Three Buttered Muffins

By Michael Lavers

Featured art: smokey man by Byron Armacost

Mr. ———, who loved buttered muffins, but durst not eat them
because they disagreed with his stomach, resolved to shoot himself;
and then he eat three buttered muffins for breakfast, before shooting
himself, knowing that he should not be troubled with indigestion.

—Boswell

I want to ask poor Mr. ——— why, if life’s
so bad, he paused to savor them at all? But I
know why. How could the scent that spirals
up the stairs not sway him, for the moment,
to put down the gun, and come, and break
a muffin open, watch the steam spill out?
To wedge fresh butter in each porous hinge?
To want, for once, to live one moment longer:
there are muffins, after all. And here is butter
catching candle-light, sighing its soft glissando
down the spongy muffin-flesh, hinting
that joy, though soft and all-too solvent, still
anoints some moments with its glossy smear:
joy in the mint-flecked ruminations of the cow
at milking time, the greasy fingers of the girl
who sets her pail of white froth down and lies
under the ilex boughs and weeps over some boy,
then in a minute gets back up, and wipes
her cheeks, shakes out her thatch-flecked hair;
not that she knows some pleasure’s only felt
because it ends, that it cannot be held, raised up
like curds of butter that her mother calls forth
from the churning chaos like fermented light.
Not that. She just remembers there are muffins
waiting for her, too, back in the house, and when
they’re gone, maybe some milk. Maybe an apple.
Maybe, since it’s not impossible, some cheese.


Michael Lavers is the author of After Earth, published by the University of Tampa Press. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, AGNI, The Hudson Review, Best New Poets 2015, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere. Winner of the Chad Walsh Poetry Prize, the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize, and the Bridport Poetry Prize, he lives in Provo, Utah, and teaches at Brigham Young University.

Originally published in NOR 29.

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