Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mesmer Mount

image by don geyer

Mesmer Mount
Rainier always loomed large
on the cusp of my childhood,
at the end of the street,
over the back fence,
towering over several cities,
out the elementary school window,
watch dog for national forests,
reflected in lakes,
always depicted
on phone book covers,
business cards,
and beer cans,
that friendly popsicle 
of much of my youth,
where we kept returning
to have snowball fights in June.
Each of us were all devout
mountain watchers, because
it is not on display
every single day--
much of the time it is swaddled
completely in cumulus
while wearing several cloud hats,
leaving the foothills flat-topped,
perhaps snatched by playful giants,
sometimes gone for several days,
perhaps placed in a distant land
in some nearby dimension
where other versions of us
marvel at its majesty,
only to reappear one morning,
snow ablaze with raw sunrise,
like a righteous red spirit,
all tall and raspberry
and mystical. 
North-westerners somehow live larger
in its imperial shadow, nestled in like
fat mushrooms in a ring of fire,
mostly impervious
to its potential for one day presenting
us with a malevolent eruption,
and once a month
when the lahar siren
goes off for five minutes
down in Orting, we do wonder
if that is the day
the Eloi are really hungry.
Glenn Buttkus
June 2012.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Blacklisted Boyo

image borrowed from

Blacklisted Boyo
Trumbo sat on his patio in Eagle Rock puffing on a fat cigar,
staring for a long time at the Angeles Crest, that jagged swath
of the Sierras that snaked its way south to Mexico, skirting the
east side of LA.
Jesus, he thought, just how many damned times had he suffered
with dysentery while living in Mexico? It was like adding layers of
hubris while struggling through the unlit labyrinth of blacklisting,
but actually his guts had never been normal after that 11 months in
1950 when he vacationed at the charming prison in Ashland, 
Kentucky--certainly no blue grass in that shit hole.
Raised in the Rockies as a kid, it seemed that mountains always
centered him, which helped a lot while acclimatizing to living at 7,000
feet elevation in Mexico City. He had enjoyed staring at those mountains
surrounding that hispanic bowl of crap that 20 million people lived in--
some exile he often reflected while his butt burned and soul simmered. 
What a joy in 1951 when Jake Garfield surprised him with a visit, staying
with them for two weeks. He didn’t look good at the time; history of heart 
trouble. It really hurt when John died so young the next year. He had 
always been a true friend, from the gravy days at Warners during the late 
30’s up through the war. 
Last year in August, Trumbo had snuck into that park on the outskirts of 
town at Teotihuacan, and using his lighter he climbed to the top of the Temple
of the Sun, and watched the meteor shower, really feeling that things
might change for the better. He had been paid well for his script ROMAN 
HOLIDAY, and hell, he still had some friends in Hollywood that might help 
him sneak back into California.
Back just three months, he and Cleo were watching the 1954 Academy
Awards when the original script for ROMAN HOLIDAY won an Oscar. It
was credited, of course, to Ian Hunter, becoming yet another silent victory. 
Puffing pale blue smoke rings, he glanced at a small ornate gift card that
read, “Give ‘em hell, Jimmy.”  It was signed with regards, DeForest, which
was Bogart’s middle name. He was in the middle of filming The Caine
Mutiny, and had sent the note by studio courier. One thing was for sure,
Bogie had big balls. 
Cleo was loving those roses that came weekly from Mannie, who had
helped them with the physical move during the holidays. Old Edward G.
was doing some television roles this spring. He, too, had visited them
in Mexico, coming down to look for art, and to plot their return. 
He could hear Danny the parrot raising hell in the house, that
bird that Kirk had given them--after teaching it several curse 
words. It liked to perch on his shoulder as Trumbo sat in the bath 
tub in the hot afternoons cranking out scripts. Kirk was doing 
some silly Jules Verne picture over at Disney. He kept telling
Trumbo that one of these days they would “make those bastards
pay.”  Sure, sure, we will do that soon.
Jesus, to have had to accept being in “contempt of Congress”,
to have sweated it out for years while those federal idiots finally
decided to incarcerate him, to have spent that terrifying year in 
prison, to have fled to Mexico with Ring and Al, their families
in tow, and to have just heard that fag asshole McCarthy
got away with kneeing Drew Pearson in the nuts in a Washington
club cloakroom--yeah, those sumbitches had a lot to answer for.
His father never liked the idea that Trumbo wanted to be a writer,
and those early 88 short stories and 6 novels that were all rejected
for publication seemed to substantiate his displeasure. But somehow
he ended up being a reader in the story department at Warner 
Brothers and the good times did roll there for a while--until his radical
and liberal views came under scrutiny and the scapegoat badge
was pinned on his collar. 
Now that he was back, he was sad though about his good friend Will 
being pissed off at him after he turned down the offer to join that 
progressive group of blacklisted artists who were working on THE 
SALT OF THE EARTH. He told Geer that he felt SALT would be a 
movie no one would ever get to see in an American theater. 
“Well, fuck it,” Trumbo said, “It’s tub time.”
He needed to write a full scene for THEY WERE SO YOUNG.
He had heard yesterday that they had signed Raymond Burr
for the picture. It was just what the Eisenhower Era needed,
a lusty and epic tale of the sex trade in South America. He had
already decided to use Felix Lutzkendorf as his pen name. 
Glenn Buttkus
June 2012

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ode to 68

image borrowed from bing

Ode to 68
“Even while you sleep among the sheep pens,
the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,”
--Psalm 68:13
In 1968, when I was 24 and serving in the USN
I saw CVN-68, the USS Nimitz, in San Diego
the same day I went to see 200l: A Space Odyssey
during the Summer of Love that I barely partook of,
while MLK and RK were killed by assassins in America,
Saddam Hussein took power in Iraq, 
Richard Nixon was elected President,
the Beatles formed Apple Records
and released the White Album,
Hair and nudity debuted on Broadway,
Laugh-In & 60 minutes debuted on television
while in Viet Nam we suffered through
both the Tet Offensive and the Mai Lai massacre,
and John Steinbeck, Nick Adams, 
Dan Duryea and Red Foley 
1944 was 68 years ago
and on this 14th day of June
as festive flags fluttered, I saddled
that nontotient double digit, shoved
my birthday bit between its teeth
and rode hellbent into the thinly concealed
days of my next year, wondering
what adventures awaited--perhaps
I would travel merrily along US68 one of those days,
maybe I will find out more about NGC68,
that spiral galaxy in the constellation Hydra,
or research erbium, the chemical element
with the atomic #68, or shed some light
on the fact that biblically #68 means
“the mercy of God”, or look into why most police
call signs list 68 as a “suspicious person”,
or find out why most NASCAR drivers
think that the #68 car is lucky-- 
and did you know
that 6+8=14 which adds up 
to the 5 wounds of Christ?
68, at the moment, is fresh and new,
dripping with dew, covered in wax bubbles,
chrome-brilliant, stanchion sturdy,
brimming with hope,
bursting with promise,
and as the annual ride begins
I am very happy to feel the trot
becoming a canter.
Glenn Buttkus
June 2012

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Sons of Cain

painting by vincent valdez

Sons of Cain
"It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority."
--Benjamin Franklin

The Man, the Man, always the goddamn Man, everywhere--
the deadly deaf mute of discipline,
the bastard boss, haughty honcho, belligerent badass.
First the blinding glare off the silver badges,
then the oaken baton in your gut,
the pump shotgun pointed at your head;
his tiny red pig-weasel eyes squinting,
rat saliva at the corners of his maggot maw,
barking rules, spouting hate, cuddling cruelty.
You must always beware of the Man,
do as he demands,
stay in your cubicle,
never leave your neighborhood,
step out on green,
halt absolutely on red,
put your credit card into the breath-o-meter,
do not lose your spoon,
do not forget your fucking number,
you must never speak your mind,
never congregate in groups,
never hold up hand-made placards.
Bend low and respect the Man, fear
his might, power, shiny boots, great rowelled spurs,
and his darkly tinted robo-visor.
All you brethren must blend seamlessly
or the Man will focus his considerable wrath
on you, your family, your children, your friends,
and from the intestines of hell,
from dungeons unseen,
from row upon row of shallow graves,
will come the cries of those already destroyed,
all mingled into a single throbbing wailing
that will shatter windows and break spirits,
from those who stood up to the full blast,
whose words are slain by riot winds,
who were crushed down without epitaphs,
and no doubt you will weep for them,
reach out to them, but take care
not to have to join them.
Glenn Buttkus
June 2012

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Soldier's Song

painting by joel spector

Soldier’s Song
Our history books 
are spattered with blood ponds
collected from myriads of men in mail,
fighting in jihad, holy war, 
or politically designated skirmishes,
crushing the Infidels,
sowing death like berserk angels
with God on one side,
then the other.
White silken banners
and tunics stretched over armor
blazoned with bright red crosses,
or Saracen swords,
centuries soul-crusted upon centuries,
always with men on lonely battlements
or hunkered down in fire-bases
talking to Jesus Mohammed: 
Make it worthwhile, sweet Lord,
for my brothers are all dead,
their bodies ripped asunder,
just slaughtered sheep
lying all about me,
their beautiful voices are silent
and the stench of butchered meat
rises thick off festering corpses
choking the liberty out of me,
piled holocaust-high as sacrifice
to the cruel kings of this earth;
Yes, I understand that my enemy
is godless and love can not be wasted
on heathens- but I have killed for You
and even though the wet blood
under my fingernails will wash off, 
the black death mold that surges
into my heart seems inexorable;
I tell you I hear them, those angry voices
coming for me out there in the void,
calling my name in ten languages,
and I just have to tell you
I do not feel ready to give
the last measure of my devotion,
for doubt plagues me
like a red demon riding my shoulders;
for all the mothers of heathens
cannot be whores--I see men’s faces
looking up at me off the concertina wire,
men who had rallied 
to banners of their own
praying to their perception of You,
men with children,
who had known fear, 
and lice and love,
whose families and flower gardens
still await their return,
so tell me big man,
whose bullet is more holy, and
will I see the face of my God
just as my heart stops?
Glenn Buttkus
June 2012

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Xbox Xmas

image borrowed from bing

Xbox Xmas
Christmas Eve, 2007, and my youngest daughters arrived
ready to cook for the old man, then play some canasta
and phone their mother who happened to be visiting
our oldest daughter nesting in Baltimore, and the two
grandsons; one brand new, one not.
My girls
           stayed until
                            i was exhausted
                                         hoping to help
           that after all I was home alone.
Christmas dawned cold, wet, and gray,
another yule tide in the northwest,
but I was joining dear friends
for their family breakfast;
mounds of butter-fried French toast
flipped about in huge black pans,
with a marzipan eye on each piece,
smothered in apricot syrup,
accompanied with spicy sausage, 
thick bacon and fresh fat eggs.
I was the stepchild at the table,
yet still we laughed, burped
and farted warmly, surrounded
by fir sprigs, red ribbons, bright bulbs,
and Santa’s elven figurines, 
serenaded by the dead carolers, 
Bing, Perry, Dean and Doris;
when something moving outside,
something fluffy and falling
caught our eye, yes, yes,
it was snowing,
fat pointy flakes of purest white,
first a few squads
                            then battalions
                            then whole armies
jackslamming the sky--snow,
holy Christ, snow, the whole of Puget Sound
turning white on Christmas day;
but then as I drove off the blizzard
was reduced to a flurry, becoming
snain or raow, just overweight overwrought
drops slapping my windshield and the pavement,
                           like slapping the bad dog
with the rolled up newspaper,
arriving home to just drizzle,
the alley’s potholes puddled up to greet me.
Much later awakening from a nap in my recliner,
the television screen splashed with holiday anime,
I realized that I was hungry
and my foraging of the cupboards, fridge and freezer
did not reveal that festive sustenance I craved;
finding myself in my vehicle 
roaming the wetness,
driving in senseless circles, biting my lip, 
staring into an infinity of decorated windows,
faced with empty streets, escalating darkness,
and posted on the premises I drove by, 
the message was clarion, impersonal, cruel;
“Closed for Christmas”.
But then, thank you Jesus, my solo crusade
garnered gold as I saw the sign, Denny’s,
and it was open, brightly lit, welcoming;
swinging into the place 
I parked in the last open spot,
and pushing open the door
I was greeted by a whoosh 
of warm air laden with happy voices
and a young greeter who said,
“Merry Christmas, welcome to Denny’s.”
She seated me in my booth
and presented me with the one page menu,
a spartan ten choices of “holiday specials”.
I ordered the meat loaf, home fries, and apple sauce
with a strong cup of cafe coffee,
drumming my fingers on the plastic table top,
interrupted, nearly overwhelmed by
like a silent sob, 
a throbbing stabbing ache
rising up from my innards,
The imp behind my left ear asked,
“What kind of losers come to Denny’s
for their Christmas dinner?”;
looking around I saw all kinds,
entire families, truck drivers, junkies,
street people, whores, and three old ladies,
and for a moment they were
all staring at  me
staring at them.
I heard myself mutter
as the feast arrived
and I rolled up my sleeves
and consumed the meal
as if it were the finest prime rib
served on silver platters
by ten naked dancing girls.
Driving home, listening to a religious choir
I began to recall the events I read about
in the morning’s newspaper,
reflecting on the holiday choices
we had all made that day:
23 dead from a car bomb in Baghdad,
15 dead from a suicide bomber in Bombay,
and all the deployed armed forces of the
American Empire of the United States
were fed a special meal,
30,000 frozen turkeys 
and a ton of cranberry sauce,
and this god damned All American
City of Tacoma had counted up
800 homeless souls who had crowded
into the city’s flophouses and missions
on Christmas Eve.
Glenn Buttkus
June 2012

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Thursday, June 7, 2012


image borrowed from deviant art

We were hours deep into 
southern Louisiana one spring,
marveling at the darkness at noon,
as the sun fled, hearing a tornado warning
barking from the car radio
and for a brief blink everything
           we had to pull over
to the side of the highway
by the bellicose bellowing 
of thunder
as we witnessed
the terrible beauty
of God’s veins
turning electric
when crackling shards
of spider web lightning
stabbed jagged holes in the sky,
 and the air was full of wolf god howling,
and we both knew that 
there was a towering wind demon
near by, swirling up farm trucks,
bath tubs, and lives;
a mega-monster
with scythes and talons
and flashing white eyes
dealing in a dozen kinds of death
and daring us to tread
within its alley.
Glenn Buttkus
June 2012

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