My heart goes out to the people on the Gulf coast. I have debated whether
or not to post anything about it for several reasons. I’m very emotional
about the subject. The internet is full of a-holes with keyboards and
opinions. Yes, I’m one more a-hole with opinions.
I don’t want to hurt the people who are already suffering. I don’t want to
glorify myself by posting it on a poetry blog. It’s not about me. In a way, it
just feels too damn narcissistic, and I struggle against that. Yet here I am
writing about it and explaining myself. It makes no sense.
On the other hand, that’s what poets and writers do. We write about what
we know, what we’re feeling, what pisses us off or makes us sad.
What made me finally decide to post is a worry. I worry that the people of
the Gulf will be forgotten. Long after the media packs up and heads off to the
next disaster, people will be hurting. But I also worry that they are already
being forgotten. What is being done for them today?
I searched online and found a couple of organizations that are taking
donations to help people in the Gulf who have lost their livelihoods. But I’m
a little wary. Before I post anything, I will have to make sure it is
legitimate. I do know a wonderful organization in Ohio that helps people
worldwide. I’m assuming they will be helping in the Gulf, but again, I need
to make sure. If you know a legitimate group that will give to people and
not political causes, please e-mail me (juliebuff AT gmail DOT com) and let
It’s not like the people in the Gulf had it easy to start with. Did you know
there was a Fisherman’s Rally on Washington in February? The media
doesn’t care too much about the struggle of fishermen. In my own state,
they are often vilified by groups that claim to be “green.” The groups have
an agenda, lots of money, and they are spreading harmful lies.
The fishing families I know on the Gulf coast have been having many of the
same problems we have here in Carolina. Now they have this atrocity. I
cannot even imagine what they are going through or what they will do. So
many people are hurt.
I posted this poem almost two years ago, but it seems appropriate today. It
wasn’t written with the Gulf in mind, but in a way, it has everything to do
with what’s going on now. I wrote it after yet another fish house in North
Carolina was forced out of business.
No, it’s not a yearning for the “good old days.” It’s a love for a culture,
a way of life, which some people seem determined to destroy. To date, the
area is still beautiful and culturally rich. I hope lawmakers will have sense
enough to treasure the land and the people who are part of the land.
The small commercial fishermen on my coast know more about marshland
and marine life than any “expert” with an environmental science degree will
ever know. They are environmentally conscious people, not because it is
fashionable to be so, but because it is their way of life. They don’t just give
it lip service. They quietly live it.
Last year, my daughter gave me a print she made, based on my poem. She
is amazing. The picture is cut from tiles by hand, using a knife. I can’t do it
justice here, because I just took a picture of it with a camera. The real print
is even more powerful. The small “flowers” floating in the sky are part of the
paper and work perfectly with the theme. If you click on the picture, you
can see the detail a little better. Thank you, Amber. It means a lot to me.
Washing Away print by Amber 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 a song about
a cheating wife and a cabbage head,
we thought we would die laughing.
Now there’s a big, black boot,
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 fish scales
stuck in a crack in the ice room door.
There’s half a receipt book,
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 Fishermen’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.