Old cottage among trees

One Poem by Nickolas Butler

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For Samuel Mockbee 


The depleted king leaves schematics for a new castle

yours and mine
a castle against the sky
and not for to disparage the paupers and plebes
the king was our architect
so we study the plans dumb to their language of good geometry
and things falling from the sky
we build with what we find
feathers and bells
cowshit and tires
beads and steel
bones and antlers
we build through the night
in the light of kerosene and propane
dirty dusky light, sepia light
like the pictures of our bankrupt king
our castle is a spire
a single spike of steel and rock
a needle in the earth rising to scrape the moon
we carry the bells we have to the floors we can’t count
only the orbiting birds hear the dull tolls
like last gasps
we live together in our tower
and our laundry is our flag we wave for the bankrupt king
bearded below the brown dirt.



Nickolas Butler was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He currently splits his time between Arden Hills, Minnesota, and Iowa City, Iowa, where he is studying in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. “For Samuel Mockbee” was inspired by the life and spirit of Sambo — Samuel Mockbee — and in particular by his series of World Trade Center Memorial sketches and water colors.


Header photo by Tom, courtesy Pixabay. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.