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James Butcher

if you say it enough
it starts to mean something
(a minotaur tale)

the horse was tethered when i

saw the tethered horse 

almost as if they thought it was

an unruly creature in need of 

a lesson

when they were teaching me a lesson

they tethered me to a stake in the

ground like a horse or another

unruly creature with four long legs

but i still had my sterling mane

that is what i meant to tell them

but i couldn’t yell that loud

because i was tethered 

and they were on the other side

of the mountain

i wasn’t tethered because i was an

unruly child i was tethered because

i was old and gray so they put me

out to pasture

when i was tethered it felt like i was 

being chastised by a cruel school

marm with a crooked finger

in a one room schoolhouse 

i remember that the sky was blue

because when i tilted my tethered

head to the swirling heavens i 

couldn’t find  a single fluffy cloud

it was tethered to a metal stake that

someone had pounded into the ground

with a heart full of vengeance 

they thought they were teaching us

one thing but they ended up teaching

us another thing


i was trying to compose myself

so i could be the laudatory man 

that you wanted me to be 

is not an uncommon statement

indeed it is the type of statement

that a disappointing son might make 

to an infuriated father or a conniving

husband might make to a trusting wife 

but i was saying it to myself 

you see

or more accurately i was saying it

to my brooding conscience which i 

imagine to be a scurrying little man

with a withering stare that inhabits

the inner sanctum of my troubled

mind like a wrathful god in need

of attention

and this little man is a greasy little


is what you need to understand

he is a greasy little man that doesn’t 

brush his teeth and slicks his hair 

with drooling saliva 

and (if that weren’t enough)

the thing that makes this greasy little

man so (utterly) repugnant is that he

derives his (delirious) pleasure from 

planting scattered seeds of doubt in the

darkened corners (of my troubled mind)

like a demented version of johnny appleseed 

with a conniving little smile


i was suffering from a psychogenic form

of hebetude so my thoughts were dark 

and noctilucent

when you saw me 

said doris

1. a lead balloon means a complete and total failure

2.  i told you the yellow daisies were withering

but you wouldn’t listen

3. he absconded with my innocence and then he

scarpered with my love

4. when i told you i was looking for a modicum

of kindness you called me an antediluvian fool

5. her lips were a vinaceous shade of red but her 

heart was a caesious clump of gray

6. when the acacia tree was blooming it smelled like

a mellifluous pot of ambrosial honey

7. i was trying to collect my obstreperous thoughts

because they were noisy and clamorous and boisterous

8. they are assiduous some of the time and duplicitous 

most of the time

9. i told you i was an agonist but you didn’t believe me

10. where did you put my acacia tree

11. when your mind is a juberous puddle of recalcitrant

thoughts you feel muddled and inebriated

12. i was looking for a cloistered place to collect my 

querulous thoughts 

when you saw me

double life

no one knows why delores is standing on 

this deserted piece of land with a cryptic

smile on her kind and loving face in this

weathered and dog eared photo taken in

july of nineteen sixty four and because we

don’t know why she is standing on this 

deserted piece of land it makes us feel as 

though we didn’t know delores as well as 

we thought we knew delores (and to put this 

in the proper context) you should know that 

delores was a faithful wife to tobias and an 

affectionate mother to jennifer and gallagher 

and a doting aunt to adelaide and theodore 

and she sang in the methodist choir and she 

tended to the needy in a quiet and inconspicuous 

manner which is all to say that there was nothing 

about delores that would have led us to believe

that she was anything other than the darling

delores that we knew and loved until we 

saw this dog eared photo of her standing

on this unknown piece of land smiling this

cryptic smile 

James Butcher has had recent work published in Prick of the Spindle, Rivet, Cream City Review, Midwest Review, and Burningword Literary Journal.

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