Tuesday, April 8, 2014


image borrowed from bing


“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;
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,
              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
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

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Mary said...

What an enjoyable post, Glenn. What a special relationship you had with your grandfather. (And darn, I think you should have been an actor; but then teachers are also actors, aren't they? LOL) It is really cool how you kept all his letters and he kept all of yours; and now you have all of them! Reminds me that my mother kept all of my college letters to her, and I have them now...somewhere. I do hope your children treasure these letters between you and your grandfather some day. And, as for your grandfather's cane hanging...well, it is definitely a conversation piece, I am sure!!

Brian Miller said...

some cool treasures g...especially the letters..your correspondence and would be cool to relive if you did match them all up chronologically..i like that leather case that held paint once as well....you have travelled quite a journey so i imagine your treasures are quite diverse as well....

Björn said...

Absolutely captivating poetry.. you pulled me in by the shellacked penis, and the cane, and then how we tend to just collect.. and finally the story of those letters... just amazing. I hinted at my father's pictures... amazing to be able to say hello to them still.. Loved this piece.

Gabriella said...

I enjoyed the treasures you shared with us, Glenn! How cool that you kept all your grandfather's letters! I have kept all the postcards mine sent me but they were not an ongoing correspondence like your letters.

Anonymous said...

There's something wonderful about letters, seeing someone's handwriting, being able to touch where their pen left impressions on the paper, knowing they took the time to sit, chose paper, or a card, and write to you. I would love to have such treasures. It's the little things. Really lovely poem, Glenn.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh that kind of book is my favorite kind of reading, Glenn - what a wonderful slice of life they must be for you now, re-reading and remembering that time. I smiled at the rocks that have never been polished, I so know about that sort of thing. But the sand dollars are a treasure - one doesnt find many of them any more, at least not on our beaches, and they used to be prolific..........I enjoyed this poem of reverie and treasure.......treasures all!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

p.s. and yes, those canes are something else. Have never heard of one like the cane on the left - a three-foot penis I can only regard as daunting!!! hee hee.

ayala said...

Wonderful treasured memories.

Victoria said...

Geez, Glenn. I wonder if my grandfather had two families. In retirement he got into rock-hounding. He taught me so much and used to take me with him. I enjoyed rekindling the memory with you and I have my own jar of rocks. That comes with living in NV and CA!

lynndiane said...

You tell an entertaining story of treasures (some unusual!) memorialized. Rocks are universally collectible but those letters are priceless...

Anonymous said...

these might be treasures to an historical society. Our world, that moment in time is never to be found again.

Anonymous said...

Glenn, your poem is such a joy to read. Belly button lint made me laugh. But, getting to the suitcase of letters, it is such a treasure! The way you write about it intrigues me to read them ... yeah, but I know what you mean about nobody else's business ... those knowing glances say it all. Really well done :)

kkkkaty said...

This rings with nostalgia as one memory leads to another of so many cool things....definitely treasures, perhaps that no one else will see, but they have a place in our lives until we are ready to leave ourselves or let go...sounds like they would have been interesting to know.

Wolfsrosebud said...

sometimes we need to ignore what the world says....

Mystic_Mom said...

Belly button lint, a suitcase of treasured letters and the dueling canes. My friend had one of those bull penis canes as well - he would always bet people they couldn't name what wood it was made from. Tempting them to smell or lick it even - takes a certain character to have a cane like THAT! Loved this piece. Well done my friend.

RMP said...

an interesting collection of items...while not all prominently displayed, each seems to cross your path once in awhile allowing their truths to shine through. really beautiful!