under my skin
in an almost
except for those
opening up doors
into nooks & crannies
fill in my gaps
so nothing that
isn’t meant to
& all deliberate acts
It’s like watching
from silent mouths
in silent Black
& White movies:
of imaginary sound
Reds & Yellows
A diadem of jewels
to gush over
& revel in
© Copyright 2010 Jodine Derena Butler. All Rights Reserved
Damn the T. Here I am, stuck in a stalled train teetering over the Charles, barely breathing. People pack the car, suits and students wedged in tight near doors, hanging from poles. Faces grim, no one talks; I bet they’re obsessing about the billions of gallons of cold, murky water below. I know I am.
A cross-wind rocks the train. Lights from the Boston side shimmy on the pitch water. Late again for my shrink session. What an ungodly waste of time. I slam the textbook, shove it into my backpack and grope for my MP3 player. Radiohead loaded, I riffle though the week’s mail: Poets and Writers, Neuroscience, phone bill, AmEx, and a green envelope from the Harvard University Office of the Bursar.
I yank out the earplugs, snatch my cell. A ring. Good, at least there’s a signal, but then the answering service beeps. I sigh into the phone.
“Moth-er. It’s me. Ben.” Pick up, pick up. She doesn’t. “Uh, I got another tuition bill. It’s the third notice. Did you guys pay it? It’s like, uh, three months late. They’re gonna kick me out if it isn’t paid in two weeks.” Another pause. “Call me. Tonight? Please?”
Knees jittering, my damp palms rub my jeans. It’s so hot, so humid, all this carbon dioxide exhaled by my fellow prisoners steams up the windows. I rub a circle on the glass. Distorted lights reflect on the pitch black river. The air bears down. My throat constricts. Jesus, let me out. Let me out. I shut my eyes and breathe.
The car lurches. Passengers grab rungs, smiling and chattering in relief. The train slides into Kendall Square. The door eases open, chilled air assails me. I bolt up the stairs into the murky evening.
Low lying clouds spit icy flakes. By the time I arrive at Bruce’s office, sweat streams in a rivulet down my back. My heart hammers in my ears. I burst into the room and blink in the fluorescent blaze.
“You’re late,” Bruce says, not looking up.
“The frigging T broke down.” I yank out my water bottle, then tug off my damp sweater. “Jesus, it’s a sauna in here.”
Bruce’s eyes follow me pacing the room like a caged rat. He closes the door, flicks off the overheads. I sling myself onto the oxblood couch, worn shiny from time and distress.
“So,” he says. Irritation lines his voice. “How’re classes?”
“Tough,” I say. “My schedule’s crazy.”
“What’s tough?” he says.
“Just new areas for me, I guess.”
“What areas?” He removes his glasses, rubs them with a small cloth.
“Mental health epidemiology and I know nothing about epidemiology, I can barely spell the word.” I gulp from my water bottle. “Let’s see, there’s a class on clinical trials, it’s excellent but I have to bone up on stats, too. Whew. And, uh, one last core biology class, no problem there, and an upper level neuro class, also no problem, but both have labs and small group assignments that eat up tons of time. And creative writing on Friday mornings, memoir this semester, but not for credit. And, of course, there’s that honors thesis.”
“You do sound busy.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I say.
“And your social life?” he asks.
I can’t corral my grin. “Well yeah, now that you ask, there’s this girl. Phoebe. Beautiful name, huh? Phee-bee. As in one of the original Titans, the one who consorted with her brother Coeus. Remember? Anyway, she’s a med student, in my neurobiology class – and we’re in the same study group! She’s gorgeous, simply gorgeous, with these amazing hazel-green eyes. And hair, you should see, like liquid gold, and–”
“You really like her,” He smiles.
“Ah, yes. Yes I do.” I bounce on the leather, instantly back in a good mood. “I can’t stop thinking about her. She’s an artist, works with clay. And quiet, kind of reserved. But a nice person. A good person.” At least I hope so. I chalk up her coolness to start-of-the-semester nerves – I get that way, too. “She’s different. Oh, and smart – did I tell you she’s in med school?”
“An older woman. And the verdict?”
“Too early to say, she’s pretty focused on school. Very serious,” I say.
“Well, good luck.” Bruce shuffles papers.
“Thanks.” I drain the bottle. “I’ll need it.”
“How are you otherwise?” he asks. “I was concerned about you after our last session.”
My legs stop jiggling. “Eh. I got over it. Took the train home to New York, found Pops alone in the study smashed on Scotch, snuck up behind and garroted him.”
His eyes grow wide. He jots in his notebook.
“Jesus. I’m joking.” My laugh sounds brittle. “I fantasize about him dying, though.”
“As in you murdering him?”
“More like he fries in a plane crash or croaks from some painful cancer,” I say. “I don’t think I have it in me to kill anyone, even him.”
“That’s reassuring.” The pencil scratches for what seems a long time. I pick at a cuticle. “Really, though, how did you process our last session?”
“Wrote some poems,” I say.
“May I see them?” He looks at me expectantly.
I close my eyes. “Poems take time.”
“There is nothing pretty or poetic about abuse.”
“Look,” I say. “The way I write is never direct. If you’re obvious, the poem isn’t interesting to read.”
An emotional midget lives inside my fettered mind.
The sprite kind, green as the Irish
young, like Danu’s children dancing,
invisible to most save Fey. She is gullible,
easy prey for those with nothing better to do -
they say opposites attract: I am like rat bait.
She is not quite right in the head my sprite
but don’t get me wrong,
she might have a little hunch in her brain stem,
and walk around muttering under her breath,
but she is conjuring up Narcissus
in an attempt to fill up the holes in her white tunic.
How she came to be this way is a long story,
suffice to say that public humiliation is akin to Oedipus Complex
with a tiny bit of Penis Envy on the side;
there is nothing quite like having an orgasm at someone else’s expense.
If you are a man, well I guess you just grew a little taller,
women, maybe just a little bit smarter.
My sprite has been known to feign a smile.
Rather than cower in the corner, she has worn patches.
I heard this one woman say she would never
have plastic surgery on her face, in male company of course,
then make an appointment to have her breasts enlarged
and the bags under her eyes lifted.
I wear my heart on my sleeve most days melancholy.
She plays while listening to The Pied Piper
watching hoards of people leave single file.
Emotionally speaking, she is not known to accurately sift thoughts;
binge eating her way into the Guinness Book of World Records,
one defiant leap of blind faith at a time.
My wee lass likes to be alone, but craves
the company of others so she doesn’t have to hide.
Once upon a time there was no such thing as social isolation,
the preferred title was Witch rather than loony toon.
She thinks too much, trying in vain failing miserably in the eyes;
second sight may as well be as viable as the second coming.
In my mind, my confused emotional midget state of a mind,
I am wondering where she has been and where I am going.
Most days I re-live the past with distorted accuracy
and stare into the wide blue yonder sitting on my desktop.
She looks out on to a Google landscape, straining
I can’t see the wood for the spam.
© Copyright 2010 Jodine Derena Butler. All Rights Reserved
The besom should always be hung ￼
thistle side up, surrounded by hollyhocks,
wormwood, artemisias and black iris:
to celebrate the sex joy of the thatch and rod,
the white harmonies between male and female,
as in the giving rain and the power of thunder.
Keep close your besom to dispel
an encounter with a black bear
not bound by wolf bane and trouble, even in a dream.
Besoms of foxglove, snake leather and hawthorn
can out fly a swarm of Ayahuasca bats and
most hail storms, provided there is moonlight.
The best besoms are powered
by Mars, tin and memory.
Familiars along for the ride cradled to the heartbeat
or lungs are said to obtain a bird’s hollow bones,
breath eaten by wind while imaging the altitude.
Sanctity above, forests below, rivers like scorpions.
As with a fire drake, a besom needs a
considered husbandry. Never dally
by a still green pond in which dwell
snapping turtles; these are the incarnations
of the Page of Cups who would steal
your besom by splintering your Earth soul,
his cold hard jaw you must then bind
with a blue silk cord. Beware of such
crude ponds. And blessed be.
is unsure of
which way to go
wanting either that red frisbee
or that green kite
to play with but
settles for several voices
to toss around.
If you were sitting
we could feed ducks
corners of our
sandwiches and not have to speak
except to laugh
and sigh and maybe
hold fingers. The clouds have all
bowed so low that
all the blue of
our streaming hearts has come rushing
in to fill every
every branch or leaf or arm or strand
of hair with its
large bright goofy
face. I don’t care if any of
this matters in
the grand scheme of
things not right now. I want you to
know this place because
I think it
would like to know you. Again if
you were sitting
here next to me
we could put our shoes together
in a kind of
huddle for warmth
the kind that makes life seem worthwhile.
what is lost with the disavowal of youth, the sickness of our twenty-one
as swifts through doorways, music and ecstasy made rabbit this
and rabbit that, and what potion to make me small and bits of clothing fallen
the sweat licked from a troubadour’s hip ambrosial, a hotel shower curtain
the purest white ever known, the sludge on a stiletto heel, a mystery
to be solved by curious test, a sniff then cursed for its stench and tenacity
the city that would follow when finally we slept, amidst duck ponds
and limber wrists, invisible stamps that illumine by ultra violet lite, a park
with that one dear friend reckless and innocent as I, curled as ivy around
the other for warmth and joggers and walkers and horse mounted policemen
simply watched over, rose white and rose red, the communal slumber
on a picnic blanket, two melodious, snoring girls, recently from the sticks
mute in the light of insane naivety kept a hush, kept their distance
from a tableau almost perverse spectacle but for the dozen white duck
that surrounded us with gentle bird bon mots, plump little cracker fed fowl
a shimmering guard that moved away when finally the sun fell full on our faces
Sleeping Beauty was left sleeping on a plane
They tried to wake her but couldn’t
so they locked her in for the night
When she got up in the middle of the night
she was completely disoriented
and staggered up the aisle to the bathroom
to take a pee in a tiny little closet
“Where am I?” she kept whining “Where am I?”
Ordinarily Sleeping Beauty did not whine
so you can understand how extraordinary
After finding herself locked in the plane
she sat down in the pilot’s seat
and began pushing buttons and fondling
Suddenly the engines fired up
She taxied that puppy out onto the runway
and radioed the control tower
“Control Tower? This is Sleeping Beauty.
Permission to take off?”
“Yeah, right,” was all they said from the tower
They were smoking a giant doobie
because it was the middle of the night
and it seemed like the planet had stopped spinning
Also they thought someone was joking
until Sleeping Beauty powered up and took off
“Okay, May Day, May Day, we got Sleeping Beauty
circling over Manhattan and don’t know
how to get her down! May Day! May Day!”
“Tell her to splash down in the Hudson River,”
said an unknown voice over the intercom
probably her handsome prince in a rowboat below
“It’s been done before. Don’t worry. Piece of cake.
But next time watch out for the Magic Geese.”
copyright © 2010 by Jerry Ratch
Talkin’ to Myself ’bout Beets
by Walter Bjorkman
Someone brought up Harvard Beets yesterday,
kinda like Carlin sez
Jumbo Shrimp or Military Intelligence,
the lowly pedestrian source of sustenance to the poor
dressed up for a wedding
sugar to the non-tropical peons,
rough-skinned root, trying to be a flowering ivy
probably got in on a grant
He met up with others in the same situation . . .
they formed an underground covel
and using their contacts in high places
the tubers & roots that had arrived
who had took on proper names
& esteemed positions
The Dartmouth Shallot
The Wellesly Chive
they would secretly meet and put on some music
“Green Onions” by the MGs & Booker T.
plot against the leafy, above-ground powers that be
The esteemed and secretive
So they took over the Bean’s office
and held out for open emissions
which was finally adopted
and caused the need
for college level classes in
The group disbanded and went back underground
The Harvard Beet was found ten years after
In northern New York
On a local committee for better irrigation
The Cornell Carrot went on
to a moderately successful career
as filler for Campbell’s Soups
We all know about Spud’s
humiliating association with Mattel
The others spend the rest of their freshness dates
hangin’ around gumbo joints
listening to Zydeco
There is talk of re-uniting on a concert tour
“Veggies Against Irradiation Degradation”
Parsnip plays a mean gourd on their one hit
“The Root Of The Matter”
God Save The Queen Of Hearts
by Coleen Shin
make it smile, whatever
I’m not asking for a signature
though your name is another country
and laying in the dentist chair, needles seem
a given, the numbing sensation of a could care less
I wanted to count pricks, I thought that’s how it went
like a quill or pen, a subtle maneuver
on soft terrain, the praying mantis, a choice
even the artist tips his hat, scratches his head
remarks that this is the repast of a greening royalty
practically a genius of its genus
I could imagine that, the court costs alone
predates modern litigation, another
off with her head! or his, though minstrels
are so devout, so iconoclastic when it comes
to their craft. I wanted to save you
keep you in a locket warmed by my breast
not queen the bees, or lead the dance
a devotee of public hangings is here at noon
winner of my silver spoon, it is a trick, a trick
of my consort, his council, to make a spectacle
all could see through, find the deadly metaphor
all who do will be free to go, the rest
God help them, there is nothing more
Love Letter from the Last Elephant
by Darryl Price
We hear all the stories
coming right up out of
the dust. We see the same
sky, the same stars. We’ve met
our own deaths forever.
We know what’s happening.
Because of this some of
us will come willingly
to have chains put around
our feet. Some others must
never be anything
but free. This way they can
still lead with their hearts.We
cannot save us. You could
not save yours either as
he was bleached and became
a ghost. There is little
time for this conversation
before the planet
can no longer pronounce
our names correctly. Then
there will be no one to
call us home again by
trumpet or full foot stomp.
It may sound funny to
you but we have tasted
the rain, flowers, grass;
it tastes right, we believe.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”–Aesop
I’m for people.
I’m for mushrooms.
I’m against ants.
Against those snakes
who kill for shade.
for fun. I’m for
comic books and
against snobs who
think art is worth
more than kindness.
I’m for laughing
at the movies,
the oceans out
of their bounty.
I’m for coral
reefs, sharks even,
but against the
what they can prove,
love to argue
to the death.
I’m for loud music,
as the only
I’m for wild trees
and plenty of
them! I’m against
houses being too
I’m for nectoring
could care less
about us humans.
I’m for pictures
of my friends, not
in your own way.
I’m against the
of God. I’m for
a starry night.
I’m against smog
just so we can
make some big cash.
I’m for chewing
gum but I’m against
to attack and
wound. I’m for love
that defends all.
that forgives all,
and includes all.
The only reason
to go to
the stars is to
light extends down
through all our concepts
of why we
are here. Not worth
From The Doctor, With Love
I am tired, man, beat.
feel like a whiny kid,
are we there yet,
need to sleep!
Don’t know if I can walk
another mile, though you might talk
me into it. ’Cause though I’m
stomped and scuffed,
and have wrinkles and pocks,
you say they’re not wrinkles,
but creases and folds –
you say I have character,
you say I’m not old.
You caress me,
hold me and stroke
the soft spots between my folds.
I love how you touch me,
your hands warm on my shape,
and I know we are bonded
by more than duct tape.
Remember that dog shit?
And the chewing gum?
It’s a hazardous world, but you, old chum,
scraped and washed me clean of all
those insults, every time.
Then came the thinning –
your hair, my sole.
We’re well suited, you and I –
Together, we’re whole.
And though you toss me
in the corner each night,
I feel a surge of affection
the next morning
as you pick me up gently again,
choose me over the Nikes, Adidas
and even those Florsheims
that your mother once bought,
back when you were jobhunting.
You look right past them,
once shiny and loud
now dusty with disuse.
I wait quietly and think,
I am here for you.
We’re both thinner, older,
but you are still you
and I am The Doctor.
And I feel it deep down,
you never say it but I know:
I am not just any old loafer.
* * *(inspired in part by Nettie’s Purse,
and my favorite pair of shoes)
Oh The Power
I made you a flower, but then I
put it back. What I mean is I
decided the best way to give it to
you was to simply leave it alone. Does
it matter if it was stuck in the
ground somewhere or growing in my head? After
all it popped up with your name on
it and I said,”Hey I know her!”
Still it didn’t justify any living thing be
sacrificed to the goddess of the moment. This
is turning out all wrong. Mainly because I
can feel the dreaded them taunting me to
get real, buddy. What they mean, what they
always mean, is to just conform. Be like
us or die away from us.Doesn’t matter
either way. They’ll rewrite history and there’s nothing
you can do about it. I’m just really
glad right now that flowers don’t trade in
such utter nonsense.They laugh out loud. They
dance around in the wind and mirror the
sun’s moves step for step.And they’re kind
and good listeners to boot. They don’t judge.
I can leave them. What they tend to
remember is the way you moved among them.
Darryl Price 031610
Just An Observation