Poetry from Philip Butera

Ruptured Canopies

A trapeze artist
before mirrors,
her breasts scarred from falls
and steps mistaken.
The handsome magician,
drink in hand,
rummages through
life’s deceptions.
I juggle
cotton candy dreams
sugar waffle fantasies.

I am safe,
in a hatbox

among the elephants and the lions.

by crowds hurrying to see
and those
rushing to leave.

There is suspicion between art and life,
which is more accurate?
Hugging the curb of want,
I have a razor’s edge
view of fate,

a tapestry of spreading shadows,
woven with brandished egos

and profound fear.

Time to move,

time to shake off the numbness of bad luck
and missed opportunities
against the dark of the world.
I look around me, not wide-eyed,

but cautiously
aware calamities
are paradoxes swelled
with inconveniences.

Paper plates, cups, and torn balloons
are strewn about.
Flies and other insects
swarm on the decaying food.
The heavy air
heats the remains of liquid in discarded bottles.
Mosquitoes swell,
while toads contemplate their next moves.
I notice wheels from broken strollers,
dirtied diapers,
and abandoned plastic products,
all scattered on the dry, dusty ground.
And everywhere that stench of trash,
of garbage,
of things sweet and sticky
tossed away.
Appetites crave more.
And more indicates
an unappeasable desire.

Thick ropes on large poles
are loosened,
tents collapse and
restlessness permeates,
reverberating through the animal cages.

There are no more illusions.
The high wires have disappeared.
The thrills have become thoughts
lost in the distance.
The mesmerization
of magic and mysteries
has faded.

Life is a hammer
pounding on an anvil,
and all the ruptured canopies
must be mended
before the next show.

I am a Consummate Gardener

I am a consummate gardener,
living without pretense.
I dig,
pull out clover,
pull out weeds,
but I let stones remain.
Stones, tell me how I have gardened.
They ask to be touched.
I rub them between my fingers,
feel the caked dirt,
and listen to their stories.
They lie, though.
They want to please
so they
complement desires.

My big brown dog, bright-eyed and unphased by dirty, muddy, or wet paws,
never travels far from me.
I unleash her,
and she never strays.
She is content to be my archangel,
while I do all the spading, weeding, transplanting, trenching, scraping,
with few tools and without a smile.
Every time I step into this garden,
like Sisyphus, my perpetual punishment continues.

Squirrels conspire with birds to distract me.
Occasionally, I uncover the small bones of their relatives.
Now and then, I find what they have buried.
But most times, I poke, plow, and think
about the absurdity of gardening
and the futility of being successful at it.

My neighbors scoff at me.
They have no spirited dog or dismissive cat.
Their trees are tall, and professionals tend full leafy bushes.
They are a distant couple who spend no time outside their thoughts,
self-absorbed with moral decay; they measure time by what is possessed.
It is better to harvest treasure with false conviviality
then dig and unearth shards of sharp objects that cut and disfigure.

Wasps and bees circle, dart, and linger.
If they are annoyed, they will sting.
Blister beetles, if ingested accidentally or incidentally, can cause death.
Orange and black monarch butterflies warn they are toxic and
toads never fail to startle me.
The larger animals, muskrats, moles, and raccoons
make their presence known
as the moon rises,
when I am dining, sinning, or reading about gardening.
No matter how pleasing,
there is no music,
that can be appreciated while your hands
are going deeper into the darkness.

It is no secret,
the earth’s blackness is an uncompromising foe,
to all things living.

The sun sneers and the clouds darken,
winds race to find me, the moisture from the lake
picks up the dust and sprays my face.
I am an addict, single-minded
with one purpose.
I acknowledge that.
There are no distractions
just restless

I wear no knee pads,
no protective covering,
no gloves.
I dislike hats.
And I hate when I feel sweat and dirt
glide down my back.
I am never satisfied
with what I am accomplishing.
But that has little to do with gardening.

My dog
sniffs the exhumed soil,
and, as I twist my hands

to seize what is deeper,
I realize
I have underestimated the potential
of gardening,
I have underestimated
the potential
of my own

With no Destination
The crowded elevator
travels up, up,

emptying those preoccupied with purpose.
A small boy with soft brown eyes
is the last to exit.
I am alone,

continuing to ascend.

The door rattles open,
icy winds and swirling snow
greets me.
I sense rather than see.
The storm is overwhelming.
Resignation creeps upon me
as the elevator disappears,
leaving no trace of its existence.

With no destination,
and without direction
I step.
With each move
I sink deeper into the snow.
Sky and horizon
blend into a shapeless,
white screen.

A distantly
remembered voice
interrupts the blindness.
An image
just out of reach.
A handsome young man,
imagined but true,
comes my way.


chaotic white moment
becomes another.
The aimless snow whirls
about us,
without form or regard,
restless yet sublime.

I trudge further
cold uncertainty,
and from
the icy opaqueness,
my weary brown eyes
indelicately surrender
to the
of my
unforgiving dreams.

Philip received his M.A. in Psychology from Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada. He has published five books of poetry, Mirror Images and Shards of Glass, Dark Images at Sea, I Never Finished Loving You, Falls from Grace, Favor and High Places, and Forever Was Never On My Mind. Two novels, Caught Between (Which is a 24-episode Radio Drama Podcast https://wprnpublicradio.com/caught-between-teaser/)  and Art and Mystery: The Missing Poe Manuscript. His novel, an erotic thriller, Far From Here, will be out in the Winter of 2023. One play, The Apparition. Philip also has a column in the quarterly magazine Per Niente. He enjoys all things artistic.