Thursday, June 2, 2016

Too Soon

image borrowed from

Too Soon

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”--Mitch Albom.

There is just a flat stone, 
     flush with the grass, where her
              urn is buried.                                Betty Lee Buttkus 
                       dead at thirty-nine, a mother 
                       no more, devoured by uterine 
                cancer before she could 
                experience middle age.
                       My drunken stepfather put her
                       close to him, in a cemetery very
                 near the airport, where 
                 she could spend
                                  listening to the roar
                                                          jets, and the
                                                                         thud of traffic.

There were no trees 
near, so the birdsongs she
adored were denied her.                              I remember spending my 22nd
                                                                     birthday in boot camp, & how 
                                                             much I hated mail call because 
                                                    there were never any letters for
                                           me from Mom; the cord was cut,
                                   the maternal voice ever mute,
                          and the cheer leader left town.
                                   I would stand leaning against
                                            the wall, with my clenched
                                                      fists in my pockets, staring out
                                                                the second story window at
                                                                         long lines of Navy barracks.

A year after her transition
on my first real liberty, I stopped
by in uniform--blue-black woolen 
jumper, & those Buster Brown 13
button pants with no pockets, close-
                                                          cropped hair hidden beneath a white
                                                          canvas hat; eyes that were prepared
                                                          for duty in Viet Nam, softened for a
                                                          moment as I played back her 39 years,
 and for that brief interval, the boy
     who had been twisted into a man                            untwisted,
            and her little Butch sat there on his knees
                     and wept for two solid hours.

                                                          A hand reached out & touched the stone;
                                                          a finger caressed the cold copper name,
                                                          all the delicious curves of it.

                                        Were they mine?

I do recall the profound silence, while it seemed as if there was nothing 
moving on the earth, whereby the vast distance between heartbeats
elongated to the width of a solar system--& the high-pitched
screaming of jet engines, the sibilant scree from sea gulls overhead,
the raucous pounding & thudding & horn-honking from
nearby traffic--even the vigorous rushing of blood through veins--ALL
were stilled;

                                  While I witnessed soft flesh
                                  rub against rigid rock, with-
                                  out making any noise.

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over at dVerse Poets Pub MTB




brudberg said...

This is a perfect elegy.. it has to be one of your best writing I have read... the description of that still moment, and you the little boy stepping out to touch the stone... so touching so real..

Gayle Walters Rose said...

It is perfect because it came from your heart. She was taken from you way too soon, Glenn. Your portrayal of the ways that you missed her was so profound and tender too. The last stanza was particularly vivid with the silence...and finality.

Anonymous said...

I agree, it is perfect, as Gayle said, because it came from your heart. You have moved me beyond more words. Thank you, Glenn.

Grace said...

A very moving personal share Glenn ~ Thanks for sharing it with us ~

Therisa's World said...

Thank you, Glenn, for letting us, see your mom, through your eyes, as the memories and tears flow, from your fingers, onto the screen.

De Jackson said...

Glenn, this is simply stunning. I am haunted by this:
she could spend
listening to the roar
jets, and the
thud of traffic."

And so touched by obvious love for her.

Sumana Roy said...

all the words here are like teardrops and deeply moving.

thotpurge said...

You write so beautifully Glenn... that was fabulous.

Walt Wojtanik said...

Outstanding Glenn! Nothing more to say! said...

Profound sadness. The pain of remembering is palpable.
I am always mindful that I carry the mark of my mother upon my body -- that silly thing we call a navel is our lifelong connection to our mother, after she dies, until we die. That place of connection, of nurturing, of unconditional love that began within the womb. She is within you and upon you.

Anonymous said...

a heartfelt elegy indeed - the shape and eloquence of love.

Mish said...

I was moved by every word of this powerful elegy, Glenn. I lost my dad when I was 22 and it definitely changed my trajectory in life. This is a gift to all that read it. Thank you.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh Glenn, this moved me so much, got right inside my heart, the image her "her little Butch" crying by her grave, the devastation of her death at 39, your eyes "ready for Viet Nam" (but could one ever be ready for what Viet Nam tuned out to be?) A masterful write, and very moving. A gorgeous elegy.

Kim M. Russell said...

Oh Glenn, this is so poignant. I had tears in my eyes when I got to the part about boot camp:
I remember spending my 22nd
birthday in boot camp, & how
much I hated mail call because
there were never any letters for
me from Mom; the cord was cut,
the maternal voice ever mute,
and the cheer leader left town.

Even though my mother is still alive, I feel like this every birthday now, since dementia has taken away nearly all of her faculties. I haven't had a card for some time.