Finding Myself, Jacob Butlett


“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Where did I leave it? I wonder in the kitchen.
It’s not under the inverted teacup or unwashed
coffee mug—not in its domed domicile
like an Eskimo snoring in an igloo. I walk
into the hallway, but I don’t see it sitting
in the painting on the wall, no one sitting
on that painted bough overhanging those
painted lily pads near those painted wild pansies.
Outside, on the porch, I don’t find it in my old
rocking chair, where my late-grandfather would
sit whenever he visited, watching Canada geese cut
through clouds as robins, blue jays, red-winged
blackbirds rise from the treetops as though mistaking
the morning stars for the wet mouths of worms
shimmering in the dewy dawn.
I search the garden for it,
but I don’t see anything, except the dew tottering
on each crocus stem like a lady bug, a rain drop,
a dapple of sun. In the garage I open the trunk
of my truck, not surprised to find the old wool
blanket my late-uncle bought me, my white
Panama hat with yellow sweat stains—
a hat I once wore with pride like an army
statue posing with his metallic cap of rust—
and a lonely spare tire, unmoving, merely
existing in the dark as though waiting or not
waiting for me or anyone else in particular.
I close the trunk in silence, then wander
to the back of the house. The empty above-
ground swimming pool glistens while the sun
finishes ascending the hilly horizon, the air
fresh from the death of a recent mowing—
windblown heads of grass like wet straw
in the shallow cracks of my stone patio, cracks I
imagine crawling into like a daddy long legs,
tired of my search, tired of my life, tired
to face my own exhaustion while others can
tread across the thorny groves of sorrow, of loss,
despite their apprehension, despite their suffering,
their ears trained on the sky as though to hear
the voices of the oceans, of the savannas,
of the swamps, of the pastures whisper their
secrets to the universe. Hopeful secrets.
But I can’t hear anything:
not the wind, not the starlings overhead, not
the crickets by my toes, not even my breath
struggling to expand my lungs with purpose.
I sit up. Walk over to my waterless pool. Climb
inside as though I’m underwater, as though
I’m young again, thinking I could breathe in
each bubble, live in each bubble—a kingdom
of chlorine under wavering sunlight. When I was
a child, I found myself by being myself—
a free agent, a mortal god—and I thought I could
stay here forever among the submerged leaves,
the submerged yellow jackets. But one day,
I woke up in the grass, having blacked out
from staying under too long. My parents stood
over me, weeping with relief. As I coughed up the last
mouthful of water, I noticed a gallery of clouds
swimming overhead: that one a teacup, that one a truck,
that one a grackle with a bleeding minnow in its claws.

Jacob Butlett is a Pushcart Prize nominee with an A.A. in Liberal Arts and a B.A. in Creative Writing. Some of his work has been published in The MacGuffin, Panoply, Rat’s Ass Review, COUNTERCLOCK, Cacti Fur, South Broadway Ghost Society, Rabid Oak, Ghost City Review, Lunch Ticket, Anti-Heroin Chic, Into the Void, and plain china. He was a finalist in the 2019 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards residency competition. Learn more about Jacob at https://jacobbutlettacademicreflection.weebly.com/.

Jacob Butlett recommends the poem “Nothing But Death” by Pablo Neruda.

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