Anthony Butts

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POETRY

Papyrus

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they
will be called children of God
—Matthew 5:9 (NRSV)

Not to the rusty arms of garbage trucks
squealing like unmistakably familiar
birds in the five a.m. hour, when I

usually pen missives to my pastor—
the cursive like loopy and visible

trails left by loons swooping through air—
and certainly not to those who loathe the poetry
of our lives: but to the occasion for verse,

the glories of our Lord showing
through the space and time

we observe as bent arrows of light
in flight about scientist’s photos
of black holes. Eight billion could not know

what God does, the end of what might’ve
been a sentence: to cradle the weight

of the world at the base of my back
like a global dot topped by the waywardly
etched line that had been my spine

until it’s miraculous straightening—
the everyday Biblical happenings

hazed by the fog of mental distress
in the form of the battlefield that was
my life. I am the compendium of the limits

of human malady: the pages
of my flesh splayed

so as not to betray God’s wish
for the proper Mrs. to come
and love me. Literally, an open book:

my fiancé pours over the papyrus
of me as if it were printed in Braille.


The Phone Age

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right,
for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up
—Galatians 6:9 (NRSV)

Amidst fire engines and helicopters caramelizing the air,
amidst a pandemic fossilizing our previous way of life:
the long road home was not lost, not forsaken as my fiancé

and I await the queen-sized bed we’re to be given
by our landlord as the trees surrender

their pollen in the Louisiana winter. Another Stone Age,
as the “Betty” and “Wilma” many believe in wander back
into the house to watch Breaking Bad on one’s cellphone,

we have made ourselves into cavemen
again: a nation obsessed with meth

and “acceptable” psychopaths. Surrounded
by living remnants of culture and civilization
the living rhythm of my verse holds the Lord’s immediacy

amidst induced indeterminacy: the pounding
in the 3 p.m. hour more like a slow motion

shower of bullets than industry eking out
it’s meager existence as COVID-19 saturates the air-
waves. What happens on school busses stays

on school busses, more like lessons
in disbelief as the cheddar cheese

limousines confuse our notions of self-care
and welfare: fantasies of basketball stardom
and cheerleader envy so permeating nighttime

maneuvers in the dark until the light
behind my lids reveals swords

of Eden turning before each eye: the background filled
otherwise with more light. My fiancé and I await
the wedding bed, knowing the only way forward

is to go back to the Word: which is outside of time,
as the mystery of my existence begins to make sense.


Anthony Butts is the author of Little Low Heaven (New Issues 2003), Winner of the Poetry Society of America’s 2004 William Carlos William’s Award for best book. He is also the nephew of Florence Ballard—former member of the Supremes singing group before her suicide in 1976. Butts continues to overcome the maladies of schizophrenia, Asperger syndrome and issues with anxiety. Dr. Butts has a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri in poetry writing and is a native Detroiter currently residing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com (modified by Veronica McDonald).


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