a thing poem for my younger self
On the paperwork the paperweight’s
Your brain in a desert of fire.
Those times you find yourself in tears:
You’re not funny, you’re not smart,
You’re not attractive, you’re not happy,
You’re not talented, you’re not even focused.
The present’s like your turn in chess.
Make a move.
Pick up the paperweight.
It means something, transparent like tears
In your cupped hands.
On its walls
Your fingerprints are labyrinths.
Scores of tiny, plastic
Beads collect at the bottom:
White, fuchsia, silver, navy blue, gold, emerald.
Shiny sides, iridescent corners, edges in clear oil.
Turn it over, see it differently.
Overflows with freefalling beads.
Your reflection on each gold bead.
(Just imagine how much you’ll grow!)
In the dark
It’s a sharp knife
On the carpet.
In the light
It’s a shimmer of rain
Hushing your desert of fire.
Put it back.
Let it keep the paperwork
The final red leaves of dusk
Devour the garden, where I stoop
Like a white willow shivering.
The ground has hardened.
But I manage to dig a hole,
Finger deep, with a rusty trowel,
A hole where I can sow in my misery,
The memory of a friend, of a confidante,
Of a lover who died last week.
If a tree can shower its seeds
In shade, in sun, in wayward wind,
Why can’t I place pieces of me in dirt
And watch the pain grow
Into something harmless, into something useful,
Like a bramble, like a vine, like a sapling?
His soul would become a tree, his flesh
Stretched tight like an embrace,
His red leaves like fingers pushing winter away.
Winter hardens like dirt.
Winter’s taut skin over taut bones
Begin to crumble with the memory,
The memory of his life, of his passing.
I don’t want to touch the dirt,
I want to feel the dirt, be the dirt.
Eat me, crush me, hold me
Like a grave, loving mudslide.
I stick my thumb into the hole,
Push down, down, down,
Offer the world my sorrow
In exchange for what I can
No longer touch: his copper beard,
His bony arms, his hairless legs.
I release my thumb and wonder,
Can this hole, this grave, help me?
No, I realize. It can’t. It can’t . . .
At the kitchen sink, as I scrub my thumb
Under lukewarm water, my fingernail
Begins to shine like a clean, cracked seed.
Jacob Butlett holds a B.A. in Creative Writing. His current work has been published or is forthcoming in Street Light Press, Gone Lawn, The Limestone Review, Outrageous Fortune, Wilderness House Literary Review, Picaroon Poetry, Free Lit Magazine, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Oratoria, Varnish: A Journal of Arts and Letters, The Phoenix, Tilde: A Literary Journal, Panoplyzine, Clarion, Cold Creek Review, The Shallows, and plain china. In 2017 he won the Bauerly-Roseliep Scholarship for excellence in literary studies and creative writing.