Seattle, Washington

30 September 2006

Five Poems

Good Lord How Bright and Goodly Shines the Moon
The Good Locust
Dick and Liz and the Yak Hair Chair
Egypt Texas Ohio
I'll Make Such Love to You As You'll Forget About Anything at All

Poet's Bio


good lord how bright and goodly shines the moon

He follows the moon landing obsessively, bemoaning the fact that all they can say is ‘A-OK’.
                                                                      —from Richard Burton: A Life

Oh Rocket Men,
when I was a child
I spake as a child
like you except in Welsh,
when I became a smallish
but immeasurably handsome man
I put away those childish words
and this I now say unto you,
ye mumbling sons
of the broad-shouldered Middle West:
My heart is thirsty for a noble word!
Allons enfants de la Patrie!
I have heard America singing
unfortunately not of late
but fear not, I am come!
Rise, take up your beds and walk!
Get your cakes in from the rain!
Hello, lamp post!
Dost thou know
that once we were young
and full of life and none of us
prepared to die, Fernando!



the good locust

I knew the end was near not because you talked about it so much and said the word EEEVILL over and over but because a swarm of Rice Krispy locusts pelted you in the face blown by a giant unseen fan so powerful it slapped your jowls back tight like you were on a roller coaster and you almost looked young, young and in a better movie where you didn’t have to perform exorcisms or worry so much about helping the Good Locust deliver us from EEEVILL but then the wind died down and you were old again with a look of ravaged Shakespearean beauty that said rescue me not from EEEVILL but from this movie and oh how I wanted to take you home like the stray cat I found under a lilac bush who had unusual medical problems and dietary requirements but in spite of this turned out okay so I figured you would too, I had enough money to keep you in liquor and those tasteful ankle boots with discreet heels that made you look slightly taller and we’d use coupons at Safeway and go to the library instead of buying books and you could yell out all the Dylan Thomas you wanted in the wee drunken hours, I’d just put a pillow over my head and still be fresh for work the next day the neighbors wouldn’t care as long as we kept the lawn mowed and maybe just maybe when the time was right you’d start acting again at a small reputable theater some Noel Coward to warm up with and then back home to the Bard, Acting with a capital A, one night without warning you’d turn on the afterburners and tear the roof off the joint to hell with the Good Locust you would BE the giant goddamn fan and blow all of us out of our seats and into the street and if anyone asked what happened we’d answer “Richard Fucking Burton!”



dick and liz and the yak hair chair

The seventies were confusing for me too
palazzo pants with legs so wide
I tripped and fell
Earth shoes that made me feel
like I was walking uphill all day
but it was worse for them
regal Richard and Elizabeth
from the glorious curtained screen
now funky Dick and Liz on t.v.
he imprisoned by a turtleneck
she in a bilious green caftan
pecking at his bored lips
like some restless endangered bird
beringéd fingers stroking not his arm
but the arm of his hairy golden chair
compelling as any character
more secrets and crumbs than shag carpet
swooping and big-backed
soon to star in its own movie
a punishing German art film
where black clad figures in Earth shoes
trudge up and down a mountain
for what feels like a decade
crying out in unison
warum oh Gott warum
why oh God why



egypt texas ohio

Where were you when it happened
when it happened
where were you and after
when November stayed November
did you go stare at the screen
watch Cleopatra sail away
are we too late if we decide to live
did you know the answer
say the words out loud
no Mark Antony don’t go!
did you know what would happen
when it happened
did you read hear see
hill tomb flame
when the crazy man ran out
his bloodied wife
sagged in the doorway
when he lifted his white shirt
screamed here is my heart
when the chained dog lunged and cried for help
you stood silent
bookbag clutched against your chest
like a shield



I’ll Make Such Love to You as You’ll Forget About Anything at All

—Richard Burton in Look Back in Anger

Please make me forget how the downtown express bus was almost involved in a chain reaction crash on the freeway today, how it was not as is frequently said of such events just like a movie but more like a painting of the Annunciation where Mary shields her eyes from all that terrible glory and says you want me to do what are you nuts, make me forget how the old lady up front actually screamed in three staccato bursts as we slid sideways and how the red car spun merrily before it was smacked into submission by an SUV, make me forget that but allow me to remember the delicious relief when it was over and we weren’t dead and we tugged at our clothing and smoothed our hair, also allow me to remember which bus I was on in the first place so I can get back home without you having to pin a note on my shirt and not that I’m complaining but be sure to warn me tonight if you are going to try the making me forget business again so I can write my own damn note to self the length of a Russian novel reminding me of such things as my name, PIN number, food allergies, essential work duties, a brief description of that special game where you growl like a bear and I scurry away like a frightened yet alluring squirrel until you swipe me with your paw and hold me down and start mauling my ear and then, um, most importantly how to tell time so I can count the hours until I return to you and forget all the reasons why I would ever consider leaving.



Susan E. Butler lives in Seattle, Washington. Her work has been published in Swivel. She continues to write poems about the actor Richard Burton, which she plans to gather into a collection called The Drinking Man's Diet.