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Archive for August, 2008

Hey, y’all. I will be offline for a few days. The reason I tell you this is not because I’m the great and powerful Oz Blogger. The internet won’t evaporate into a thick, black hole without me. I wanted to let you know if you comment, it may take a while for it to appear. But I promise to get you up there as soon as possible. If you don’t want to comment, that’s okay, too. It’s all good, baby!

Now, my day job…that’s where I’m important. Why, I meet all sorts of famous people every day. I’ll leave Sir William in here to say hello to you. Even though I’m of such high importance in the workforce, I still root for the underdog. Even the annoying ones. Garsh, I wonder why.

The Day I Saved Willy Lowman

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

I really should give him
the back of my hand.
It’s Friday, the boss
is golfing, and all
my work grows teeth.

But the door opens.
I smell moth balls.
and there he is in a
faded plaid green coat,
gray hair falling out,
shiny shoes cracked,
worn down into
the shape of his feet.

He has a picture of kids
hanging from a plastic
World’s Greatest
Grandpa key ring.
I sigh, grit my teeth.
But I just can’t kick
Willy Lowman
out onto the street.

I waste twenty minutes
looking at catalogs,
laughing at corny jokes,
worrying about what
I have to get done.
I order twenty dollars
worth of cheap BIC pens
and pray I have enough
peanuts left on the VISA.

He’s so excited he drops
his sample of multi-colored
paper clips on the floor.
I waste ten more minutes
picking up clips
and telling him it’s okay.

He drives away grinning
in a beat up Chevrolet
Cavalier, circa 1991,
and my phone screams
with fat boy clients
demanding reports they
should have received
thirty minutes ago.

Still, it makes me happy
on a sun shiny Friday
to know Willy Lowman
can take off that jacket,
those shiny old shoes,
drink warm home brew,
eat bratwurst and cabbage
at a creaky kitchen table,
and tell his little woman
how he reeled one in
this week.

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Thanks to Hysperia for telling us about this hilarious article. I thought I’d put it up here, so no one will miss it. It’s a post called “If Writers Competed In The Olympics: A Horror Story” from The Fabulous Geezersisters’ Weblog.  Two sisters, Ruth Pennebaker and Ellen Dlot, created the blog. 

Check it out.  If you are a writer, you’ll surely laugh.   

 http://geezersisters.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/if-writers-competed-in-the-olympics-a-horror-story/

And stay to read the rest of their site, too.  The writing is so much fun.  There is also another link to Ruth Pennebaker’s site with some of her publications.  I’m sure there’s much more I’m missing, so I’d better get back over there and read some more.

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Miss Eula’s Garden is a special poem to me, because I love Miss Eula with a blazing passion. The woman, the vernacular, the landscape, and a bit of gothic at the end also earned me a genuine, laminated Southern writer’s license.

This poem was published in the “rural life” edition of Grain Magazine, a beautiful journal produced by the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. This edition (from the 90’s) was full of amazing poets and writers, including my dear friend, Art Coelho, a poet and artist I idolize. The cover art of this issue was also fantastic. I was thrilled to even be included next to the likes of these great talents.

As a funny aside, I was too stupid to know that Grain paid anything for poetry. I found out when the check…I mean cheque…came in the mail. Yay, Canada! I can’t remember the exact amount. I think it was around a hundred bucks. But it felt like a million, because it paid the electric bill. So, thanks to the good folks at Grain, I didn’t have to write by candlelight, which really sucks.

In all seriousness, I’d still like Grain, even if they had told me to get lost. They’ve been around for a long time, and they’re still going strong with beautiful journals and excellent work. I will link them up, so you can check them out, too.

And please do come in and give Miss Eula some sugar.


Miss Eula’s Garden

by Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

Eula Jessamine Williams

1894 – 1980


Miss Eula planted afterbirth in her garden.
She had thirteen children and the sweetest greens
downwind of the Great Dismal Swamp.
She had a garden so big
it made big look small.
She had skin as loving tough
as sugar melon leaves.


Our Mamas and Daddies said
when evil came a knocking,
Miss Eula ordered extra
for next season,
and if we so much as tasted
her blood black garden
with the tips of our toes,
they’d knock our jaws so hard,
we’d taste sideways for a year.


But we were children, not knowing much.
We said Miss Eula was a nice old woman
with crook red arms,
a hot house in her living room
full of ninety-five
February green degrees,
cracked clay pots and dirt,
and a jar of sweaty hard candy
that came out in one thick,
tongue licked lump.
And we were children who knew
we had to sneak an extra mile
through the moss tangled toenails
of the old dark swamp
to help Miss Eula sanctify her seeds.


The Old Folks said
when crazy came a knocking,
Miss Eula ordered three bushels
and a peck.
They said they knew the days
Miss Eula could smell blood
from three counties away.
When some young girl
got to hollering labor,
there Miss Eula would come
with her big silver bucket
clinking and clanking
up the cypress rooted road
to give congratulations
and take the good parts home.


But we were children who knew
when shooed from the stern
straight back rows
of Mama clean gardens,
we could go help Miss Eula plant
pus, skulls, egg shells, mice,
rotten peelings, crab claws, snakes,
and fallen baby birds.
And we knew she wouldn’t yell
when we climbed atop her barn
or ate her pecans til our insides grew
sweet, heavy shells.
But more than anything we knew
Miss Eula’s seeds were far from evil.


Miss Eula planted miscarriages in her garden.
She had five of those and silver corn so sweet
Jesus Himself would lay down and melt on the cob.
She had a house so growing old
it made old look young
and creeping vines which crissed and crossed
and covered the house outside.
Miss Eula never fixed the cracks
so the vines could work
their green and welcome way inside.


The Sunday School teachers said
Miss Eula had long fingered devil babies
growing under that swamp bubbled ground
just waiting to grab the Hell bound feet
of foolish, smart mouth children.
The Deacons said to bite the corn of Miss Eula
was to eat your own sorry little soul
bit by bit.


But we knew the harvest would be good
when Miss Eula cut her hair, the dead skin on her feet,
twenty three bristles from a wild boar’s back,
two nuts stolen from an albino squirrel,
set it all ablaze, scattered ashes on the rows,
prayed and spit on every seed.


Miss Eula planted fever in her garden.
Three old mules and a cross eyed pig
stillborn
and the biggest tomatoes that ever
wind reddened on the plant.
She had a garden so full
it made alive look dead
and eyes as pecan sweet and brown
as summer puddled skies.


The Ladies’ Auxiliary said
she might even be growing illegals
in that sin soaked soil.
Miss Eula said no plant is illegal
in the Kingdom of God.


We buried Miss Eula
the same day we found her,
curled up and brown in her garden.
And to this day she’s still there,
molding the worm loved mud
with her hands, blooming each June,
becoming seed in the fall.
And year after bigger year
she grows,
turning fevered afterbirth
into sugar melon hearts.

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Once I had to participate in a psychological test to determine my “creative work style.” After all the forms and verbal interviews were completed, the brilliant doctor gave me my assessment: I am a loner. I don’t like authority. I don’t work well as part of a team. Oh yeah, and I’m arrogant, stubborn, egocentric and weird.

Whoopity doo. What a big revelation.

Well, my family is going to faint when they read this one. I can work as part of a team and not start any fights at all. I have just had the privilege of working with two very fine poets on a collaborative piece, Nathan from Exhaust Fumes and French Fries, and Holly from Honkycackle.

Actually, it was the first time I have ever written a poem as part of a team, and it was a fantastic experience. We each took turns writing a line, then decided on stanza breaks, etc. Holly came up the first line through a phrase from an Easystreet prompt. Nathan came up with the last two lines, which are excellent. What amazed me with the final product is how different we are, but how well the piece flowed together. And I think they wrote the best lines.

Please hop over to their sites to take a look at their other work, too. They are not only fine poets, they are genuinely good people who are a joy to work with. They are also going to start a site for collaborative writing where you can submit your work. I will help them as time permits, but they are definitely the brains behind the venture.

A tip of the hat to my fellow poets.

The Art That Remains

Love can have a dumpster aesthetic, scrap feelings flying
past the flap. I’m tasting as I search, trying jaundiced liquor in a jar
under the rumble of bridges, next to smiling billboards where
mini-van drivers become mesmerized by sexy ads and the vibration of it all.

That sanitized art they watch sinks my passion so I’m left to look
at broken glass, factories closed, graffiti of lives left in heaps, unspoken.
The head of a baby doll, marked all over with a pen, my jealous face
both carry the same scrawling message: we’ve been replaced

by shimmers of heat, by the sparkles of lies whispered in back alleys
by a clean-faced doll. But there is still some gum (with bits of dirt and hair in it)
a shared token, a worry stone, a fossil from the lost world pressed in
my palm.

I cannot escape this loss, this puddled sun, this dumpster of time tossed
like a rotten orange, leaving me with nothing but the death-smell of the empty bin.

Those others can afford their sins. I’ll walk their streets, watch them look away.
I’ll beg for rusty pennies, rustle through their dumpsters for bits of uneaten life.
And when the moon rises, I will see the shine in the broken bits of glass.
Nothing will pass me by. I’ll memorize every piercing odor, each vivid stain.
The grease of evening, the skitter of rats, the smiling doll, the bottle half full.

My sins don’t go anywhere…they just stick to the bottom of the bin and
wait to pull me in. I twist and trim, bend each part together. Find us in the
thing I’ve made. This is my art.

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From Oak We Came

by Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

Mother comes in through a crack.
She smells of church bells,
patent leather, lilac
five and dime cream.
Beneath her bed, she hides
old pennies in a metal box.
It cost two cents to close
the baby’s eyes when he died.
Each time she lifts the lid, I
breathe the rust of copper
opening, closing, opening.

After an hour, maybe two,
the bells will ring again.
I hear them through the creak
of unclosed cupboards.
In the stiff of summer,
the cupboards sweat
a cool brown smell of oak,
a cool brown sweat of oak.
We fill our mouths with bread
that tastes of oak.
This is our body–take, eat.
From oak we came.
When shall we return?

II

Ours is the house that oak built.
Where can we turn and not see the roots
uncut inside the walls, the curve of roots?
Fight and they will tighten around your neck.
Ours is the house tucked between tender water.
I hold my face beneath the surface
wait for whales to rise from the bottom,
swallow me whole.
Ours is the house that oak built in the mud.
Five hurricanes and ten kids couldn’t tear it down.
Every few years, it shifts, sinks an inch,
never swallowed whole.

III

Grandfather sits on the vine purple porch
carving a new arm out of oak.
He lost the old one in a war long gone.
I play among the curls of wood, fill my mouth
with the preoccupation of splinters,
reach for the circle of sun floating upcurrent.
Just walking, my feet already wooden on bottom.
Brothers, sisters, cousins, we all pride ourselves
in the toughness of our soles, walk over shells
and August pavement with the dullness of wood,
count our years by the layers of wood on our feet.

After an hour, maybe two, the bells will ring again,
opening, closing, opening
like a fist that wants to find a vein.

IV

Ours is the father that oak built.
They cut him down one day to build a road.
Where can you go and not see him
rejuvenated along the highway? Progress is slow.
Ours is the father tucked between tender water.
Five hurricanes and ten kids couldn’t tear him down.
Every few years, he shifts, sinks an inch,
never swallowed whole.
Ours is the father, downstairs, tossing
rusty pennies into the fire, one by one.
We spread ourselves like oak above his head.
We do not feel the heat beneath our soles.

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I woke up this morning with a steaming plate full of the blues.  There’s nothing traumatic going on.  Just the blues in my coffee, blues in my tea, Lord have mercy, the blues are crawling all over me kind of blues.  Know what I mean?  Of course you do.  You’re human. 

I love to listen to blues music.  Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Boy Henry.  And the list goes on.  I love blues music at any time, but when I have the blues, there’s something so emotionally cathartic about it.  It’s like a howl that comes from deep down inside the soul.  Once it’s out, the soul often feels better.

Here’s a poem that matches my mood this morning.  I wrote it about a year ago, but it fits.  I tried to work some of the slower riffs of the blues rhythm into the structure of the poem to create a mood of the tide lapping at a shore.  I’m certainly not a musician, but I’m a lover of rhythm and sound. 

The theme is again a sad one for me.  People as part of a landscape that is washing away.  Thankfully, the people are not gone yet.  They have a marvelous ability to adapt.  But I fear erosion.  I mourn the day when nothing is left, except for the echo of one slow, blue note.

*****************************************************************************************************

Washing Away

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

 

That old shell of a building used to be

where Jeeter Davis picked the blues,

while us girls picked the sweet meat

of blue crabs to sell for market price.

We worked with red bandanas

on our heads, and boys on our minds.

Our squeaking rubber gloves

on warm, wet wood kept time.

 

The mockingbirds sounded

like little boats chewing foam.

The shush of shovels in crushed ice

meant supper would be on the table

for at least another season.

 

Our fathers were worn out

after a good night’s catch,

their boats heavy with a living.

But they kept us full

of their stories, oh Lord, that day

Jeeter Davis sang the one about

the cheating wife and the clam bed,

we thought we would die laughing.

 

Now there’s a big, black boot,

some old net that needs mending,

and an upside down crab pot

floating in the tide.

There’s a rotten crate

with SHRIMP stenciled

on its side, the letters R, M, P

almost faded away.

There’s a mossy brown stump

where the oyster bed was,

the handle of a shovel,

and two rusty pennies, heads up,

lying in the mud.

 

There’s our old crab house

creaking in the breeze, and inside,

the briny smell still echoes

like Jeeter Davis’ cold, steel blues

sliding off the walls.

There’s glass that snaps underfoot,

three rubber gloves, a pink hair brush,

a radio that might still work,

and a guitar pick crusted with scales

stuck in a crack in the ice room door.

 

There’s half a receipt book,

and compliments

of Bell-Munden Funeral Home,

there’s an unmarked calendar

still opened to the year

when we lost our soul.

 

Across the bay,

there’s a healthy row

of condominiums growing.

They call it Fisherman’s Ridge.

There’s a billboard that has

a happy family on it.

They’re not from around here.

There’s a cartoon picture

of a boat and a shrimper

hauling in his heavy nets.

He’s bathed in light and way

too clean to be working.

 

They tell us maybe

we can get big tips over there

if we entertain the tourists

with our watermen’s accents

or serve imported crabs

in the restaurant

or mop their pretty floors.

 

So shiny, so bright,

like the Whore of Babylon,

like a brand new bay.

 

God help us.

We’re all washing.

We’re all washing away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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