Punctuation

By Edward Butscher

When computers democratized capitals

and iPhones abridged words themselves

deathless prose died a million times

there, tiny as pricks in a condom—

and equally perilous.

 

Doomed to knowledge of erasure

at an early age by sudden shifts

of scenery and regal personae

(mother, father, nurturing aunts),

which meant predicating subjects

into objects at some felt remove

(brutal as brackets) from a child’s

fence-high Emersonian eye

 

the boy platformed castles at his

Catholic elementary schools

from the sentences diagrammed

with an obsessive cardinal joy

raising praised context and conduct

ramps under the weight of Latin’s

imported stage directions.

 

After college degrees and teaching

confirmed its value, a semi-colon’s

dragnet sweep had the giddy appeal

of rescuing second and third ideas

from history’s enormous notebook,

of elaborating revisions and subtle

eddies into carpets of The Master

and his transfigured dream lovers.

 

Simon the Poet harpoons his colons

at the other side of the great divide

between conscious and unconscious

space, releasing fresh oxygen back

into the vacuum separating equals,

a mind expanding in a fecund, if

uneasy, way, unearthing old levels

of lore below remorseless stones.

 

But periods remain the most satisfying

to execute, confirming a sentence’s

existence at the acme of completeness

even as it concludes, like a Hemingway

tale, on death’s implacable sword point,

and it is difficult not to love them, no

matter what is obliterated, a sequence

of cats and dogs, whom I would have

saved if I could, like jaded Casanova,

or the childhood friends who never

said goodbye in print or a lost shout.

 

The end, in the end, is all.  Always.

___

Born and raised in Flushing, Queens, Edward Butscher’s poems, stories, reviews, and essays have appeared in a wide variety of journals since the early 1970’s, including the Saturday Review of Literature, Poetry, Georgia Review, Newsday, and the American Book Review. In 1976 Seabury Press published his Poems About Silence and Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness, first biography of the controversial poet. He also edited Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work (1978) for Dodd, Mead, and his Adelaide Crapsey was published in 1979 as a title in Twayne’s United States Authors series.

Cross Cultural Communications published two collections of his poems, Amagansett Cycle (1980) and Unfinished Sequence (1981), and his only novel, Faces on the Barroom Floor, appeared from Contemporary Press in 1984. He co-edited (with Irving Malin) a special issue of Twentieth Century Literature in 1986 devoted to the work of Paul Bowles. His Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale, published in 1988 by the University of Georgia Press, won the Poetry Society of America’s Melville Cane Award for that year

Edward Butscher is the author of Peter Wild (1992) in the Western Writers of America series and Eros Descending (1992), a group of lyrics from an on-going sequence issued as a Dusty Dog Chapbook, and has been a contributing scholar for a number of reference works, among them, The Reference Guide to Short Fiction (St. James Press), MaGill’s Survey of Contemporary Poetry, and Oxford University’s Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English.


Comments are closed.