tell their parents first," said Jones, knowing that they'd come and go with fiery
tongues, like ravens in a Hitchcock film. Finally, the debut class was set for a Friday afternoon,
six weeks down the road. In the process of setting this up, three secretaries bit the dust. The last
one said, "I'll die before I'll listen to 'Hello, Michelle, what the hell is happening'… fifteen times
every hour." What followed it was not exactly welcome wagons parked along 7th Street. This
"secret" was discussed so much that all us kids grew curious enough to miss a recess without
complaint, in order to fit the lecture in that afternoon. We even agreed to stay late at school. This
was rare. Consensus was we'd take the lash of Dad's old belt over missin' that god-send of a
We were the sixth-grade Guinea pigs. Our only course involving health was a firm reminder not
to sneak a Milky Way Bar just before lunch. That was it. The teachers broke the news like a
teenage girl, scared to death to tell her parents, "I got knocked up by accident"— held back any
other info remotely related to the topical choice. We were nervous, fidgeting, without a clue
concerning why. We'd all heard of sex before. They held the class in the darkest corner of the
student cafeteria, hoping sounds of clinking silverware and plates would distract us from the
matter at hand, which it did but not for long. Mrs. Foster promised she'd lead the first round of
what came to be known as this that stuff, which no one wished to talk about. She called in sick.
"I'll do it," said our football coach. The faculty lounge collapsed like two-ton bodies in a bean
bag chair. "Thank God," a dozen voices chimed. "At 6ft.5 you can handle anything," said Jones.
It started out with eerie, leaking silences, printed handouts, neatly stacked, set in front of every
chair, as if us kids weren't sittin' there. Boys and girls in the same room, divided by a stretching
tabletop. Big mistake.Very, very big mistake. We had eye contact from the start, so the boys
began with corny winks, moved on to thumb wrestling, then to elbows meet with ribs, then fake
farts, repeatedly. "You guys are gross," Melissa said. The ditto chorus held its own. Coach Jones
looked just like my dad after a long day of yardwork under a broiling sun. He needed a beer,
same as my dad after he'd mowed an acre of lawn and taken out three sprinkler heads. I knew the
look, followed by our step-mom's words: "You missed a spot right here, see it there? – another
one down there, see it too? – another one along the side of the house. I saw weeds, seven, count
'em, seven weeds when I was checkin' on your job." My Uh Oh! button just got pushed. Just the
grass was missin' from this swelling room. Dripping sweat was present and accounted for.
When Coach Jones said, "Knock it off and I mean now!" the air grew still as corridors in some
museum. Handouts sat like peanut butter dryin' in a mouse trap underneath the kitchen sink,
where no one ever bends to look. "Let's get started," said our coach. "We're here today
to…(silence gap) to…" sounded pretty similar to greetings at a funeral mass. The boys went
back to elbowing. Jones recovered, finally: "…to talk about how males and females (married
ones) make their kids, discuss the body parts involved and how the process works. He was going
straight from notecards now; after all, his mind was frozen stiff. The words themselves moved
awkwardly—kids with brand new sets of stilts they didn't have an inkling for. All he thought
was, "God, please pull a magic trick, make this hour disappear." There it stayed. Staunch as
Page one was easy, pictures of a skeleton, with arrows pointed at the pelvic cage. Page two grew
worse. Thank the Lord, they didn't have colored ink, just textbook pages copied off in black and
white. "Boys, listen up, this is where what's known as sex, intercourse to be precise, actually
begins. Your pee-wee is responsible." Bobbie Bilger, the smartest smart-ass in the class,
immediately corrected him: "Pee-wee's a football game for little tykes; I think you're talkin' pee-
pee here." Jones acquiesced, coughing out the penis word, then moved on. A sea of crimson
faces switched on bright enough to paint the walls. "Balls on guys are testicles. They store the
sperm." "What's that?" Amanda asked with quite convincing innocence. "Well, it's fluid that
leaves the penis, crawls inside you, bonds with eggs you have up here (pointed near a uterus),
and makes a baby, just like that!" He really wanted just like that to finish off the afternoon, no
luck in sight. Badger Bilger stole the show. "The story isn't over yet. All you chicks have
vaganinas that open up; that's where we play; trust me, guys, it's no cruddy veggie bin with
broccoli or cauliflower you wouldn't touch with the end of a broom. It's a lot of fun in there, at
least that's what my cousin said. The fluid has a lot worms and one of them grabs an egg, latches
on and won't let go. Ya' have to get the chick in bed, plop yourself on top of her, cram your pee-
pee (called a dick, by anyone who knows their stuff) up inside her; then you pound and pound
away like hammers on a 2x4, until you feel a giant squirt." Coach Jones said, "Bobby Bilger, that
is quite enough from you! He shut his mouth, but all the boys were giggling, considering this
brand new hobby right before their twinkling eyes.
"No way, José," Nessa said, "That would HURT!" Betsy and Melissa, Sally, right on down the
line of girls, all grabbed their crotches in defense. Betsy said, "Go lay an egg and leave me be."
Even though the hour was still near 2nd inning, poor Coach Jones was sure he'd lost the game for
good. Everything he'd said so far turned thatch roofs in a hurricane.
"Oh my God! in more than plural shot through walls from snoopy teachers just outside the
door— ears to paint, listening for every word. The woman sorting silverware turned her head,
lost it laughing, snorted some, then left the room to save her job. Jones went on explaining
fallopian tubes and how a uterus holds a child. Even tried to bring up the "protection" issue
called a condom, showed them one. With shaking hands, he tore the package and the rubber—yet
another lead balloon. This lecture wasn't going well. The shooting match was warming up.
"Touch my pinkie, Bobbie B, I'll kick your balls across the street," Bessie said.
"I will too, "Amanda added.
Crystal joined the chorus line: "Keep your pee-pee in your pants, then catch it in
the zipper threads every time you take a leak, for all I care."
Bessie added, "When your balls fly down the street, I'll boot 'em in the muddy ditch."
"So will I," Mary said, "Either that or I'll use 'em for a tennis ball. My serve is harder than
you think. Just yesterday, I aced my dad. I practiced lobs. Remember this: the higher the
lob, the harder it hits when ball meets land on concrete slabs."
Thankfully, the hour was almost over. Jones looked at his watch, lied a little—well, a lot—let
'em go. This poor guy was really lickin' his paws. The notecards gave him paper cuts. When us
kids were safely on the bus, he headed to the faculty lounge for coffee and a cigarette. "No
Smoking" signs did not exist, "Thank God," again. Edgewood snatched a seat beside him, asked
him how his debut went. "Whiffle ball and I lost" was all our coach could muster up. "I forgot to
tell them not to try out sex until they're much, much older than they are." The history teacher
grabbed a chair: "Worry not. Worry not. I think that hour poisoned any lurking hormones in
those gals. Give 'em a year, maybe less—you'll have the first all-girls football team in fifty states.
Their kick-offs will be killers in the 1st degree. Not to mention, offense, defense. All you have to
work on is their running speed.
poetryrepairs #229 16,10:112
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JANET I. BUCK
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