Terry Savoie


Buttermilk Poem


           – for former Patient M. of the Mt. Pleasant, Iowa MHI (1971)


As scrawny as a plucked bantam rooster,

                               but that kid knew all about hell on earth

          since he'd been there before he turned seven.


We'd find him leaning up

                               against the locked ward's cement block wall,

          hard asleep


or simply loopy on his cocktail of Haldol, Thorazine & Lithium,

                               which signaled his need for buttermilk,

          cold, ice cold & now


to quiet the open revolt deep inside.

                               He loved that buttermilk as he loved nothing else

          before, loved to toss it back with abandon


& let it slide thick & smooth

                               down his gullet with a few dribbles

          left on his chin, neck & shirt.


Was it the devil inside him made him do it,

                               mangle his knuckles against a concrete block wall

          or kick & break a ward nurse's neck,


but nothing mattered,

                               nothing but his love of buttermilk!




          I'm trying to remember you, M., as you were


the last time I saw you, your birthday,

                               one day before you were to be shipped off

          to the penitentiary for the criminally insane


where the trustees weren't about

                               to treat him with kid gloves.

          It was a cold February Sunday, that day your folks came


to bring you their gift, a dime store fishing pole,

                               seeing how boys need to get out

          & do a little fishing in their spare time, 


as they winked me

                               into their family's conspiratorial circle of trust.

          The deadest part of an Iowa winter, & you were lying there, spread-


eagled in an isolation cell

                               on a cot & in leather, five-point restraints

          when you turned on me with a hiss,


"Fishin's for sissies! Tell 'em that, & kiss

                               their asses for me on the way out! Fuck,

          where's my buttermilk at? Get it & get it quick, you bastard!"

Terry Savoie is retired and lives outside Iowa City, Iowa. More than three hundred of Savoie's poems have been published in literary journals over the past three decades. These include Poetry, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Black Warrior Review, Prairie Schooner, Great River Review, The Iowa Review, and North American Review, as well as recent or forthcoming issues of Tiferet, Tar River Poetry, One, Quiddity, Spillway, Kentucky Review, Commonweal, and America, among others.



Deep Water Literary Journal

2015 - Issue 2 - August





Elizabeth Bodien (USA)

All Souls' Night


Chanel Brenner (USA)

Back at the El Encanto Twenty Years Later


Claire Vogel Camargo (USA)

Touching the Edge of Darkness


Saddiq Dzukogi (Nigeria)



S.E. Gale (Australia)

The Reliquary


Gary Glauber (USA)

In Philippa’s Hands




Clare Hepworth-Wain (England)

To mark her passing


Strider Marcus Jones (England)

The Two Saltimbanques


Robert S. King (USA)

Inside a Photograph

The Ghosts of Machu Picchu


Steve Klepetar (USA)

almost from the first

If It Comes to That


Ron. Lavalette (USA)



Sada Malumfashi (Nigeria)



Rasmenia Massoud (France)

Ghosts in My Skin

Open Mike Night


Catfish McDaris (USA)

Gone Amazon

Soldier Blues


Pat J Mullan (Ireland)

Mother Perfection


Christine Murray (Ireland)




Heather Mydosh (USA)



Caleb J. Oakes (USA)

Extended Forms of Hunger

Frown For Me


David O’Neill (Ireland)

Decisions in the Dark Room


Rachel C. Peters (USA)



Mark Antony Rossi (USA)

This Ancient City

Transatlantic Transfiguration


Walter Ruhlmann (France)

Distorted Echo

The Lips of the Wolf


John Saunders (Ireland)

Murphy is Out for the Summer


Terry Savoie (USA)

Buttermilk Poem


Larry Schug (USA)

As If We Were Not Brothers


Pepper Swell (USA)

Cold Fury


The Man in the Black Pyjamas (Ireland)