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Archive for August, 2009

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Photo by Lindsay Niles

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Conjure Woman

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Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

She gathers magic

beside the highway.

Just the right things

will be ingredients

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for potions and poultices

incantations and chants.

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The deep pockets of

her blue sack dress

hold insects, rocks,

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sun dry bones that laid

in the shape of a cross.

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Green pieces of glass.

Hard chewed up gum.

A crushed turtle shell.

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Red tipped feathers

that fell with a whisper

next to hot asphalt.

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She had a stroke

five years ago.

Her left arm sways

like meat on a hook.

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Still she looks,

busily sniffing

through weeds

beside road trees

because she knows

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a dead snake

pointing east

cures heartache.

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A wad of red hair

fends off enemies.

A fallen baby bird

prevents stillbirth.

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Pink lipstick on the rim

of a plastic cup

curses a cheating lover.

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The conjure woman was here

when the road was blue clay,

she was here before it all

quickly rose above her head

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in embankments, overpasses,

exits on the way to vacations.

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She does not see concrete

or hear the hiss of tires.

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She does not know

they put her picture

in a brochure

or that they call her

the Vulture Lady.

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She just keeps walking,

searching for bits

of meaning

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in smoke blown woods,

the gentle blood

of crossing hooves

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and human remnants

tossed from windows

without a thought.

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Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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I will be offline later this week.  My loved ones are coming to see me, and I’m

very excited. I’ll try to hang around for a couple of days to chat with

everyone.  After that, I’ll see you in about a week.  Feel free to turn

up the music while I’m gone. :)

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This is one of my “Miss Eula” inspired poems.  The title will probably change.

But I was getting tired of calling them all Miss Eula.  Miss Eula is a

combination of a few different women I have known in my life.  Yes, conjure

women are real.  The ones I met were fascinating and beautiful.

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Thanks so much for reading!   I hope you all have a good week.



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My husband and I are trying to sell our old house.  I throw back my head and laugh now.

Our story is pretty typical these days.  We moved to another state when a plant closed.  There were no jobs.

The foreclosure in this poem has not happened to us.  In reality, life is very good.  Even if it happens, life is still good.  We are fortunate.

I write about these things to expel the demons.  Then I am okay.  I decided to share a couple of the poems, because so many people are experiencing the same worry (or much worse).

For me, ownership was a sweet illusion.  My mortgage was cheaper than rent.  It meant freedom from slumlords.  It was a great home while it lasted.  But a mortgage is not ownership.

There are many positive surprises, though.  For the first time in my life, I have a landlord who is a very good person.  He reduced the rent (a lot) when he heard about our situation.  If not for him, I don’t know what we would have done.  A lot of people don’t have this opportunity.  I wake up every day in a beautiful place because of the kindness of a stranger.

I plan on having another creaky old illusion someday, complete with fifty acres of woods and water.  The stairs will be crooked.  The wallpaper faded.  It will have the lingering aura of the people who lived there a hundred years ago.  It will smell of trees, vines, and rusty window screens.  I will love every creak and every crack.

But I’m also privileged to be living in the here and now.  There’s a herd of deer grazing by my front porch.  I just saw a wild turkey.  The woods are thick and the sun is hot.  I am home.

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Photo by Chance Agrella

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Illusions

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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There are blue

forget-me-nots

next to our

old white house.

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There are handprints

we pressed

into new blacktop

on the driveway.

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There are five pets

buried beneath pink

Rose of Sharon trees.

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There’s the fence

we painted red,

a pond full

of lily pads

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a black and white

foreclosure sign.

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I walk the twisted woods

at night, a quiet trespasser

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who stares

at our dark house

through thick vines.

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There’s a full moon

floating in a puddle.

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For a moment,

I think I can

scoop its gold

into my palm.

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The ring is muddy.

The dream, a trickle

we never really held.

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large_the_bones_of_saints_under_glassSometimes, a book of poems comes along that is beautifully written, but it also portrays life in a way that is very personal to me.

The Bones of Saints Under Glass by Jeff Fleming is one of those books.

The poems in this chapbook deal   with death, love, and family relationships.  There is sorrow sprinkled with bits of joy.  There is the death of a mother.  There is the beauty of young sons.  It is real.  It is the story of life.

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Jeff Fleming paints a vivid landscape with an economy of words.  Each word is carefully placed within the landscape.  In the title poem, the narrator is hiking.

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“There is no trail before me

but a rough, jagged path

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flows out behind,

slowly disappearing

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as the plants I’ve crushed

stand upright again.”

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Near a cluster of yellow flowers, the narrator sees the skeleton of a small bird, bleached white.  Like all of the poems in this book, it is a moment in the palm of a hand.  But it is so much more than that.  The moment echoes with questions and observations about life.

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Ratchet is a poem that tells the story of an “ordinary” day.  Even an ordinary day paints the larger picture of a family.

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“Most days, my mother

sat in the living room

knitting. Her sneezes

sounded like questions.”

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The poem then pivots to the father.  With a wonderfully light touch, Fleming shows us the divide between father and son.  The father takes the son out to the garage on weekends and patiently explains “the intricacies of everyday/machinery…”

The narrator ends with a gentle understanding.  “It was the only poetry he had.”

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Each poem in this book breathes.  The subjects are universal.   No matter who we are or where we are born, we all have to deal with relationships and the loss of loved ones.  Jeff Fleming does it in a way that is not overly dramatic.  It touches me in a way that I can apply to my own life.

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Of course, not all of the poems deal with death specifically, and all of the poems make me think.  But as we pass that “invincible” age, many of us begin to think about death in a different way.  I am fortunate that my mother is alive.  I have acted very immature during the death of other loved ones.  When the time comes for me to say goodbye to my mother, I hope I can remember the wisdom in these poems.

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Swimming in Beauty and Light shows the physical death of the mother and how the narrator deals with the pain.

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“I am alone, crumpled

in a chair at the foot of your metal

bed, a cage trapping you in this life

a little longer…”

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There is deep pain.  There is beauty in the physical act of dying.  And there is also acceptance.  The narrator thinks of how others will deal with his own death.

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“They will see me pass

and sadness

will overflow their hearts

and consume them for a time,

but when they break the surface

of pain and breathe the world

anew, the sky will seem washed clean,

Cradled by life,

they will own their days again.”

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In the end of the poem, the narrator imagines himself in that “otherwhere” with his father and mother.  They will be “swimming in beauty and light.”

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Even with resolution, the questions and pain do not end after a physical death. Orphan Poem One punched me in the gut for many reasons.  The narrator’s cell phone rings.  It is the narrator’s mother.  The mother begins to talk.  She even acknowledges a couple of the narrator’s questions.  But the narrator cannot understand what she is saying.  She is dead.

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The last poem in the collection, Empty Farmhouse, leaves me breathless.  An old house was abandoned when the crops failed.  An apple tree has been blown over by a storm, and it leans on the house.  Yet it continues to grow apples and drop them into the house through an open window

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“leaving seeds that struggle

to grow among

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abandoned furniture.”

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Like the seeds that struggle to grow, we are left on this earth when our loved ones are gone.  But there is beauty, even in death.  There is joy as the next generation takes its place.  And there is the comforting thought that someday, we will swim together in that beauty and light.

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I’d better stop myself now, or I’ll examine every poem in the book.  Whether you’re a dorky language nerd like me or someone who just enjoys a good read, I highly recommend The Bones of Saints Under Glass.

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I should also mention the great cover art, which was done by Hosho McCreesh.  Hosho is another poet on the top of my list.

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You can order the The Bones of Saints Under Glass HERE.

Note the low price!!!  I am a HUGE fan of Propaganda Press.  The work is high quality, and the prices are affordable, which puts poetry where it belongs.  In the hands of people.

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Jeff Fleming is also the editor of nibble, which is an awesome poetry magazine.  Be sure to check it out.  A new issue is in the works.

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And as always…

None of us poets are jack squat without you, the reader.

In other words, I appreciate you very much.  Thanks for reading!

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Mile Marker 359

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Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

I take Greyhound

for a long ride on a

one hundred five

degree day.

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Fifteen freaking

hours to go

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with the fumes

and the breath

and the rhythm

of sweaty heads.

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Trapped inside

the rectangle;

heat slamming

through glass.

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Air condition

don’t work

worth a flip

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in the back seat

next to the john.

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Somebody’s kid

crapped a diaper

and somebody else

smells like cheap

grape wine and

three week old pee.

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A buck tooth boy

snores and drools

down the seat

right next to me.

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We slow down

to merge

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and on the side of

an eight lane highway,

there’s a girl, maybe

fourteen-years-old.

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Skinny, dark skin

in a blue tube top,

she walks next to a

no hitch hikers sign

on mile marker 359.

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Beside the girl,

there’s a lady

maybe

three feet tall;

straw blonde hair

dirty pink dress

and no shoes.

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Next to the lady

is a skinny old man.

He wears goggles

and an aviator cap

with ear flaps and

carries a backpack

bigger than he is.

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The three of them

walk together

through fumes

next to hot asphalt

determined to get

somewhere.

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I dig deep into my

broke-handle purse,

rub my fingers on

the rubber band that

holds my small roll

of sweaty dollar bills.

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The bus whines

as we shift

into high gear.

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A woman up front

begins to sing

Peace in the Valley

slow and deep,

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and I fall asleep

with a seat

on a creaking

stinking bus.

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rainbow and deer 005

I am excited to be a guest blogger at Glenda C. Beall’s beautiful site,           Writing Life Stories.  You can also read Glenda’s work at her blog,                 The Way I See It.   Be sure to check out her poetry chapbook, Now Might As Well Be Then.  Glenda is an excellent poet and writer.  Copies can be pre-ordered at her site.  I can’t wait to read it!

To read my poem, click HERE.  It is under August 1.

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