Saturday, December 20, 2014


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My prince,               all the flags of the world,
              flew at half mast to honor the death
of your King,

some white weakling 
with a high-powered rifle
shot him in the head,

and it seems that the righteous anger 
                     of centuries is now constructing
                     fire bombs row upon row;

but you need to remember           that together we saluted the fat ones, 
                                     standing shoulder to shoulder in stone stadiums,
      clutching our gladius and trident,

combating Thracians and Gauls, 
                                  and savage beasts, 
                                                our sword arms a lethal blur,
                                                our blood the same color;

we waded through
marshes of silt, shackled
with a cold steel chain
at our bleeding ankles,
hearing the devil hounds baying,
fleeing the whip and the rope;

it was in your strong brown arms
that I was held shaking with malaria,
brothers in bondage;

together            we snaked through the hot ferns
                         and elephant grass in jungle darkness,
                         beneath that impenetrable canopy
of the fucking ‘Nam, flashing
                                 silent bayonets, carrying wounded 
                                 buddies on our burly shoulders
                                 to the thropping choppers churning
                         before their dust off, shared women
                   in Da Nang, plucked dog tags
from the fists of death;

now that we are home,
do not turn on me,                  or let me have to follow
                          the dictates of the vicious
                          and ignorant between us;
goddamn it, we are better than that,
more than that, we are not enemies--

on this upcoming day of resurrection,
                          let it be our love that is risen,
                          let us sip from each other’s heart,
                          let us color Christ black,

for the Centurions are still among us,
          building crosses,
          carrying spikes,
          painting our names               on splintered signs,

so in the spirit of all we are
I reach out to you.               Brother,
                             take my hand
                  for together
we can still defeat
                             the fat ones.

Glenn Buttkus

Posted originally in 2012.

Posted today over at d Verse Poets OLN

Even though I have a cold, would you like to hear me read this poem to you?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Date of Birth

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Date of Birth

“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is
no one alive who is you-er than you!”--Dr. Seuss .

You know, in a sense,
birthdays themselves are an anomaly, 
                for when you are born, as an entity,
                you are already several months old,
                                   & the parents that be label you as a newborn,
                                   & start counting your age from that moment forward.
Hell, when we are actually two days old,
we are only the size of a lustful thought. 

I have been single several times in my life,
           & during those interim years my birthdays
           passed by without even glancing up,
           a tip of the hat, a smile,
                                     or even the flashing of a middle finger. 

Christina Aguilera is 34,
Katie Holmes is 36,
Rachel Griffiths is 46,
Casper Van Diem is 46.

Years ago,
my immediate family scattered         around the state,
                                  loosing touch with each other, unable
or unwilling to sustain cursory birthday traditions,
after the passing of my Mother at 39,
                                   & the passing of my Grandfather,
                                   letting the mantle of matriarch & patriarch
blow away like a tumbleweed in East Texas.

Steve “Stone Cold” Austin is 50,
Brad Pitt is 51,
Ray Liotta is 61, &
Leonard Maltin is 63.

I think most of us know
that One is a lonely number,
so some of us keep remarrying
until we get it right.       In my case the third time was magical, &
                                     for 22 years I have sustained a relationship,
& lived in the same house, both watershed moments for me.

Steven Spielberg is 68,
Alan Rudolph is 71,
Keith Richards is 71, 
Roger E. Mosely is 82, &
Roger Smith is 82 as well.

So, hey, you find yourself
building a new life,                       inheriting new in-laws,
                            raising some stepchildren,
                            welcoming grandchildren, &
Eureka, your birthdays become golden,       again, 
                             something worthy of a celebration.

Ossie Davis would have been 97,
Betty Grable would have been 98,
Jules Dassin would have been 103, &
George Stevens would have been 110.

Some birthdays just don’t effect us much,
                          14, 23, 34, 47, 52, or 62, but what about the
          10th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th,
                           & yes, by God, the 70th? 
           Those seem to get our attention,
shake up the available genomes, &
kick our cans in awe. 

Gladys Cooper would have been 126,
Ty Cobb would have been 128,
Paul Klee would have been 135, & oh yeah,
Joe Stalin would have been 136.

Over a decade ago,
my wife decided that on her birthday
                          she wanted to rent some cottages
                          at the ocean, & invite all of our family & friends.
We called it the Annual Birthday Bash, & the
                          first few were grand celebrations; beach fires,
                     sing-alongs, gifts for the guests, attended
               by more than 30 people,
         counting kids & dogs--this year
it was reduced to some of the immediate family,
                                             next year it might be
                                             just the wife & I, for the fairy dust
                                             has dissipated. 

By the way,
            today Chris Farley, Anne Revere, & Sam Wanamaker
            died; perhaps we should consider
celebrating             Death Days?

After passing 70,
I consider every dawn a gift,    every ache & pain the fare for
that day’s journey,                    every visit with the elders a possible
farewell, for them & for me, understanding
                    that each season could turn into my Winter, &
                    that every one of my birthdays represent an annual gift
given to me by Mr. Universe, for my specific longevity,
                    kept in a velvet box in my heart. 

I doubt that in June of 2044,
I will plunk my 100th chip into it, but who knows,
I might be that 100-year old bag of bones,
barely able to see, chew, or hear,
hooked up to an IV,
spitting on everyone
as I attempt to blow out those century of candles.        

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets MTB

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Litany of Leavening

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The Litany of Leavening

“There are people in the world so hungry that God
cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
--Mahatma Ghandi.

Bread is my bitch,
              my staple, &
              my bane--for eons ago my love handles
                              became a gut loaf, & I must turn a deaf ear
                              to the haranguing data that informs me of its
                              harmful properties, for
              giving up bread for me is the equivalency for others
  of giving up smoking, alcohol, weed, chocolate, or hard drugs,
              making it my major addiction. 

I remember clearly the first time
I met a person who was gluton-intolerant, OMG,
my sadness was overwhelming for them, 
their depravation constituted tragedy,
they might as well have had diabetes, cancer, or leprosy. 

How many people know
        that Otto Rohwedder is the father
                       of sliced bread, that in 1912
                       he invented a machine that sliced bread,
& for those folks who felt this was a negative act
since bread tended to go stale faster after sliced, in 1928
                       he invented a bread wrapping machine,
          making him kind of the Linus Pauling of bread history. 

Part of the initiation of adulthood
           was to gain a appreciation for unleavened breads,
           after it became hip to eat the Mexican tortilla,
                                                          Middle Eastern pita,
                                                          Indian naan, chapati, or roti,
                                                          Jewish matzo,
or God help me the Native American fry bread
dripping in cinnamon & butter; which is a bit confusing
           because I don’t know if the flour they use is leavened or not. 

Bread scholars proudly point out
that as far back as Neolithic times
bread initiated a turning point in history,
               offering agriculture as a viable alternative
               to the hunting/gathering options, allowing larger
                              populations to congregate, & I find it
                              ironic that man moved from loving fermented
fruit buzzes to the fermentation of grains to make alcohol,
& simultaneously discovered that bread could be, 
                                                                might be,
                                                                should be leavened;

& further irony is infused because of
the Medieval notion that the rich felt
that white bread was their dominion,
leaving the dark grained breads for the poor,
& as you know, these days the dark grained breads 
grace the wealthy tables, & white bread 
is the fodder of the less privileged. 

My mother was a master baker,
                  & once a week was her Baking Day. 
                              As a family we would all rush home
                                              to greet that perfectly timed last loaf
                              as it came out of the oven. The smells
                   of flour, yeast, & baking bread, rival
          the overwhelming smell of frying bacon
as one of my favorite sense memories,
constituting what a real Home once meant,
                                                once was.

Mom would place the hot loaf
in the center of the table
on one of her beautiful wooden bread boards,
surrounded it with a pound of real butter
& several homemade jams & jellies.
                We would tear off huge steaming pieces,
                slather it with soft butter & sweet jam,
                & sit together as a family breaking bread
                laughing, smiling, chewing,
                               making butter/jelly mustaches,
                               talking with our mouthes full,
                               devouring the entire loaf in mere minutes,
in a frenzy, ravenous as starving dogs, 
the smells, tastes, & fellowship
                overpowering us,
                overwhelming us,
                mesmerizing & sustaining us.

Now that my mother is gone,
& only the memories of her Baking Day remain,
oh what I wouldn’t give
to come home just one more time
to perform the perfect Ritual of the Hot Loaf. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cretan Cantata

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Cretan Cantata

“You can knock on a deaf man’s door forever.”
--Nikos Kazantzakis.

I awoke to the soft sound of water lapping,
                                                       lying in a blue fisherman’s boat,
                                              wearing a white suit,
                                  with a sweaty white shirt
                        & shiny black shoes.
The sun was still low
in a neon blue sky, but          it was already hot.
                                              I sat up.
The bow of the dingy was on the beach.
                                              I stepped out into deep white sand,
                          staring at the incredibly clear
                          turquoise water in the harbor.

“Good morning, boss” an old fisherman said,
sitting on the keel of an overturned boat
repairing a fishing net.            I stared blankly at him, realizing
                            that I had no idea where I was.
                                               I had a headache,
& there was the strong taste of anise in my dry mouth.

“Did you sleep well, boss. My God, last night you danced
like a demon & drank a lot of ouzo.”
“And you are?”
You know me,”  he said, flashing white teeth in his tanned face,
“I am called Nikos, but I have other names, if you are interested.”
“Like what?”
“Alexis Zorba for today.”
“Excuse me, but where the hell am I?”
You kill me, boss; did you hit your head last night?”
“Please, humor me, what is this place?”
He laughed loudly, wheezing with mirth.
“OK, boss, we play this. You are in the queen city of Heraklion,
on the magical island of Crete, at the Venetian Harbor. That is
the old Venetian Fortress at the head of the spit. This is the
beloved Sea of Crete that sits at the feet of the great Aegean.”
I shook my head, forcing a smile,
“The last thing I remember is drinking spiked egg nog at a Christmas
party in Seattle.”
“America, of course--& what do you do there?”
“I was a teacher, but now I am mostly a poet, a philosopher, 
a photographer.”
He looked at me seriously;
“Let people be, boss--don’t open their eyes. For supposing you did, what
would they see? Just their misery! Leave their eyes closed, boss, & let
them go on dreaming.”
“I think I may be dreaming right now.”
“Sure, sure, of course you are, but for now just share my wine, listen
to the sea, relax--nothing else.”
“You do know that I shall write about you one day.”
“No matter, boss, just breathe, live, find joy in looking at the breasts
of women--for those of us who actually live the mysteries of life do not
have the time to write about them. D’you see?”
“Even though I like you, Zorba, I must disagree, for poets are as important
to history as politicians, bankers, warriors, revolutionaries--hell, more so.
We illuminate the lyrics of the heart, the songs of the soul.”
“Ah, the human soul is heavy, clumsy, held fast in the mud of the flesh.
It can divine nothing clearly or with certainty.”
“You have eyes, but do not truly see. You have a soul, but seem deaf
to its singing. Surely, you jest, for you seem to be a man who finds
joy in life.”
“I tell you, boss, there is more wisdom in a steaming pile of fish guts
than in all your damn books.”
Suddenly I could hear the gulls, the wind calling my name.
“I guess I must go, for now.”
“May you ride on the backs of angels, boss, & don’t forget old Zorba
after you arrive at your destination.”

I awoke to the sound of water flushing
             in our basement bathroom. 
             My sweet wife was up, & getting ready for work.
As I stirred from slumber,
the strong taste of licorice 
embraced my morning.

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over at dVerse Poets MTB

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

City of Cantilevers

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City of Cantilevers

“I see nothing in space as promising as the view
from a Ferris Wheel.”--E.B. White.

during twilight, purrs
           with soft evening noises;
                         traffic lights suddenly brilliant green,
                         blinking headlights in chrome grills
snapping on,    street lights buzzing just before they bathe
the ground with amber incandescence,
                        Superferries sliding deep through darkening water,
                                            flicking on their deck lights,
                       float planes gliding toward Lake Union, mid-city,
their red-striped white wings & ivory floats
                       bursting with burnt umber. 

Seattle, now a home for the Great Wheel, erected
             two years ago on Pier 57, not far from
             Ivar’s Fish Bar or the Aquarium, 
a new landmark built to entice people to keep coming
to the embattled waterfront,
             during the eight year demolition
                        of the Alaskan Way Viaduct:

which opened joyously in 1953,
allowing teen age hot rodders & commuters alike
the absolute best sunset views
of the cityscape, 
    the waterfront, & Elliott Bay,
    now crumbling from earthquake damage
                            & 60 years of heavy traffic
                            along its double-decked elevated sections,
to be replaced by a 4.5 billion dollar tunnel  burrowing
                            beneath it;

but for over a year now,
the super boring drill, Big Bertha,
has been stopped dead
in the unyielding bedrock,
& they cannot get to her to assess
& repair the damage. 

Then for a few golden moments
               all the western windows downtown
                catch fire, & the shimmering orange icons
                captured coldly on the slick urban faces
of glass, silently lick
                 at the ebony loins of the night. 

      Tauted as      “the largest Ferris Wheel on the West Coast”,        
                       the Great Wheel stands proudly at 200 feet,
                 boasts having 42 8-person gondolas, 
           & for a mere 13 bucks per head, one can enjoy
a 15 minute ride of three complete revolutions,
           fully confident that the 550 tons
           of concrete poured into the foundation
                  will counterbalance the thrill ride safely. 

An emerald city of shadows, perching
                          on seven hills, turns on,
                                          & the glimmering saltwater bay
                                          at its wide feet,
                           becomes a vast mirror, ripely reflecting
the garishly-lit steel & concrete canyons
of its unique skyline. 

Yes, Ferris Wheels in other famous cities
dwarf Seattle’s--the London Eye, not far from the Waterloo Bridge
                             stands at 443 feet,
                             the Star of Nanchang is 520 feet,
                             the Singapore Flyer is 541 feet, &
                             the High Roller in Las Vegas is 550 feet--
but a city that owns the Seahawks
is certainly not ashamed of its Great Wheel, 
& neither am I.                 I ride it four times a year
                                           to celebrate the solstices,
                                           to garnish the seasons;

yet I must add
that those much shorter, with
                  much less fanfare,          Carnival Ferris Wheels,
                                         with their open cars, as
                 the whole structure shakes, creaks, & shimmies, 
still induces my vertigo, 
makes me feel like I have to pee,
                  & stirs my blood. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics

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