Thursday, September 30, 2010

Attending the Third Annual Willow Ball


Thursday, September 30, 2010.
Oh Lord, in the midwest today
has dawned birthed in blood
and has now moved past
the delicate oranges and yellows
and transitioned into a sky
of perfect electric blue,
around the delicate swan neck
of a brilliant Indian Summer,
as the throngs and masses
move and converge
Woodstock style over to
Kincaid's farm for the
behemoth ball at
Willow Manor!!!!!
The state police are directing
traffic, and the national guard
are keeping order, for the Rumors
are as thick in the air
as a biblical plague of locusts,
and the guests are agog,
tingling with anticipation,
for it is believed that our very own
President Barack Obama, will land
here for lunch in his Chinook
White House chopper, and then he
and Michelle will lead off
the first waltz; damn what
an event, and of course the
media vans are thick as fleas
on old Shep as the entire planet
watches CNN, Fox News, and
Entertainment Tonight coverage
of the arrival of celebrities,
for there are ten red carpets,
and one perfectly white one
where Miss Willow will make
her grand entrance in her
virgin white gown.
This event, a well kept Midwestern
secret the first two years
has gone global this time,
and millions will drool and clap
and some may even pass out
with the excitement, the glitz,
and glamour, and audacity,
for it is clearly remarkable
that the Willow Manor guest list
recognizes no parameters, no limits,
and Time itself will ride the Past
bareback across the lawn, yawning
wide to open its maw allowing
hundreds of portals to pop open
and give a access to all the
celebrities of the past and present
to pour forth, resplendent,
and eager to party.

I arrived in time for breakfast in my pearl
white Hummer stretch limo, and stepped out
onto a red carpet with the lovely
Carrie-Anne Moss on my arm, and she
shocked the folks by wearing her
skin-tight MATRIX outfit, with short
bobbed hair and those sunglasses.
As promised, I am wearing the
George Armstrong Custer inspired
white leather tuxedo, soft deerskin
with long black fringes across my back,
carrying a cavalry sword for effect,
to be checked with my 7th Cavalry cape,
and Cyrano white-plumed hat. I also will
check my spurs, but my knee high black
leather boots will be fun to dance in.

Glenn Buttkus
is in the house,
in the Manor,
and in the swing of things.

Doesn't Carrie-Anne look smashing? Willow's guests are still agog.

She is spending way too much time smoozing with Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver, and I have had difficulty in keeping her from competing in the fencing, western fast draw contests, and even the arm wrestling competitions.

What a gorgeous date I managed for the Ball this year, don't you think?

Here's my inspiration for my Tux, and the dueling contest out in Willow Manor garden.

Another view of my tuxedo inspiration.

Marty Scorsese and I had some spirited film discussions over several Last Word cocktails by firelight.

Alan Rickman helped organize a HAMLET corner at the Ball, where actors who have portrayed the dark brooding prince got to do monologues and answer questions, kind of a meet and greet Hamlet event.

Mel Gibson remains one of my favorite more natural Hamlets.

David Tennant was a surprise guest, and his latest Hamlet is dazzling, supported by Patrick Stewart, who showed up too, dressed as Captain Pecard.

What a joy to hear John Gielgud reciting the Bard.

Kenneth Branagh gave us the almost uncut version of Hamlet, and many stayed awake for the whole thing!
Mel took his turn at the graveside.

Larry Olivier got a huge applause after his recitation.

Kenny gets intense.

Another surprise guest, Jude Law, reminded us that he did Hamlet on Broadway recently.

Now the discussion corner gets heated up, with Gielgud and Branagh, and another fine Hamlet, Derek Jacobi.

Yorik certainly got a workout at the Ball!

And to think that Branagh is such a good dancer too; gosh, will wonders never cease here at the Willow Ball?

Nicol Williamson reminded us that he had some face time with Yorik as well.

yeah, sure, Jude, you were cool in the part too.

Yes, Richard Burton--now that's what I talking about!

Alas dear Yorik, so many kisses on these cold lips tonight. Miss Willow really
knows how to throw a party!

Patrick Stewart surprised Miss Willow with a passionate tango.

Ah Sean, nobody wears one better!

And here he is, Harvey Keitel, Willow's favorite duelist.

Billy and Elton love to play together; another great coup for Miss Willow!

Joni got things rolling in the dueling pianos over in the library, and she loved doing a duet with Victor Borge.

Always a fun pair, Goldie and Kurt attended the Willow Ball too.

Demi and Ashton looked Divine. I wonder why she slapped him?

Brad and Angelina were a gorgeous couple, and everything went well until Angie started sucking face with Clive Owen.

My goodness, Helen Mirren, is that what you were wearing under that smashing red ball gown?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

You Have

you have

you have
me all of your
life. i am the second
button from the
top, completely
in a tangle of
thread, barely
solving the
equation of
holding it
but not entirely

Yi Ching Lin

Posted over on her site Yi's Bits

On An Evening Like

Painting by Amanda Joy

on an evening like

on an evening like
this – when soles
are worn, and
mouths loosely
undone – even the
stars look
frayed, each one
more ragged
than the other

Yi Ching Lin

Posted on her site Yi's Bits

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

River City Blues: Part IV

River City Blues – Part IV

4. Call me Betsy

I was learning more than I’d ever learned in school—she taught me how to cook, not just how to use a stove and follow recipes, but how to use spices and jazz things up. She never ate what she cooked, though. Sometimes, she’d plop a plate in front of me and watch me eat, wearing a slightly disgusted look, but usually the food went from the pan or pot into the trash. Or she’d forget about it, leave it simmering on the stove until the house filled with acrid smoke while she sat in the living room listening to Billy Holiday albums. She said cooking wasn’t about eating the food; it was about creating a kind of art.

“Art’s not something you can eat?” I asked, but she ignored me.

Some days, I’d show up and she’d lecture me about making her wait, even though we’d never set specific appointment times. Then we’d load up and go to some museum. Her favorite was the Brooks Museum over in Overton Park. Betsy would spend hours looking at the paintings. She liked the more abstract stuff, strips of paper cut into colorful shapes, or drawings that looked like something I could do in study hall. Sometimes, she’d stare at one for 20, 30 minutes with this big grin on her face, tears dripping down her cheek.

“What do you see?” I would ask.

“Look with your eyes and your heart,” she might say. Or, “Look with your soul, not your
brain. What do you see?”

“It’s very pretty,” I would say, and she would scowl.

“Try harder.”

I’d stare. “The colors are very vivid, but dark, so they seem sad, but since they’re vivid, they don’t seem morbid.”

She’d smile and nod. “Good. What else? Look at the brush strokes.”

“There are a lot of them,” I’d say and her smile would falter. “They look really intense, like the guy was really trying to put a lot of paint on the canvas.”

She’d nod with a kind of perplexed look and go to another painting. I liked looking at them, but I didn’t connect on the level she did. I think that’s where I failed her. To me, at best, most of the modern stuff looked like the artists were trying to make fun of art without actually showing their own chops. I explained this to Betsy, once, and she said,

“That’s called nihilism, and I disagree. There’s beauty in abstraction, much more so than in order. This is because the audience isn’t tied down to an interpretation.”

I took that to mean that you could see whatever you wanted to see in it, but in all of Betsy’s favorite paintings and sculptures, I saw the same thing: emptiness. Eventually, I’d get bored and go wander the halls to look at the Baroque stuff, which was vivid and powerful, but easily interpretable. My favorite section was the Italian Renaissance stuff, which was mostly religious iconography. I wasn’t much on religion, but the artist’s passion shone through in these pieces. It was like being in church, looking at the paintings of saints and biblical scenes. After making the rounds, I’d go back to find Betsy still staring at the jumble of colors or some print by Motherwell or a collage by Jasper Johns with a look of beatitude on her face I now recognized.

“Why don’t you swim anymore?” I asked her after we’d been hitting the museums pretty hard.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just don’t feel like it.”

“It was fun,” I said. “I didn’t mind rubbing suntan lotion on you.” I tried to kind of chuckle when I said it, but my throat was dry, so I just coughed.

She smirked at me but didn’t say anything, just took another drink. She’d been drinking a lot that day.

“Why do you drink so much?” I asked. “Did something happen? Is your family okay?”

She nodded but wouldn’t answer more than that.

Later, she announced, “I’m going to go take a nap.” And rose to go upstairs.

“Should I leave?” I asked.

She shrugged. “You could take one too, if you like.”

I followed her upstairs. She had a big, soft bed. She always kept it warm in her bedroom and used a lot of blankets, even in summer. It was kind of like being in a womb, I imagined, being wrapped up in all the blankets and warmth.

She’d been wearing these long white shorts, and she dropped them, stepped out of them, shivered, even though it was warm, and got into bed with her shirt still on. I took off my shoes and stood by the bed, unsure if I should take my pants off, but she had already closed her eyes. I undid my jeans quietly and slipped in under the covers. I slid over beside her, but when my leg touched hers, she yelled out,

“Oh! You’re cold!” and slapped me away.

She curled into a ball, facing away from me, and I slid over until I was beside her, then slipped one arm over her. She grabbed it, and I was terrified until she pulled me closer. She was soft and warm, with a hint of perfume but I could also smell alcohol. I curled my arm over her so I could feel her stomach, which was smooth. I pressed against her, gently, and a thrill rippled through my body as she pressed back. I could smell her hair, which reminded me of the beach, and feel her body against me. I was breathing heavy, and so was she. I rubbed against her, ran my hands over her legs, her stomach, afraid to do anything too serious. I was thinking I could just kind of work my way up to something, as long as I didn’t spook her by going too fast. I was trying to decide what to do next, when she started snoring.

I’m not sure how long I lay there, holding her. She woke and stretched, pressed back against me and felt how excited I was, and laughed a little.

“You should’ve taken me while I was asleep,” she said. “I would’ve let you.”

She used words like that, sometimes, like she was from a book we read in school.

“How about now?” I asked.

“Now I’m awake,” she said.

I didn’t know what to say to that. I started caressing her stomach again, and her legs.

“That’s nice,” she said.

I kept doing it, and she made little moaning sounds like she’d done when I rubbed lotion on her. I made circles on her stomach, my hand slipping further down each time, until I felt hair and paused, unsure. I thought she might yell, or let me keep going. Neither reaction would’ve surprised me.

“I’m an old woman, Adam,” she said, instead.

“No you’re not,” I said. “You’re beautiful.”

She turned over and looked in my eyes and smiled at me. She put her hands on my face, and I felt like those painters must’ve felt. Every part of me was saying please. She touched my cheek. I smiled back and touched hers.

“You’re beautiful,” I said, again.

She let me kiss her, then. Time stopped. Music played. When she drew back, I said, “I just want to make you happy.”

She got a look like she might start crying. I didn’t know what to do with that. I pulled her in close, and she let me. More than anything, I wanted to be inside her, but I just held her until it got late and I had to race home before dad called the cops.

C.L. Bledsoe

Posted over on Troubadour21

River City Blues: Part III

River City Blues – Part III

3. Lawn Jockey

My father was a big believer in cottage industry, so while other kids spent their summers gorging on Twinkies in front of flashing TV screens as they played video games, or watching the girls in their bikinis at the beach, I pushed a cheap lawnmower up overgrown hills.

Most kids who mow lawns mow a couple a week—maybe their own and their grandparents’, maybe a neighbor or two. My father had me on a schedule of two to three lawns a day. He rigged up a trailer for my bike so I could haul the lawnmower around the neighborhood. Most of the lawns were owned by coworkers of his or people he odd-jobbed for. Some of them had kids, and at one or two places I would find myself watching classmates of mine lounging by their pools while I pushed the sputtering piece-of-crap lawnmower around their lawn.

The thing would break down every few days because it was the cheapest model you could buy, and Dad had bought it used, but the first thing he’d done was teach me how to take the thing apart and clean and fix most of it. Sometimes I’d be peddling down the street and see some kid with his mower flipped upside down, and I’d stop and help him fix his.

Summers in Memphis were close and damp. The river would drop a few feet, but the water wouldn’t go away; it would get sucked up into the air and spill out onto your forehead, your back. I must’ve worn half the Mississippi River on my shirt during those summers.

It had its perks, though. Dad made me save half the money I made, and he made me pay for school clothes with some of what remained, but about a quarter of it, he let me do with what I pleased.

“I want you to get hooked on a good income,” he said, “so you’ll know what work is for.”

So, even though Dad was too cheap to buy me much of anything, and my friends would make fun of me for having to work all the time, whenever a new video game came out, or a comic book, or whatever, and they couldn’t afford it, I usually could. And while I watched my classmates grow fat and lazy because of summer indolence, I stayed healthy and upbeat.

It was hard work, but there were other perks. Sometimes, on particularly hot days, after I mowed a lawn, the woman of the house would invite me in for lemonade or tea and cookies. Sometimes, they felt sorry for me, but as I grew older, I realized that they just wanted to talk. Their children would often be off at someone else’s house, and their husbands would be working. It didn’t really matter what I talked about, except video games. Their eyes would start to glaze over if I talked about video games. Mostly, at first, they wanted to talk about their kids, then they wanted to talk about me, then they wanted to talk about ‘how old I was getting,’ and ‘didn’t I get lonely out there, mowing lawns all summer, while other kids were playing.’ They didn’t mean that a bit, though; they wished their own kids were out there instead of me. I wished it too.

It usually took a couple times of me mowing their lawns and us talking before they’d get to what they really wanted to talk about: themselves. I’m not saying they were self-obsessed or anything, but mostly these women didn’t have much of a chance to talk about themselves. They’d sit in jogging pants that had never been worn jogging, in spotless kitchens, and talk about art exhibitions they wanted to see, but probably never would; they’d talk about places they wanted to go, but couldn’t afford.

Don’t get me wrong, every time one of them asked me inside, I thought she was going to jump my bones, but contrary to what pornography and my own fantasies would have me believe, middle-aged housewives aren’t that attracted to 15 year old boys dripping sweat and covered in grass clippings. I would try not to stare at their cleavage, and every so often one of them would give me a knowing smile that would make me shrink in my chair and blush for days, but that’s as far as it went. Sometimes, I’d watch them putter around the yard as I mowed. I tried to tell myself they were watching me the way I watched them. Ostensibly, they’d be weeding a flowerbed or cleaning something, but really they were watching to make sure I did a good job.

One woman, Mrs. Wilkens, lived about 8 blocks down from us. She liked to strut around in her bathing suit while I worked and complain about the guy who cleaned her pool. She was blonde and full-bodied with hefty breasts and creamy skin. Her legs were amazing—to this day, I can barely think of a more attractive woman.

I offered to clean her pool for her. It was easy work; I hardly broke a sweat. I’d skim the surface of the water, getting out the leaves and trash, and Mrs. Wilkens would strut out and lie down on a chair by the water with just the barest strips of cloth covering her. She’d arch her back and wiggle around to get comfortable and I’d drop the leaf skimmer.

“Adam,” she’d say, “can you come over here with me, and put some sunscreen on my back?”

I’d be there before she finished the sentence. I’d gather her hair, which smelled like flowers, and put it to the side, untie the strap of her bikini, and massage the cream into her back and shoulders. She’d make little noises of gratification.

“You have beautiful skin, Mrs. Wilkens,” I said, the first time.

“Thank you, Adam,” she said, “Call me Betsy.”

If it were possible for a person to lose his virginity without actually having sex, that would’ve done it for me.

It went like that for a couple weeks, her, perfect, sipping highballs and gin and tonics, me, in loose shorts. I laid awake at night, thinking about her.

I even asked Ms. Sandee for advice. “If you want to get someone to like you,” she said.

“Be honest and be yourself. And if that doesn’t work, it wasn’t meant to be.”

Finally, the next time Betsy asked me to rub suntan lotion on her back, I told her how I

felt. She was lying on her back, moaning as I rubbed the lotion on her skin. “Mrs. Wilkens. Betsy,” I said. “I think you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known”

She sat up, then. Her bikini slipped down and she pulled it up. She eyed me for a long moment. “Thank you, Adam,” she said. “I think you’re a handsome young man.”

She smiled and I leaned in to kiss her, but I lost my balance and fell on top of her instead. She made an “oof” sound, and I tried to get up, but she was slick from sunscreen, so it took me a second. She laughed the whole time. When I finally extricated myself, I could tell that the moment had passed.

After that, things changed between us. She didn’t hang out at the pool and ask me to rub lotion on her anymore, but instead, we’d talk.

“Do you know how to mix a highball?” she asked, one day. When I said that I didn’t, she took me inside and showed me. She taught me how to mix several kinds of drinks. I hardly touched the pool, anymore. I’d come over, mix drinks for Betsy, and we’d talk about world events or whatever. She taught me how to cook. She was a brilliant cook, but she had problems keeping track of what she was doing—she’d forget what she was making, or at which step in the preparation she was. I started passing up other jobs, or rushing through them, just to get to Betsy’s house. Sometimes, I’d knock and she’d just yell for me to open the door. She’d be sitting on the couch with a drink. She’d stay there and we’d just talk.

Her husband was never around. Her son was off at camp for the summer. Sometimes, she’d ask me to help her to her bedroom or the bathroom. I know it sounds na├»ve, but it really took me a few weeks before I realized what was really going on.

C.L. Bledsoe

Posted over on Troubadour21

Classic Ballroom Dances

Painting by April Quast

Classic Ballroom Dances

Grandmothers who wring the necks
Of chickens; old nuns
With names like Theresa, Marianne,
Who pull schoolboys by the ear;

The intricate steps of pickpockets
Working the crowd of the curious
At the scene of an accident; the slow shuffle
Of the evangelist with a sandwich board;

The hesitation of the early-morning customer
Peeking through the window grille
Of a pawnshop; the weave of a little kid
Who is walking to school with eyes closed;

And the ancient lovers, cheek to cheek,
On the dance floor of the Union Hall,
Where they also hold charity raffles
On rainy Monday nights of an eternal November.

Charles Simic

Posted over on Life at Willow Manor

Words make love on the page
like flies in the summer heat
and the poet is only the bemused spectator.
Charles Simic

Monday, September 27, 2010

5 Is An Einstein Prime

5 Is An Einstein Prime

the nostalgia is so thick
wandering in wrecking yards
decades are compressed
each time I turn the pages
of my high school annual.

essentially we are in lesson
as we experience art
immersed in celluloid darkness
I become thinner, braver, smarter
and get all the hot women.

to live in the Ring of Fire
and still adore those great peaks
defies logic, and yet
women still love outlaws
while good men go untouched.

old dogs and men
soak up warmth
wherever they can find it,
whether wealth or lust
men genuflect instinctively.

It was damned hard to abandon
the rush of sitting atop
350 horsepower V-8’s
are now merely esoteric pets
of the few die-hards.

Glenn Buttkus September 2010

Posted over on Applehouse Poetry Workshop

"Whole fields of saffron pollen can be held in a one-ounce glass vial, acres of lavender in a few drops of oil. The same distillations occur in certain poems’ words." --Jane Hirschfield

We Stirred Tomorrow

we stirred tomorrow

we stirred tomorrow
into the well of today
and leaned over so
closely, we could taste
the shape of loss

Yi Ching Lin

Posted over on her site Yi's Bits

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Pit

The Pit

I turned SNL off last night
so I could get back to reading
about the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.
Wondering what peaches have to do with it.
And what is significant about
eating/not eating one.
I have eaten more than one
and all I remember is sticky hands,
something I do not like.

Doug Palmer

Posted over on his site Feel Free to Laugh , and his Facebook page.
Line breaks by Glenn Buttkus

Lion's Mane Dialogue

Image by Alex Shapiro

Lion's Mane Dialogue

Welcome to my Saturday morning.
The warm air of the equinox insisted
that I have breakfast on the deck.
Ok, I didn’t argue.
Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon,
strong coffee, English muffin
and jelly… fish.
Some people get Jehovah’s Witnesses
showing up unannounced at their door.
I get this guy.
A lion’s mane jelly,
easily 16″ across;
they just mesmerize me.

It’s sad that I always see them
at the very end of their life,
but then again,
given their ferocious sting,
I think that’s better
than the alternative.

Alex Shapiro

Posted over on her site Notes From the Kelp

A Birthday Habdala For Basil Bunting


wine in our mouths
the friend asks
“do they drink to get drunk
“or for a blessing only

I answer in the voice of
some old rabbi
was screaming in his cups

o mine double-flamed
candle in wine
mine fat moustached women

examines his fingernails’
where the prince of thumbs waits

& knows no blessing without madness

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on his site Poems & Poetics

From A Book of Divinations

Painting by Salvador Dali


on the shining stone
a face
the prince of oil
‘s in oil
(a child says) red
the light glows
like the shadow of
his face he saw
in moon light
knew he wouldn’t die
that year
& called him
prince of lights

at five
The Sun
& Moon
2 Angels

A fast before rain


At this door

on which the names had been written
with light



Back to eight

As Judah’s face
was green
& queer

A mirror
A pan
2 dogs fucking


Sixth day
Left nostril


13 Names

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on his site Poems & Poetics

You Are Not Here

you are not here

you are not here
this year
to celebrate
our birthdays. i never
noticed it before
when you were.
but when you are
not, the candles
become wishless,
the photos
emptier, and each
stray thought
with loss

Yi Ching Lin

Posted over on her site Yi's Bits