I met Primus Butler in 2007 as he walked 20 miles with a cane across the Tooele Valley, and we became friends. Primus was born with a form of muscular dystrophy. As he explained to me, the left side of his brain is highly developed, while the right side has the faculty of an eight-year-old. Thus disabled, he reads voraciously, completing his five thousandth book this year. And I’m not talking Hardy Boys, but long and complex works of non-fiction, like Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. He rates and lists every book—a select few he finds “indispensable.” He can discourse for hours about history, politics, biography, religion, and world civilizations. He earned a degree in Bible and Christian Education from Central Bible College in Springfield Missouri. And he is a writer. His first published book is entitled, Heroes of Hope, a collection of 52 biographical sketches of men and women whom Primus considers to have “changed the world by daring to hope.” (See the Xulon Press bookstore.) Mom and I each bought a first edition. Once every month or two I take pizza or fried chicken and Coke to Primus’ house to catch up and talk about whatever interesting subjects cross our minds. Primus does most of the talking because, well, he knows most of the information. I called him to tell him I had moved from the valley and would not be able to see him as often, but that I would stop by from time to time. He did not betray any sadness. But we have become friends, and I will keep in touch. Primus is preparing his second book for publication: 52 sketches of his Heroes of Love.
The desk on which my computer sits and at which I sit to type these vignettes is not a desk at all. It is a repurposed kitchen table. In fact, it is the very first kitchen table my young wife and I bought for our very old new home. It was made of typical gold-colored pine slats with white-painted legs. That small table served our little family for years. When the little family became a big family, we needed a larger kitchen table. The old table was passed from room to room as a desk for various children. Erin stained the table top a darker brown and painted a green-and-maroon border, with blue flowers on vines in the center. I thought it was beautiful. During my six-month exile of separation, I took the table to my construction zone quarters as my writing desk. I had gathered notes and observations for nearly 20 years, determined to someday write my book. I had felt compelled for years to write it, but never made the time. But now a chiding thought nagged at me: You’ve always wanted to write your book. You will never have a better time to do it. Now is the time. So, I got to work. Nights and weekends I typed up my chicken scratch notes, many written as I walked on Rabbit Lane, elaborated my thoughts, printed and sorted and organized, reassembled and knitted together the stories in chapters, until the manuscript took its first breath as a real creature. I published the book in 2016, entitling it Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road. I felt better about this book than anything I had ever accomplished. I knew I had done it well and had made something beautiful and worthwhile. As we placed the old kitchen table turned writing desk into the moving truck last month to bring it to my new office at Mom’s and Dad’s house, a leg irreparably broke off. I was prepared to let the desk go, despite its sentimental value, but while I was at work Dad and a friend sank three long screws to repair the desk for my ongoing writing. I am hoping one day to prepare new manuscripts of which I can be equally proud. And I never see those blue flowers in the center of the table without remembering my daughter Erin and her beautiful artistic soul.
On her WordPress blog “Words and Pictures” writer and reviewer Rose Gluck announces her forthcoming review of my book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road. I appreciate her selecting my book to review, but also her mission to explore the stories of everyday lives: an important cultural, historical, and literary endeavor. See her original blog post below, and stay tuned for her review.
Rose Gluck of Words and Pictures: It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here on Words and Pictures. I’ve been pretty busy on several projects but am finally back here on my blog to share stories of everyday lives. I am in the final stretch of my dissertation so I’ve been very focused on that. My work -as you might . . . [click on this link to see the whole post: Been Out of Touch – Upcoming Projects here on Words and Pictures — Words and Pictures]
I rarely write poems about poetry. While the challenging art of writing a good poem is as meritorious a subject as a stunning sunset or a broken heart. writing about writing can become trite and shallow if one is not careful. My nephew Trevor called me tonight and asked me how I began to write poetry. “I wasn’t content,” I told him, “to say simply, ‘How pretty.’ I wanted to dig deeper, to really get at the essence of beauty and my experience with it. So I began to study and write poetry.” Despite frequent arid periods, I have never stopped. At the risk of writing a trite poem about writing poetry, I did just that in “Between.” I hope it meets with your approval.
Poems come from places in between:
between sleep and wakefulness;
between light and darkness;
between divine habitation
and this rough carnal plane;
between intellect and pathos;
belonging at once to neither
and to both: creations
of paradox and reconciliation.