Tuesday, November 1, 2016


image by glenn buttkus


Even paradise could become a prison if one had
enough time to take notice of the walls.”
--Morgan Rhodes.

There are a few of us left,
     deep in the inner cities--walls
           on ancient buildings, walls of brick,
                     that back in the 20’s & 30’s were 
           decorated with billboard art, hand
     painted advertisements, many 
over the top of others, now
resembling a decopasge,
or several layers of peeling
wallpaper, just
                           part of a musty past that did not
                  have the media options to boost sales
          & public exposure. I’m still shocked to hear 
  that most people spend 12 bucks to see a single
movie and then have to sit through a tedious myriad
of television commercials on the sainted silver screen

                        while suffering the indignation of having
                        a third of the audience playing with their
                        smart phones throughout the feature.

I am the north wall of the exalted Pythian Temple, 
crumbling bravely on Broadway in the theater district in
Tacoma. I face a parking lot, where once a department store
stood shoulder to shoulder with me. My aching bricks are
festooned with fading overlapping ads for cigars, jewelry, a
painless dentist, Turkish cigarettes, & the New York &
Washington Outfitting Co, where “a dollar a week will dress you”, 
sad smile, or at least it would in 1924.

The Temple used to house over a hundred members, rich
businessmen (all fat white cats--no Jews or ethnic minor
-ities), the Donalds of their day, rivaling the Masons &
Kiwanis. There are less than twenty members at present, old
men in moldy double-breasted suits, huddled in dark corners
smoking pungent cigars--while hybrid & electric cars
back into me, smashing my ankles, graffiti swaths cover a
section of me by the alley, drunks urinate on me after dark,
& most folks just pass by hurriedly without greeting or
acknowledging me. Such is the plight of most century old

I realize that I have a fateful date with a behemoth
wrecking ball soon. There’s a rumor that following
my unceremonious demolishment the pesky parking
lot adjacent to me will double in size; terrific--then
folks who work downtown can cough up 20 bucks
a day to park their jalopies on my proud bones. Yes.
progress can be both trollop & succubus.

Pioneer buildings
are rarely saved by those who

need a place to park. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over at dVerse Poets Pub


brudberg said...

Oh yes parking places are so we can sacrifice to the religion of our cars... but just maybe there is a small hope that we have passed the peak of cars... maybe we will realize that it's not worth the prize to build another temple for the iron gods.

tonispencer said...

And just the other day, I read a story of an old building, a mercantile establishment, in Pawhuska OK that after four years of planning, had been revitalized - turned into a multipurpose building with office spaces, a deli, a bakery, and a shop filled with things. So those old pioneer buildings are not being demolished to provide parking spaces. Unfortunately we all outlive our usefulness at some point and must be repurposed to serve new generations. I just love that this old building complete with tin roof tiles, hand painted advertisments on the brick wall, etc, had been relovingly restored and repurposed for a new generation. And BTW, the ethnic groups had their own business establishments and standoffishness. Being Jewish, I could tell you tales of Jewish businessmen (the Donalds and the Hillaries) of their day who kept WASPs out.

tonispencer said...

I meant all those old pioneer buildings....

Mish said...

Your walls speak very articulately, with wisdom and attitude. Love that they have ankles. Who knew?

Sanaa Rizvi said...

Love this - Your walls carry with them an air of elegance and poise. Beautifully haunting!❤️

hyperCRYPTICal said...

I would echo Mish's comment.

A wonderful wise write Glenn, I would go as far as to say a work of art. Sad that your wall speaks a truth.

Anna :o]

Kim M. Russell said...

Fabulous image, great quote and haiku, Glenn. I enjoyed listening to your inner city wall with its layers of posters and ads, a history in themselves and a comment on the 'musty past' as well as today's overblown advertising and techno habits. I love the very American setting of your wall - I'm sure I could find something similar in our city but not as evocative as your 'parking lot, where once a department store stood...' Shame about the date with the wrecking ball.

Unknown said...

There is something beautiful about those old walls with hand-painted advertisements. Precious few left in my city. ..and I wish that they could be revived rather than destroyed in the name of "progress"

Brian said...

A great manifesto from a wall that has seen it all before. The weary and cynical tone and the scathing contempt of progress is perfect.

Mark Butkus said...

Ban the parking lot! You're opening quote set this piece off perfectly. Before leaving Chicago this summer I was able to catch glimpses of an art project that was underway in the Loop -- they were bringing back to life the old brick wall advertisements from the last century and coupling them with visions of birds, repurposing ads as art. This poem reminded me of that endeavor and that we need to ban parking lots!

lynn__ said...

Great personification of an old wall in your piece...all too real!! Fabulous write, Glenn!

Anonymous said...

This wall appears to have a lot of character - love how you have breathed life into the brick and mortar. Great piece.


Debi Swim said...

A tired jaded wall full of memories and experiences... progress is a parking lot...we are a sad people.