The Telescope That Always Fails by Janet I. Buck

The Telescope That Always Fails

It is pleasant, when the sea is high and the wind is dashing the waves about,
to sit on shore and watch the struggles of another.   —Lucretius

No, it’s not.
Unless you’re seagulls snapping up an easy meal,
a heart without a conscience there.

I’m right beside a friend of mine,
tied by raw necessity to chemo pumps.
I hope beneath the scarves I sent,
her chestnut hair hasn’t turned
to clumps of autumn’s brittle straw,
once in bales tied with ropes, but not right now.
I pray it hasn’t fallen off
old bumpy trucks on graveled roads.
We’re hanging on with long, wet socks
clipped to broken clothespins pulling on a tired wire.

Once I tried a telescope to glance away
from things the way they really are.
It never worked. Just like pasta overcooked,
because I looked away from all the burning mist
above the fiercely roiling boil.
My glasses still reflect disturbing close-up shots—
bullets lodged in heaving chests—
their heavy fists attacking me, leaving me
with bloody noses filling up a bathroom sink.

We shouldn’t be like ocean sharks
that smell the dying far away.
Then seize on it, as if they’re quite
above it all, bigger than the rest of us.
Having hides of thicker skin
prevents the world from striking nerves.
So what if life’s not lilies or a poppy bowl
returning stronger every year.
Enveloped in a muddy cloud
lends meaning to the fickle light.

by Janet I. Buck

Editor’s Note: Some things are too painful to discuss directly. Chemo is at the top of the list, so this poem side-steps the issue and uses imagery to describe the wrenching anger, grief, and pain.


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