JANET I. BUCK
The Wilted Lei
A plush Hawaiian dream intact:
ropes of leis, laden with crisp lily cups,
sand on shores like someone grabbed
a simple comb from bathroom drawers,
smoothed it into suede and silk.
Turquoise waters, cobalt skies,
gardens laced with Tropic Fleue,
Monstera leaves, Anthurium.
Belle terre. Belle vie.
Splendor’s credence growing thick.
Seagulls sporting silver wings—
I didn’t need my glasses on
to spot the bijou in the grass.
I shake awake, see Homer’s plot,
meadows of the Asphodel in places
where the sun won’t rise.
Time for six long needle stabs,
steroid shots up, then down a crooked spine.
Waiting out the nine long weeks,
I’d taken hope, rubbed it warm
between my palms like colored play dough
children fondle into shapes.
These shots would be my fairy dust
sprinkled over ailments.
Two paddles with their wires attached
would bring me back,
let me stand and make the bed,
so I could march away from it.
The final recourse after strings of surgeries—
dead branches stuck to oil spills.
Asphodel is growing here in giant spikes.
I saw the endless shattering ahead of me,
but didn’t listen to my eyes—
pitted wish against the truth.
So much for swinging hula skirts,
persimmon, kiwi on a plate,
drinking milk from coconuts,
a market full of real fruit.
So much for Margaritaville—
I’m staring at a wilted lei.
poetryrepairs #238 v17.06:067
JANET I. BUCK
The Wrestling Match
Don't expect obvious details to align themselves with the title here, ones like knee pads and a
mat or mouth guards, whatever it is professionals use, because this is wedded to idiocy and not a
sport; besides, I had to coach myself. The wrestling match involves an 85lb. woman with the
dead weight of a 10 lb. pirate leg set against 6 waterbed tubes (each with 80 lbs. of liquid sealed
inside). First, I hoped the seals had fairly stalwart plugs. Not quite true, this one had some prayer
It started out with a circular nowhere kinda' argument. I said for weeks: "I bought a brand new
quilt and bed skirt set, matching sheets. Before you leave for work, I need some help to get the
bed skirt on. I'll iron it real quick." Every day, the same response: "I'll get it when I get to it."
Like three-foot lawns, this issue was gratin' on my nerves; combine the two or add another
broken link to marriage vows, and he'd be sleeping on the couch, a lumpy bale of straw at best.
"This is not imperative!" did nothin' but sharpen my claws. Since I was married twice before, I
had a lawyer (maybe two) set on speed dial just in case. "You can't possibly do it alone…it's 480
lbs. of water vs. you." A kiss goodbye and off he went, sailing on my rising fumes. I skipped the
shower, piled my hair on top my head, so nothing would fall in my eyes, which usually (I'm the
first to admit) head a lot down one-way streets. With five titanium joints, the doctors told me
awful damn explicitly: "Never lift more than 8 lbs. or you could fracture that eggshell pelvis or a
hip." I'd ditched that no way fairytale long ago. Wondered if they ever wondered who did
laundry sock by sock or carried in twelve grocery bags. One potato at a time? Someone had to
lug the purse. "Never mind," I told myself, "this is war and I don't lose, not without a brutal
I stripped the bed and threw the old stuff smack in the middle of my husband's office floor,
swearing at the cherry burns beside his old computer chair. Mad is great adrenaline. I tossed my
bathrobe on the pile, donned my hubby's bygone t-shirt—that was it for dressin' up, knowing I'd
need airflow for this enterprise to counterpoint the sweat ahead. I wrestled with the mattress top,
bigger than Bolivia, much like moving freeway ramps. Finally, I got it set against the window
blinds, bent them into paperclips. Oopsy, doopsy. I'd deal with that one later down the yellow
brick road. I told myself, "One bump at a time is fine." The base around the tubes was easy; it
was foam. I cleared the deck of every chair, every table, every plant that could be close to
casualties of all-out war. Gettin' the tubes on the floor was simple enough, like rollin' out a pie
crust way too near the edges of a countertop. I just made sure that all stray weight landed on my
rubber foot, not the crappy real one. The bed skirt went on perfectly—the problem was its
missing weight. Every time I touched it slightly, traipsing lightly as I could, it moved an inch. It
was gettin' hot in there, so I turned the ceiling fan on high. Big mistake! The damned thing flew
the chicken coop. Time to get the duct tape out. I made four double-sided squares, taped it down,
reveled in my newfound ingenuity (Grad school's useless when it comes to real life). I carried on.
I lifted one end of one tube. The middle went the other way; water went wherever it planned. I
grabbed the middle, tried to pull it, down I went, headfirst on the mattress base, which turned out
harder than I thought; the only saving grace was what my father always said to me: "Nothin's
harder than your head." Recovery came pretty quick. I tried again. I had 80 pounds of rubber
caterpillar flesh wrigglin' water over me. This project was not going well. I headed for the
kitchen drawer, yanked apart the yellow pages, lookin' for The Ajax Man. No luck at all. Both
my neighbors used a walker or a cane, so that "out" went out like votives with a cut-off wick. I
dialed 911, but all the operator said was: "We have no insurance codes for emergencies like
makin' a bed." I sighed the deepest sigh I own. "Never trust the government" was all I offered
her, then hung up.
Back to work. I tried the flip the fish approach and get the tail on the stand. The fish was still
alive and movin.' Tail on, I slipped my bod underneath the middle part, felt my boobs collapse
(much the same as cheese soufflés crappin' out just when you have company). I gave a heave-ho,
nasty grunt, replete with forceful expletives, grabbled with the other tail end, the water shifted,
down I went. This went on ad nauseum, but I was gettin' closer to a strategy. After two spritz
baths, one long hour, and a quart of Gatorade, I finally got the first tube on the blasted slab. The
heave-ho, make your breasts appear like skinny crêpes, grab one tail and then the other was
workin' now. I heard a crackle, snap, and pop somewhere on my skeleton, ignored it like a mass
attack of smartly clad Jehovah salesmen, bibles pressed against their chests, bangin' without
retreat or shame at the same damn door, even though the sign said loud and clear enough: "No
Soliciting." I wasn't sure which bone it was. For once, I chided myself for having any extra ones.
Four hours later, I had five tubes on the bed and a pint of sweat inside the socket of my leg. I
dumped it out, got dressed again and went for six. When six went on, the first rolled off the
opposite side of the not exactly "gosh, darn" bed. Wrestling 80 lb. caterpillars got so old, I
thought I'd take a rifle's barrel to every single butterfly that ever had the balls or wings to cross
my livid path again.
Time for more inventiveness: I drug forth every chair in the house that I could possibly budge
and built a fairly decent sandbag ploy, good enough by any army's founding rules. I was proud.
One more wigglin' caterpillar still remained. I popped four Tylenol at once, chased 'em down
with Gatorade, and went for number six. Up it went. I was good. Except the bed skirt wasn't
straight. I pulled and tugged, pulled and tugged until my fingers were purple/blue, completely
void of oxygen. I iced 'em down, went back to it, until it looked, well, close enough. On went the
foam. I left the chairs, just in case all this dead weight thought it grew some muscle power,
considered moving anywhere. Then I went outside and smoked a half a' pack of cigarettes, drank
water from the garden hose, before I soaked my husband's shirt in effigy, got a little squirt-gun
crazy, filled the only shoes I owned. Minor in the scheme of things.
My ex had bought this stupid waterbed, the only thing he paid for in our three year marriage. I
take that back: once he bought a slab of stamps so I could pay his stack of bills. He left this
waterbed to me as a parting gift of sorts—too lazy to take it apart. I despised this nemesis from
the very day it came in by delivery truck, the way it bounced me like a tennis ball whenever I
dusted the headboard lined with too much stuff we didn't need, which added up to every week.
OCD lives in my veins like others with a working brain store pints of blood. I washed and dried
the sheets and cases, ironed them. Probably should have called it good, but I don't "call a day a
day" until I'm dead. The mattress top was still against the slaughtered blinds. I wore it on my
head and shoulders 'til I finally got the edges right, slipped it on, lay face down, in somewhat
triumph interruptus due to abject agony—at least it didn't take a hike. I wasn't in the mood for
that. I took a shower, then got dressed. It simply seemed appropriate in honor of the crowning
touch of actually makin' the bed. Dripping sweat on nice clean sheets just wouldn't do. I did the
hospital/military corner thing, ran my hands down 800 count sheets like long mink coats, patting
myself on the back. My arms refused with vehemence to reach at all, so I settled for the
metaphor. This comforter was beautiful, felt great compared to all the streaks of carpet burn I
wore from nose to shoulders down to elbows down to knees for several weeks.
Issue #22 popped up like long black sprinkler heads, their broken nozzles firing. The pillow
thingy. Now, this whole set was not so cheap. It came with seven decorator pillows, just like
beds you see in all the spendy stores and wonder where a body fits when it's actually time to hit
the hay. Seven different decorator pillows toppin' the four we sleep with every night is not a
minor consternation of this world. The pillow problem was and is, will always be, intrinsically,
fairly solid ground for quick divorces everywhere. Just the four we actually use for slumbering
are problematic as it is—old teddy bears from childhood—''this one's mine''…''no, it isn't, that
one's mine''—(two his, two hers incessantly confused, then traded back and forth like baseball
cards throughout the night) up until they're on the floor. They pass bills through Congress in far
less time than we decide whose is whose. I may sign the treatise line, but still reserve the right to
change my tune. All this time, we've blamed our kids for pillow fights; fodder for a skit like this
started long before the sex. Seven more? I was dog meat for the stew on supper tables in
Vietnam, North or South, take your pick. No such thing as foster homes for little puppies in
distress. Besides, my dad staunchly took my husband's side and taught our dog to use her teeth
and paws to strip the couch, play fetch with all the pillows there, then leave 'em scattered on the
floor. Then came the grin that said: "I just won the lottery and you did not. Two sugars and a
little cream in coffee, please, if you would. On second thought, I'll have a beer."
Which led me to a stroke of genius. "Get him drunk before he even thinks about opening the
bedroom door. I heard my husband's car turn in the drive. He walked straight though the laundry
nook, looked around and said, "Honey, the house looks great! You straightened up the living
room, must have stacked all those chairs we don't need somewhere in the stuffed garage,
although I didn't notice where—still, you should NOT have carried that much weight. I would
have done it Saturday." I poured his beer, said: "Five more chillin' in the fridge…be back soon,
gotta' pick a pizza up." He looked at me: "Your face and neck and both your arms look pretty
red…been lounging in the sun for hours?" Hmmm. I thought. "Yup, I have. Enjoy your
beer—after such a long hard day, you deserve a little break." I drove around the block so long I
ran completely out of gas. The nice cop in our neighborhood stopped to help, came back with
several gallons in a plastic jug. I told him straight: "I need a .38 or somethin' close; can I borrow
one of yours?" He thought a minute, turned me down, then asked me what required a gun. "In
case I see a caterpillar crawlin' up a shrub out back—or have to shoot a pillow dead."
poetryrepairs #238 v17.06:067
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JANET I. BUCK
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