Three poems by Jacob Butlett

Father-Son Talk

He tells me I can’t wear a tiara
of stars, because only princesses
& “fags” wear tiaras. He tells me to deepen
my voice, march through life—
never sashay like the “sissies”
he points out on the street,
men who strut through crosswalks
in tight jeans, the kinds of pants
he never buys me.
He tells me to stop singing
Broadway in the shower, stop
talking so much with my hands,
stop smoking dope & drinking
booze with guys who exaggerate
their S’s, who stroke each other
like primates. He tells me
not to stick my dick
in their mouths like the “pederast”
he thinks I’m becoming.


I tell him to leave me alone—
I’ll walk, talk,                    sing, drink,
suck, fuck                           however,        whenever,
I want.                  He tells me
my mother made
me this way                       & I tell him
to shut up                                           & he tells me to stay
home, stay safe,
& I want to hit
him across the face                       & he blames
her, always          blame her,        & I tell
him that if he       brings her up                                     again,
I’ll walk out,      never return,                      become
a drifter who gives                         hand jobs
at truck stops for money,
lets old men
rim me in motels
he’ll never find,                                 gas station
bathrooms where            I’ll sleep every
night with needles                          in my veins—
say it, I say,         give me a fucking
reason                    to leave.

Before We Agree to Leave Each Other

While thunderheads tightrope across hills dotted
with rotting Granny Smiths,
I stow our plates into our picnic basket.

Enjoy the sandwiches? I ask him.
He shrugs and yawns, his back facing me.

Then he stands, his shaved head
bright against the twilight
as if he plucked the sun’s corona
and let it hover over his head
as a joke, a game.

There’s so much in life I want,
he says in his Southern drawl.

But aren’t I enough? I want to ask,
even though I already know the answer.

Far off, wild geese trample tulips
before they turn to me as though
to speak, to flash me knowing glares.

Want a blowie? he asks, glancing at his watch.
I say no and kiss his cheek.
We stay silent as we walk back to the car.

Then, desperate, I reach out
to hold his hand. And he stares
at my hand as if it’s a bouquet
of his favorite flowers we both
left out in the rain.

The Woman from the Cider House

Apple pickers trudge across gravel
cracks on the path to a cider house
where a woman once slit her wrists
with her husband’s bowie knife.
She didn’t leave a note. But many
still remember the bruises on her wrists,
the vodka-laced vomit between
her husband’s blackened teeth.
She used to talk about her husband
with broken chuckles, the kind that made
her body sun-creased tremble.
Had someone said something, she
might’ve continued to pluck Ginger Golds
from the tops of rickety ladders. She
wouldn’t need to practice how to smile,
how to conceal her latest scar with her
oily auburn hair. She could’ve spent her
Sunday mornings dashing among
the thrum of passing trains, stepping through
yellow plumes of dust rolling over nearby
cornstalks. At least she’d have the chance
to creep from her cot to the mattress
where her husband slept, slash his throat
or sever his penis with his blade.
She’d have time to throw her clothes into
a duffle bag, dart into the night, where
the cops would never be able to find her.

Jacob Butlett is a three-time Pushcart Prize-nominated poet with a B.A. in Creative Writing. His creative works have been published in many journals, including The Hollins Critic, The MacGuffin, and Lunch Ticket. An English instructor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, he is pursuing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.

Jacob’s website:
Jacob’s Facebook handle: @JacobButlett