Skeleton Key

By Edward Butscher


“Like madness, paradoxes

fascinate the sanest of men.”


A mortarless Daedelus spoken blind

under winding sheets of belief, uniform

truth, until exiled, a monk, interred, still

raving over the chaos of tower ruins.



Shorn of limbs, worm breath, feather enigmas

rise as mist, bone after cat-gnawed bone.


Turning in the rust heart of a robin

the key cannot revive me

halt their ascensions

cannot soften his neb

hush their singing.



Is there a break, a crack of sense

in the steel logic of its great chain

some maw or star to pry open or close?



Weakened by seasonal phlebotomies

the weight is always from jailor keys

hunching shoulders, slackening jaws

the sullen law of human centuries

locked in de Sade’s squalid cells.



Turning, turning, with a febrile hand

are these, too, rote school refrains?


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.