Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ever the Dreamer





Ever the Dreamer

“I prefer to be a dreamer among the humblest, with visions
to be realized, than a lord among those without dreams.”
--Kahlil Gibran.

Still that fresh-faced boy
on that windblown bluff
             above Puget Sound,
                        under a peeling madrona,
                                   staring out at Blake Island,
                                                                  dreaming
                                                  of becoming
                                             a writer,
                                      an actor,
                             a teacher;
a recipient of some kind of wonderful windfall,
                                                         gathering
                                                         enough wealth
                                                         to be able to live
on one of the grand islands in the Sound--
to build my dream-house
that had a deck with white railings
                                          and red bannisters,     
                                          part pirate ship,
                                          laden with colorful rigging
and two brass telescopes to star-watch with,
                                          redwood whiskey barrels
                                          made into raised gardens;
while rising out of the middle of the magical roof there
                                          would be a Stephen King
ten story tall writer’s tower, protruding phallic like
                                          a poet’s lighthouse
                                          where the muses could mass
                                          high above the pine & maple tops,
where I could witness sunrises over the Cascades          
                       & sunsets over the rugged Olympics.



                       A simple enough plan, just
                       become a successful rich Actor,
                       gaining a modicum of notoriety;
then happen to mention to my posse of agents,
Hey, did you know I have written a couple of novels,
& thousands of poems, & the words cry out to be shared ?
                      Perhaps we could publish some of this stuff,
                      make a pile of cash
                      and put our kids through college. 

Oh yes, my dreams were vivid,
like neon roadmaps,
& yet, as is too often the case,
like losing your virginity,
like turning 21, 30, 40, 50, 60,
the destination once arrived at,
the goals achieved (sort of),
never
     seems
         as grand
              as imagined
                    or anticipated,
                             because youth
                                  is blind to wisdom,
                                           deaf to sage advice.

                                   I became the Actor, 
                                            but a whirling decade
                                                  of Thespianism never led
                                                           to a plateau of success,
rather it just revealed the grit below the glitz,
the negative energy of daily rejection, like
drinking alcohol when dying of thirst,
it’s certainly wet, but it never slacks the need,
or nourishes the soul.



                                         So one onerous smog-ridden beaten-down
                                         day in the ghetto of Hollywood, I decided to
                                         embrace a hiatus, seek gainful employment;
                  & I’ll be damned if it didn’t come to me
                  easily, like colliding with a stranger on the
                  bus, staring at their face, & understanding
that you recognize them, knew them
from another life,
from another dream.
                  
                  It was time for MacDuff to fade,
                  for Benedick to become mute,
                  for Sancho Panza to let Quixote slip away,
                  for Adolphus Cusins to divorce Major Barbara,
                  for the cowpoke drifter to stable his silver spurs,
                  for the sailor to give away his fuck pitchers,
                  for the soldier to unload his weapons,
                  for the Commedia masks to be put away gently;

time for the teacher to make a difference
in the darkness, for the shadow poet to
continue to be a passionate scribe, for
the novelist to learn technical writing,
as the make-up, tights, & ruffled shirts
were put into the back of the wardrobe;

           as several dense decades gathered
           at my feet like a windblown Sunday
           newspaper, with the funnies & editorials
wrapping warmly around my thighs--
becoming emotional at my retirement
party as my former students & fellow 
employees saluted & roasted me,
filling me with a genuine sense
of fulfillment. 

As I launched my next ten year plan,
a wondrous wisp of a thing happened--
my dreams were rekindled, & every day
it seemed dreams became reality,
coming to ragged & beauteous fruition,
but energized, reborn, rejuvenated replacements
lined up
         like dream warriors
                           within me--
                                     in a never-ending
                                               spiral, twisting themselves
                                                         into a helix formation,


all with a child’s face,
wide-eyed,
pink-cheeked,
tousle-haired,
filled
with that old
sense of 
wonder. 


Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets MTB

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Black Pearls



image by phyllis galembo


Black Pearls

“Tahiti is insular, full of peace & joy, but fully encompassed
by the horrors of life beyond its beaches. Push not off from
that isle, for thou canst never return.”--Herman Melville.


There is a wide wonderful archipelago
of 118 islands in the South Pacific--
referred to as French Polynesia.

Tahiti
is the largest island,
populated by Polynesians before Christ,
called it Otaherte.

In 1606 the Spanish called it Sagitaria.
In 1767 the English named it King George Island.
In 1772 the French called it New Cythera.
By the 1800’s it became known as Tahiti.

In 1788 the island was visited by the HMS Bounty.
In the 1820’s the English converted the natives
to Protestantism, introducing alcohol, firearms,
prostitution, venereal disease, & illness to them,
decimating the population, killing 60% of it. 

The French moved in with their Catholic missionaries
in tow, & for a bloody decade the new Catholics waged war
against the Protestants.

The French won, of course, proclaiming Tahiti
as an official colony of France. 
Gauguin resided there in the 1890’s. 

In 2007, I visited Tahiti for my firm,
on a quest to buy up some black pearls,
indigenous only to the Tuomota Islands
in French Polynesia.

I flew into the Capitol at Papeete,
& stayed in a hotel there, having to deal
with Chinese pearl dealers, finding out
that the Chinese were called
the “Jews of Tahiti”, being the
majority merchant class. 

French was the primary language there,
but plenty of English was spoken too. 
I loved hearing smatterings of the old Tahitian
language, the Reo Maohi, in the cafes,
bistros, & marketplaces.

They say that the island of Hawaii
in just 10 days gets more tourists
than Tahiti in a year, & that even
an average Las Vegas hotel has more rooms
available than in all 118 islands.

My last day there, my purchases concluded,
I wandered into the central park, & was
confronted with Gaston Temara, who stood
on a steamer trunk & gave political speeches.

He wore fake chains on his wrists,
& a ceremonial bag-mask on his face;
fierce & fascinating, he had led 
an unsuccessful bid for independence
the year before, but

his hardy black band of freedom fighters
was quickly put down by French troops
sent by President Jacques Chirac,
who claimed, after freeing the dissidents, 
that France did not believe that the majority
of Tahitians wanted independence.

Flying home to California, my company satchels
crammed with precious black pearl jewelry,
I could not get Temara out of my head.

Would something akin to liberty find a way
to flourish one day in Tahiti?
Something deeply American in me
truly hoped so. 


Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stairwell Stanzas



image borrowed from bing


Stairwell Stanzas

“Breed not a savage dog, nor permit
a loose stairway.”--Talmud quote. 


She stared at
                 the
              street
                       but never
                                saw
                               what
                                      was there. 
                                              When a sprinkler
                                                                   bec
                                                                 omes
                                                                        abstract
                                                                                 art
                                                                                 all
                                                                                    the robins
                                                                                           begin
                                                                                                 to
                                                                                        become
                                                                                        art
                                                                                        critics.
 The seventeen 
               cables
                     got
                         busy perfecting
                                                a
                                            new
                                                  knot of metal
                                                              fellow
                                                                 ship.
                                                                      Rusted Fords
                                                                                     make
                                                                                         the
                                                                                             best homes
                                                                                                           for
                                                                                                          lots
                                                                                                   of angry
                                                                                                   hungry
                                                                                                   spiders.
                                                                                       Ah hell,
                                                                                 swing
                                                                               your bale
                                                                         up, Bob;
                                                                     there’s
                                                                  plenty of
                                                              space.
    Then we all went out & gobbled pizza,
                                                              the end.



Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets MTB

Today, Gay wants us to develop our own form of poetry; I call this Stairway 
Verse. It is superb descendant dissonance. 

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Keepsakes



image borrowed from bing


Keepsakes

“Poetry is a pack sack of invisible keepsakes.”
--Carl Sandburg.

Like a dog burying a hambone in the garden,
& then forgetting about it, as a species
we seem to all hoard, save, put aside
every sort of thing--somehow significant
for a moment, for a month--mementos,
souvenirs, impractical gifts, belly button lint,
string, shells, tin foil balls, crystals, driftwood.

Hanging on to the edge of a protruded brick
of our living room fireplace, on the left liberal
side, is my grandfather’s cane, made from
a shellacked bull’s penis, 3 feet in length;
opposite it on the right conservative side
hangs a plain wooden cane that my father-in-law
left behind during a visit fifteen years ago;
both passed on now, both remembered daily
by their dueling canes.

There is a hexagon candy jar
    full of small colored rocks
         that we kept bringing home
                after beach combing & hikes;
part
of a plan I once had
of polishing all
                   of them, and then
displaying them in a beautiful
hand-made wooden bowl
I would get somewhere--
                   but the jar is full,
sitting on a low shelf
in the basement,
alongside
              a clear plastic bag
                                     of perfect sand dollars
that nobody ever sees but me.

The crown jewel of nostalgia
is a small leather suitcase
that my grandfather gave me. 
It had once held his wonderful oil paints
& the brilliant smears of color all over it
make it look Pollock-dripped
or Matisse-dotted.

Inside it now are hundreds of letters.

For a busy decade during my twenties;
while in the Navy,
returning to college twice,
starting my career as an Actor,
then abandoning it for one as a teacher,
he and I
kept up a continuous stream of correspondence.

I kept all of his letters;
he was a wonderful writer,
having the knack
            of seeming just conversational.
Just before
                    he died,
                                  he told me
that he had kept all my letters too,
& that it might be a fun project
to combine them & correlate them.

After he passed away
leaving
a void none of us has ever recovered from,
I organized them,
his letter,
my response--
my letter,
his response;
the perfect memory box.

Years ago,
when I first started blogging,
I thought they were worth sharing,
so I typed up
       a couple of dozen
                of them, until
one day when the absurdity nymphs
stopped by & reminded me
that the world at large didn’t really care
about them as I did,
and besides,
it wasn’t any of their damn business, so

I closed the lid
on the treasured painter’s box,
folding the letters twenty score,
placing it on a high shelf
in the busy furnace room
          at head-height, so that
                      every time I pass by it
                               picking up toilet tissue,
paper towels, 
          feminine products, 
                         or Kleenix, 
we can exchange pleasantries
& knowing glances.


Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

21 Years



April 3, 1993


21 Years

Love is the emblem of eternity, it confounds all notions of time,
effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end.”
--Germaine De Stael.

Just another Thursday morning,
waking up achey & stiff
with a pad of steel wool
in my dry mouth, my mind
still stuck partially in hypnogogic 
review, fast-forward/backward dream slides--

my mother in the kitchen, dead
over 40 years now, but there baking bread,
as the house hummed with family;

five grandchildren,
three daughters,
three strapping son-in-laws
puttering around, fixing things--
broken chairs, swollen doors, burned out
light switches, because they knew this
was all stuff I was incapable of doing,
having the mechanical aptitude of a fruit fly.

My grandfather arm wrestling
with my stepfather out on the tile-covered
table in the corner of our large deck,
both dead, both grunting as their
massive biceps knotted, & their dislike
for each other furrowed itself
into their sweaty foreheads--

two dead dogs,
three dead cats,
all there lying about
enjoying the company
& the day;

replaced by the tick of time
from the clock near my head,
accompanied by the empty basement symphony,
the oil furnace whoosh,
the big freezer wheeze,
the industrial sump-pump gurgle,
the utility sink drip,
the damn dog barking next door,
& the strident pleading 
of our Keezie Kat outside,
reminding me that it was time to feed him--

usually my sweet wife fed him, 
for she still had a job, had a routine,
but this morning she was on Spring Break,
& besides she was in Maryland
with our oldest daughter, hugging
two grandsons.

I called her cell phone as soon
as I could get my tongue to work,
& we had a mad singing duet/duel:
Happy Anniversary,
Happy Anniversary,
Happy 21st Anniversary to you!!!

Later I was on Facebook,
on her page, & I read the tender declaration,
praising her old husband for loving her enough
to send her clear across the country to be with
the furthest extremities of our clan.

Oh sure, I thought,
I’m a real prince;
just staying at home
writing more poetry,
reading the new script
of the play I will be in soon,
cat-sitting, feeling footloose,
buying a new set of radials
for my SUV as an anniversary gift;

and after polishing off another Jimmy Dean
breakfast bowl for one, I clicked open
my digital album & reviewed
some of our other anniversary memories,
the week on the big island of Hawaii,
the few days at the Oregon shores,
the freezing room at that strange B&B
near Mt. Rainier, smiling

at the memory of all the God-awful meals
we had in crappy restaurants while 
heralding our special day, all the lumpy
beds we slept in at hotels & motels,
all those road trips, plane flights, & adventures
we embarked on in the name of our nuptials,
now representing more than two decades
of mostly harmonious matrimony;

marveling at how well 
I was dealing with my solitude,
not really alone,
never alone again,
for her spirit, her essence
surrounded me, & even the old tomcat
seemed to know that 
she would be winging home
soon. 


Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets MTB

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