Poetry Feature: Anthony Butts

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Featuring the poems:

  • Intercession to Saint Brigid
  • Mist and Fog
  • Song of Earth and Sky

 

Intercession to Saint Brigid

Young and black, a woman rocks back and forth

on the Greyhound to Dallas, a fulcrum of night

in her white T-shirt. A white woman farther back

 

dressed in black scratches the top of her head with one

fingernail like a record skipping over some song

she’d love to remember, some ode she seems

 

to never give up on. White crosses grow larger

in their trinities the farther we descend toward

the equator, Southern culture like those high-

 

powered lights turned at dizzying angles upward,

faith illuminated in an attempt at the largest

manuscripts ever read. Saint Brigid is back

 

on Lake Michigan, The Book of Kells in my lap,

the lamp light above my head faintly culling

stronger strands from weaker ones as no one

 

pays attention to me or my red jersey

in the obscurity of that near-coffin rolling,

its tubular presence like the shape of a life—

 

that form the only person at a party who’s

interesting. I will not let go of that raft.

Islands of light. Eyes of night. Fist-sized

 

towns pass incredulously by. Sometimes a person

pointing aimlessly on the corner is like a pattern

interwoven in daylight, a labyrinth of sound and sight,

 

runes of our fate known to someone save ourselves:

the Lady of the Lake, her hair as dark as the two

women on board. One has scratched a small

 

hole in her head, blood collecting in the tiny “u”

in her psyche. The other sits with her small girl

mewling to a music only her mother could know.

 

And I am all fretwork, or so I believe, in this moment

where the next buses will connect with the terra-cotta

mountains of Utah and the windswept plains of Nebraska—

 

upon the blackout of intercessions as darkness closes

ranks at 1:16 A.M., about an hour before Dallas where

we’ll wake into the only light we’ll witness on this night.

 

Mist and Fog

Saucers and their cousins sit respectfully in silence,

the room austere in black-and-white distressed checks

lining the Formica like footprints to nowhere, two rooms

separated by more than just dusky effervescence, Saint Brigid

 

come ashore in the form of mist and fog. Outside, there is no

word for demure or dapper as gray inhabits both places

of the mind-the last rays persevering beneath sky’s

observation, the Lady of the Lake seeing a whistle’s billowing

 

with her ears. We rely upon odd senses when in need,

the couple muttering each one to themselves as if

those cluttered rooms were populated by thoughts,

as if throw pillows were like faces passing in the reflection

 

of department store windows—each shopping

for their own anniversary gift, which no one thought

to give. Squirrels gather the world into their own

constituency of promise and fortitude as if no other

 

were available, contemplative winter a sustaining

memory of more than luck and loss. Vibration

of missing sound after rhythmic chanting is like

the course of human history turned around:

 

a congregation in the loss of languages spoken

and unspoken after group meditation, after the hum

of Saint Brigid has inspired even the leaves to sing

along. Sound can only hurt you if you let it,

 

the couple somnambulistic in the kitchen

organizing saucers according to their own

phenomenology, the eerie mist above

the dishes like miniature gymnasts

 

twisting in the rhythm of sentences turning:

words bending thoughts like light refracted—

the couple making love with their gestures,

even if mist is not yet in their eyes.

 

Song of Earth and Sky

The sun rises in its happenstance of the day,

garbage trucks like predawn crickets, the lack

of streetwalkers as its own object of desire,

 

life more like art than the reality we reconstruct

through daily ritual imitated. Routine is candy

for the psyche, blocks of caramel on a park bench

 

like children sitting calmly, a jar of chocolates

individually wrapped on His table at home

in the only version of heaven I must know.

 

Uncle Vanya on stage, young actors allowing

their own characters to slip through at unwarranted

intervals, the black and white of the play like

 

a photograph developing in liquid depths

of hydroquinone the dark room indistinguishable

from the substance, Doctor Astrov imperceptible

 

to his own logic. This is what makes them great,

that reservoir of happenstance called upon in

ruff-hewn hours of practice and malcontent

 

like great swatches of heaven in the form of

inspiration when blue is the only color

assigned to the soul of an artist looking

 

skyward, when platinum orange is the color

of subsistence before the morning star

as the great Sky God leans in for

 

a peek at the day and what we might bring.

He is as hokey as all that because no other

emotion is as pure, is as metallic as ice

 

in the way that it looks to others, that sentiment

seeming more like the pocket miracle of

a plastic lighter, transparent and purple

 

before the tip of the cigarette which might

not serve as inspiration but more like a

partner with whom the would-be Astrov

 

might dialogue as if its white dress were

would-be wedding attire, as if Sonya would

wait forever for her man to come around.

 

Sky knows more than earth will tell it,

our own fates here just as easily unwrapped

and tasted like the most forbidden of sweets,

 

the choicest of produce in the marketplace of our

longing because perseverance from “here” to “there”

is like the last sentimental cricket inching home.

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